Tag - voter registration

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Back to Voting Today
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Social Security Administration Refuses to Budge
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Social Security Administration Blocking Voter Reg (cont'd)
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Top 5 Reasons You Won't Be Able to Vote
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Election Rain Clouds

Back to Voting Today

Took a quick break from the GiveList today to attend the Pew Center on Voting’s conference called Voting in America- The Road Ahead.

There was a really terrific lunchtime panel moderated by Pam Fessler of NPR with six state election officials and directors:  Robin Carnahan, Missouri, Trey Grayson, Kentucky, John Lindback, Oregon, Chris Thomas, Michigan, Brian Newby, Kansas and Warren Slocum of Mateo County, CA.

The most fun was hearing Lindback, who has been the leading administrator for that state’s conversation to all mail-in voting, ask, “Why do we keep doing what we have done?”  This was in the context of a discussion about voting registration.  Lindback fearlessly suggested that we should all have a number assigned to us when we are born as part of our birth certificate that has three purposes only:  for use as part of the census, for voting and to certify your death.  This idea was met with a surprisingly positively reaction from the crowd of mainly state election officials — and a cheer from me, of course!

There was a great deal of discussion of the need to unify voting procedures without federalizing them . Meaning getting all of the counties and all of their states to agree on a set method of voting – a Herculean task, but one worth undertaking.

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Social Security Administration Refuses to Budge

Five people I have spoken to in the last two days, including a House member who sits on the SSA appropriations committee, who are all intimately involved with trying to persuade the Social Security Administration to delay it’s “routine maintenance” have all gotten different explanations. From the “this is just our regular time for doing maintenance and it isn’t partisan”, to “it’s the only three day weekend in the fall when our folks are available to do it”, to the most draconian, “if we don’t do it the entire system will crash”.  But don’t take it from me, feel free to email the Congressional liaison at SSA, kenneth.a.mannella AT ssa DOT gov and ask him yourself!

SSA has just posted a <a href=”http://www.ssa.gov/pressoffice/pr/NCCShutdown2008.htm”>press release</a> on this situation.  My favorite line is this:

“Delaying the shutdown into 2009 would pose a small, but not insignificant, risk of a major interruption of service…”

A few problems here.  No one that I”m aware of it asking them to postpone the maintenance until 2009 — just three weeks beyond the original date.  And it’s it’s such a small risk, well, then what’s the problem with waiting a few more days — you’ve already waited all year to do it.

This gumming up of the process is exacerbated by the increase in early voting.  Twenty-three states have early voting starting very soon, 14-18 days before the election.  Most states also now have no-fault absentee or mail-in voting that is starting very soon as well – at least the application process for absentee ballots has started in many states.  All of these processes will be slowed for some voters because of the delay at SSA as well.

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Social Security Administration Blocking Voter Reg (cont'd)

I have an update on my post from this morning about the Social Security Administration. According to the legislative director in Senator Feinstein’s office, the Senator sent a letter to the SSA on September 23rd asking for the postponement until after the election of the SSA’s maintenance effort that will shut down it’s database for three days. Yesterday, the Senator received a letter back from the SSA refusing to change its maintenance schedule.

According to the SSA, this is the same time of year that it has updated their database for sixteen years. But, as the Senator’s staff pointed out, this is only the second time since the <a href=”http://www.fec.gov/hava/hava.htm”Help America Vote Act (HAVA) regulations have kicked in requiring states to use the SSA database to verify citizenship for people without state-sponsored ID (meaning, mainly, driver’s licenses.) It happened in 2006, but the voter turnout was not nearly as high then as it will be this year. A meeting is starting right now, 4 pm on Friday, in DC that the Senator’s staff organized between the House and Senate subcommittees on election administration and a representative of the SSA to discuss this issue further.

The SSA shutdown has the potential to be a devastating blow to states and local municipalities that are frantically preparing for huge voter turnouts on November 4th. And, of course, to disenfranchise millions of voters who have done their part in filling out the voter registration paperwork.

Stay tuned, I’ll report more when I hear it from the Senator’s staff.

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Top 5 Reasons You Won't Be Able to Vote

Top 5 Reasons You Won’t Be Allowed to Vote
(As Posted on Huffington Post here)

Enormous efforts have been made by campaigns and public interest groups to register people to vote on November 4th.  According to the Election Assistance Commission more than 2 million poll workers will be working at over 200,000 polling places this election.  Unfortunately, what these new voters don’t know is that just registering to vote may not ensure that they are able to vote on Election Day or that their vote will be counted. Here are the top 5 ways that voters will be disenfranchised before and on Election Day.

1.    Twenty-seven states close their voter registration the first week of October; another 12 will follow shortly thereafter. Too many states continue to cut off registration just as most people are beginning to tune into the election. Election Day Registration (EDR) in nine states (Maine, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Iowa, North Carolina) has demonstrated that it is an efficient and problem-free way for 10-12% more citizens to participate on Election Day.
2.    The Social Security Administration is shutting down its database, the one needed to verify registrations for people without state-issued IDS for three days in mid-October.  This “routine maintenance” putting in jeopardy the ability of forty-one, slow moving states to verify millions of new registrants in time for Election Day for voters without state-issued IDs.  (Here is a letter sent by the National Association of Secretaries of State asking the SSAS to move the maintenance until after November.) Millions of people may have properly filled out their registration forms but not make it onto the roles if this maintenance continues as scheduled.
3.    Voter Purge, a report released from the Brennan Center for Justice this week reveals that, “election officials across the country are routinely striking millions of voters from the rolls through a process that is shrouded in secrecy, prone to error, and vulnerable to manipulation.” Millions of names will be struck from voter registration roles in advance of the November 4th election – and your name is struck in error you won’t know until you show up at the polls – and it’s too late to change it.
4.    As I have written before, the new machines are no better than the old machines which were much worse than hand ballots. During the primary season, municipalities were testing optical scan machines, and many failed.  Others have been furiously buying new machines that won’t be tested before November 4th. The new machines are no better than the old machines which were much worse than hand ballots. How many times will we hear on election night that votes have been cast and lost or just plain lost?  Moreover, how many elections are we going to keep hearing this?
5.    You remember those pictures form 2004 and 2006 of voters waiting for hours to cast their ballots – up to 12 hours in some cases in the rain and cold.  Our voting system is a mechanical engineer’s nightmare. The biggest bottleneck in the process of voting is checking in to ensure that voters are registered to vote – this is a human interaction that is slow and tedious.  It’s the same reason that the lines at Starbucks are so long. I spoke to a person in the registrar’s office in Fairfax County, VA who told me that they had increased the number of recruited poll workers from 2,600 in 2004 to 3,100 this year, with more to come by the deadline on Monday. Monday coincides with the voter registration deadline in Virginia which has already seen an almost 6% increase in voter registration statement from January –September 15th.  But here’s the real problem:  There is no way to know until Election Day if they will a) show up, b) been adequately trained for the job and c) are enough of them to account for the expected surge in voting in critical voting areas like Cuyahoga County, OH, Palm Beach County, FL.

So register to vote — and then cross your fingers that you your vote will be cast and counted on Election Day – in some states your chances aren’t so good.

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Election Rain Clouds

As exciting as it was to see young people turning out in record numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire, however, there are difficulties ahead for youth turnout. In particular, given how well same day voter registration worked in New Hampshire, I was appalled to learn that last Friday, over three weeks before the primary, voter registration in New York closed. I think there’s going to be a great outcry from young people here who find as the primary gets closer that they can’t vote. Even more appalling is that even after Micah Sifry led the outcry that the New York State Board of Elections was woefully out of date with information about registered to vote for the 2008 primary (only information about 2007 primary voting is up) it still hasn’t changed

Moveon.org released a fantastic tool last week called Vote Poke (not vote puke as I first thought!) It’s a database to find out whether you or a friend are registered to vote. Of course, it’s not much help for people in states like New York who have missed the deadline!

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