18 October 2008

Early West Virginia Voters Report Ballot Problems (Updated)

A trio of early voters who tried to cast their ballots in Jackson County this week tell The Charleston Gazette that touch-screen voting machines "kept switching their votes from Democratic to Republican candidates."

"When I touched the screen for Barack Obama, the check mark moved from his box to the box indicating a vote for John McCain," Virginia Matheney of Kenna told the newspaper.

Two other voters alleged the same problem while trying to cast their ballots for the Democrat. Matheney and one of these others also reported it occurred while trying to vote for the Democrats running for governor, the state Supreme Court and the local state Senate seat.

"Why didn't she [the polling clerk] tell me before I even used the machine that might happen?" said Calvin Thomas, 81, of Ravenswood. "And how many people, especially my age, didn't notice that?"

Deputy Secretary of State Sarah Bailey told The Gazette that "When we received a call about this, we immediately called the county and told them to recalibrate the machines to make sure the finger-touch [area] lines up with the ballot..."Sometimes machines can become miscalibrated when they are moved from storage facilities to early voting areas. We get a couple of calls about this each election year."

Jackson County Clerk Jeff Waybright said his workers recalibrated the machines after getting the call, but also said voters may not be touching the right parts of the machine screens.

"People make mistakes more than the machines," he told the paper, "but I went in yesterday and recalibrated the machines. We are doing everything we can not to disenfranchise anybody."

Update: Voters in Putnam County report similar problems to The Gazette.

Judge Blocks W.Va. Election Ad Rules as Unconstitutional. Again.

The bulk of the Legislature's attempted fix of rules regulating political ads failed to pass muster Friday with a federal judge, The Associated Press reports.

"Johnston's order blocks the state from barring corporation-funded ads that use 'express advocacy' as defined as language that 'When considered in its entirety, the communication can only be interpreted by a reasonable person as advocating the election or defeat of one or more clearly identified candidates,'" AP explains.

It does leave a portion of the legislation's "express advocacy" ban intact, but "as with the federal ruling issued in April, Johnston's order rolls back the disclosure requirement for election-time ads to spots that air on radio and broadcast, cable and satellite TV," AP reports.

Legislative Republicans had been almost uniformly against the June special session measure.

"Certainly we had those concerns when the bill was brought before the Legislature," House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, told AP. "I think we all felt we were all for disclosure but we wanted the type of disclosure that would hold constitutional scrutiny."

"Lawyers for the Center for Individual Freedom and West Virginians for Life challenged the law," the article said. "Both groups want to weigh in on the state Supreme Court race, while the center has also targeted state Attorney General Darrell McGraw in prior ads. But each said they would not if they had to disclose their contributors."

The Charleston Gazette also reports on Friday's ruling.

Update: Secretary of State Betty Ireland, as the state's chief elections officer, plans to appeal Friday's and is seeking a stay, AP and MetroNews report. She argues that "The relief granted by the injunction effectively rewrites West Virginia’s election law some 17 days before the general election, which will undoubtedly result in a free-for-all of mud-slinging campaign attack ads by special interest groups that have no duty to report their expenditures or their sources of funding."

17 October 2008

Election 2008: Congress - 2nd District

  • The Associated Press profiles U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, as she faces Democrat Anne Barth in her bid for a fifth term.
  • AP also reports that "GOP leaders in Congress, the finance and insurance industries and health care interests" helped Capito raise nearly twice as much in PAC funds as Barth during the latest filing period.
  • The Charleston Daily Mail looks at the negative ads that each campaign has launched against the other as Election Day nears.

Election 2008: Governor

Both The Journal of Martinsburg, WEPM radio and the Herald-Mail of Hagerstown (Md.) offer coverage from Thursday's debate pitting Gov. Joe Manchin against Republican challenger Russ Weeks and Mountain Party nominee Jesse Johnson. The former two helped sponsor the Hedgesville forum.

Obama Buys Ads in W.Va.

The Associated Press reports that Democrat Barack Obama has "extended his front-running campaign into West Virginia, a bastion of white, middle-class voters who rejected his primary season appeals, and confidently broached the subject of victory in a presidential contest playing out on Republican turf."

While noting Obama's lopsided loss to Hillary Clinton in the state's May primary, and President Bush's back-to-back electoral wins here, AP reports that economic concerns "and TV ads meant for neighboring Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia that spilled over onto West Virginia televisions have made the state competitive."

Republican John McCain and GOP forces, meanwhile, "are mostly focused on protecting states Bush won in 2004, including Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia," the article said.

16 October 2008

Rating the Capito-Barth Race

The latest rankings from a pair of national political analysts include U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, among GOP House members vulnerable to Democratic gains. Each also offers a caveat.

Larry Sabato lists Capito among 55 House Republicans whose seats are "in play" (as opposed to 144 deemed "Safe/Solid R"). Capito's race is among 17 on that roster rated as "Likely R."

Stuart Rothenberg also includes the 2nd District seat among swing districts that should serve as bellweathers for the Democrats' fortunes on Election Day:

Thinking 30 seats-plus for Democrats? Capito’s district is a good place to look. Polling has shown that the Republican incumbent looks like winner, so if she is upset, you know something huge is happening.

15 October 2008

IA: McCain 49%, Obama 47% in W.Va.

Insider Advantage surveyed 522 likely West Virginia voters Monday by phone, with the resulting margin of error at +/- 4%.

Undecideds amounted to 3%. The probability was 67.96%.

"Like all other major polling firms, data are weighted by age, race, gender and political party affiliation," the memo notes.

Election 2008: President (2nd Update)

MSNBC continues to speculate about West Virginia's status on the White House electoral map, this time citing a Tuesday visit to neighboring Ohio by Democratic running mate Joe Biden:

“Which way is West-By-God-Virginia?” Biden asked the crowd Ohio University Eastern Campus, about 10 miles west of that state's border with Ohio. “I want to send a message to West Virginia -- we’re going to win in West Virginia! … We’re going to shock the living devil out of y’all!”
The First Read blog had earlier linked to a sweeping ratings change by The Cook Political Report for the state, from "Solid R" to "Toss Up."

As for the other national political analysts:
MetroNews hears from Dick Morris (with audio) and an analyst from Cook (also with audio) on the subject.

Update: Political Wire relays this observation from the blog for Public Policy Polling on the difficulty with querying voters in the Mountain State:
If someone can get me a random sample of people who voted in the 2004 general election, 2006 general election, or 2008 primary in West Virginia then we will poll it. Concern about being able to get a sample of sufficient quality there is what makes us, and I'm guessing other companies that do registration based sampling, hesitant to poll there. That's not a problem with most other states.
Update II: Insider Advantage has a new poll.

Election 2008: Governor

  • The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown sets the stage for Thursday's debate in nearby Hedgesville featuring Gov. Joe Manchin, GOP challenger Russ Weeks and Jesse Johnson, the Mountain Party nominee.
  • The Register-Herald sought to follow up on Weeks' allegation that "an unnamed Division of Highways official landed a state road contract with the Manchin administration in violation of state law." Citing fear of "retribution"to the latter, "the former state senator refused to identify either the official allegedly involved or name the source of his information," the Beckley newspaper reported.

Election 2008 Shorts

  • The Associated Press profiles Jay Wolfe, the Republican challenger to U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.
  • The Charleston Daily Mail focuses on their respective stances on the financial meltdown and proposed solutions in the Rockefeller-Wolfe matchup.
  • AP also reports that "Optical-scan voting machines in 19 counties need to be reprogrammed to fix errors caused when people who wish to vote a straight-ticket ballot also cast crossover votes in certain races."
  • AP and The Charleston Gazette each covered the latest federal court hearing to air challenges to West Virginia's disclosure requirements for certain independent political ads.
  • The Journal hears from Delegate John Doyle, D-Jefferson, as he seeks another term.
  • The Martinsburg paper also checks in on U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, as her re-election campaign takes her to the Eastern Panhandle.
  • The Gazette reports on a Kanawha Circuit Court judge who has "resigned so that he can start to draw his state pension." But as he is on the November ballot and is unopposed, "if he is re-elected, he could legally collect both his state pension and his salary as a judge if he decides to return to the bench," the article said.

14 October 2008

Is W.Va. in Play?

MSNBC is the latest to raise the question, in part following the first (and only) published poll showing Democrat Barack Obama ahead of Republican John McCain among state voters.

"Something's happening in West Virginia -- yes, West Virginia -- because of the economic angst," Chuck Todd and others opine on First Read. "Obama's been buying a bunch of TV time in markets that bleed into West Virginia, and the numbers have been closing for a time."

The item also links to the Cook Political Report, which has recast West Virginia as a "Toss Up" state, all the way from "Solid R."

Local Republican operative Mark Blankenship predicts to MetroNews "a big, big victory for McCain or a narrow victory for Obama." With audio.

Election 2008: Governor

C-SPAN2 is among those with footage from Monday's debate between Gov. Joe Manchin and Republican challenger Russ Weeks, hosted by the West Virginia Broadcasters Association.

The public affairs channel is airing all such forums from the 11 states electing governors this year.

Others with coverage include WSAZ-TV, WCHS-TV (with video), WOWK-TV (also with video), MetroNews (with several audio clips), The Charleston Gazette and the Herald-Dispatch of Huntington.

13 October 2008

Quote of the Day

“I think this is a trial run. A series of trial runs, to see if they can develop the technology that will allow them to cause a major widespread disruption."

- Delegate Ray Canterbury, R-Greenbrier, who told fellow lawmakers (and The Register-Herald of Beckley) that the recent jamming of the Legislature's web site could have been the Chinese military "i
n search of vulnerability in American computer networks."

Election 2008 Shorts

  • The Associated Press sets the stage for the advent of early voting this week, and notes that the increase in new voters pales besides the rate seen nationally. Voter registration ends Tuesday.
  • AP also reports on the relative absence of third-party ads heading into the home stretch of the state Supreme Court race. But that could suddenly change, according to a national analysis of judicial races.
  • MetroNews previews Monday's 7 p.m. debate between Gov. Joe Manchin and GOP challenger Russ Weeks in Charleston. The Charleston Daily Mail and others had earlier reported on Mountain Party nominee Jesse Johnson losing his bid to participate.