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Elections: Voting

The winner of an election should be the person chosen - within the scope of voting laws - by the majority of voters.

In this section we report on news related to voting practices and the integrity of votes.

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Lindsey Graham asks if Georgia can toss ballots

2020-Nov-16By: Barry Shatzman

Sen. Lindsey Graham asked that Georgia invalidate legal ballots, according to the state's head elections official.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said that Graham asked whether Raffensperger had the authority to discard all mail-in ballots from counties where poll workers accepted higher rates of mismatched signatures.

The result would be not counting legal mail-in ballots.

Graham is from South Carolina - not Georgia. He has yet to publicly accept Joe Biden's electoral victory.

He said he was asking only to learn more about the process.

Raffensperger has received death threats since the contents of the interview were published.

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Trump lawsuits aim to raise doubt - and money

2020-Nov-11  (Updated: 2020-Nov-13)By: Rob Dennis

President Donald Trump's campaign and its supporters have filed more than a dozen lawsuits since Election Day seeking to slow, stop or limit the counting of ballots. All of them are in states won by President Elect Joe Biden.

Several were swiftly rejected by the courts, with judges citing lack of evidence in denying the requests. Others cases are pending.

Even if some of these lawsuits prevail, they are highly unlikely to change the election's outcome, in which Biden defeated Trump. Instead, they appear designed to bolster Trump's baseless claims of fraud and a "rigged" election.

They also are being used to raise money for Trump and to pay off debts from his campaign.

Several attorneys from firms representing Trump, his campaign, and the Republican Party have expressed concerns that the main goal of the suits seems to be to "erode public confidence in the election results."

Here are the post-election lawsuits broken down by state:

Arizona (10,000 vote difference)

Aguilera v. Fontes

A woman sued in state court on Nov. 5, saying election officials forced voters to use felt-tip markers (Sharpies) to fill out ballots, making their votes unreadable by machines.

The Arizona secretary of state and Maricopa County elections officials repeatedly have denied that using Sharpies would prevent ballots being counted.

The state attorney general, a Republican, called for an investigation but later said the claims had no merit. The "Sharpiegate" rumor also has been debunked by the Department of Homeland Security.

Status:
Nov. 7 - The plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the claim.

Donald J. Trump for President Inc. v. Hobbs

Similar to Aguilera v. Fontes, this lawsuit in state court contains allegations that votes were improperly rejected based on ink blotches. It was filed by the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee on Nov. 7, hours after the plaintiff in Aguilera dismissed her claim.

Status:
The case is pending.

Georgia (14,000 vote difference)

Petition to stop count in Chatham County, Ga.

The Georgia Republican Party and the Trump campaign sued in state court Nov. 4 to stop the counting of absentee ballots in Chatham County, Georgia, claiming some were received after 7 p.m. on election day.

Status:
A judge dismissed the case, finding that "there is no evidence that the ballots referenced in the petition were received after 7:00 p.m. on election day, thereby making those ballots invalid. Additionally, there is no evidence that the Chatham County Board of Elections or the Chatham County Board of Registrars has failed to comply with the law."

Michigan (146,000 vote difference)

Stoddard v. City Election Commission

A Republican poll challenger and the conservative Election Integrity Fund petitioned in state court on Nov. 4 to stop the certification of results in Detroit, based on alleged mishandling of absentee ballots.

Status: Nov. 6 - A judge denied the petition. "In short," the judge wrote, "the motion is based upon speculation and conjecture."

Donald J. Trump for President Inc. v. Benson

The Trump campaign and one of its poll challengers sued in state court on Nov. 4 to stop the counting of votes statewide, claiming poll challengers hadn't been granted adequate access to areas where ballots were being counted. It didn't say when, where or how this happened.

Status:
Nov. 6;: A judge dismissed the case on Nov. 6, saying the ballot count already was complete and that in any case "the factual record does not support the relief requested." Regarding "supplemental evidence" that an unnamed poll worker had been informed by other unnamed poll workers about irregularities, the judge wrote that it was "inadmissible hearsay within hearsay."

The Trump campaign has appealed the decision.

Costantino v. Detroit

Two Republican poll challengers sued in state court on Nov. 8, making multiple allegations of fraud in Detroit and calling for an audit of the election, for a prohibition on certification of the election, and for a new election to be held. The city's lead lawyer in the case said it "is based upon various conspiracy theories, which have already been debunked."

Status:
The case is pending.

Trump v. Benson

The Trump campaign on Nov. 11 sued in federal court to block certification of election results in Michigan until officials can ensure no "fraudulently or unlawfully cast ballots" were counted. The Michigan attorney general described the suit as "baseless."

Status:
The case is pending.

Nevada (34,000 vote difference)

Stokke v. Cegavske

A woman who claims she wasn't able to vote because somebody already had fraudulently cast a ballot in her name, a Republican poll watcher who claims he was prevented from observing ballot counting, and two Republican congressional candidates sued in federal court on Nov. 5. The plaintiffs asked the court to order election officials to stop using signature-matching software, thus delaying the vote count, and to allow poll watchers within six feet of the counting process.

Status:
A judge denied the requests, saying plaintiffs hadn't provided enough evidence to justify them.

Pennsylvania (62,000 vote difference)

Barnette v. Lawrence

A Republican congressional candidate sued Montgomery County on Nov. 3, saying officials opened and inspected ballots before Election Day. The suit asked for a temporary restraining order, but that request was withdrawn on Nov. 6.

Hamm v. Boockvar

Republican candidates for the U.S. House and the Pennsylvania State House sued in state court on Election Day seeking an injunction to stop election officials from providing political parties and other groups with information about voters who need to fix technical issues on ballots; those groups then could reach out to voters to let them know so they could cast a provisional ballot.

Status:
A judge ordered election officials to segregate any provisional ballots in this category so he could decide later whether those votes should be counted.

In re: Motion for Injunctive Relief of Northampton County Republican Committee

In a lawsuit similar to Hamm v. Boockvar, a group of Republican candidates sued to block election officials in Montgomery County from notifying voters whose ballots were rejected and needed to be cured.

Status:
A judge dismissed the suit, saying it lacked merit.

Trump v. Boockvar

The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee sued in state court on Nov. 4, trying to change the deadline from Nov. 12 to Nov. 9 for mail voters to supply missing identification.

Status:
A judged ordered the ballots segregated pending a ruling.

Trump v. Montgomery County Board of Elections

The Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and others sued in state court on Nov. 5 to try to stop Montgomery County election officials from counting mail-in ballots.

Status:
The case is pending.

Donald J. Trump for President Inc. v. Philadelphia County Board of Elections

The Trump campaign sought an emergency injunction in federal court on Nov. 5 to stop counting votes until election officials made it easier for Republican observers to watch ballot handling. The suit came after a state judge already had ruled that poll challengers be allowed to observe within six feet, temporarily halting the ballot count. The federal judge dismissed the case, ordering the two parties to reach an accommodation.

Trump et al v. Boockvar

The Trump campaign sued in federal court on Nov. 9 challenging the result of the election and asking the court to prohibit certification of the results.

Status:
The case is pending.

Donald J. Trump for President Inc. v. Bucks County BOE

The Trump campaign sued in state court on Nov. 9 to try to stop Bucks County election officials from counting certain mail-in ballots.

Status:
The case is pending.

More lawsuits

Republicans filed dozens more lawsuits around the country in the lead-up to the election. Click here for the list of them.

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TX Republicans sue to invalidate 125,000 ballots

2020-Oct-30  (Updated: 2020-Nov-03)By: Barry Shatzman

Texas Republicans are suing Texas' biggest county to have it discard more than 125,000 votes that already have been cast.

The suit is challenging drive-thru voting in Harris County - a heavily Democratic county that includes Houston.

The suit calls drive-thru voting an "illegal voting scheme". It claims that this type of voting "that invites corruption and fraud is tantamount to voter suppression because legal votes will be nullified by illegal votes."

It offers no evidence.

Texas law allows curbside voting in certain situations, including if "voting inside the polling location would create a likelihood of injuring the voter's health."

The state was planning for increased use of drive-thru voting due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The lawsuit claims that Harris County Clerk - "using the COVID-19 pandemic as his pretext - is permitting (all registered voters) to vote curbside or drive-thru and vote in violation of the Texas Election Code."

Courts have repeatedly rejected the suit

Nov. 1: The Texas Supreme court rejected the suit.

Nov. 2: A federal judge dismissed the suit, but left open an avenue to appeal.

Nov. 3: The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Republicans' appeal.

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CA: Republican party installs illegal ballot drop-boxes

2020-Oct-12By: Barry Shatzman

California has more places to drop off ballots than the state anticipated. Problem is, they're unofficial.

They have been placed by the state's Republican Party. Though many are labeled "Official", they are illegal.

The Republican Party has been advertising the boxes on social media. They claim it is merely a use of ballot harvesting, which is legal in California.

California law, however, requires "harvested" ballots to be collected by a designated person, and there is no such person at these boxes. The boxes also don't comply with the state's security requirements to prevent ballots from being tampered with.

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GA purged 200,000 voter registrations in error

2020-Sep-01  (Updated: 2020-Nov-09)By: Barry Shatzman

Two numbers tell you what you need to know about the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.

As of this writing, Joe Biden has a 10,000 vote lead over Donald Trump, and the state is preparing for a recount.

A year before the election, 200,000 registered voters were wrongly unregistered.

Most purges were of valid voters

Georgia announced in October 2019 that more than 300,000 voter registrations had been canceled because the voters had moved. This is one of the reasons for purging registrations allowed by the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).

An investigation for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia, however, found that 2 out of every 3 of the affected residents still resided at their original address.

Old methods and demographic bias

The investigation's report cited Georgia not using industry standard practices as the main reason for the large number of errors.

The state had mailed "address confirmation" postcards to voters who had not voted in the prior two federal elections. Those who did not return the postcard were considered to have moved.

According to a Census Bureau study, those who are low-income, young, renters, and people of color are far less likely to return a postcard from the government.

Younger people are more likely to move. However, they often move from one apartment to another in the same jurisdiction - or even to a different room in the same dorm.

People of color are more likely to be renters in urban, low-income areas. The Post Office fails to deliver up to 20 percent of mail to large buildings in such areas, according to the report.

Commercial mailing experts consulted for the study described ways to determine if someone has moved that are both more accurate and less expensive than mailing postcards.

Update 2020-Nov-9: Georgia will hold a runoff election for both of its Senate seats on Jan. 5, 2021. If you are a Georgia resident, you can vote in this election if you are registered by Dec. 7. You can check your registration and (re)register to vote by clicking the link below.



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North Carolina: Republican wins re-do House election

2019-Sep-10By: Rob Dennis

Republican Dan Bishop has won a special election to represent North Carolina's 9th Congressional District.

The election was held after state officials threw out the November 2018 result, saying voter fraud was used to help the Republican candidate win.

Republican Mark Harris appeared to defeat Democrat Dan McCready in November. However, the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement refused to certify the results due to "claims of numerous irregularities and concerted fraudulent activities related to absentee mail ballots."

Seven people accused of trying to rig the election have been charged with felonies.

After Harris said he would not run in the re-do election, Bishop took Harris' place as the Republican candidate. As a state representative, Bishop was known for opposing transgender access to public bathrooms.

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Election monitoring agency prevented from acting

2019-Aug-30  (Updated: 2019-Sep-10)By: Barry Shatzman

The government agency that monitors campaigns and elections has stopped monitoring campaigns and elections.

That's because the Federal Election Commission (FEC) no longer has a quorum of 4 members needed to take any official action. FEC Vice Chairman Matthew Petersen resigned at the end of August. He gave no reason for his resignation, and provided less than a week's notice.

Petersen had been an FEC commissioner since 2008 - appointed by President George W. Bush.

In 2017, President Donald Trump nominated him to be a district court judge, but withdrew his name from consideration after he could not answer basic legal questions during his confirmation hearing.

Dysfunctional even before Petersen left

The FEC is supposed to have 6 commissioners, but had been operating with only 4 before Petersen left. In fact, the 3 remaining commissioners are serving beyond their terms (the law allows them to remain).

No more than 3 commissioners can be from the same political party. Typically, presidents nominate commissioners in pairs - one Democrat and one Republican. In 2017, Trump nominated one candidate - Republican James E. (Trey) Trainor.

Trainor has been an attorney for Trump's election campaign and the Republican National Committee. He has argued against requiring the disclosure of political donations.

Trainor's nomination has not been voted on by the Senate.

Effects

Campaigns still are required to report campaign donations to the FEC, and the agency still is expected to continue reviewing and publishing them.

However, without a quorum, there are things the FEC cannot do. They include...

o Prosecute - or even determine - campaign law violations.

o Rule on existing investigations - or open new ones.

o Advise campaigns on whether particular actions might violate campaign laws.

The FEC previously lacked a quorum in 2008. It is not the only agency operating without enough members to operate. The Merit Systems Protection Board also currently lacks one.

Update 2019-Sep-11: Days after leaving the FEC, Petersen joined a law firm that helps wealthy candidates and organizations secretly influence elections.

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"Deepfake" videos could influence elections

2019-Jun-12  (Updated: 2019-Jun-25)By: (External links)

Top AI researchers race to detect 'deepfake' videos: 'We are outgunned'

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Republican malintent in gerrymandering and census?

2019-Jun-06By: (External links)

Redistricting Guru's Hard Drives Could Mean Legal, Political Woes For GOP

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Kris Kobach funded by white supremacists

2018-Nov-05By: (External links)

Trump ally Kris Kobach accepted donations from white nationalists

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Georgia: Fake Oprah Winfrey robocalls by antisemitic group

2018-Nov-05By: (External links)

Racist "magical Negro" robo-call from "Oprah" targets Stacey Abrams in Georgia governor's race.

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ND law disenfranchises thousands of Native Americans

2018-Nov-01By: Barry Shatzman

Native Americans in North Dakota may find themselves unable to vote in the 2018 midterm election due to a state law requiring that voters have ID showing a street address.

Many of North Dakota's Native Americans live on reservations in homes that don't use street addresses. Many lack the money or required proofs of identity to obtain an ID.

There are at least 30,000 Native Americans who live in North Dakota. About a third of them are at risk of being disenfranchised by the law.

There is no Constitutional requirement for a voter to have a street address. In many states, a homeless person can list a street corner or a park as their residence.

How did all this transpire?

The law was enacted by North Dakota Republicans in April 2017.

A similar law was enacted in 2013 - the year after Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, was elected by fewer than 3,000 votes with strong support from Native Americans.

In 2016, Federal Judge Daniel Hovland blocked the 2013 law, saying it could make it impossible for some Native Americans to vote.

The law ostensibly was to prevent voter fraud. But Hovland noted in his decision that "the record before the court reveals that the secretary of state acknowledged in 2006 that he was unaware of any voter fraud in North Dakota."

Similarly, he blocked the 2017 law, writing in his decision...

The State has acknowledged that Native American communities often lack residential street addresses or do not have clear residential addresses. Nevertheless, under current State law an individual who does not have a 'current residential street address' will never be qualified to vote. This is a clear 'legal obstacle' inhibiting the opportunity to vote. The State can easily remedy this problem by simply eliminating the absolute need for a 'current residential street address' and allowing for either a residential address, a mailing address (P.O. Box), or simply an address.

In September, however, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals allowed North Dakota to implement the law. The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal, meaning the law was allowed to take effect.

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Kansas city moves polling place, directs voters to wrong site

2018-Oct-26By: Rob Dennis

The only polling place in Dodge City, Kansas, has been moved to a site outside of town that can't be reached by sidewalk.

Ford County election officials then sent newly registered voters a notice that listed the wrong location to cast their ballot.

The single polling station will handle the ballots of more than 13,000 registered voters. The average site serves only 1,200.

Kansas has lost more than 100 polling places in recent years, while the number of registered voters has increased by 46,000, the Wichita Eagle reported.

The majority of Dodge City residents are non-white

About 60 percent of Dodge City's population is Latino, a demographic that tends to vote for Democrats.

ACLU requests help for voters and return to former polling place

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit seeking to force Ford County to reopen the previous polling place. The ACLU also sent a letter to Debbie Cox - the Ford County clerk responsible for the move - asking her to publicize a voter help line.

Cox forwarded the letter to Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

"LOL," she wrote in her email.

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NY Rep. Zeldin tells people to vote on wrong day - again

2018-Oct-25By: Rob Dennis

Rep. Lee Zeldin has told his constituents to return their ballots a day late.

He did the same thing in 2016.

Zeldin's campaign sent a mailer telling voters to postmark their absentee ballots by Nov. 6. The actual deadline is Nov. 5. His opponent said the mailer targeted likely Democratic voters, such as college students.

This comes amid other complaints from voting rights groups regarding voter-suppression tactics by Republicans around the country.

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Republicans pose as communists, donate to Democrats

2018-Oct-11By: (External links)

Republican pair apparently pose as communists to make Democratic donation.

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GA candidate - also overseeing election - blocks 53,000 voters

2018-Oct-10  (Updated: 2018-Nov-02)By: Rob Dennis

In Georgia, 53,000 voter applications have been blocked because the the voter's name didn't exactly match the name on their ID.

The ballots were placed on hold by the office of the Georgia Secretary of State, which oversees elections. Brian Kemp, the Secretary of State, also is the Republican candidate for governor.

The mismatch could be a simple as a hyphen in a last name, and could be caused by a data-entry error. Many might not be aware that their registration was not processed.

Black voters are mostly affected

Nearly 70 percent of the applications were from black voters, who make up only 30 percent of Georgia's population.

Black voters overwhelmingly tend to vote for Democrats.

Update 2018-Nov-2: A federal judge has ruled that Georgia must make it easier for people who have had their registrations blocked to vote.

Update 2018-Nov-16: Kemp defeated Stacey Abrams in the gubernatorial election.

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Trump says there will be violence if Democrats take control of Congress

2018-Aug-30By: (External links)

Trump stands by warning of 'violence' if Dems win midterms

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Trump dissolves Election Integrity Commission after lawsuits

2018-Jan-04By: Barry Shatzman

President Trump has shut down the commission he established in July to investigate his unfounded allegations of voter fraud in the 2016 elections.

The Election Integrity Commission found no evidence of the fraud he claimed gave Hillary Clinton 3 million more votes than him in the 2016 presidential election.

The inability of the commission to find any evidence was not among the reasons Trump gave for disbanding it. He instead said the shutdown was due to legal battles that were weighing it down.

The 1972 Federal Advisory Committee Act requires that Federal advisory committees operate in full view of the public. Several lawsuits had been filed claiming the commission was not doing that.

One of those was filed by Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, claiming he was not given access to information on commission activities and communications. Dunlap - a Democrat - was a member of the commission.

The commission was disbanded soon after a federal court ordered it to provide the documents to Dunlap.

But the commission had credibility problems right from the start - with Vice Chair Kris Kobach demonstrating a bias toward a conclusion that would make it tougher to register to vote.

In a pre-inauguration meeting with Trump, Kobach was photographed holding a document of what he hoped to accomplish had Trump chosen him to head the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). A partly-visible sentence reads "Draft Amendments to National Voter..." - which has been speculated to refer to the 1993 National Voter Registration Act. Kobach did not offer an alternative meaning.

This was consistent with an email Kobach had previously sent to the Trump transition team explicitly stating his intent to change the law.

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States may not have enough time to prevent election hacking

2017-Dec-28By: Barry Shatzman

One way states are looking to strengthen their elections against hacking is to have the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) screen their voting systems.

Some states may need to wait nine months to get the intensive screening, Politico reports. That means they might not be completed in time for fixes to be made before the 2018 elections in November.

DHS classified the country's election systems as "critical infrastructure" during the Barack Obama administration.

Congress could have enacted legislation to help speed up the process, but that has not happened - partly due to other priorities they have set - such as repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and reducing revenue from taxes.

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Trump nominee "almost certainly" voted illegally

2017-Sep-20By: Barry Shatzman

President Trump has been claiming that people voted illegally in the presidential election that he won. He now apparently has found someone.

Jeffrey Gerrish - Trump's nominee for deputy U.S. Trade Representative - "almost certainly" voted illegally, the New York Times reported.

Gerrish voted in November's presidential election in Virginia. Yet he had sold his Virginia home and bought one in Maryland in July - well outside the 30-day grace period Virginia provides.

Maryland was considered to be a sure win for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The vote in Virginia was expected to be much closer.

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Voting fraud fabricator named to investigate voting fraud

2017-Jul-17By: Rob Dennis

President Donald Trump has named Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach vice chair of a new Election Integrity Commission to investigate voter fraud. The commission's chair is Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump established the no evidence supporting that claim.

In fact, numerous studies have shown this type of fraud to be exceedingly rare.

Kobach has a history of claiming incidents of major voter fraud.

In his campaign for secretary of state in 2010, he claimed there were 1,966 dead people registered to vote, some of whom actually had cast ballots. He named only one: Alfred K. Brewer. Brewer, it turned out, was alive.

After Kobach was elected, he successfully pushed for a law requiring proof of citizenship from voter registration applicants, and then asked legislators to expand his powers to allow him to prosecute voter fraud. They obliged in 2015, and Kobach convicted eight people. Out of nearly 1.8 million registered voters in Kansas.

2012 study found 1.8 million dead people remain on the voter rolls nationwide, and another 2.75 million are registered in more than one state (those include Trump's daughter Tiffany Trump and his chief strategist Steve Bannon).

None of that is illegal, however. Actual fraud - where people vote more than once or noncitizens cast ballots - is extremely rare.

Instead, the myth of voter fraud has been used by Kobach and others to engage in voter suppression. For decades, under the guise of "election security," Republican-controlled states have been passing Voter ID laws, purging registered voters, restricting registration, and using other tactics that disenfranchise blacks, Hispanics and other groups that tend to vote for Democrats.

Unlike voter fraud, these tactics could actually swing elections.

In Florida, before the 2000 presidential election, the state hired a private firm to purge more than 82,000 "felons" from the voting rolls. It turns out, 12,000 voters who weren't felons were removed from the rolls. Blacks, who make up 11 percent of the Florida electorate, made up 44 percent of the purge list. Ninety percent of black voters cast ballots for Vice President Al Gore. George W. Bush won Florida and the presidency by 537 votes.

"It's not a stretch to conclude that the purge cost Gore the election," Ari Berman wrote in The Nation.

Republicans have ramped up their politically motivated voter suppression efforts in the years since, and 14 states had new voting restrictions in place for last year's presidential election.

The day after Trump was elected, Kobach suggested to the transition team changing federal law to require proof of citizenship during voter registration, according to an email obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union as part of an ongoing lawsuit.

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Write-in vote could be world's quietest protest

2016-Nov-01By: Barry Shatzman

It happens every four years. Someone is dissatisfied with the candidates for president, so they use their vote to write in another choice. They know their candidate won't win. It's a protest. But is it a protest anyone even will hear?

In voting for president, 9 states don't allow write-in votes. Of the rest, only 7 states allow you to vote for anyone you want.

While most states allow you write in a vote for president, in order for the vote to count the write-in candidate must have previously registered with the state. If you vote for someone who isn't registered, your choice would not be allowed to win in that state regardless of how many votes he received.

Also, your state might not even record your write-in vote (or might record it as something like "other").

In other words, if you write someone in as a protest vote, it's likely your protest will be seen by exactly one person - the person who records your ballot.

The states that do not allow write-in voting for president are: Arkansas, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and South Dakota.

The states that allow you to write in anyone for president (without requiring the person register with the state) are: Iowa, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

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Making federal election days national holidays

2016-May-26By: Barry Shatzman

President Barack Obama says he endorses making federal elections a national holiday as a way to increase participation by registered voters.

In an interview with The Daily Targum - the Rutgers University newspaper - Obama responded to whether he believes the United States should follow the lead of other developed nations that automatically register voters and hold elections on weekends or national holidays.

"Absolutely. We are the only advanced democracy that makes it deliberately difficult for people to vote. And some of it has to do with the nature of our history and our Constitution, where we allow individual states to determine their own processes for structuring elections within certain boundaries.

I think that we know some states like Oregon are doing a much better job at extending mail-in voting, increasing tools like online voting that are safe and secure, give people flexibility over a long period of time, (and) early voting. And so everything we can do to make sure that we're increasing participation is something that we should promote and encourage. Our democracy is not going to function well when only half or a third of eligible voters are participating.

The single most dramatic political change that could occur in this country - and the best way for us to relieve the frustrations that people feel around the political process - would be if we had greater participation that was more reflective of the day-to-day concerns that people have."

An assortment of bills has attempted this several times in the recent past. The most recent attempt, the 2015 Democracy Day Act still is active in the Senate - which has refused to act on it.

Federal elections take place in even-numbered years in November - on the first Tuesday following the first Monday.

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Supreme Court ruling could make Congressional districts competitive

2015-Jun-29By: Barry Shatzman

The Supreme Court ruled that citizens of a state have the right to decide who defines their state's Congressional districts.

Redistricting typically takes place every 10 years - soon after data from the latest Census is available. It typically is done by a state's legislature - a process that often results in gerrymandered districts that favor the majority political party.

In 2010 Arizona voters passed an initiative to create an independent commission to define its new districts - removing that power from the state legislature. The legislature sued, claiming that the Constitution allows only the legislature to perform that function.

The Court ruled that the Constitution does not prohibit such independent commissions.

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Voter ID places insurmountable barriers to millons

2012-Jul-18By: Barry Shatzman

Laws requiring voters to have a government-issued ID have placed an almost insurmountable barrier to voting on approximately 10 percent of eligible voters, according to a study by the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan public policy institute. Ten states have passed such laws.

Though the IDs themselves are supposed to be provided at no cost, the supporting identification required to obtain the ID - such as a birth certificate - do cost money. Married women whose names differ from that on their birth certificate also are required to provide a marriage certificate. In Wisconsin, the most expensive state to obtain both documents, the total cost ranges from $5 to $40.

A more imposing barrier is getting to a state office that issues the required ID. More than a million of those voters who don't have valid voter identification live more than 10 miles from the nearest office. About 500,000 of those do not have access to a car.

"By definition, eligible voters who need photo ID will not have a driver's license, so they cannot drive themselves to a government office," the report points out. In addition, the states that passed the most restrictive voter ID laws also are among those that spend the least in public transportation.

Someone who successfully overcomes those barriers still faces an overwhelming challenge - the state offices are open for limited and erratic hours. Many are not open on every weekday, or are open for fewer than eight hours a day.

o One office in Wisconsin is open only on the fifth Wednesday of any month - meaning it will be open just four days this year. Some other Wisconsin offices are open just once every two months.

o In Alabama, one office is open only on the third Thursday of the month. In Mississippi, an office is open only on the second Thursday.

o In downtown Wichita, Kansas, there is only one office to serve more than 160,000 voters.

Just finding out when an office is open can be a problem. In Georgia, most county offices do not make their business hours easily accessible online, and some have incorrect addresses and phone numbers listed.

"Even when contacted directly, county offices in Georgia frequently gave incorrect information about free IDs," the report states.

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