The United States prides itself for its egalitarian democracy, a democracy inwhich the weight of one’s vote is the same whether you’re young or old, rich or poor, and regardless of race. No right is more fundamental to American citizenship than the right to vote. Yet if voting is a right for all eligible citizens, then it should not have to be earned, and re-earned, over and over again. This is exactly what Florida risks, however, with Gov. Rick Scott’s renewed call for categorically removing alleged noncitizens from its voter rolls. Secretary of State Ken Detzner is creating a new list of suspected noncitizen voters by cross-checking the Department of Homeland Security System Alien Verification for Entitlements Program (SAVE) database with the state voter data. Given the long lines of citizens waiting to vote, Florida officials should know by now that voting is taken very seriously here. Yet this renewed call for another purge of alleged noncitizens shows the rest of the country that Florida is where rights become privileges.
Guinea’s main opposition leader on Thursday threatened to call supporters onto the streets if authorities push ahead with a parliamentary election due on Tuesday without fully addressing complaints over preparations. Cellou Dalein Diallo, leader of the largest opposition party and arch rival of President Alpha Conde, said it would be impossible to fix problems linked to voter lists and polling stations on time so a delay of a few weeks was needed. The poll, meant to cap Guinea’s transition back to civilian rule, has been repeatedly delayed since Conde was elected three years ago, sowing doubts amongst Guineans, investors and donors over political progress in the world’s top bauxite exporter. Dozens of people were killed in protests during months of wrangling over the election earlier this year.
The Supreme Court has ordered the Elections Commission (EC) to hand over the original voter lists of all ballot boxes placed during the recent first round of Presidential Elections held on September 7. A Supreme Court battle between the EC and Jumhooree Party (JP) ensued this week after the latter announced its decision to dismiss the outcome of the presidential poll after narrowly missing out a place in the run-off election with 24.07 percent of the vote. The party accused the EC of electoral discrepancies and irregularities that altered the results of the poll to the JP’s disadvantage.
Guinea’s opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo said on Tuesday that he doesn’t believe the country’s legislative election can be held next week, citing flaws in the voter roll which he says will take too much time to fix. His critical assessment contrasts sharply with that of the United Nations special envoy to the region, who mediated a six-hour-long session Monday between the country’s warring opposition and ruling party, and who told reporters upon returning to Senegal that he remains confident the election will go ahead on Sept. 24. ”The date of the election is still Sept. 24,” Said Djinnit said at his residence in the Senegalese capital. “As of today we are a few steps away from the election. Nothing permits me to say otherwise.” The U.N. has so far mediated 13 meetings between the two sides in an attempt to return the West African nation to constitutional rule. The country’s last parliamentary elections were held in 2002, and were first rescheduled in 2007. The repeated delays have spanned three presidents and have left the nation without a functioning legislature.
Oumou Sangare is used to getting what she wants. Unlike most of the people lined up outside the election office here, the wife of Mali’s former ambassador to the United Nations is not accustomed to hearing the word ‘no.’ Yet that’s exactly what the elegant, middle-aged woman heard earlier this week after making her way to the front of the line of would-be voters who, due to a technical glitch, don’t appear on the voter list for the upcoming presidential election. Clutching her designer handbag, she stood on tiptoes in her petite heels, straining to peer through the open window of the election headquarters, where a clerk typed her name into a database. ”I’m the wife of the ambassador,” she pleaded after the screen came back blank. “I’ve been voting for years,” she said. “Am I not going to be able to vote?”
With the help of Michigan Elections Director Chris Thomas, U.S. Rep. Candice Miller on Tuesday made the case on Capitol Hill that Congress must act to end millions of duplicate voter registrations nationwide from state to state. In testimony, Thomas told the Committee on House Administration, chaired by Miller, that federal legislation is needed to clear up the confusion caused when voters maintain an old driver license in one state but declare their voter registration in another state. A pending bill co-sponsored by Miller, former Michigan Secretary of State, and Rep. Todd Rokita, former Indiana Secretary of State, would require new state residents applying for a driver license to notify the state if they intend to use their new residency for the purpose of voting. If so, the legislation would mandate that the new state to notify the applicant’s previous state of residence so its chief election official can update voter lists accordingly.
The House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday pushing back the voter registration period from 10 days prior to an election to 17. It now goes to the Senate. But even if the bill passes the Senate and is signed into law, opponents say they will file a complaint with the Justice Department in an attempt to block it. The measure was pushed by voter registrars around the state who said they need the additional time to finalize voter lists, but it drew strong criticism from Democrats saying it was an attempt to block minority voting. “We are not helping Alabamians when we start closing doors and put obstacles in their way to vote,” said Rep. James Buskey, D-Mobile.
Editorials: A Simple Plan to Drastically Improve Voting, Stop Fraud, and Save Money | Trevor Potter/The Atlantic
Bipartisan agreements seem possible on immigration and perhaps even on guns. Could election reform be next? Is there an opportunity to move past the partisan rancor of the voting wars and modernize America’s out-of-date election system? We all know it needs improvement. Long lines on Election Day are only the most visible symptom, as some voters from Florida to Virginia to Ohio waited up to seven hours to make their voice heard in last year’s election. The culprit often turns out to be the old-fashioned, paper-based registration system used across the country. According to the Pew Center on the States, approximately 51 million Americans are not registered to vote but should qualify to do so. One in eight registrations contain errors or are no longer valid. Nearly 2 million dead people appear on the voter rolls. In 2008, estimates are that at least 3 million voters who thought they were registered showed up at the polls, only to be turned away because of registration problems.
This month, Ferenc Gyurcsány, the former prime minister of Hungary, and three other members of his political party set up tents in front of the parliament building in Budapest and embarked on a week-long hunger strike. They ended it with a rally before thousands of their compatriots — all to protest a proposed law that requires Hungarians to register before voting in the upcoming election. Why so much passionate resistance to registering 15 days before the election? One ally of the protesters went so far as to say that they were doing it “to call the attention of the people to how the government is bringing down democracy.” Gyurcsány said that he believes “it is unacceptable that anyone who happens to decide two days before an election that he wants to vote cannot do so and take part in the election.”
Carolyn Perry remembers voting in her first election. It was 1967 in Ohio, a municipal election, and she was 21 years old. ”The people at the polls introduced me and said, ‘This is Carolyn and this is her first time to vote,’” recalled the retired special education teacher. Perry, who has been registered to vote in North Carolina since at least 1975, according to election records, was dismayed to receive a letter this month from the Wake County Board of Elections suggesting she may no longer be qualified to vote because she might be dead. ”My initial reaction? I was mad as hell,” Perry said Monday morning. Her name was one of nearly 30,000 across the state that volunteers with the Voter Integrity Project identified two weeks ago as potentially being dead but still registered to vote. The Voter Integrity Project is a North Carolina offshoot of True the Vote, a national movement that purports to combat election fraud by challenging the voter registration of those they believe should not be on voter lists. ”We’re not really interested in partisan politics,” said Jay DeLancy, a retired Air Force officer and director of Voter Integrity Project. “As an organization, we try to eliminate those kinds of biases in our research.”