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Monday, September 29, 2014

NY Gov. Debate Negotiation Begins


After coming under heavy criticism for dodging his opponent, New York Gov. Cuomo has agreed to engage in two mid-October debates leading up to the Nov. 4 general election, but it may not be enough for his Republican opponent.

Cuomo is prepared to face GOP challenger Rob Astorino one-on-one in a downstate debate sponsored by WNYC and the Wall Street Journal that will be broadcast only on radio.  He also is ready to square off with Astorino in a debate in Buffalo that would be televised on Buffalo public TV with the possibility of being carried statewide, but that one would also include minor party candidates from the Green, Libertarian, and Sapient parties: Howie Hawkins, Michael McDermottt, and Steve Cohn, respectively.

Astorino, the Westchester County executive who has been challenging Cuomo for weeks to face him one-on-one in a series of regional debates, is set to reject the offer unless the governor agrees to go mano-a-mano with him at least once on television without the minor party candidates.  His spokeswoman, Jessica Proud, said the Cuomo campaign decided on the debate formats without any discussions with Astorino's team.

Cuomo, who previously ducked a debate with his Democratic primary opponent, Zephyr Teachout, has come under pressure to debate Astorino.  The Daily News, along with Channel 7, Univision, and the League of Women Voters, had pushed the governor to agree to a debate.

"Just yesterday Rob Astorino said we should pick a date and he would show up," Cuomo campaign spokesman Matt Wing said Saturday. "We held up our end. If Astorino wants to pull a 180 that's entirely up to him."

When he ran for office four years ago, Cuomo participated in just one debate. But that included every major and minor party candidate and was generally considered a farce as Cuomo and GOP candidate Carl Paladino had limited air time and were usurped by "Rent is 2 Damn High" candidate Jimmy McMillan, who was bounced this week from this year's ballot.










NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!

Michael H. Drucker
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Saturday, September 27, 2014

All Mail-In Voting in Colorado


Mail-In voting, a ballot is automatically mailed to every eligible voter (no request or application is necessary), and the state does not use traditional precinct poll sites that offer in-person voting on Election Day.

In Colorado, a new law instituting all-mail elections will receive its first major statewide test as Democratic Sen. Mark Udall looks to stave off a challenge from Republican Rep. Cory Gardner.  The Colorado governor's race is also the focus of intense attention, as Democrat John Hickenlooper faces Republican Bob Beauprez.  And the Denver suburbs feature a tight congressional race.

Last year, the Democratic controlled legislature passed the all-mail ballot rule, which requires a ballot to be mailed to every registered voter, arguing it would ensure more voter participation.  Republicans strongly opposed it, saying it was unnecessary for a state that already has traditionally high turnout.  In 2010, about 51% of those eligible to vote cast ballots, among the highest turnout percentages in the country.

Colorado, which mails ballots in mid-October and has been an epicenter for media ad buys this year, joins Washington and Oregon as states with all-mail elections.

"When you know ballots are all by mail, it makes the ground game of a campaign that much more important, because campaigns have to chase those ballots and try to get them turned in," said Eric Sondermann, a Denver-based political analyst.

Moving up the timing of the vote has forced campaigns to change.  Ads and arguments that once were saved for right before election day are now unleashed earlier, in many cases.  Gardner and Udall went on air with TV ads before Labor Day, rare moves for Colorado campaigns, which have traditionally waited until mid-September, Sondermann said.

Both state parties say they'll adjust to the all-mail rule.

"We'll have a strong get-out-the vote effort to chase ballots, one that rivals a presidential year effort," said Colorado Republican Party Chairman Ryan Call, who noted that the party has opened more than a dozen field offices in the Denver suburbs to target unaffiliated voters, who often decide the outcomes of statewide elections.

Rick Palacio, the state's Democratic chairman, said his party will build off the ground game laid by President Obama, who won the state in 2008 and 2012.

"Everyone has a chance to vote early and encourage others to vote early," Palacio said. "We'll get ballots and drop it off for people. It's as if Nov. 4 is just really a deadline for Coloradans to get in ballots into the clerk and recorder offices."










NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!

Michael H. Drucker
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Americans for Prosperity Efforts to Register Voters in North Carolina


The Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity group has shifted its effort to get-out-the-vote, in North Carolina.  But it looks more like keep-out-the-vote.  The group is behind a bunch of "incorrect" mailers, telling residents and a cat, how to register to vote.  Or rather, confusing them mightily about how to do it.

Hundreds of people who received the forms have called and complained to the State Board of Elections, said Joshua Lawson, a public information officer for the board.

“It’s unclear where Americans for Prosperity got their list, but it’s caused a lot of confusion for people in the state,” Lawson said.

One resident even received a voter registration form addressed to her cat, he said.

Adam C. Nicholson, a spokesman for Americans for Prosperity, declined to say how many people were sent the forms, how the group obtained the voter lists, or how the mistakes occurred.

Among the misinformation in the mailer:

- Two different deadlines for mailing registration applications.

- Instructions to return applications to the N.C. Secretary of State’s office, with a return envelope addressed to the State Board of Elections with the wrong zip code.

- Directing people to the Secretary of State for more information on registering, which that office does not provide.

- Giving the wrong phone number to the Secretary of State's office.

- Telling people their county clerk will inform them of their voting precinct, which county clerks don't do.

Lawson says that, as of now, no one is accusing the Kochs of deliberately misinforming voters on registration information to suppress the vote, which is a felony.

Yeah, sure they're not disseminating incorrect information on purpose.

It's not like they have unlimited resources to use to research how voter registration works in North Carolina and to inform voters.  Which they didn't do, also according to Lawson.  The Board works with political groups to avoid this kind of thing.  Americans for Prosperity didn't contact them.










NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!

Michael H. Drucker
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Federal Court Declines to Take Up Wisconsin’s Voter ID Law


A federal appeals court on Friday decided against hearing arguments on a recently instituted photo identification requirement for the state’s voters.  The larger group of Seventh Circuit judges was divided, 5 to 5, effectively ending the possibility of a new hearing before the judges.  They offered no reason for their votes, though an order said the judges might file explanations in the coming days.

In an order that evenly split the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit here, the judges turned down pleas for a hearing by the full court from people who argue that the requirement has created confusion and chaos.  The decision came about a month before in-person early voting begins and after some in Wisconsin may have mailed in absentee ballots.

The matter could ultimately wind up before the United States Supreme Court, and the Wisconsin case is seen as noteworthy among the numerous legal fights playing out around the country over voting regulations.

Voting officials and clerks in Wisconsin have been racing to prepare voters and poll-watchers for the identification requirement since a three-member panel of the Seventh Circuit court decided on Sept. 12 that the law, delayed for more than two years, could take effect immediately.

Municipal clerks said they were fielding questions from puzzled voters.  Various efforts to publicize the new rules, including a website, an online seminar for clerks, and radio and television ads, are underway.  And clerks have been advised to contact some absentee voters who already received their ballots in the mail but are now required to provide copies of their identification.

Around the state, voting officials said they were bracing for what was ahead, seeking money from their governing bodies to broadcast advertisements about the new requirement, and quickly trying to train poll workers on the details so that lines are not unmanageable on Election Day.

“We’ll have our folks trained,” said Scott McDonell, the Dane County clerk. “But with the polls showing this election so close and with all the confusion, I’m a little bit more worried about what will happen if we get to a recount and the issue of provisional ballots.”










NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!

Michael H. Drucker
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Friday, September 26, 2014

NY Gov. Cuomo Leans Toward Third Party Candidates in Debates


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a radio interview on Friday indicated he backed having all candidates who qualified for the November statewide ballot appear on stage for a gubernatorial debate.  But he added on The Capitol Pressroom that the potential sponsors of the debate wanted a one-on-one event with him and Rob Astorino, the Republican nominee.

“I don’t know how you exclude people who are legally on the ballot,” Cuomo said in the interview.  “Now the sponsors of the debates, most of the invitations, say they don’t want anyone else.  They just want the two people. That’s what they’re working through.”

Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins has pushed to be included in any televised debates.  A Siena College poll released today shows him polling at 7 percent.

But in recent days Astorino has indicated Hawkins should be included in a debate, potentially as Republicans see the chances of the Green Party nominee capturing liberal supporters of Zephyr Teachout, the Fordham Law School professor who challenged Cuomo for the Democratic nomination this month.

“I do believe Howie Hawkins has a role in these debates,” Astorino said this week.

The only gubernatorial debate of 2010 featured every candidate who appeared on the ballot for governor, most memorably Rent Is 2 Damn High candidate Jimmy McMillan, who failed to get on the ballot this year, and the forum itself was widely criticized for devolving into a farce.

The possible candidates for the debate are:

Governor
Democratic - Andrew M. Cuomo (Working Families, Independence, Woman's Equity)
Republican - Rob Astorino (Conservative, StopCommonCore)
Green - Howie Hawkins
Libertarian - Michael McDermont
Sapient - Steve Cohn










NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!

Michael H. Drucker
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450,000 in VA May Lack Proper ID Needed to Vote


Under a state law that took effect this year, Virginia voters must present a driver’s license, a U.S. passport, a photo ID issued by the federal government, a student ID card that has a photograph and was issued by a school in Virginia, or an employee ID card with a photograph.

Voters who show up to the polls without acceptable identification may cast provisional ballots, but they must present a valid form of identification to their local registrar — or apply on the spot for an ID — by noon on the Friday after the election for their votes to be counted.

Driver’s licenses are the most common form of identification in the state, and 457,931 voters in Virginia are without those, according to data from the state board.

In areas where elections may be close, the potential for confusion caused by a lack of proper ID has generated some concern, particularly among Democrats who say they are more likely to attract voters affected by the new law.  Many Republicans said they are not worried.

The makeup of voters without driver’s licenses depends largely on where they live, officials say.  In Arlington, home to many young professionals who don’t drive, a significant portion of the 4,000 people listed by the DMV are in their 20s and 30s, said Linda Lindberg, the general registrar in Arlington.

“We don’t know whether they have other forms of ID or not,” she said, adding that there are also seniors in the county who are more likely to be affected by the new law.

In Fairfax County, seniors make up the bulk of people who may not have proper identification, Quinn said.

Her office has been trying to increase awareness of the new law through “road shows,” where staffers with cameras offer to produce voter IDs on the spot.  State election officials are also mailing fliers about the law to voters.

“We want to make sure we get the information to voters who need it,” Quinn said. “We want everyone who wants to vote to be able to vote.”

The Federal Help America Vote Act mandates that all states require identification from first-time voters who register to vote by mail, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.  But in Virginia, people who are home-bound are not required under the law to have a photo ID and can vote through an absentee ballot.










NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!

Michael H. Drucker
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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ohio Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Delay Early Voting Order


Attorneys for Ohio asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday to delay a federal judge's order that expands the swing state's early voting schedule this fall.  The request comes a day after a three-judge panel of a federal appeals court upheld the order that allows early ballots to be cast next week.

In a Sept. 4 decision, U.S. District Judge Peter Economus temporarily blocked an Ohio law trimming early voting and ordered Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted to set additional times that included evening hours.  The ruling moved the start of early voting to Tuesday instead of Oct. 7.

Ohioans can vote absentee by mail or in person.

The state is appealing the panel's decision and has asked the full 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati to grant a rehearing.

State Solicitor Eric Murphy told the Supreme Court in Thursday's court filing that the judge's order was wrong and inequitable in making the changes so late.

"Ohio respectfully asks that the federal courts permit it to implement the early-voting schedule its democratically elected representatives chose and for which its voters and elections officials have prepared for over six months," Murphy wrote.

The appeals panel concluded in a 3-0 decision on Wednesday that none of the interests put forward by Ohio sufficiently justified the burden found to be placed on certain voters by two election-related measures.

One is a directive from Husted that established uniform early voting times and restricted weekend and evening hours.  Another is a GOP-backed state law that eliminates so-called golden week, when people could both register to vote and cast ballots.  Without those days, early voting would typically start 28 or 29 days before Election Day instead of the prior 35-day window.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio filed the lawsuit on behalf of several black churches and the state's chapters of the NAACP and the League of Women Voters.

The plaintiffs claimed that the new rules would make it difficult for residents to vote and disproportionately affect low-income and black voters, who, the groups say, are more likely to use the weekend and evening hours to vote early in elections.  The black churches in the lawsuit say their parishioners have come to rely on rides they provide to the polls after Sunday services to vote early.

The ACLU's attorneys on Thursday said a review by the full appellate court would disrupt the fall election processes.

"The district court did not abuse its discretion in ensuring that these election processes remain in place temporarily while the parties continue to develop the factual record before the district court," wrote Freda Levenson, of the ACLU of Ohio, in a court filing.

Aaron Ockerman, the executive director of the Ohio Association of Election Officials, said local boards are prepared for the start of early voting even as the date remains in flux.

"Neither the ruling nor the appeal is going to have any impact on our ability to serve voters," Ockerman said.  "We're ready for whatever the court tells us to do."










NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!

Michael H. Drucker
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