As I warned on recently, extended litigation of Emanuel’s candidacy could imperil early voting,which is scheduled to begin on January 31st.

The other shoe dropped today. Unless the Supreme Court can rule in a few days, it is difficult for me to see how election officials can get ready by Monday. (Unless I am wrong, Chicago voters have the opion of voting on a DRE or using an opscan.)

By the way, UOCAVA ballots began to be delivered on January 8th. Presumably, Emanuel’s name is on those ballots which are already being voted.

It’s good to have friends who are forgiving of end of the day blogging.

Alysoun McLaughlin of the DC Board politely pointed out that I confused the cost figures deportees in Mike DeBonis’s story. The $200,000 is the estimated savings compared to traditional polling places. VBM is estimated to cost $1,000,000 more. That’s a lot of money for a special election!

The reason the costs are so disparate is that the DC rolls have a lot of deadwood and need to be cleaned up. The Oregon response might be: can you run a VBM contest as a way of cleaning the rolls? Nonetheless, my apologies to Rokey and the DC board for the misposting.

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Rokey Suleman provided a menu of options to the DC City Council for the April 26 special election.

The costs varied from a high of $1.6 million for a full VBM, to $824,000 for a full precinct place election to $620,000 for one using two vote centers per ward.  (More after the split)

I presume that the reason the estimated cost of full vote by mail is so high–contrary to some previous estimates–is that they print and send a ballot to every single registered voter, even though turnout is probably quite low in a special city council election (previous specials had turnout of 7-15%).

Estimating costs is complicated business.  While I have not asked him, I am assuming that Suleman projected some level of turnout in a precinct place and vote center election in order to make his calculations.  

Let’s suppose that he assumed 15%.  The problem is that DC may also need to consider the “costs” of lowered turnout as a result of using traditional voting methods.

Past examples show that sending ballots to every registered voter can result in substantial increases in turnout in low profile, low interest contests.  Turnout in the 2010 Colorado Senate primary, conducted fully by mail, was double the previous most comparable election.  When Helena, MT began to conduct local elections by mail in 2007, turnout was 66%, double the 30 year average of 33% for off-year municipal contests.

I wonder what a precinct place or vote center election would cost if, for example, we estimated DC turnout at 30%?  Would it be worth $1,000,000 to increase turnout to 30%?  That may be one of the questions the DC council should ask.

This report from the Ft. Wayne, IN News-Sentinel seems to indicate so.  The story includes a claim of a $40,000 cost savings by using vote centers. 

Commissioners in Collin County, TX heard complaints about long lines and lack of parking for early voting.  

The commissioners suggested that lack of publicity about vote centers was a problem, but some of the ideas they mentioned (vote centers located in centralized, easily accessible locations, managing choke points during voter check in) have actually been addressed, and solved, by many other jurisdictions (Larimer County, CO; Harris County, TX).

One more example where counties need to learn from their counterparts, both locally and nationally.

The Tribune reports that any continued legal challenges to Emanuel’s candidacy could cause problems with early voting, scheduled to start January 31.

Nice op-ed in the St. Petersburg Times echoes arguments that I have been making for a while.  Just because overseas ballots need to be mailed 45 days ahead of election day, there is no reason to tie domestic ballots to the same timeline. 

I was at a meeting in Austin this weekend for a series of Pew initiatives, and the costs of elections remained a regular point of discussion.  Thus, this story from Walton, GA caught my eye.  The Board of Elections apparently told the County commissioners that they could produce a faster count, but only at the cost of paying to have staff “sequestered” to start counting absentee ballots before the polls close.

This is a point I’ve raised many times before–it is possible to have a speedier count and have no-excuse absentee ballots, but it requires a jurisdiction to begin processing those ballots as they arrive, and not wait until election day (or election night).  Save such procedures (and costs), a slower count is unavoidable. 

The losing candidate in California’s 11th congressional district is charging that mishandled vote by mail ballots caused him to lose the race.

The challenge partially turns on the rules governing witness challenges to signature verification. The losing candidate claims that campaign volunteers should have been able to challenge signatures.

Two registrars, including Steve Weir of Contra Costa, who has previously served as head of the county clerk’s association, respond that challenges are only valid if a) voters have falsified their identities or b) staff are not following proper procedures.

Full story in the Lodi News-Sentinel. 

We’re delighted to announce that EVIC Director Paul Gronke is taking over from Dan Lowenstein and Rick Hasen as co-editor at the Election Law Journal. He will sharing these duties with Daniel Tokaji, Professor of Law at The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law.

The full announcement, also found in the next issue of the Journal, is attached.

This month’s Canvass on election counts, including quotes from yours truly! 

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