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Thursday, October 28, 2004

Voting Issues From Around the Country

A continuation of yesterday's blog on issues relating to the upcoming election.

Nationwide: According to the Associated Press, the Justice Department has sent over 1,000 elections monitors to over 86 precincts around the country to ensure compliance with voting laws and to prevent voter intimidation or disenfranchisement.

California: As reported by Mason Stockwell in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, absentee voters in San Bernadino are having their ballots returned to them because they are so heavy that one stamp is not enough. Election officials say that ballots will be delivered to the registrar's office even if not properly stamped, although apparently the US Postal Service wasn't informed of that fact.

Florida: As reported by the Associated Press in the Miami Herald (registration required), Broward County elections supervisor Brenda Snipes has decided to send replacement absentee ballots to some of the thousands of voters who have not received their absentee ballot sent out October 7 and 8. She estimates that she will need to send no more than 20,000 replacement ballots.

The office of elections also activated an absentee ballot hotline. The emergency telephone number is 954-831-4000, for voters who have requested an absentee ballot, but have not yet received one. The hotline will be open Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., so be sure to call tomorrow during this time frame if you or anyone you know who lives in Broward County has not received a requested absentee ballot.

Information on the absentee ballots can be found at the website for the Broward County Supervisor of Elections.

Minnesota: A recent state law has sharply curtailed media access to polling places in Minnesota. Reporters and photographers now have to get written permission to enter a polling place, and can stay no more than fifteen minutes.

Ohio: As reported by Kevin Eigelbach in the Cincinnati Post, U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott issued a temporary order restraining election officials from conducting hearings on the challenges made by Republican party officials against the eligibility of 35,000 Ohio voters. The ruling has the practical effect of forestalling the challenges until after the election.

Judge Dlott must also rule on another election-based suit brought by former Cincinnati Councilwoman Marian Spencer to prevent the use of a state law which allows challenges voters inside the polling places. The law allows challenges on the grounds that the voter:
-isn't an American citizen,
-isn't 18,
-hasn't lived in Ohio for at least 30 days,
-doesn't live in the county, or
-doesn't live in the precinct.

Spencer alleges that the law will be sued to intimidate voters. Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell has issued a ruling saying that challenged voters must sign an affidavit answering all charges. In bold letters, the affidavit states: "Whoever commits election falsification is guilty of a felony of the fifth degree."

I don't know about you, but Fifth Degree Felony seems like it might scare off some folks who have every right to vote but are intimidated by the threat of criminal sanction.

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