Vote Watch 2004
Vote/Election fraud, vote suppression, voting irregularities, voter intimidation in Election 2004



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11/2/04_2 [Permalink]
The state of Iowa incorrectly labeled dozens of voters as felons and struck them from the rolls - many were reinstated but some are still not, although it appears they might be able to cast provisional ballots

Via Election Protection, we have this report in the Des Moines Register (bold text is my emphasis):

Postal worker Rick Brown, 47, of Madrid, Ia., was surprised and upset when he got a letter from his county auditor Friday, telling him that he is a convicted felon and that he can't vote in today's election.

"I was frustrated and just didn't understand," said Brown, who contended that he never served jail time, but in July 1997 received a deferred judgment on a domestic abuse assault charge, according to court records. "I've been a registered voter for years," he said.

Brown was one of dozens of Iowans mistakenly purged from voter registration rolls after a list from the state incorrectly identified them as convicted felons.

While most people have since been reinstated on voter rolls, it is unclear whether the problem has been fully corrected.

"We made every effort to make sure that was an up-to-date list," said Anthony Carroll, a spokesman for the Iowa secretary of state's office. "The bottom line is it's still not a clean list."

The problem appeared to be largest in Linn County, where only 35 people on a list of 145 from the secretary of state's office were actual felons. The full list of people was purged from voter rolls Oct. 23, and some got letters that their absentee vote wouldn't count.

"We started getting irate phone calls," said Linn County Auditor Linda Langenberg, who said names were double-checked and have since been reinstated. "While this was a mistake on the part of somebody at the state level, it could have been disastrous."

In Dubuque County, at least 13 from a list of 78 were mistakenly identified as felons. In Black Hawk County, 38 from a list of 120 had their voting eligibility restored. And in Boone County, three people shouldn't have been included on a list of 27 convicted felons.

Meanwhile, counties like Polk, Cerro Gordo and Pottawattamie avoided the problem by not relying on the state's list to purge voters who are alleged to be felons.

"The records that we get are not accurate," said Polk County Auditor Michael Mauro, who took the list and cross-checked it with court records. "I don't think it's ever been accurate. I've been dealing with it for years."

Election and court officials agree that the system of purging felons from the state's voter registration rolls is imperfect.

Criminal information is funneled monthly from county clerks to auditors and the secretary of state's office, which then removes from the list those whose voting rights have been restored.

Carroll said it's unclear what went wrong. He blamed the state court administration for providing the list of felons to the secretary of state's office, and said the list should be improved when Iowa moves to a statewide voter registration database.

"We're aware that there are some inaccuracies in this report," said Rebecca Colton, spokeswoman for the courts.

Ben Stone, executive director of the Iowa Civil Liberties Union, wasn't surprised by the problems. He cited an Oct. 19 report by Demos, Right to Vote and the American Civil Liberties Union showing Iowa doesn't have a law requiring county auditors to tell people when their names are purged from voter rolls.

"If someone does not get notice, they have no ability to challenge it before the election," said Stone, who plans to lobby the Legislature for a law requiring notification.

Voters whose eligibility is challenged will be allowed to vote today by provisional ballot.


11/2/04_1 [Permalink]
Older News: Iowa wrongly rejects numerous voter registrations for missing tick mark against age (>18) and U.S. citizenship, even though signed and sworn voter affidavit submitted with the registration contains this certification. Registrants asked to re-submit applications.

Via PFAW/NAACP, here is a report in the Des Moines Register:

Another new requirement also is causing problems for some voters who registered by mail.

Under Iowa's interpretation of the Help America Vote Act, voters who do not check boxes indicating they're 18 and a U.S. citizen will not be eligible to vote in federal elections. This year, that means the presidential race and congressional races.

The effects of the box-checking problem on Iowans is on a smaller scale. Twenty-seven voters have been affected in Johnson County and several hundred in Polk County. Those Iowans also have received letters from their county auditors, telling them to re-register to vote.

"We sent everybody letters, telling them, 'We need you to mark the two boxes on the top,' " Mauro said.

Iowa Secretary of State Chet Culver met with state Attorney General Tom Miller on Tuesday to attempt to fix the problem.

Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, Washington and Wisconsin have voter registration forms similar to Iowa's. However, those states have said that failure to check the citizenship box should not prevent the processing of a voter registration application, as long as voters sign an affidavit that they're a U.S. citizen.

Iowa's voter registration form has such an affidavit. With a signature, the voter swears that he or she is the person named, is a U.S. citizen, lives at the address listed, is 18 years old, has not been convicted of a felony, is not incompetent to vote and does not claim the right to vote elsewhere.

Problems with voter registration are affecting only first-time voters registering by mail. Those whose application has been processed will receive a voter registration card within 10 days. The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 23.


11/1/04 [Permalink]
Iowa Republican Auditor wrongly sends away student voters in line at closing time and refuses to hold another day of early voting to compensate

Via Votersunite, we have this story in the Des Moines Register:

Story County Auditor Mary Mosiman was criticized Saturday for her decision not to open an added satellite voting station Monday at Iowa State University.

Mosiman's announcement conflicts with earlier statements by Iowa Secretary of State Chet Culver, who said Mosiman would arrange another day of satellite voting after some students complained they were turned away from a site at ISU's Parks Library on Oct. 21.

State officials said Mosiman violated voting regulations when she directed poll workers to turn away people in line at closing time.

The proposed additional voting day was to be Monday, but Mosiman said that leaves insufficient time to publish a notice, as required by law, seven days in advance.

Mosiman, a Republican, "had the opportunity to make good on what appeared to be an honest mistake, but she didn't take that advantage of that opportunity," said Amber Hard, state director of the Iowa New Voters Project.

Jim Hutter, a political science professor at ISU and Mosiman's challenger in Tuesday's election, said Saturday he was "shocked at how Mary Mosiman finds ways to keep people from voting instead of helping them to vote."

Mosiman issued a written statement that said the legal publication requirement "is very clear" and that "intentional disregard of this could seriously jeopardize the entire election."

She also took a swipe at Culver, a Democrat, who indicated that he might issue a "technical infraction" against Mosiman.

State regulations say poll workers must allow voters to cast ballots if they arrive before the established closing time. Mosiman initially said she thought that the rule did not apply to satellite stations and the site would have run out of ballots before those in line could vote.


10/30/04 [Permalink]
Iowa State officials reject hundreds of voter registrations because of a problem with their own systems that prevents them from accessing the Social Security database - officials state they will work to fix this

Via Votersunite, we have this report in the Des Moines Register:

Published October 13, 2004
Hundreds of Iowans who registered to vote by mail were notified this week that their applications were rejected - a situation that threatens to disenfranchise voters less than three weeks before Election Day.

State officials say they are resolving the problem, which stems from the portion of Iowa's voter registration form that requires an identification number. The form allows voters to use the last four digits of their Social Security number if they don't have a driver's license or other state identification number.

But Iowa county auditors' access to the Social Security database to verify those numbers has been delayed - causing hundreds of voter registration applications to pile up without being processed. The situation affects the entire state, including about 400 applications in Johnson County and 500 in Polk County.

"I'm trying to make an effort to get this worked out," said Polk County Auditor Michael Mauro. "These voters have done nothing improper. They followed the procedure printed on the application."With time running out, Johnson County Auditor Tom Slockett sent letters to 400 voters, telling them their applications were rejected because information they provided could not be verified. He said one way to fix the problem is to register in person, which does not require the same verification according to federal election law.

"These people are very frustrated because they had done what they were required by law to do," Slockett said. "Students feel this is an intentional effort to make it difficult for them to vote. The elderly, some who are handicapped, are angered because they're unable to leave the house. We feel very bad about it."

Mary Updegraff of Johnson County was angered. "This is total fraud and injustice to the American voter," she said. "And then people wonder why no one votes. This is an outrage, and everyone should know about it."

The situation is having a big impact on out-of-state students living in Iowa who do not have an Iowa driver's license or nondriver ID card but who want to register to vote in Iowa.

State election officials assured Iowans that they're working to fix the problem. They said the link to the Social Security database to verify voters' numbers will be tested today and should be running statewide by Thursday.Changes and new requirements come from the federal Help America Vote Act, approved in the wake of the controversial 2000 presidential election.

Amber Hard, state director of the New Voters Project, which has been working to register new voters statewide, said she thinks it was a mistake to put the law into effect in a presidential election year. "You can't disenfranchise people because your electronic system doesn't work," she said.

10/21/04_2 [Permalink]
Iowa Republican Party attempts to suppress votes of citizens who signed an affidavit certifying their eligibility to vote but forgot to check a box saying they are citizens; also attempts to suppress provisional ballots cast in the right county but wrong precinct

Via taliesin at Dailykos, we have this report in the Des Moines Register (bold text is my emphasis):

Controversy over Iowa's election laws heated up this morning when Republicans threatened to file a lawsuit and called for Iowa Secretary of State Chet Culver's resignation, just eight days before Election Day.

At issue is the requirement that voters registering by mail check a box confirming U.S. citizenship. Republicans allege Culver, a Democrat, is violating state and federal election laws by deciding last week that he'll allow Iowa voters to bypass that requirement.

"Voting in Iowa has been going on since September 23rd and now in the middle of the game, we're seeking to change the rules," said Gentry Collins, deputy chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa. "My view is that this is a partisan attempt by a partisan election official to rig the election."

Collins said Republicans will consider a lawsuit "to protect the integrity of Iowa's election process." He did not specify when such a legal challenge would be filed.

Senate President Jeff Lamberti, an Ankeny Republican, called for Culver to step down "if he's unwilling to uphold Iowa law." House Speaker Christopher Rants, a Sioux City Republican, said he shared Lamberti's concerns.

"Apparently, they think they're going to lose Iowa and they want to throw this thing to the courts," Rants said of Democrats. "They can't win under the rules as they are today, so they want to change the rules. I've lost a lot of confidence in the Secretary of State."

Culver, the state's top election official, dismissed Republicans' criticism as "pathetic partisan blather." Members of his staff repeated their commitment to making sure that every eligible vote counts.

"What we're trying to do is interpret the laws fairly and give people the opportunity to vote - and where there's some discrepancy or lack of clarification, get the legal clarification we need," said Iowa Deputy Secretary of State Charles Krogmeier.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, a Democrat, advised election officials last week to accept registration forms of an estimated 364 Iowans who registered to vote by mail and forgot to check the citizenship box, but signed an affidavit certifying their eligibility to vote.

The opinion is consistent with the way Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, Washington and Wisconsin have interpreted changes in the federal Help America Vote Act, approved by Congress in the wake of the controversial 2000 presidential election.

But the Iowa Voter Registration Commission on Monday refused to go along with Miller's opinion and voted 2-2 against changing the rules requiring the checking of the citizenship box. Two Republicans on the panel -Collins and Guthrie County Auditor Janet Dickson - voted against the measure, while Krogmeier and Jean Hessburg, executive director of the Iowa Democratic Party, voted in favor of it.

"The federal and state law is not clear," Hessburg said. "The Iowa voter registration form could be construed as redundant. The check box and the signature at the bottom both denote the same thing. . . . It is not partisan electioneering to clarify the rules."

Krogmeier said despite Monday's vote, election officials still plan to follow the attorney general's opinion and include voters who forgot to check the citizenship box on their registration forms. "The opinion still stands and that's what we're taking as law," Krogmeier said. "So these people will be able to vote."

That angered Republicans, who said election officials are violating state law and administrative rules.

"The attorney general's opinion does not have the force of law," Collins said. "It is the opinion of one staffer in the attorney general's office. . . . The attorney general is not the king."

About 20 Republicans protested Monday outside the Lucas State Office Building where the commission met. They held signs protesting Culver's actions and chanted things like, "Chet the cheater!"

"He's changing the rules to the game and he's trying to give the liberals an advantage, which they clearly don't need," said Danielle Sturgis, 19, a Drake University student from Illinois.

While Iowa's controversy evolved Monday around citizenship boxes, Republicans are also challenging Miller's opinion on "provisional ballots," used when voters' names do not appear on the voter registration rolls.

In a legal opinion released Friday, Miller said Iowans who vote in the correct county but wrong precinct should have their votes for president and Congress count. But over the weekend, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals effectively nullified rulings in Ohio and Michigan that would have allowed such out-of-precinct ballots.

That leaves Iowa election officials taking a different route than what other states have decided, Republicans said.

"I think Tom Miller and Chet Culver have conducted this election in a stunningly partisan manner," Collins said. "They are now standing alone nationwide in saying that you ought to be able to show up at a precinct in which you do not live and you are not registered to vote and cast a ballot."

But Brenda Wright, managing attorney for the National Voting Rights Institute in Boston, said there are actually 13 states that will count ballots for the federal election that are filed in the correct county but wrong precinct. She cited a survey taken on the issue by Demos, a national voting rights organization based in New York.



















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