Editorials: Colorado county clerks crying wolf | Vincent Carroll/The Denver Post

Get ready for a battle royal over the integrity of elections in Colorado — and just in time for this state’s apparently pivotal role in the 2012 presidential race. If the clash shapes up as expected, lawmakers will have to choose sides between a would-be election priesthood exempt from public oversight — I’m referring to the county clerks — and advocates for a fully open and accountable government.

The clerks, you see, are in a panic about a recent appeals court ruling that says voted ballots are public documents under the Colorado Open Records Act, so long as “the identity of the voter cannot be discerned from the face of that ballot.”

The court’s definition should include the vast majority of ballots, assuming election officials and voters follow the law. But if you listen to the clerks, you’d think the opposite. Embracing Chicken Little as their role model, the clerks’ association issued a statement after the ruling, claiming it “has removed the curtain from our voting booths. Most Coloradans believe their votes should be a secret from their friends, coworkers and even spouses, but today’s ruling means Coloradans’ personal choices can be seen by anyone who asks.” The clerks’ statement is either contemptible fear-mongering or an admission that they supervise a system that comprehensively thumbs its nose at the state constitution’s mandate of anonymous ballots.

Florida: New Technology to Help Voters Check Status | WMFE 90.7

The Florida League of Women Voters is teaming up with Microsoft to offer a new way to check voter registration status. The new technology allows citizens to scan a special bar code with any smart phone and be automatically connected to their county Supervisor of Elections office. Deirdre Mcnab is president of the League of Women Voters of Florida. She said voters can easily check on their current registration status.

“They can check that their address is up to date. They can check if their name is correct.” Mcnab said. “If they want change parties, if they want to request a vote by mail ballot. They’ll be directly connected to their county Supervisor of Elections office.” Mcnab says the new technology is helpful but doesn’t address other voting changes instituted by state lawmakers.

“It does not address the cutting in half of early voting days.” Mcnab said. “It does not address taking away the most popular early voting day, the Sunday before the election and it does not address the drastic cutbacks in the ability of groups like ours to register new, eligible voters.”

Florida: Senator’s call to check citizenship of Hispanic voters draws fire | MiamiHerald.com

A state senator’s comments ignited a fierce rebuke from his colleagues Thursday when he said that voters should be screened for citizenship before legislators draw a congressional district to favor Hispanics.

Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, rekindled the divisive debate over illegal immigration when he told the Senate committee reviewing a series of congressional redistricting plans that “before we design a district anywhere in the state of Florida for Hispanic voters, we need to ascertain that they are citizens of the United States. “We all know there are many Hispanic-speaking people in Florida that are not legal,’’ he said. “And I just don’t think it’s right that we try to draw a district that encompasses people that really have no business voting anyhow,” he said.

“He is calling on a witch hunt before a Hispanic district can be realistically considered,’’ said Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa.

Indiana: No special prosecutor will be appointed for voter-fraud allegations against Bayhs | The Indianapolis Star

The Marion County Election Board will review allegations by Secretary of State Charlie White that former U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh committed voter fraud. Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry referred the case to the board Thursday after rejecting a request by White to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate.

Curry said despite owning a home in Washington, D.C., Bayh and his wife could vote in Indiana’s May 2011 primary. “The mere fact that a person maintains a residence in a state other than Indiana — even if the out-of-state property is more valuable than the Indiana property — is insufficient to conclude that the person has committed fraud by voting in Indiana,” Curry wrote in a statement.

White’s attorney, Carl Brizzi, said he never expected the prosecutor to pursue the matter criminally. And that was the point.

Maine: ACLU Asks Justice Department to Investigate Potential Voting Rights Act Violations by Maine’s Secretary of State | The Free Press

This week the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine (ACLU) and the ACLU Voting Rights Project asked the US Department of Justice to commence an investigation into potential Voting Rights Act violations by Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers.

In a five-page letter to Summers they documented their concerns “about your recent actions targeting legally registered student voters in Maine for investigatory action and sending them threatening correspondence likely to deter them from exercising their voting rights. Such actions provide strong evidence that you are violating federal statutory protections against intimidation and coercion of individuals in the exercise of their right to vote, as well as constitutional protections of the right to vote.”

Michigan: No-excuse absentee voting proposal comes with a catch | Michigan Messenger

Michigan residents could vote via absentee ballots for any reason under election reforms proposed by Republicans last week, but because the package requires voters to pick up their ballots in person, the change might not make it much easier for some people to vote.

Under the current rules a voter can only get an absentee ballot if they certify that they are 60 or older, expect to be away while polls are open, are physically unable to get to the polls, in jail awaiting arraignment or trial, can’t attend for religious reasons, or will be working as a election official in another precinct. People who vote absentee for these reasons can order their ballots by mail or online. About a quarter of all votes in the last two general elections were cast on absentee ballots, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

South Dakota: Post Office Closings Threaten Native Voting Rights | ICTMN.com

Indian reservation post offices are on the list of 3,600-plus branches the U.S. Postal Service wants to eliminate in order to help fix the agency’s multi-billion-dollar annual deficits. One office on the list is at the bottom of the Grand Canyon on the Havasupai Nation in Arizona, two more branches are on the Coeur D’Alene’s Idaho reservation, and three are in Standing Rock Sioux Tribe communities in South Dakota; these and numerous additional reservation branches nationwide may close their doors.

And that may close the door on the voting rights of tribal members who depend on them, says O.J. Semans, Sicangu Lakota, head of voting-rights group Four Directions. “Getting rid of post offices in Indian country would have a dramatic effect on access to voting,” he says. “In Nevada, for instance, about half of the 27 tribes rely heavily on the post office to register and to vote. Here in South Dakota, the state has Native American Indians to rely on the mail for voting. The 2010 national election was a good example of this, in that the state pushed for reservation voters to use mail-in absentee ballots—which required them to go to the post office three times: to request, receive and return the ballot.”

Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania voter ID bill poised for changes in Senate | AP/The Times Leader

A hotly debated bill that would require voters to show a government-issued photo ID before they could cast a ballot will undergo changes to lengthen the list of acceptable IDs, a key Pennsylvania state senator said Friday. That list in an amendment being written could include work IDs, college student IDs and, for elderly voters, expired driver’s licenses, said Senate State Government Committee Chairman Charles McIlhinney, R-Bucks.

The bill that passed the Republican-controlled House in June over the loud objections of Democrats was too stringent, McIlhinney said. Still, a requirement that some form of photo identification be required is still appropriate to guard against voter fraud, he said. “We’re looking to ensure that there is a voter ID requirement, that people need to produce some type of identification to ensure the one person, one vote rule is not violated,” he said.

Pennsylvania: State Debating New Voter ID Rules | NBC Philadelphia

A hotly debated bill would require voters to show a government-issued photo ID before they could cast a ballot. The bill is now facing changes including allowing a longer list of acceptable IDs, a key Pennsylvania state senator said Friday. The expected amendment could include work IDs, college student IDs and, for elderly voters, expired driver’s licenses, said Senate State Government Committee Chairman Charles McIlhinney, R-Bucks.

Current law in Pennsylvania requires identification only from people voting in a polling place for the first time, but it does not require a photo ID. Acceptable forms of ID can include a firearms permit, a current utility bill, a bank statement or a paycheck as long as they have a name and address.  However, a poll worker can still request that a voter show identification at any time.

Wisconsin: League of Women Voters files suit against Wisconsin voter ID law | madison.com

The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Network filed suit Thursday in Dane County Circuit Court, challenging the state’s new voter ID law, which is considered by many to be one of the most restrictive in the country. The league argues that the new law violates the state constitution by creating a new group of disenfranchised voters.

“Some people say that you have to show ID to use the library, cash checks, and so on,” says Melanie Ramey, the league’s president in a prepared statement. “That is very different than a right that is guaranteed by the constitution of the state or federal government. Those transactions are generally based on personal business decisions of companies or other entities. They are not rights of citizenship.”

National: Obama Campaign General Counsel Criticizes ‘Anti-Reform’ Movement in Election Politics | Virginia Law

Robert Bauer, general counsel to President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign and a former White House counsel, said Monday that an anti-reform movement has been dismantling rules that aim to protect confidence and integrity in government.

“I’m very troubled that there is an extremism in the opposition to reform, a sort of reckless and doctrinaire quality that is going to go a long, long way if it is taken to its logical conclusion to further undermine the fragile and critical trust the people have in their government and in the quality and effectiveness of self-governing,” said Bauer, speaking in Caplin Pavilion at the University of Virginia School of Law.

For roughly three decades after the Watergate scandal, Bauer said, there generally was bipartisan support for political reforms. Yet that support has frayed in recent years, particularly since the enactment of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law in 2002 that limited soft-money contributions by corporations and unions.

Pakistan: Election Commission suspends membership of 231 lawmakers | The Hindu

Pakistan Election Commission has suspended the membership of 231 lawmakers, including Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, who failed to submit statements of their assets and liabilities within a stipulated deadline.

A spokesman for the panel said the body had suspended the membership of 13 members of the Senate or upper house of parliament, 103 members of National Assembly or lower house of parliament and 115 members of the assemblies of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

Venezuela: Banished Venezuelan voting rights | El Universal

The principle of bringing the consulate closer to citizens seems a warrant forgotten by our foreign service, which becomes pretty relevant these days of upcoming election. An estimate of two million Venezuelans, from all sort of ages, reside abroad, but the Venezuelan consular structure is the old one brought into the present, during those days in which Venezuela did not use to be country of emigrants as it does nowadays.

Based on the table recorded by the National Electoral Council (CNE), according to which 60% of people are able to vote, slighty over one million Venezuelans abroad should vote in the presidential election of October 2012. As a matter of fact, it is otherwise.

In the last election held on September 26, 2010, only 56031 citizens – who resided abroad and were able to vote from there – enrolled in the registry of voters, from which only 15,434 people fulfilled their democratic commitment, for an abstention of 72.45%. Ending September 2011, enrollment could reach 62,000 people. In presidential elections, abstention shrinks to 60% with a 40% turnout. Due to the low turnout that has been recorded, several NGOs and groups of citizens have teamed up in order to assess the situation and develop mechanisms that allow those citizens to exercise the right to vote.