In the Iowa Democratic party’s chaotic attempt to report caucus results on Monday night, the results in at least one precinct were unilaterally changed by the party as it attempted to deal with the culmination of a rushed and imperfect process overseeing the first-in-the-nation nominating contest. In Grinnell Ward 1, the precinct where elite liberal arts college Grinnell College is located, 19 delegates were awarded to Bernie Sanders and seven were awarded to Hillary Clinton on caucus night. However, the Iowa Democratic party decided to shift one delegate from Sanders to Clinton on the night and did not notify precinct secretary J Pablo Silva that they had done so. Silva only discovered that this happened the next day, when checking the precinct results in other parts of the county. The shift of one delegate at a county convention level would not have significantly affected the ultimate outcome of the caucus, but rather, it raises questions aboutthe Iowa Democratic party’s management of caucus night.
The Voting News
Observant Jews and Seventh-day Adventists who want to caucus with Nevada Democrats on Feb. 20 are out of luck. The party’s noon caucus falls squarely in the middle of a Saturday, a sacred day of rest and worship for both faiths. Jewish clergy said the timing of the caucus disenfranchises those who want to participate and pointed out that other high-profile early-state caucuses and primaries don’t fall on a Saturday. A party spokesman said the big event is set for that day and time to maximize participation. “Saturday at 11 a.m. is the best time to increase access as much as possible for Democrats across Nevada to participate in our First in the West caucuses,” said Stewart Boss, spokesman for the Nevada State Democratic Party. “Keeping this date is critical to preserving our early-state status in the presidential nominating calendar.”
A federal court panel ruled late Friday that two of North Carolina’s 13 congressional districts were racially gerrymandered and must be redrawn within two weeks, sparking uncertainty about whether the March primary elections can proceed as planned. An order from a three-judge panel bars elections in North Carolina’s 1st and 12th congressional districts until new maps are approved. Challengers of North Carolina’s 2011 redistricting plan quickly praised the ruling, while legislators who helped design the maps said they were disappointed and promised a quick appeal. “This ruling by all three judges is a vindication of our challenge to the General Assembly of North Carolina writing racially biased ‘apartheid’ voting districts to disenfranchise the power of the African-vote,” said the Rev. William Barber, president of North Carolina’s NAACP chapter.
National: U.S. Election Official under Fire for “Secretive” Action Imposing Voter Citizenship Requirement in Three States | Associated Press
A federal elections official has decided — without public notice or review from his agency’s commissioners — that residents of Alabama, Kansas and Georgia can no longer register to vote using a federal form without providing proof of U.S. citizenship. The action by the new executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission is being roundly criticized by voting rights activists, who say the “secretive move” will create additional barriers for potential voters, and one of the agency’s own commissioners, who says it contradicts policy and precedent. The new instructions were posted on the agency’s website, according to EAC’s executive director Brian Newby, who sent letters dated Jan. 29 to the three states that had requested the change. Under the new rule, any resident in those states who registers to vote using the federal form must show citizenship documentation — such as a birth certificate, naturalization papers or passport. In other states, no such documentation is needed to register; voters need only sign a sworn statement. The changes took effect immediately, Newby said, adding that any interested party could request a review from the commission, which is appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
The director of the federal agency that helps states run elections is under fire for abruptly reversing course and siding with three Republican-led states in their efforts to make vote registration much more difficult. The controversy involves questions of federal policymaking authority that may sound arcane. But at stake are the rights of perhaps thousands of would-be voters as the 2016 elections approach — as well as allegations of improper collusion at the federal level. On Friday, Brian Newby, the new executive director of the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), wrote in letters to Kansas, Georgia and Alabama officials that the agency had changed the state-specific instructions given to voters in those states to accompany the federal voter registration form that the EAC administers. The new instructions say that would-be voters must present proof of citizenship when they register. Kansas’ Republican Secretary of State, Kris Kobach — an ally of Newby, a former Kansas county election administrator — has for years been pressing the EAC to green-light that change. In 2011, Kobach, a former GOP operative and zealous backer of strict voting and immigration laws, helped pass a state law that required proof of citizenship from those registering to vote. But the EAC had twice rejected Kobach’s request to change the instructions given to Kansas voters on the federal form, saying the change would violate federal voting law, which aims to make registration as easy as possible. In late 2014, a federal court likewise ruled against Kobach.
National: New evidence that voter ID laws ‘skew democracy’ in favor of white Republicans | The Washington Post
Voter fraud is, for all intents and purposes, practically nonexistent. The best available research on the topic, by Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt, found only 31 credible incidents of voter impersonation in an investigation of over 1 billion votes cast. But that hasn’t dampened Republican efforts to pass a spate of strict voter ID laws since 2008. And it hasn’t hurt the public’s overall enthusiasm for those laws, either. But the results of a new working paper from political scientists at University of California, San Diego suggest folks may want to consider. The researchers analyzed turnout in recent elections — between 2008 and 2012 — in states that did and did not implement the strictest form of voter ID laws. They found that these laws consistently and significantly decreased turnout not just among traditionally Democratic-leaning groups, like blacks and Hispanics, but among Republican voters too.
Iowa: Democratic Party Officials Say Recount Impossible in Clinton-Sanders Virtual Tie | Bloomberg Politics
Democratic Party officials in Iowa say they can’t do a recount of Monday’s razor-thin presidential caucus results between Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders, even if they thought it was appropriate. And both candidates, in their debate later Thursday night, said it was no big deal. Just two-tenths of 1 percent separated Sanders and Clinton in the first nomination contest of the 2016 presidential campaign. The statewide caucus meetings included reports of chaos in precincts and coin flips to decide county delegates, raising questions about the final count’s accuracy . “People physically aligned in groups,” Sam Lau, the communications director for the Iowa Democratic Party, said in a statement. “There are no paper ballots to recount. Monday’s caucuses were a unique event that involved more than 171,000 Iowans and their neighbors at a specific time and place, and thus they cannot be re-created or recounted.”
In other words, there are no hanging chads to recount.
Once again the world is laughing at Iowa. Late-night comedians and social media mavens are having a field day with jokes about missing caucusgoers and coin flips. That’s fine. We can take ribbing over our quirky process. But what we can’t stomach is even the whiff of impropriety or error. What happened Monday night at the Democratic caucuses was a debacle, period. Democracy, particularly at the local party level, can be slow, messy and obscure. But the refusal to undergo scrutiny or allow for an appeal reeks of autocracy. The Iowa Democratic Party must act quickly to assure the accuracy of the caucus results, beyond a shadow of a doubt. First of all, the results were too close not to do a complete audit of results. Two-tenths of 1 percent separated Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. A caucus should not be confused with an election, but it’s worth noting that much larger margins trigger automatic recounts in other states. Second, too many questions have been raised. Too many accounts have arisen of inconsistent counts, untrained and overwhelmed volunteers, confused voters, cramped precinct locations, a lack of voter registration forms and other problems. Too many of us, including members of the Register editorial board who were observing caucuses, saw opportunities for error amid Monday night’s chaos.
Maryland’s top election official wants to ditch touch-screen machines in favor of paper ballots for early voting before the April primaries because the electronic machines can’t display all candidates on the same screen. Candidates with last names further down the alphabet — including GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump, Democratic Senate candidate Chris Van Hollen, Republican Senate contender Kathy Szeliga and Democratic House candidate David Trone — may be at a disadvantage because of the format, Elections Administrator Linda Lamone said. In addition, it can be difficult to use the touch screens to navigate between multiple pages of candidates. “It would cause confusion to voters, and it would take them a lot more time to vote,” Lamone said in an interview. The State Board of Elections has called an emergency meeting for Thursday to address the problem.
The Maryland Senate is scoheduled to vote Friday on overturning Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a bill that granted voting rights to felons who are on parole and probation. The vote will be the sixth veto override by the Democratic-controlled legislature, and will send a strong message to Hogan (R) about the power that Democrats, who are still grappling with Hogan’s victory and popularity, continue to wield in the State House. “It’s a huge victory for voting rights, not just in Maryland but in the country,” Jane Henderson, executive director of Communities United, said Thursday, anticipating the override and the bill becoming law. The Senate passed the measure last year with a 29 to 18 vote, a veto-proof majority. The governor vetoed the bill, arguing that former inmates who are released from prison on parole and probation have not finished their sentences and should not be have their right to vote restored until they do.