Greg Flynn: McCain Confusing NC Republican Voters

The McCain campaign is flooding voters in many states with absentee ballot requests, in hopes of increasing his turnout. North Carolina is one. Blogger Greg Flynn has the flyers on his “spot” and a great write up.

Pushing absentee voting this way has been successful for other politicians including George Bush in 2000. The problem is, that the request forms in Ohio, Virginia, and North Carolina have either incorrect, incomplete or confusing information on them. This hurts… the GOP vote. Greg Flynn points out that the forms he saw in Wake County NC are missing critical fields and also have an incorrect address to mail them too. Here’s an excerpt, please visit his blog to read and see it all:

McCain Confusing NC Republican Voters by gregflynn, Thu Sep 11, 2008

The Campaign of John McCain has begun sending out misleading information to North Carolina voters about absentee voting. His target audience? Republicans.

…McCain is telling people to request a ballot on a postcard using their own handwriting with their name, residence, phone number and signature. The address example actually contains two addresses. One address in the example has a non-existent zip code, 127602. The other address immediately below it is a PO Box address.

The return address given is actually that of the Wake County, NC, Board of Elections but there is no clear identification of the Board. It simply says “Director of Elections”. The postcard requires a first class stamp but does not tell the recipient the actual postage required.

…The critically missing piece information is the date of birth and, to avoid the risk of identity theft, that should not be placed in full view on the back of a postcard. At first blush this looked like a voter caging exercise but upon review it just seems sloppy. The pre-sorted mailing rate does not allow for returns. Such a request to the Board of Elections would not be valid and a response would generate more expense and delay and likely frustrate the recipient.

For anyone who has received this mailing, please contact the Board of Elections in your own state (in NC your County Board of Elections) to clarify the requirements that apply to your circumstances and needs. Lord only knows what Democrats received in their McCain Mailin’….

more at the link

Brennan Center: Students Guide to Voting in North Carolina

Many college students don’t vote because of questions about residency. To cut through the confusion, the legal experts at the Brennan Center For Justice have created a Legal Guide to Student Voting that “explains the basic residency, registration, identification, and absentee voting requirements for student voters in each of the 50 states and the D.C. Individual state guides can be downloaded here.

The full North Carolina guide to student voting is here.

Student Voting in North Carolina, an overview:

ID Requirements
Generally, North Carolina voters do not need to show ID at the polls. However, voters who register and vote during the early voting period will have to show proof of their residence address. First-time voters who registered by mail who have not had their identifying numbers verified by the state have to show ID when they register or vote.

Residency Requirements
North Carolina law clearly states that students who intend to make their school address their home during school, and do not presently intend to return to their former homes, can register and vote as residents of their school addresses.
Registering to vote in North Carolina may be considered an abandonment of voting residency in your old state.

Registration Requirements
The regular registration deadline is 25 days before Election Day, but North Carolina also has same-day registration during One-Stop Absentee voting (early voting), from nineteen days before the election to three days before the election.

Absentee Requirements
Anyone registered in North Carolina can vote absentee by mail, but the procedure is somewhat complicated: first, your request for a ballot must be handwritten, and second, your ballot must be witnessed by two adults.

For a complete write-up on this state’s regulations, please visit: www.brennancenter.org/studentvoting/states/north_carolina/

The Brennan Center answers some other frequently asked questions:

Residency and domicile, what do they mean, exactly?
Learn what it really means to have residency and what that entails…

The Truth About Financial Aid
Students are often warned that voter registration might affect their financial aid. This is untrue for the vast majority of students. Learn more…

Tuition
Registering to vote more than likely won’t hurt your wallet. Read more about in-state and out-of-state tuition as it relates to voting…

Taxes, your parents and you
Registering to vote cannot affect your parent’s ability to claim you as a dependent. But it could hit you in the pocket, learn why….

Insuring your health and car
Registering to vote will have almost no affect on your insurance, car or health. Read more…

Driver’s Licenses and Car Registration
Registering to vote may entail a trip to the DMV afterwards. See why…

AUDITING YOUR ELECTION 101 By Andy Stephenson

Will your vote count in 2008? Are you worried about inaccurate or fraudulent election results? You should be – because we know that errors are made and the stakes are high. Just this May, at least three North Carolina counties reported incorrect results on election night, and that is what the media went with. (SeeMecklenburg, Wake find vote flaws News 14 Carolina, NC and Thousands of votes missed in Tuesday tallies Jacksonville Daily News, NC May 9, 2008) .You can help protect electionsL email, call or otherwise ask your county and state political parties or other groups to AUDIT the elections. Send them this blog post. Here are the steps:

AUDITING YOUR ELECTION 101 By Andy Stephenson
In 2005, Andy Stephenson (RIP) gave a “teach in” in Ohio in 2005 on how to audit your elections. These procedures can and must be used to protect this year’s elections whether your jurisdiction has has paper ballots or not. These “audits” help to check that correct procedures were followed, to check against tampering, and whether votes were counted correctly. Andy’s lesson plan for elections is after the jump:

Andy Stephenson, “1962-2005 A good man, a tireless activist, and for too short a time, a friend.” – David Allen, BlackBoxVoting.com

AUDITING YOUR ELECTION 101 By Andy Stephenson
Submitted by Forrester on Fri, 07/15/2005


The following document contains Andy’s course notes for the class he gave at the CASE-Ohio “Teach-In” on May 7, 2005. This course basically contains the complete instructions for auditing an election conducted on a Diebold Optical Scan system, however Andy said that most of these instructions could also apply to ES & S or other vendors’ equipment.

AUDITING YOUR ELECTION 101by Andy Stephenson

What does that mean when I say “audit an election”? Well, an election audit looks at the election results to ensure that all proper procedures were followed, and that the votes were recorded correctly. In an audit, you can see if any votes are missing, or if any votes have been tampered with. While you’re auditing, you will need to look at every document that the system produces, from the audit log, to the poll tapes, to the numerous reports that are generated during the election. It may sound like a difficult process to audit an election, but really it’s quite simple. It comes down to following certain procedures, gathering the right materials, and taking good inventory of your records. It’s a methodical and detail oriented task that takes some time and energy, but other than that, it’s not that hard to manage. By the time you leave here today, you will have all the tools you need in order to audit your local election successfully.

Part One: Background information regarding electronic voting and terminology.
Electronic voting occurs in nearly every state to some degree. This might not be directly evident when you visit your polling site. Most ballots are counted electronically, whether the votes were cast on a touch screen computer or on paper ballots.

Election night procedure:

Once the polls have closed, paper ballots are collected and then counted with an optical scan machine. The optical scan machine then records all of the data onto a memory card. Absentee ballots are also recorded on separate memory cards. The memory cards are then delivered by hand to the central tabulator, or the data is uploaded remotely into the tabulator by modem. Then reports and vote totals are generated, and sent to the canvassing board. The canvassing board is a group of about 5-13 appointed members, who service the election. The canvassing board then certifies the results of the election, and makes them official.

Terminology:

There are a number of terms that I will be referring to in today’s presentation regarding voting equipment, and voting reports. Here I’ll give you a brief explanation of some of these terms.

Voting Equipment:

GEMS: Global Elections Management System. “GEMS is a state of the art election management software package that runs on Microsoft’s Windows operating system.” (let me editorialize a bit here…HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA)

Unity Election System. This is the central tabulator software. ES&S product

The ES&S Model 100 is a precinct-based, voter-activated paper ballot counter and vote tabulator. Utilizing advanced Intelligent Mark Recognition (IMR) visible light scanning technology, the Model 100 is a proven mainstay for jurisdictions worldwide utilizing precinct-level voting and tabulation.

The AccuVote-OS Tabulator: The tabulator is a multi-functional terminal that counts and tabulates the ballots at precincts on election day and communicates with the host computer at Election Central for accurate and timely jurisdiction-wide results.

Voting Reports:

Statement of votes cast (SOVC): It is a breakdown by precinct of the number of votes cast in each race in every election.

Audit Log: is equivalent to the “black box” on an aircraft. It contains everything that happens in the voting system, and tracks the times and dates of all activity that takes place within the GEMS server.

Modem Log: Records the dates and times that any external communications commenced with the server.

Windows Event Log: Shows if any changes or patches were made to Windows, which could affect the operations of voting software.

Poll Tape: A printout, similar to a cash register receipt. Zero tapes are printed before the election, showing zero votes on the machine, and at the end of the election, the tape is run again to show the results of each race in the election. Zero tape and poll tape is signed by elections workers after they are run.

Interim Report: A report printed each hour on the hour during election night, that shows the breakdown of votes cast in each precinct. These are usually timed and dated stamped automatically.Printing of this report will create an entry in the audit log.

Part Two: Overview of the public records disclosure laws’

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)/Public Records Request: State and Federal laws that you will use to obtain the documents you need for an audit.

Background info. on FOIA:

What to ask for in your public records request:
1.Zero tapes and poll tapes, date and time stamped, from the precinct you are auditing.
2.Statement of votes cast
3.Modem logs
4.Audit logs: from two weeks prior to the election, to two weeks after
5.Windows event log
6.Names of all poll workers
7.”Key” log and names of everyone who had access to the central tabulator
8.Names of all pollworkers
9.Copies of all “trouble tickets”: any recorded malfunctions, reported by pollworkers.
10.Copies of absentee totals and provisional totals
11.Copies of all e-mail and correspondence between elections office and hardware/software vendors, and their contractors.
12.Certification documents for the AccuVote and certification documents for the GEMS software being used in the county.
13.Lists of all precincts
14.Absentee and provisional reports. (Call Susan T. to get details)
Overview of public records disclosure laws, including Ohio statute.Also, an example of public records request. And a review of the FOIA,its guidelines and processes.

Part Three: Auditing the Election

Steps:

1. Inventory the materials obtained from your public records request/(FOIA). Look to see if anything is missing. Any missing materials are most likely your most important ones. Look at the audit logs for any gaps or lapses in time. Check poll tape totals against the statement of votes cast. Check the statement of votes cast against the interim reports. Check poll tapes against the interim reports. Regarding interim reports, they can be obtained through FOIA, but it is best to obtain one from the central tabulator on election night. That way it establishes a benchmark, and if any changes take place later in the process, you will have a document to compare to. Also,look at the modem log to ensure that the modem was functioning properly on election night. Look at the trouble tickets to see what kind of problems were encountered on election night. Pay particular attention to hardware issues such as modem errors, memory card failures, and transmission problems. Transmission and hardware failures will appear on the audit logs and modem logs.

Note any and all discrepancies.

2.Find errors, make a list of the problems that you found. Present this information to the candidate you are working for, and recommend further action. This action includes investigation of precincts where anomalies have been found, and a hand recount of the ballots from the

3.This is people intensive and you MUST organize groups now to train . You are going to need people in every precinct and at a minimum 5 people watching at central count on election night. Take binoculars. Pen Paper ASK questions don’t be afraid. Take note…ask the names of people working on the central count computer. Become a poll worker, go through the training so you will be able to teach others what the procedures are. in the event you need them, have lawyers ready to file injunctions and lawsuits. Find lawyers you can work with locally that will work for costs only. They are out there.

Thanks goes to the Oregon Voter Rights Coalition where I found Andy’s notes safely recorded for posterity.

Report on Need for Emergency Paper Ballots! (touch screen counties)

If you are in a touchscreen county, please read this and pass it on. The report explains the need for emergency paper ballots. Our state recommended them to touchscreen counties in 2006, but we need to ask again.

Must Read Report on Need for Emergency Paper Ballots! Avoid Disenfranchisement in 2008
Dr. William Edelstein & Save Our Votes have issued an EXCELLENT five page report titled “How can we prevent long lines from disenfranchising voters in this year’s election?”

Dr. Edelstein, a physicist applied the queuing theory to voting and shows why long lines are likely. For example, queuing shows that “a voting time of 6.3 minutes would cause wait times longer than 2 hours in nearly all precincts.”

Together Edelstein and Save Our Votes make the compelling argument for emergency paper ballots this November 4, and provide a point by point rebuttal to all the objections to emergency paper ballots. Additionally, the report gives specific suggestions for how and when to give out the emergency ballots and addresses cost, logistics and security. If you are in a jurisdiction or state that uses touch screen voting machines, then we strongly urge you to forward this report to your election officials and request emergency paper ballots.

From the report

“How can we prevent long lines from disenfranchising voters in this year’s election?”
…The 2004 and 2006 general elections in Maryland were accompanied by very long lines, with voters in some locations waiting for hours to vote. Many left without voting and were thereby disenfranchised. This year’s hotly contested presidential race is expected to cause a record turnout at the polls in November.

“The formation of polling place lines depends on the interplay among thenumber of voters, the number of voting machines, and the time each votertakes to vote. It is a process similar to that which occurs on highwaysduring rush hour. Traffic flows smoothly as long as traffic density islow. As volume increases, traffic gradually slows until, at someconcentration, it locks up and cars accumulate into long lines that can take hours to clear.

Physicist William Edelstein has applied mathematical queuing simulation to voting dynamics in Maryland. Dr. Edelstein studied an averageprecinct with 10 voting machines and 1500 actual voters (a turnout of75%). He found that if each voter takes an average of 4.6 minutes tovote, all precincts will have wait times of more than 15 minutes at somepoint during Election Day and 0.1% of precincts will experience waittimes of more than an hour.

But small variations in voting times can cause large changes in wait times. An average voting time of 5 minutes would mean that 10% ofprecincts would have a wait time of more than an hour at some pointduring the day, and a voting time of 6.3 minutes would cause wait timeslonger than 2 hours in nearly all precincts.”

North Carolina Elections: September is Voter Registration Awareness Month

The Bladen Journal reports today that this is September is Voter Awareness Month in North Carolina. This is an effort to eduate voters about the registration process in time for the November election. Voters should register now. If already registered, voters they should check to make sure their registration information is correct in order to avoid problems on election day.

September is Voter Awareness Month
Folks urged to register for November elections
Thursday, August 28, 2008 1:03 PM CDT

Erin Smith, Staff Writer ELIZABETHTOWN — Gov. Mike Easley has declared the month of September as Voter Registration Awareness Month and the Bladen County Board of Elections is trying to get the message to all voters— if you are not registered to vote and want to vote in the November general election, now is the time to do so.

…In order to be eligible to vote, a person must turn 18 years old by the date of the general election; you have to be registered to vote 25 days before the election; must be either a naturalized U.S. citizen or a native-born U.S. citizen; and you must give your physical address and your mailing address, if the two are different.

Voters who register will be mailed a registration card with their information and voting precinct on it.

Those looking to register can also go online to the state board of elections Web site at www.sboe.state.nc.us and print out and complete the form and mail it in. Other registration locations where folks can register include the DMV; social services offices; the library; or at their high school.

What if you have moved, had a name change or want to change party affiliation? You can use the North Carolina Voter Registration Application/ Change of Information Form found at the State Board of Elections website or just give your county Elections office a call with any questions.

“We can’t make changes to your voter registration without a written signature of the voter,” said Hammond.Voters needing to make changes to their registration may call or come by the board of elections office and make the necessary changes before the election. All changes to existing voter registration records must be made no later than Nov. 1, according to Hammond.

What about people who have been convicted of a felon and who have served their time, can they vote?

“There has been a lot of interest lately about people with felony convictions and voting,” said Hammond.Once a person is removed for a felony and has completed all punishments, paid fines, and has been released by the court, in the state of North Carolina, their citizenship rights are restored, according to Hammond. However, they will need to re-register to vote and will need to bring with them a paper from the court stating they have been released, said Hammond.

Other opportunities to register to vote:

In Person Registration at early voting sites. A North Carolina resident who is qualified to register to vote may register In-Person and vote at a One-Stop Site in the person’s county of residence during the One-Stop Absentee Voting period. The One-Stop Voting period extends from 19 to 3 days before Election Day.

The process is sometimes referred to as “In-Person Registration,” but it is important to recognize that it not permitted on Election Day itself.

To use this process, a citizen must (1) go to a One-Stop Voting Site in the county of residence during the One Stop Absentee Voting period, (2) fill out a voter registration application, and (3) provide proof of residency by showing the elections official an appropriate form of identification with the citizen’s current name and current address. The new registrant may vote ONLY at a One-Stop Absentee Voting Site in the county of registration during One-Stop Absentee Voting period and not on Election Day.

More information on “in person” registration at the State Board of Elections webiste here

North Carolina Early Voting Sites – prescription for success for the 2008 Presidential Election

What does it take to make early voting a success in North Carolina? More early voting sites? Checking your registration? It is getting to be that time again and advocacy groups are pressing for additional early voting sites so as to avoid long lines and/or bottlenecks. What does it take to enfranchise the most voters?

General Election – Nov. 4
Last day to register to vote: 10/10
Mail-In Voting: 9/15 – 10/28
One Stop Reg. and Voting: 10/16 – 11/1
Click here for Candidate List

We really don’t know how many sites we will need when the November election roll around, but of course, we want to be prepared. The question is – what is the best plan of action and what are our options? How many sites are enough?

More does not mean better:

The whole purpose of early voting sites is defeated if they aren’t run efficiently. The biggest challenge will be to staff early voting sites, according to several election directors around the state. Well run sites with good parking are key. Adding more sites, if you can’t adequately staff them, makes matters worse for the voters. Shortages of poll workers lead to frustrated voters, long delays, and confusion. More volunteers are desperately needed to work the early voting sites. The average age of a poll worker is 72. It is time for more people to step in.

It is up to concerned citizens to volunteer to work at the polls. The only way our democracy can truly work is by turning concern into action and becoming part of the solution. Helping voters and assisting elections officials is a simple, supportive and paid way to do this. Interested citizens should contact their County Board of Elections right away to volunteer.

Voters can streamline the process by checking now to see that they are properly registered and that their information is up to date. This information is available on the State Board of Elections website or can be verified with you county elections office.

First time voters should always bring some sort of identification with them just in case. Take along any valid photo I.D., a utility bill, or government document addressed to you when you vote. Even if you aren’t a first time voter, it helps to bring ID. When you do vote, bring a friend or neighbor.

NCVV notes:

Without volunteers (they do get paid though), the Board of Elections cannot run one stop sites. About 1/3 of all votes in NC are cast early, the rest are cast on election day. Waiting time is much shorter on election day when voting at your precinct but you don’t have a second chance to correct faulty registration information as you would during early voting.

Early voting offers a bigger choice of voting times, but longer waiting, as there are fewer sites serving more people. During early voting, people can register to vote if they have not already done so. If you decide to vote early, then you may be able to reduce your wait by going earlier in the day. GOTV efforts should consider this as well, to reduce bottle necks that occur when everyone waits until the end of the day.

Find answers to your questions about voting at the North Carolina State Board of Elections website . To volunteer to be a poll worker contact your County Boards of Elections .