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electionlineWeekly--May 26, 2011

Table of Contents

II. Election News This Week

  • The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that San Francisco’s ranked-choice voting system is constitutional. The Court said there was no evidence to suggest that the city's system "imposes any serious burdens on voters' constitutional rights by providing unequal opportunities to cast ballots." The ruling upheld a federal judge's decision. In 2010, Ron Dudum, a former candidate sued city election officials claiming that the city’s system violates the Constitution by denying thousands of voters a voice in elections and allows candidates to win without getting a majority. In its ruling Friday, a three-judge panel made clear that it wasn't expressing any opinions on the "wisdom" of using ranked-choice voting or any other system. "There is no perfect election system, and our search for one would prove no more successful than a hunt for the mythical snark," Judge Marsha Berzon wrote in the 3-0 opinion.
  • The Indiana Supreme Court says the state's Recount Commission should proceed with its investigation into Charlie White's eligibility to serve as secretary of state. The commission initially declined to hear the Democrat's complaint in December. The Democrats then appealed in Marion Circuit Court. Marion Circuit Judge Louis Rosenberg ruled April 7 that the complaint is valid and that the commission must hear it, a ruling that White and the Recount Commission appealed to the Supreme Court. In its order, the Supreme Court dismissed both appeals. The Supreme Court agreed with the Democrats' claim that the circuit court's rulings didn't constitute a final judgment, so its orders can't be appealed through the regular process. The court also denied White's request to halt the commission's investigation until his criminal case in Hamilton County is resolved. White's trial is scheduled for Aug. 8. White faces seven felony charges in Hamilton County stemming from allegations that he lied about his address when voting in 2010. Indiana Democrats say that because White was illegally registered to vote when he declared his candidacy for secretary of state last year, he was ineligible to run for the office.
  • Voters in South Dakota were greeted with a host of new technology and voting options this week. Using a Sioux Falls school board race as a guinea pig, the state used electronic poll books and vote centers for the first time. The test-run drew nothing but praise from voters and officials. "In one word, I would characterize it as 'excellent,'” Secretary of State Jason Gant told the Argus Press. "It was just what we expected it to be." Instead of sending voters to 59 precincts in their respective neighborhoods, the school district used 10 schools as voting centers, allowing residents to cast their ballots at any of the 10, no matter where they lived in the city. And the electronic poll books replaced large paper volumes of voters' names, allowing election officials to scan a driver's license to more quickly verify people's eligibility to vote.Gant said there were numerous county auditors and city clerks from other communities in Sioux Falls to check out the new system. "Absolutely, this will take off in other places," said Gant, who said if the necessary legislation is brought and passed in the 2012 legislative session, "we should be able to start this in more and more communities across South Dakota.

  • It was not a particularly good week for elections officials in Montgomery County. In Montgomery County, Pa., the county board of elections recommended that both the director and assistant director of voter services be suspended without pay for misleading the board about people mistakenly registered to vote.A Voter Services employee wrongly registered about 3,200 people to vote after receiving their names from PennDOT. The individuals were actually not registered voters. And in Montgomery County, Va., the state board of elections signed off on a letter censuring Registrar Randy Wertz and three members of the county electoral board. The letter formalizes the state board’s April 29 decision to issue a censure based on findings by the state’s attorney general’s office that some voters were allowed to cast ballots in November 2010 without having their registration verified.
  • Almost a year after a warehouse fire destroyed all 10,000 voting machines in Harris County, Texas; investigators have ruled that the fire was accidental. Rumors had swirled about the cause of the fire since it came in the run-up to the November election, but according KHOU, the fire department says heat from an electrical appliance caused the fire. There were no signs of forced entry in the building, investigators said.