Wednesday marks the 95th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the United States. At the same time, one of the last countries to deny women the vote is preparing to open its polls: this December, women will vote in Saudi Arabia for the first time. This achievement, like the ones that came before it, wasn’t handed to Saudi women, who have been pressuring their government for years. Around the world, women have only won suffrage because they’ve demanded it. “There’s no other movement for women’s rights that’s as international as votes for women,” says Ellen DuBois, distinguished professor of history and gender studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. A century ago, American women were deep into their own chapter of the movement—and closing in on victory. The first international votes for women came sporadically during the 19th century. Women in Sweden and Scotland won some local voting rights, and Great Britain opened local elections—but only to unmarried women who also owned property. Then, in 1893, women in New Zealand won the full right to vote.
The Voting News
National: Election Assistance Commission says state’s can use federal election grants to pay for voter fraud investigation | Associated Press
States are free to use federal grant money intended to improve how elections are run in order to pay for criminal investigations of potential voter fraud, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission has ruled. The commission’s opinion is a relief to election officials in Iowa, who will not have to pay back $240,000 in federal money that was used for a voter fraud investigation that ended last year. But critics of Iowa’s investigation said they were surprised that the commission found that Help America Vote Act funding could be used for such a purpose, and worried that other states could follow suit. “It seems like a real stretch,” said Tom Courtney, an Iowa Democratic state senator who asked the commission’s inspector general to investigate the spending nearly three years ago. “But now with this ruling in their pocket, Iowa and other states might say, ‘all right.’ ” Months before the 2012 presidential election, then-Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz reached an agreement to pay the salary and expenses of a full-time Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agent for two years to look into “instances of potential criminal activity” related to voting and elections. The investigation led to charges against 10 non-U.S. citizens and 16 ex-felons accused of casting ballots despite not having voting rights.
A three-judge federal court today asked plaintiffs who claim Alabama’s legislative districts are racially gerrymandered if they could draw a new plan that would strike the delicate balance of protecting majority black districts while not using race as the main factor. Presiding Judge Bill Pryor called that the “$64,000 question” during today’s hearing in the technical, complex case sent back to the three-judge court by the U.S. Supreme Court. The case concerns Alabama’s 140 legislative districts, redrawn by a Republican-led Legislature in 2012, as is done after after 10-year census. The plan was used in last year’s elections.
A Leon County judge on Tuesday postponed a decision about Florida’s still incomplete congressional redistricting map after Republican legislative leaders failed to agree on how to redraw the boundaries. During a hearing, Judge Terry P. Lewis of Florida’s Second Circuit Court said he did not have the authority to resolve the map dispute without the approval of the Florida Supreme Court, which ruled in July that the current redistricting map was unconstitutional. The judge said he would send a request for guidance to the State Supreme Court on Wednesday.
A Topeka judge has denied a move by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to quash a lawsuit challenging the state’s two-tier voter registration system and said Kobach has exceeded his authority with the way he runs elections. Micah Kubic, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Kansas and Missouri, called the ruling a “great day for voting rights and a great day for Kansas.” The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of voters who have been frozen out of state and local elections because they registered to vote using federal registration forms and didn’t provide proof-of-citizenship documents required by Kansas law.
On Thursday, Gov. Wolf and Secretary of State Pedro Cortés announced that PA has become the latest state to launch an online voter registration application. Hosted by the Department of State, the form is now available for use by eligible citizens at register.votesPA.com. “Online Voter Registration is about making the voting experience more convenient and more accessible,” Governor Wolf said in a statement on Thursday. “It is about giving citizens an easier way to exercise their right to vote and establishing a clearer connection between the political system and the citizens. Online voter registration is secure, it improves accuracy and will reduce costs for counties by cutting down on time-consuming data entry.” Online voter registration is available in 22 other states. In five additional states and the District of Columbia, OVR has been approved and is awaiting implementation. According to Secretary Cortés, the trend towards OVR is only natural in an increasingly digital world.
If you thought you couldn’t escape the onslaught of political ads in 2012, just wait until 2016. This election cycle, campaigns are expected to fully embrace mobile advertising as a way to target voters anytime, anywhere. For the first time, spending on political ads for digital media is expected to top $1 billion, rivaling the estimated amounts campaigns spend on telemarketing and radio, according to a report released this month by the research firm Borrell Associates. That’s still just a fraction of the total $11.4 billion Borrell estimates will be poured into political advertising in 2016. But it’s a big increase since 2012, when spending on digital political ads was just $159 million.
Ethics problems can be serious trouble for any politician, but party strategists often use Federal Election Committee complaints to play games with the opposition, because the allegation has a slim chance of being ruled on before Election Day. “Everyone knows both sides file complaints to get press hits,” one campaign strategist said anonymously in order to speak candidly. For example, in July a former Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee communications director now with an outside group, American Democracy Legal Fund, filed an FEC complaint concerning compensation GOP Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin received after his 2010 race. Subsequently, Roll Call wrote a story, “Group Files FEC Complaint Against Johnson.” And a couple of days later, the DSCC sent out an email with the subject line, “Busted: FEC Complaint Filed Against Ron Johnson For Shady Corporate Fundraising Scheme,” that linked to the story. Whether the accusation is true is beside the point. The accusers know simply filing a complaint will generate media attention and cast doubt onto the accused.
Editorials: Dumbing Down American Politics: Lawrence Lessig and the Presidency | Thomas E. Mann/Institute of Governmental Studies – UC Berkeley
Donald Trump and the Amen chorus of Republican presidential aspirants may have appeared to monopolize the capacity to make fantastical claims about what’s wrong with America and how to fix it. But a rival has appeared on the scene, outlining a very different fantasy plan to run for president on the Democratic side of the aisle. Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig looks meek — a dead ringer for Mr. Peepers – yet is anything but. Lessig built an impressive career in legal scholarship on the regulation of cyberspace, and the mild-mannered, soft-spoken academic became a cult hero among libertarians fearful of increasing legal restrictions on copyright, trademark and the electromagnetic spectrum. But Lessig’s transformation into a political activist was spurred by his personal revelation that money in politics is the root of all our governing problems. Eliminate the dependence of elected officials on private donors and the formidable obstacles to constructive policymaking will crumble. Simple but searing truth, or a caricature of a complex governing system shaped by institutions, ideas/ideologies, and interests?
There is an intense tug-of-war in this nation between those who want to make it easier and those who want to make it more difficult to vote. The simplistic, and largely accurate, narrative is that Democrats want more people to vote and Republicans want fewer. Each side has a high-minded argument: Democrats want to encourage citizen participation in the process; Republicans want to discourage fraud. But let there be no mistake: In each case, principle dovetails neatly with party interest. Democrats tend to gain from higher turnout; Republican voters are likely to be overrepresented when turnout is lower. In many corners of the nation, the trend is clearly favoring voter suppression, especially after a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling eliminated the nearly half-century-old requirement that areas with a history of discriminatory voting practices — concentrated in the South — would be required to gain federal or court permission before making any changes in their voting procedures.