Dan Tokaji's Blog
Professor Dan Tokaji
Election reform, the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, and related topics -- with special attention to the voting rights of people of color, non-English proficient citizens, and people with disabilities

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Equal Vote
Sunday, July 16
Blogging Break
I'm in California for the next couple of weeks and am going to be taking a break. Regular blogging will resume in August.
Thursday, July 13
Court Orders Against Georgia ID Law
U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy yesterday issued a verbal order from the bench, enjoining enforcement of Georgia's 2006 law requiring voters to show photo identification. The case is Common Cause/Georgia v. Billups, and the AP has this report and the Atlanta Journal Constitution this one. After a five-plus hour hearing, Judge Murphy reportedly found that the law discriminates against those who lack government-issued photo ID. In October of last year, Judge Murphy had issued an injunction against a previous version of Georgia's photo ID law, as described here. That prompted Georgia lawmakers to pass a new version of the law at the start of this year's legislative session.

Yesterday's federal court order follows a temporary restraining order issued by a state court in Fulton County last week in Lake v. Perdue. Judge Melvin Westmoreland found that the 2006 voter ID law places a "restrictive condition on the right of a citizen to vote" in violation of the Georgia Constitution. Judge Westmoreland's order prevents the state from enforcing the voter ID law in next week's primary as well as any run-offs. Also yesterday, the Georgia Supreme Court denied the state's motion to stay the state court order.

What this means is that there are two court orders now in effect against Georgia's 2006 photo ID law. The federal court order is reportedly broader, since it includes the November election and any runoffs, and not just the primary.

Update: The federal court's 194-page preliminary injunction order may be found here.
Tuesday, July 11
Voter Registration: The Issue of 2006?
Could voter registration be to 2006 what voting machines were to 2000 and provisional ballots were to 2004? I think it's possible, and USA Today has this story on the question.

There are really two big issues here. The first is implementation of the statewide registration databases that are required by the Help America Vote Act, which I discussed in this weekly comment several weeks ago. The biggest question here is what standards will be used in "matching" voters' identifying information (such as name, address, driver's license number) against that in other databases. If voters' names are wrongly deleted to to matching problems, then lots of people will show up at the polls to find that there names aren't there.

The other issue concerns attempts by some states -- including Florida and Ohio -- to impose new restrictions on nonpartisan groups engaged in voter registration. The ostensible justification for these rules is that phony registration forms have been submitted. On the other hand, groups like ACORN and the League of Women Voters are concerned that the stiff penalities and rigid rules governing them in some states will drastically curtail their ability to register voters. Lawsuits are pending in Florida, Ohio, and Arizona, and I doubt that these will be the last states in which such battles emerge this year.
Wednesday, July 5
Trouble with Statewide Voter Registration Lists
The Help America Vote Act requires that every state have in place a statewide registration database for this year's elections. The Madison Capital Times reports here that Wisconsin is having trouble making its work: "The state's new voter registration system can't process absentee ballots and is five times slower than the city of Madison's current system, says Mayor Dave Cieslewicz." The software for the system was developed by Accenture.

How well statewide registration databases work is a big issue to watch this year. Unfortunately, there's not been a whole lot of media coverage, but you can find more on the status of each state's database (including the vendor it's using) on the votingindustry.com website -- a great source of information for those interested in the subject. It also has information on each states' voting equipment.
Monday, July 3
We've Got Paper Trails -- Now What?
Sadly for election officials in Yuba County, California, they're going to have to count them, according to this report in the Appeal-Democrat. A recount has been requested in a supervisorial race where the incumbent defeated the challenger by a 676-639 margin. There weren't that many votes cast, just a little over 1300, but the recount of the paper strips that constitute the electronic voting machine's "voter verified paper audit trail" (VVPAT) is expected to last several days according to elections supervisor Donna Hillegass. Why? Take a look at the accompanying photo of the VVPATs and you'll get an idea.

The big question that this raises is this: Will it really be feasible to conduct automatic audits of a sufficient number of VVPATs on a routine basis, to get an adequate level of confidence in election results? That entails two subsidiary questions. The first is a math/statistics question: What percentage of randomly selected ballots (or precincts) will have to be recounted to get a adequate level of confidence? The second is a manpower question: How long will it actually take to count that many ballots?
Saturday, July 1
Guest-Blogging on Election Law
I'm guest-blogging on Rick Hasen's Election Law blog this week. As before, any analysis and commentary that I post there will be cross-posted here, though I'll post shorter news items on Rick's blog only.

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Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University