In Africa’s year of elections, with democracy in retreat in many parts of the continent, Lesotho is a pygmy beside giants like Nigeria and other larger nations facing votes. But many observers are watching the small mountain nation as it heads to the polls Saturday, one of just a handful of African countries that in the past has seen a peaceful democratic handover of power from one party to another. Lesotho’s democratic credentials are in question after an attempted coup in August forced Prime Minister Tom Thabane to flee the country. Saturday’s balloting is supposed to resolve the crisis, if friction between political opponents and rival branches of the security forces doesn’t derail the process. Among the other countries facing elections this year are Sudan, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Mali, Burkino Faso, Burundi, Chad, Niger, Mauritania, Guinea, Central African Republic, Togo and Mauritius.
The Voting News
California: Correa Concedes Supervisor’s Race But Says He Will Pursue Evidence of Voter Fraud | Los Alamitos-Seal Beach, CA Patch
Former state Sen. Lou Correa raised multiple questions about mistakes and possible fraud in his narrow loss to Andrew Do for Orange County supervisor, but he said it would be too costly to try to overturn the results in a court. Correa, who lost to Do by 43 votes in the Jan. 27 special election, praised Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley, despite the questions. “Inevitiably, some mistakes will be made, and we found that to have been the case in this election.” Correa said. “But that does not detract from the consistently commendable job that the registrar’s office performs in conducting this and other elections in Orange County.”
Supreme Court justices often grouse about the political polarization and gridlock across the street in Congress. Now they have a chance to make it worse. The high court will hear a case Monday that could give partisan state legislatures sole authority to draw congressional districts, a task voters in several states have transferred to independent commissions. The case comes from Arizona, where Republican lawmakers want to take back the power to draw the district lines. If the court sides with them after agreeing to hear their appeal, the ruling would affect similar commissions in California and a handful of other states. Such a ruling “would consign states to the dysfunctionality of a system where politicians choose their voters rather than voters choosing their politicians,” says a brief filed by three national experts on redistricting.
Democrats have came out in support of a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to vote. The proposed amendment has no realistic shot at passing for the foreseeable future. But the move points to an intensifying Democratic response to the wave of conservative efforts to restrict voting, and lays down a clear marker for the party’s long-term goal. “We have been having an expanding of the franchise in America. That’s the trajectory of history,” Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who, with Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) has introduced legislation in Congress for a right-vote amendment, told msnbc in an interview. “But in recent years, folks who don’t want everybody to vote have been very busy, and they’re trying to peel back the trajectory of opportunity to vote and participate in our society.” At its winter meeting Saturday in Florida, the Democratic National Committee unanimously passed a resolution that supports “amending the United States Constitution to explicitly guarantee an individual’s right to vote.” The DNC also said it would urge state parties to push for statewide referenda backing the idea, and pledged to create a “Right to Vote Task Force” to offer ideas on how to protect voting rights. The resolution was submitted by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the DNC, as well as Donna Brazile, a vice chair and prominent figure in the party.
When hundreds of Californians got together to roll up their sleeves and talk about elections last week, they were joined by a looming, unwanted problem. “And that voter turnout. That’s really the elephant in the room, isn’t it?” said California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. “November 2014. June 2014. We can and must do better. And there is no magic wand to get more and more Californians to vote.” The room was filled for the Future of California Elections (FOCE) annual conference in Sacramento. The theme of the conference was building a more inclusive democracy, taking up issues of elections funding, language and disability access, election data and other nuts-and-bolts. But, the low voter turnout and what to do about it dominated several of the discussions.
On the March 3 Los Angeles ballot are proposed Charter Amendments 1 and 2, which would cancel the city’s elections in 2019 and instead let city officials elected in March 2015 stay in office until December 2020. NBC4 News says moving city elections out from the shadows was “an effort to clean up corruption at City Hall.” Now politicians want to undo that reform and put our city elections in Junes (and for the small fraction of city elections with runoffs, Novembers) of even-numbered years. Why? They say it’s because we can call it increased turnout if voters pulled in by marquee contests end up marking city choices at the bottom of a long ballot. As if mindless, “what the hell, I’m here anyway” turnout is the hallmark of good democracy. And it’s hard to credit the leader of the effort, Councilman Herb Wesson, with sincere concern about turnout in city elections, since he’ll be termed out after getting re-elected next week.
Editorials: It’s time for Connecticut to change its outdated registrar of voters system | Hartford Courant
Twice in the last three election cycles, snafus in Connecticut elections have made national news. In 2010 it was when Bridgeport ran out of ballots. In 2014 it was when Hartford couldn’t get polling places open on time. But these aren’t the only communities that had election difficulties in this period. Fairfield, Naugatuck, West Hartford and other towns had issues as well. “Enough is enough,” Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said Wednesday as she announced a radical-for-Connecticut plan to reform the administration of elections. She is submitting a bill to the General Assembly that would do away with the system of two (or three) elected registrars of voters in each town and replace them with a single appointed, nonpartisan registrar, who likely would be on the town clerk’s staff.
A bill allowing Iowans who don’t have a drivers license or state-issued I.D. to register to vote online is moving to the Iowa Senate floor for a vote, after the Senate State Government Committee approved it Wednesday. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate is currently working on allowing online voter registration for Iowans with an I.D., but Senator Jeff Danielson (D-Cedar Falls) says that would leave out about seven percent of the state’s population. Given modern technology and security standards, he says it’s safe and possible to allow Iowans without an I.D. to still register to vote online.
An old issue has come back in Augusta: voter ID. A bill sponsored by Sen. Ron Collins (R-Wells) would require Maine voters to show an ID before casting a ballot. The issue has been debated in the Legislature before. Republican staffers say it was proposed in 2011, but did not end up being passed into law at that time. Instead it was passed as a Legislative resolve. That was the same year the Republican majority passed a law eliminating same day voter registration, a law that was ultimately overturned by Maine voters in referendum.
The North Dakota Senate voted down a bill Wednesday that would have allowed voters without an approved form of identification to cast a provisional ballot. Senate Bill 2353, sponsored by Sen. Mac Schneider, D-Grand Forks, failed 18-29 Wednesday. Provisional ballots wouldn’t count until the voter could prove their eligibility with a postcard mailed by the county auditor after the election.