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U.S. senators say Hawaii among 9 states violating voter law


    Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, left, and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., right, departed the White House, in Washington on March 16. Schumer and Leahy said multiple states are violating federal law with their mail-in voter registration deadlines for the November election, blocking applications as many as three days earlier than other states and potentially disenfranchising thousands of people.

Two Democratic senators say Hawaii is among nine states that are violating federal law with their mail-in voter registration deadlines for the November election, potentially disenfranchising thousands of people by blocking applications as many as three days earlier than other states.

U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer of New York and Patrick Leahy of Vermont asked the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to intervene and work with election officials in nine states to ensure compliance with the National Voting Rights Act. The states cited in their letter Thursday are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Hawaii, Mississippi, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah and Washington.

“The right to vote is too precious to have something so simple to fix potentially prevent so many Americans from participating in the upcoming Election,” the senators wrote.

The calendar appears to be the culprit.

The deadline for registering by mail under federal law — 30 days before the election — falls on a Sunday this year. The next day happens to be Columbus Day, when there will be no postal service, preventing registrations from being postmarked. All other states have adjusted their deadlines to account for the long holiday weekend, accepting registration applications postmarked by Tuesday, Oct. 11.

Utah is among them, despite being cited in the senators’ letter, said Mark Thomas, the state’s director of elections. State law says nearly all registration deadlines must be moved forward if the deadline falls on a Sunday or holiday, and that’s what Utah has done for this fall’s general election, he said.

Election Assistance Commission spokesman Bryan Whitener said the agency is reviewing the senators’ request.

This year is the first presidential election in which a key enforcement provision of the Voting Rights Act is no longer in effect, and voting rights groups have been aggressively calling attention to any potential for disenfranchisement.

Four of the nine states with the earlier registration deadlines were previously required by a section of the Voting Rights Act to obtain U.S. Justice Department approval before changing voting procedures.

A 2013 ruling by U.S. Supreme Court set aside the preclearance requirement, opening the way for a wave of new voting laws. Fourteen states have new restrictions on voting or registration in place this year. Experts say the potential for voter confusion is high as courts block or strike down some provisions while upholding others.

The voter registration deadlines cited by the senators apply only to applications that are mailed in. All these states also offer in-person registration, although their rules vary and may require more effort or limit the voter’s choices. Rhode Island offers same-day registration on Election Day, but limits these voters to ballots only for president and vice president.

Still, the number of people mailing in applications can be significant. During the 2012 presidential election, at least 55,000 people in New York state were registered to vote after applying on the last possible day, according to data collected by the state Board of Elections and provided by Schumer’s staff.

Rhode Island officials said they were surprised to hear about the senators’ letter; they thought they were meeting the 30-day requirement by requiring postmarks no later than Sunday the 9th. Officials there and in Alaska said the deadline would not be changed. Carol Thompson with Alaska’s Division of Elections noted that Columbus Day is not a state holiday and state offices would be open.

In Washington state, Secretary of State Kim Wyman emailed local election officials earlier this week recommending they honor an Oct. 11 postmark for applications, noting the federal holiday. Arkansas election officials said despite the state’s Oct. 10 deadline, applications postmarked Oct. 11 would be accepted.

The issue has been contentious in Arizona, a state previously covered under the Voting Rights Act. Democrats asked the secretary of state to change its deadline of Monday, Oct. 10.

So far, Secretary of State Michele Reagan, a Republican, has refused.

She says people can still register online and that most county registrar’s offices will be open on the holiday. Attorney General Mark Brnovich, also a Republican, has said he will not intervene.

Arizona had one of the biggest voting debacles of this year’s presidential primaries. During the state’s March primary, voters in Phoenix had to wait hours to cast ballots after Maricopa County election officials opened just 60 polling stations — fewer than half of what is typical.


Associated Press writers Josh Hoffner in Phoenix; Michelle L. Price in Salt Lake City; Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Washington; Becky Bohrer in Juneau, Alaska; Claudia Lauer in Little Rock, Arkansas; and Matt O’Brien in Providence, Rhode Island, contributed to this report.


Follow Christina Almeida Cassidy at—Christina.

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  • Well, it is the usual monopoly party incompetence to misconstrue the dates to register. In Hawaii, it is usually not a conspiracy. IT is usually just sheer stupidity and incompetence.

  • This is just 2 senator, with apparently too much time on their hands, seeking headlines by making something out of nothing. Why are you publishing this, especially as “Breaking News”, like it is something important?

    • Voting and laws related to voting are amongst the most important in the land. At least four Constitutional Amendments address voting and voting rights. I’m sorry you’re a poor judge of what is important in our nation.

    • IRT CaptainRon, fully agree with your post. What are these two democrat U.S. Senators talking about in the “Mail In Voter Registration” being 3 days earlier than other States? Is it not the democrats who want earlier registrations? Trying to figure this one out, maybe I should not think about the stupidity of democrats going against early voter registration. Aha, it’s the democrats controlling the States and making certain any law, legal or not, to be complied by the State. Control, that’s it.

  • We should register and vote online. If you can buy a house or borrow money on line and apply for a loan, and register for social security nd pay your txes online, you should be able to register nd vote online.

      • Right, Snowden just proved the incredibly lax security here on Gilligan’s Island. The few lazy just wrote their passwords down on a piece of paper and handed it to Snowden even though he was not supposed to access some classified data. Shows the sheer incompetence and laziness here.

      • The key word is SECURITY and we don’t have it available to protect from online voter fraud. We already had voter suppression using the old fashion method of not providing enough ballots to key voting precincts but that sticks out and at least gets noticed. Therefore hard to do it twice. Another way is to greatly reduce the window in which people can do mail in or walk in voting because the less votes cast, the greater the advantage the incumbent has with their own reliable core union supporters who early vote. Aber might be the exception as he P O’d most of his core union supporters. With online voting the results can be easily manipulated and NO ONE except the people doing it would ever know about it.

  • You really believe that life in the USA will be affected regardless who wins the election? If this where Nicaragua or Myanmar maybe they would be sweating bullets and voter turn out would be near 90%, but com’ on really?

  • Let us fix this situation right now. This is an embarrassment. We have one of the lowest voter turnouts in the country and now this. We don’t need this kind of attention. It is time that the legislature did something to improve the voter registration and voting procedures. The almost act as if they do not want new voters, or if they do not want a higher voter turnout. Are we some kind of backwards state the glories in control of voters and voting patterns? Maybe there are too many entrenched politicians who are only too eager to save their seats! I don’t get it. In our brief history as a state, many have worked diligently to show us to be worthy as an equal member of the union. But this kind of performance takes away from those efforts and sacrifices.

    • One theory about low voter turn out is that many local voters have been indoctrinated towards a political prejudice that one party wears white hats and the other wears black hats. When the party that wears the white hats disappoints them, their prejudice doesn’t allow them to even consider an person wearing a black hat. Therefore, since there is no good choice, in their mind, they choose to not vote. Voter turn out may improve when voters evaluate people based on their merit not based on their political PREJUDICE. Politicians play on this form of ignorance. As JFK said, you can fool some of the people all of the time.

      An Independent/Moderate

  • If democrats follow their usual strategy they just need to hand out packs of cigarettes and $5 dollar bills as their low-information base boards the buses to vote for Waldo.

  • Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y

    Notice they are getting nervous cause their candidate is losing. They need all the votes possible.

    Imagine if a Republican made those statements……

  • We all have to remember, we dealing with adults who are childish. Can’t see why anyone would not be able to register to vote before deadlines. Me and the wife have been registered ever since we were eligible to vote. My wife did so right after she gained citizenship. Why adults need to be spoon fed to get them to vote is beyond me. After all the conflicts we go through and the many, many sacrifices by our armed forces go through to ensure we have that right to vote, it’s inconceivable to not vote!

    • Is anyone concerned about States who give illegal aliens drivers licenses? They have ID’s required to vote. But A democrat told me, “If they’re not citizens, they can’t vote. There’s a box you must check saying that you’re a U.S. citizen”.

      • There’s a strategic reason California issues ID’s and drivers license to illegals. You nailed it! With 22 million illegals in California alone (true number, not the fake number the govt posts since they count many illegals as white) there is rampant voter fraud that never gets and they all vote Democrat because ONLY Democrat’s issue ID’s & DL’s to illegals, not to mention free healthcare, free foodstamps, free Section 8 housing all while working under the table earning cash and paying almost zero in taxes!

  • it’s not like the state intentionally violated the federal law. it was just careless. i’m sure if immunity is given to enough state workers nothing will happen and no further correction will be needed.

  • I think; these (Senators)mainland legislators, haven’t considered that we are an island state. With disparate mail schedules and delivery. I the FED’s are willing to pay our Post Offices more for expedite mail flights; it’s fine with me. I sure would hate to have voted by mail the day before election and missed the barge.

  • Well lookee there, a couple of old white guys running the democrat show for an old white lady and her old white husband. I thought the democrat party was the party of diversity. Not so much apparently.

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