Tag Archives: Washington

Michigan Reverses Direction
On Mail-In Ballot Oversight

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 20, 2020 — The Michigan Court of Appeals on Friday reversed a lower court ruling that allowed a post-election ballot reception period that would have lasted until Nov. 17, and granted the process known as “ballot harvesting,” where another individual or individuals can deliver unspecified numbers of ballots for voters.

The three-judge high court unanimously overturned a ruling from Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens who made the original directive in deciding an election lawsuit that the Michigan Alliance for Retired Americans, a union-funded organization, brought forth.

When the Michigan attorney general and secretary of state jointly decided not to appeal Judge Stephens’ ruling, the Republican controlled state House and Senate filed the motion and were granted standing. It is unclear now whether the Michigan Alliance will appeal to the state Supreme Court.

According to the Detroit News’s reporting, the original ruling contained the directive that the ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 3. That clerical distinction, however, will be difficult to enforce once we advance into the post-election counting and challenge stage.

The US Postal Service, themselves, according to their employee practices handbook, indicate that many mail pieces do not require postmarks. In most of the 21 states that are now allowing the post-election reception period, the ballots will fall into one of these categories thus making the postmark question moot, and that will invariably lead to further lawsuits and litigation. Below is the official language for the postmark directives:

“Postmarks are not required for mailings bearing a permit, meter, or precanceled stamp for postage, nor to pieces with an indicia applied by various postage evidencing systems.”

The Appellate Court ruling means, at least until if and when the state Supreme Court addresses the issue, that there will be no post-election ballot reception period in Michigan. Ballot harvesting pertaining to individuals who are not immediate family members of the person wanting to vote absentee or is not an election office clerk, will again be prohibited. Therefore, all ballots are required to be in the possession of election authorities throughout Michigan’s counties before the polls close on Election Day, Nov. 3.

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Pennsylvania Voting Rules

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 21, 2020 — Pennsylvania’s Democratic controlled Supreme Court changed their state election procedures late last week in a series of rulings on a lawsuit that the Pennsylvania Secretary of State and PA Democratic Party previously filed.

Under the new process, receiving votes after the election is allowed if “no evidence exists” that the ballot was mailed after Election Day, Nov. 3. The deadline for ballot acceptance now moves from 8 pm on Election Day to 5 pm, Friday, Nov. 6. Pennsylvania becomes the 17th state to allow post-election reception for this 2020 election. The ruling increases the chances that we will not have a winner declared on election night.

Additionally, three other rulings will allow drop boxes to be used as ballot receptacles in the various counties, affirmed that poll watchers can only serve in their own county of residence, and Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins’ name was removed from the ballot. The court did not grant the lawsuit motion to allow ballot harvesting, which would permit third parties to deliver ballots to the authorities or ballot drop boxes.

The drop boxes will be placed in various locations around a county and voters can deposit their ballots without using the postal service to transfer their vote to the county election authorities. Hawkins’ name was removed from the ballot because the court said he “failed to comply with the Election Code’s strict mandate” and the attempts to fix the problem “did not suffice to cure that error,” but the specifics were not addressed.

With the large number of absentee ballots expected here and in other states, the trend toward allowing post-election reception, and the laws that some states, like Pennsylvania, have to control when the mail ballots can be counted, makes it less likely that we will see a definitive presidential campaign result on Nov. 3. The same will be true for certain US Senate and House races.

Of the 17 states, now including Pennsylvania, that are allowing post-election ballot reception, seven appear competitive. The others, Alaska, California, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia will likely declare a clear winner relatively early in the counting period.

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Recapping the Primaries

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 6, 2020 — Five states held their primary elections on Tuesday night and many were close, most of which are now complete. Additionally, electorates in several safe open House seats chose a party primary winner who will be the next representative. Therefore, we want to recap the final action along with a projection for the general election.


ARIZONA

Arizona Senate candidate, retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D); appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R)

Senate: Appointed Sen. Martha McSally scored a 76 percent victory in the Republican primary against minimal opposition, while retired astronaut Mark Kelly was unopposed on the Democratic side. Arizona will host a major national Senate campaign in the fall, and Kelly has the early sustained polling lead.

Even with him facing no opposition on Tuesday, Democratic turnout rose nine percent when compared to 2018, but 55,617 more people voted in Tuesday’s GOP primary. This, after more Democrats had voted early according to pre-election ballot tabulations. Because of the large number of mail ballots present in this election, it is likely that the final count is incomplete.

AZ-1: Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Sedona) scored only a 59 percent Democratic primary win over former Flagstaff City councilwoman Eva Putzova on Tuesday, despite a better than 2:1 spending advantage. Attorney Tiffany Shedd won the Republican nomination. This district could become competitive, but Rep. O’Halleran is the clear favorite for re-election. The expansive eastern Arizona district leans Democratic as the party’s 3,000-plus vote edge in primary turnout suggests.

AZ-2: Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Tucson) was easily re-nominated on Tuesday and is a heavy favorite in the general election. Defense contractor Brandon Martin won the Republican primary, but he faces a very uphill climb against Kirkpatrick in November. Despite more Republicans than Democrats voting statewide, Democrats outpaced Republican turnout in this district by a substantial 75,780 to 58,277.


KANSAS

Senate: Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend) convincingly won the controversial Republican primary, and advances into a general election race with state Sen. Barbara Bollier (D-Mission Hills), a physician and former Republican. This will be a competitive general election despite the strong Republican voter history because Bollier already has over $4 million cash-on-hand to begin the November campaign cycle. We will soon see new polling here. The last published poll pairing Marshall and Bollier came from the Civiqs research organization at the beginning of June: Marshall 42-41 percent.

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Wacky Wins in a Senate Primary; Incumbents Watkins & Clay Lose

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 5, 2020 — We review last night’s primary action in the states of Kansas, Missouri, Michigan, Arizona and Washington:


KANSAS

Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend)

The 2020 election cycle’s wackiest Senate primary ended last night with a big victory for Kansas Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend) as he defeated former secretary of state and 2018 gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach and Kansas City Plumbing Company owner and self-funder Bob Hamilton in the statewide Republican primary.

The Marshall victory margin is 40-26-19 percent over the two men, while former Kansas City Chiefs football player and state Turnpike Commission chairman Dave Lindstrom captured 6.7 percent of the vote, best among the also-ran candidates.

The race featured both parties making seven-figure media buys. The national Republican leadership, however, came in to run negative spots against Kobach, a risky strategy in case he would become their nominee. It was clear that Republican survey research provided virtually the same results that Democrats were seeing, namely Kobach winning his primary would give the Democrats the inside track toward snatching away what should be a safe Republican seat.

The other unusual Kansas Senate facet was seeing Democratic organizations come into the state to actively boost Kobach in the GOP primary. He lost the 2018 governor’s race to Democrat Laura Kelly, and the party leaders believed Kobach would be the weakest general election candidate to oppose their party’s consensus nominee, state Sen. Barbara Bollier (D-Mission Hills). Now, she must run against the Republicans’ presumed strongest candidate, Rep. Marshall.

Interestingly, the most recent publicly released poll, which dated back to the beginning of June from the Civiqs organization surveying for the Daily Kos Elections website, found Rep. Marshall and Sen. Bollier falling into a virtual tie. It is likely, however, as the new Republican nominee, that Marshall will become a clear favorite to win in November.
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Monitoring Mail-in Vote Turnout

By Jim Ellis

July 7, 2020 — With many states emphasizing mail voting as a way to increase voter participation in the COVID-19 era, has adoption of near universal mail voting in the states that have done so achieved its fundamental purpose, or has it caused more problems than it solved?

Voter turnout is always a definitive factor in determining election outcomes, and the push to change voting procedures has occurred in 31 state primaries. Therefore, the voting system alterations, should they continue into the general election, will most likely have a major impact upon the electoral outcomes.

Most of the states adopting change only expanded their mail absentee ballot procedures for the primaries; therefore, we can expect another round of battles over the general election processes to soon come before legislatures and courts.

Many of the states, Maryland, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and New York to name several, had administrative problems with their expanded mail programs including reports of homes receiving multiple ballots because inactive voters were forced to be mailed, some people requesting absentee ballots and not receiving them, and long post-election counting periods because of the large number of mail ballots coming into the county clerk’s offices.

New York, in fact, has still not even completed its unofficial tabulation and the primary was June 23. The Clark County (Nevada) County Clerk said publicly that the directive to mail inactive voters led to chaos in the state primary since so many ballots were being sent to individuals no longer living at the mailed address.

Largely, Democrats and voting rights organizations are attempting to persuade legislatures, governors, and/or the courts to expand the mail absentee ballot voting option to all registered voters both active and inactive, enact same-day voter registration, adopt ballot harvesting, which allows any individual to collect ballots from voters and turn them into county election authorities (this process is only legal in California, to date), and allow ballots to be post-marked on Election Day as opposed to requiring that they be received on voting day. Republicans and conservative organizations typically object to most of these ideas on verification grounds.

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