Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is proposing a number of rule changes to state elections law which he hopes to see implemented in time for the 2014 primary elections. The changes would give greater options for proof of identification and residency in Minnesota, and seem aimed at making it easier for transient citizens and college students to vote. Rather than push the measures as part of a legislative agenda, Ritchie is seeking to enact them as administrative changes. According to the press release, both of his predecessors in that office, Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake,and longtime DFL Secretary of State Joan Growe also invoked their power to change election rules. Under one proposed rule, voters would be allowed to register using a learner’s permit in place of a driver’s license, and could also present an identification card issued by any other state as a valid form of identification.
Secretary of State
Ohio: Solution found to Athens County ballot problem on electric aggregation issue | The Athens Messenger
Electronic vote-counters in 33 of Athens County’s voting precincts have been reprogrammed not to count votes cast on county electric aggregation, a step taken after it was determined that the measure (Issue 2) should not have been on the ballot in those locations. Also, signs will be posted in the 33 polling locations alerting voters that Issue 2 should not be on their ballots, and that votes on it will not be counted, according to Athens County Elections Director Debbie Quivey. Electric aggregation would allow the county to negotiate lower rates for households and small businesses in the unincorporated areas of the county, but all ballots printed for the Nov. 5 election — including those in Athens, Nelsonville and the county’s eight incorporated villages — mistakenly include Issue 2. The error was discovered earlier this month, and Quivey and Deputy Elections Director Penny Brooks asked County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn for a legal opinion Oct. 17 on who should be voting on Issue 2.
Voting rights advocates say there’s a message for Mississippi in lawsuits the Justice Department has filed over the last two months to block voting-law changes in Texas and North Carolina. The suits claim the changes, including new voter ID laws, would suppress the minority vote. Mississippi is moving ahead with its own voter ID law, and voting rights advocates say the recent legal actions by the Justice Department should put the state on notice that it may be next. “The battle in North Carolina, Texas, they’re not just state fights,” said William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP. “They are state battles that have national implications. If you don’t stop it here, it has the potential like a virus to spread across the country.”
For the fourth time, Jim Bennett took the oath of office today as Alabama’s secretary of state. Bennett, 73, was sworn in just after 5 p.m. by Gov. Robert Bentley to replace Beth Chapman, who resigned to take a job with the Alabama Farmers Federation. Bennett won’t be a candidate for the office next year. Bentley said at the time he appointed Bennett that he did not want to appoint anybody who planned to run for the office. Bennett was appointed secretary of state in 1993 and was elected to the position in 1994 and 1998. His election in 1998 marked the first time for a Republican to hold the office since Reconstruction. Bentley praised Chapman’s work and said he expected a smooth transition.
This week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling partly blocks Georgia from enforcing a law requiring would-be voters to prove U.S. citizenship, Secretary of State Brian Kemp said Wednesday. In a 7-2 decision Monday, the court ruled a similar statute in Arizona is pre-empted by federal law. Passed in 2009, Georgia’s law requires voter registration applicants to provide proof of U.S. citizenship, such as copies of passports or birth certificates. Kemp, however, said Georgia has never been able to enforce that statute because it has not been given access to a federal immigration database it could use to confirm the U.S. citizenship of those seeking to vote. He said he is now considering asking the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to add new instructions on federal voter registration forms so Georgia can require proof of U.S. citizenship. In its ruling, the court indicated that is a possible pathway forward for Arizona. “We will put all options on the table — whether we need to talk to the governor or Legislature or the Attorney General’s Office,” Kemp said.
Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie announced Tuesday that he will not seek re-election to a third term in 2014. ”This is the right decision for me and my family right now,” said Ritchie, 61. “When I did the math, if I would be honored by being re-elected, I would be closer to 70 than 65″ after completing another term. He hasn’t decided what he wants to do after leaving office. ”My public service will take a different form. I don’t know what it will be, but it won’t be as Minnesota’s next secretary of state. That will be for a new generation of leadership.” Vacancies in state constitutional offices are rare, and the announcement by Ritchie, a Democrat, is likely to set off a stampede of ambitious candidates for his post.
A legislative committee on Wednesday split votes on a bill that would prohibit the secretary of state from running for governor or federal office during his or her term. The State and Local Government Committee voted 5-4 in favor of the amended version of L.D. 947, which is sponsored by Sen. Christopher Johnson, D-Somerville. Johnson’s original bill would have prohibited all three of the state’s constitutional officers — secretary of state, attorney general and treasurer — from running for higher office. While Johnson argued that the attorney general and treasurer face severe time constraints in trying to hold a full-time job and campaign, he said the secretary of state faces the additional burden of the appearance of conflict of interest. “There’s merit in not having someone in office overseeing their own elections,” he said.
National: Secretaries of State announce national task force on emergency preparations for elections | FoxReno
To support state efforts aimed at establishing sound administrative election practices in emergency conditions, Nevada Secretary of State and National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) President Ross Miller and NASS members today announce the formation of a Task Force on Emergency Preparedness for Elections. The task force is a national initiative, formed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which struck the East Coast just days before the presidential election on November 6, 2012. The effort will focus on identifying laws and practices that enhance the ability of state election officials to prepare for, and respond to, emergency situations.
Kansas: Senate passes bill giving secretary of state extra power but barring him from having PAC | The Republic
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach would get the power he’s sought for his office to prosecute election fraud cases, but he’d also have to shut down his political action committee under legislation approved Thursday by the state Senate. The Senate approved the bill on a 31-9 vote, sending it to the House, where its future is less certain. Kobach, a former constitutional law professor, said he doubts a law prohibiting the secretary of state from having a PAC would be constitutional. But he also said he’s optimistic legislators ultimately will junk the anti-PAC proposal while expanding his office’s authority. “I’m pleased that the Senate intends to get serious about the prosecution of election crimes,” Kobach said during an interview.
The Citizen’s Clean Election Commission would be consolidated with the Arizona Secretary of State’s office and take on added responsibilities for overseeing election law violations and lobbyist reporting under a bill approved by a Senate committee Tuesday. The proposal approved by the Appropriations Committee would allow the voter-created commission to still do its work independently but add some responsibilities and bring operational efficiencies, Secretary of State Ken Bennett said. The bill also would restore a so-called “tax checkoff” included in the law creating the commission that was eliminated by the Legislature last year. The bill would require any extra money the commission has to be turned over to Bennett’s office to help pay for replacing election equipment. The state needs millions of dollars to buy new voting equipment in the coming years.