The outrage over the IRS’s conduct in targeting certain tax-exempt groups is based on a misunderstanding. Obviously, mistakes were made in how the IRS examined the groups, but what should not get lost amid the resulting hue and cry is that this is fundamentally about disclosure of donors, not tax-exempt status. First of all, the IRS is to a certain extent in the “targeting” business. The agency’s job — like it or not — is as an enforcer. It is supposed to go after tax scofflaws. It has to look for clues in tax returns and other materials to find the cheaters and dodgers. In the current scandal, the method of the “targeting” — searching returns for names like “tea party” as indicators of possible misfeasance — was a mistake. But it does not follow that the IRS should not have been looking at these and other groups as a class, without regard to political affiliation.
Opinion pieces and editorials on voting issues.
It may seem unthinkable now, but as late as the 1980s, Americans in many states had only one option if they wanted to register to vote: Show up in person at a central registrar’s office, which might be open only during restricted business hours and located far from the voter’s home. Even in places where voter registration applications could be distributed outside the registrar’s office, strict limits often applied — such as in Indianapolis where groups like the League of Women Voters were allowed to pick up only 25 voter registration applications at a time. Overly complicated and restrictive procedures meant that fewer and fewer eligible voters were registering — and without registering, they couldn’t vote. Voting rights advocates knew that America must fiercely protect the freedom to vote for all citizens, regardless of race or privilege. So, they began a multi-year campaign to make voter registration more accessible. Their efforts paid off in 1992 when Congress first passed the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), only to see President George H.W. Bush veto the bill. Not to be discouraged, the movement kept fighting, and 20 years ago this week, Congress passed the NVRA and President Clinton signed it into law.
News that employees at the Internal Revenue Service targeted groups with “Tea Party” or “patriot” in their name for special scrutiny has raised pious alarms among some lawmakers and editorial writers. Yes, the I.R.S. may have been worse than clumsy in considering an avalanche of applications for nonprofit status under the tax code, and that deserves scrutiny whether or not the agency’s employees were spurred by partisan motives. After all, some of these “tea party” groups are most likely not innocent nonprofit organizations devoted to the cultural significance of hot beverages — or to other, more civic, virtues. Rather, they and others are groups that may be illegally spending a majority of their resources on political activity while manipulating the tax code to hide their donors and evade taxes (the unwritten rule being that no more than 49 percent of a group’s resources can be used for political purposes).
Let’s stipulate that the scandal involving the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative nonprofit groups portrays government as if drawn in caricature — an almost Keystone Kops-style comedy of errors on the part of low-level staffers, with a vein of possible political bias. Of course, the matter needs to be fully investigated, those responsible need to be held accountable and procedures need to be put in place to ensure that nothing like this can happen again. But let’s also remember what the I.R.S. brouhaha is not. Unlike the abuse of the I.R.S. by President Richard M. Nixon, in this case there’s no evidence that anyone in the White House had any involvement in — nor even any knowledge of — what was going on within the agency’s Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division.
Editorials: Colorado Passed Broad Election Reform, Other States Should Follow | Myrna Pérez/Huffington Post
State legislatures across the country are hard at work expanding the right to vote. Already, more than 200 bills to improve voting access have been introduced in 45 states in 2013. Friday in Denver, Gov. John Hickenlooper made Colorado the latest to expand rights, joining Maryland, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Virginia, and West Virginia. More legislation is awaiting signature in Florida. To be sure, some states continue to push needless restrictions on the ability of citizens to participate in elections, and voters and their advocates must remain vigilant against any such efforts. Still, the trend is unmistakable: After years of backsliding, states are embracing free, fair, and accessible elections. In many cases, the bills have enjoyed broad bipartisan support, another encouraging trend. Legislators are expanding access to the ballot in a variety of ways, from reducing the burden of voter identification requirements, to modernizing voter registration, to expanding early voting.
Since the beginning of 2013, at least 30 states have proposed laws that would curtail voting rights or make voting more difficult. Just one troubling example: In North Carolina, the General Assembly is attempting to cut early voting hours, same-day voter registration, and introduce laws that would shrink the electorate. This is a state that the famous journalist John Gunther once referred to as “the most progressive southern state.” This is a trend that Connecticut cannot afford to follow. Connecticut has always been a leader when it comes to improving and expanding access to democracy. The state’s recently enacted online voter registration and same-day voter registration rules make it easier for more citizens to cast their votes. In addition, the government-backed Citizens Election Program reduces the impact of money on politics and helps ensure elections reflect the will of the voters. All these moves should be applauded.
Editorials: Does high voter turnout produce better politicians? No! | N V Krishnakumar/The Economic Times
Every election, Bangalore voters get lectured. Voting percentage in the city is a dismal 45% to 50% in most elections. Turnout is even lower in municipal elections. Accusations of voter apathy, disinterest in democracy, not doing one’s civic duty and indifference to government affairs are constantly hurled at Bangalore citizens. The Election Commission, advocacy groups, business and political leaders conduct blitzkrieg campaigns urging citizens to make their choice on Election Day. But this begs the question – does high voter turnout facilitate the entry of quality candidates and pave the way for a superior government? Evidence from countries across the globe suggests that high voter turnout has no correlation to quality of contestants nor does it necessarily lead to good governance.
The Islamic Republic of Iran will have a presidential election on June 14, 2013. As an observer of elections in different countries I find that Iranian election procedures are very similar to those of the most democratic elections held in European nations, such as France. Iranians vote on paper ballots that are counted openly in each polling place in the presence of observers. The tally from each polling station is then verified openly and published by the government after the election. These are the most fundamental and essential elements of a transparent and democratic election, and these are exactly the elements that are sadly missing from elections in the United States. It may come as a surprise but Iranian elections are much more transparent that elections in the United States. The voting process and the counting of the votes in Iran are transparent processes, while most votes in the United States are cast and counted on electronic voting systems run by private companies. The use of computer voting systems in the United States has actually allowed our elections to be stolen because the citizenry has lost its oversight of the crucial vote-counting process entirely. Today, there is virtually no open counting of the votes in polling stations in the United States because nearly all voting “data” is processed in computerized systems – not counted by citizens.
Mr Badru Kiggundu, chairman of Uganda’s Electoral Commission, recently unveiled the Commission’s Strategic Plan and Road Map for 2016 elections in which it estimates that Shs1.2 trillion is needed for the elections. According to Kiggundu, democracy is expensive and so we should be appreciative if we spend that money to get a democratically elected government. Money alone will, however, not give Uganda a credible democratic election. In the past three elections, a lot of money was spent, but with mixed or negative results. The presidential elections in 2001 and 2006 ended up in the Supreme Court when the loser, Dr Kiiza Besigye, challenged the results that gave President Museveni the victory. On both occasions, the Supreme Court ruled by a split vote in favour of the incumbent but did not deny that the elections were short of being free and fair, given the intimidation, irregularities and open stealing of votes.
The Internal Revenue Service was absolutely correct to look into the abuse of the tax code by political organizations masquerading as “social welfare” groups over the last three years. The agency’s mistake — and it was a serious one — was focusing on groups with “Tea Party” in their name or those criticizing how the country is run. The I.R.S. should have used a neutral test to scrutinize every group seeking a tax exemption for “social welfare” activity — Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal. Any group claiming tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(4) of the internal revenue code can collect unlimited and undisclosed contributions, and many took in tens of millions. They are not supposed to spend the majority of their money on political activities, but the I.R.S. has rarely stopped the big ones from polluting the political system with unaccountable cash.