Cagle Law Firm
Attorney Zane Cagle

Posted on November 4th, 2012,
by Zane Cagle

Voter Restrictions and Sandy–Impact Election 2012

Posted on November 4th, 2012 by Zane Cagle

Voter Restrictions and Sandy–Impact Election 2012The day before one of the most controversial elections in many years, elements are coming together for a perfect storm. Yes, Hurricane Sandy already hit and masses of East Coast residents are simply trying to attend to their basic needs.  The other issues that will surely cause continued conversation are the recent federal and state court decisions about voting restrictions.   In the September and October, almost a dozen decisions on early voting, provisional ballots and voter identification have resulted in conflicting directions.

Republicans usually favor more voter identification to guard against fraud while Democrats generally want to make voting as easy as possible.  Republicans have expressed concern over what they call “voter integrity”.  Various groups are suing both Indiana and Ohio for failing to clean up their rolls in keeping with their obligations under the National Voter Registration Act.  Democrats worry about “voter suppression”.  They indicated that voter fraud is largely a myth and that the goal of the Republicans is to reduce voting by minorities, the poor and the young, who tend to vote for Democrats.Voter identification is a slippery slope.  The most commonly accepted type of personal identification is a driver’s license, but what about the population that do not drive?  Elderly persons in a residential care facility may not have a driver’s license and not need for a governmental identification.  They may have their income checks deposited directly and actually spending $50-$75 to go out and get a governmental idea seems absurd.  Why should they have to spend $50 or more to exercise their democratic right to vote?

In the 2000 election, controversy continued for many months that resulted in a 5-4 Supreme Court Decision in Florida.  Another state with allegations of fraud could create a nightmare for the election officials and courts.

In addition to these voter restriction debates, the combination of bad timing and Hurricane Sandy’s massive impact will certainly impact the election. What will be interesting is just how and to what extent? States up and down the East Coast, including major battleground states like Virginia and North Carolina canceled early voting hours. As well, supporters will have a harder time getting to the polls as well as working the polling places. Since a large number of people are still without power, election officials are scrambling to get polling places in working order before Tuesday. After seeing the photos from New Jersey, many are wondering how polling places can even be set up. If election officials cannot find back up polling places and many voters are involved in clean up, many states can be affected.

Pennsylvania and New York make extensive use of early voting, which could minimize the impact of the storm-related disruptions but clean up from Sandy will take more than the week to be completed.

Thad Hall, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Utah said, “What is likely to happen is that Obama’s still going to win New Jersey and win New York, but what it may do is….lower his vote totals nationally enough where he’s going to win the electoral college but not win the national vote.” Hall continued to speculate about developing conspiracy theories should Obama win the electoral and not the national vote. According to Hall, this bad storm will probably impact the election from president to dog catcher. Hall and others have expressed the belief that Hurricane Sandy circumstances should be a wakeup call to congress to implement provisions for emergencies that disrupt elections.

While Obama canceled campaign events in Ohio to focus on managing disaster relief efforts, Romney converted a planned campaign into a storm relief benefit in Ohio. Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia are most reliant on electronic voting machines that require electricity to tally a vote. More than half of the counties in each state do not ordinarily use paper ballots on Election Day.

The storm came at a critical time in the election process. “Usually the week before is used to train poll workers, test equipment and prepare ballots. All came to a grinding halt. In a worst case scenario, a never used federal law gives states authority to reschedule or even cancel an election if, for some reason, it cannot choose its presidential electors on Election Day. But the language of the law suggests that the state must attempt to hold the election—and not cancel it in advance”, sated Ned Foley, an election law expert at Ohio State University.

Sunday, spokespeople from Romney and Obama’s campaign are making final pre-election statements and predictions. Romney’s camp states that the “map has extended” since the storm and that they believe Romney may carry Pennsylvania, Virginia but also Wisconsin and Minnesota. Obama campaign experts indicated that they feel Romny’s campaign is playing defensively. One big concern for Obama’s camp is that the wide spread support for him will not mean much if the supporters do not vote. Either way, it is the fourth quarter in the game and it seems that Romey’s campaign is trying to play the last shot—not to overwork sports analogies.

This Tuesday, voters will go to the polls to cast their votes in various elections around the country. These votes will have a huge impact on our lives over the next four years, and perhaps far off into the future. In the presidential race, big decisions on health care, Medicare, taxes, and other social issues will have ramifications that are felt for years to come. Because this election is so important, hopefully, no one will be sidelined. I urge everyone to exercise their individual freedom and cast their vote!

Before you go to the polls: Consider the Issues

It is a good idea to check your local ballot to see the issues put before the voters. Everyone knows (well, hopefully everyone) knows that it’s Obama vs. Romney in the presidential election and, in Missouri, McCaskill vs. Akin for the Senate. While these national elections are perhaps the most prominent, many local issues will be put to a vote in Missouri and Illinois.

In Missouri, for instance, voters will be asked to amend our state constitution to amend the way we select judges. This ballot amendment is known as Amendment 3. Currently, we select judges through a non-partisan method of allowing a commission of attorneys to recommend the best qualified candidate for a particular vacancy. The governor then has the final say, either selecting or rejecting the candidate. If the governor chooses not to act, the commission has the final say. Enacted in 1940, this “Missouri Plan” has been so successful that several other states have adopted it as their own. However, Amendment 3 seeks to change this, allowing politics to enter our judicial arena. Courts should remain non-partisan and blind to politics. Therefore, we urge all voters to vote NO on Amendment 3.

While this and other local issues are important, certainly the issue dominating everyone’s attention is the presidential election. And with Hurricane Sandy upending the Northeast, many tireless election workers are working around the clock to get things ready for election day. Several things have been proposed to make sure people everywhere can have the chance to have their voice heard. In Ohio, for instance, there is a call for an increase in paper ballots. Even if they have to be photocopied and counted by hand, a non-traditional ballot is better than no ballot at all, says an Ohio State election law expert. No doubt the combination of hot issues, voter restrictions and Hurricane Sandy’s will be tough to gauge, and will be interesting to follow.  At The Cagle Law Firm, we encourage all to get to the polls and exercise your democratic right to vote.