Editorials: A democracy deficit at Americans Elect? | Richard Hasen/Politico

The new group Americans Elect is trying to ease the path for an independent presidential candidate chosen by voters in a national Internet primary to appear on the election ballot in all 50 states. This is a tall order — achieving national ballot access for a third-party candidate to run against President Barack Obama and the Republican nominee is complicated and expensive.

Enthusiasm for this group is growing. But it could be misplaced. Tom Friedman said in The New York Times that Americans Elect will do to the two-party duopoly “what Amazon.com did to books, what the blogosphere did to newspapers, what the iPod did to music [and] what drugstore.com did to pharmacies.” Perhaps.

Rather than gush about this group, I fear many aspects of it: its secrecy; the uncertain security for its Internet election and, most important, the lack of democracy in its system for electing a presidential nominee.

National: Millions denied voting rights | newsday.com

In 52 weeks, we’ll hit the polls in the next national election — but more than 3.2 million may not make it past the check-in table. By then, new laws may go into effect requiring voters to present a government-issued photo ID at polling stations in Kansas, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Most other states — including, for the time being, New York — still accept signatures or utility bills, making it easier for would-be voters to verify their identities.

According to data from New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, an estimated 3.2 million potential voters don’t have state-issued IDs in Kansas, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Add in the other two states, and the number is sure to be higher.

California: 2 S.F. supervisors seek to end ranked voting | sfgate.com

On the day that San Francisco used ranked-choice voting for the first time in a competitive mayor’s race, two supervisors called for repealing the voting system. “Massive numbers of San Franciscans continue to be confused about our voting process in the city,” Supervisor Mark Farrell said Tuesday. Farrell and Supervisor Sean Elsbernd hope to put a charter amendment before city voters in June to undo ranked-choice voting.

Under San Francisco’s system, voters can pick up to three candidates in order of preference. If no candidate receives a majority of first-pick votes, the last-place candidate is eliminated and the second-choice votes of those who voted for him or her are then allocated. This process continues until a candidate ends up with a majority of votes.

California: New ranked-choice ballots baffle many San Francisco voters | San Francisco Examiner

Despite an ad campaign explaining the nuances of ranked-choice voting, many voters were confused Tuesday. Although citywide figures were not available, Jeff Olsen, a poll-worker trainer with the Department of Elections, noted that according to the printout produced by the voting equipment about 20 percent of ballots cast at one Bernal Heights polling place selected either the same candidate in all three columns or more than one candidate per column.

Olsen said that the machines that read ballots return a message if voters choose the same candidate three times. Voters are then given the option of revoting or casting the ballot as is. “Even if we tell them, ‘Don’t mark the same person,’ they do,” said Mary Beth Huffman, an inspector at that polling place. “They’re just putting the same person all the way across. They think they’re giving their guy more points.”

California: S.F. ranked-choice voting hurts progressive backers | sfgate.com

Under San Francisco’s traditional voting system, interim Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor John Avalos would be headed for a December runoff in which stark contrasts could be drawn between the moderate longtime bureaucrat and the progressive former social worker. It would have been interesting, but it’s not going to happen.

Under San Francisco’s ranked-choice voting system – in use for the first time in a competitive mayor’s race – Lee won with less than a third of first-place votes. Ironically, it’s Lee’s supporters who are calling for the end of ranked-choice voting. And Avalos and his backers believe it’s a beneficial system that should continue.

Colorado: Aspen election commissioner wants outside opinion | AspenTimes.com

A member of the Aspen Election Commission said he is seeking a “second opinion” from an outside attorney on whether the commission should approve two public-records requests to inspect paper ballots cast in May’s municipal election. During Wednesday’s commission meeting, member Ward Hauenstein asked City Attorney John Worcester for his legal opinions on the matter, but noted that he also has sought independent counsel. Hauenstein said he likely will ask the Aspen City Council to pay for the outside legal fees at an upcoming meeting.

In his capacity as city attorney, Worcester also provides legal advice to city boards and commissions, such as the Election Commission. But he also is representing the city in its battle against political activist Marilyn Marks’ lawsuit, which stems from the city clerk’s denial of her request to examine ballot images from the 2009 mayor’s race.

Maine: Mainers vote to continue Election Day registration | Bangor Daily News

By a relatively wide margin, Mainers on Tuesday overturned a recently passed law that would have ended a 38-year-old practice of allowing voters to register on Election Day. Question 1 asked: “Do you want to reject the section of Chapter 399 of the Public Laws of 2011 that requires new voters to register to vote at least two business days prior to an election?”

With more than three-quarters of the state’s precincts reporting early Wednesday morning, the yes side was leading 60 percent to 40 percent and had declared victory. The yes side was prevailing in every county, with especially lopsided results in Portland and Bangor. Dozens of Yes on 1 volunteers gathered at Bayside Bowl in Portland and watched the results trickle in on laptops. The mood was festive, even shortly after the polls closed, and only got better as the night went on.

Maine: Portland Still Counting Ballots in Mayoral Race | mpbn.net

On Election Night, Maine’s largest city popularly elected a mayor for the first time in eight decades. But who that person is won’t be publicly-known until later tonight, a day after the polls closed. Josie Huang has more. The city used a time-intensive electoral process called ranked-choice voting that’s has never been tried in Maine until…

Minnesota: Ranked voting in St. Paul: mostly trouble-free, with a few quirks | TwinCities.com

Alone among his political peers, Green Party candidate Jim Ivey sang the praises of ranked-choice voting as he walked door to door in Ward 2, trying to win first- and second-place votes in an attempt to unseat long-standing St. Paul City Council member Dave Thune. Now, the same process Ivey championed effectively will leave him at the mercy of supporters of Cynthia Schanno and Sharon Anderson, the two most conservative candidates in his five-way race.

As the two weakest vote-getters in the Ward 2 election, the last-place finishers will be dropped from tallies next week during rounds of “elimination”-style vote-counting. Voters who selected the last-place candidates still get to be heard, as their second-choice picks are released into the next round of vote-counting. That leaves Ivey, who came in second of five candidates, dependent on those second-choice votes to survive elimination when counting resumes next Monday. Thune holds a solid but not insurmountable lead in first place with 39 percent of the vote, while Ivey holds 27 percent and fellow candidate Bill Hosko holds 26 percent. Only two will proceed to the following elimination round.

Mississippi: Debate heats up over voter ID laws | usatoday.com

Mississippi has joined the growing number of states adopting tougher voter ID laws, a trend that promises to fuel an intense battle over how such laws may affect voter turnout in the 2012 elections.

“It’s boiling over,” said Jennie Bowser, a senior election policy analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures. “People on both sides of the aisle are very protective of elections. They regard it as the cornerstone of American democracy. ” Nearly 200 mostly Democratic lawmakers, including Rep. Bennie Thompson of Bolton, recently wrote state election officials urging them to not to let the new laws jeopardize voters’ rights.

New Jersey: Result of Jersey City special election won’t be known for several days | NJ.com

Vote totals for Tuesday’s Jersey City special election have been stuck at 95.05 percent of precincts reporting since Tuesday night, and the complete count will stay unknown until at least Monday. Two voting-machine cartridges are still in the machines themselves, and they can’t be retrieved without a court order, Hudson County Clerk Barbara Netchert said yesterday.

Ward F Councilwoman Viola Richardson and her running mate, Rolando Lavarro, are the leading vote-getters, with third-place finisher Sue Mack about 250 votes behind Lavarro, counting mail-in ballots. Mack’s team is hoping the missing cartridges will lead to enough votes for her to overtake Lavarro.

New Jersey: Warren County officials not concerned about election machine malfunctions now totaling five | lehighvalleylive.com

Warren County officials plan to meet with representatives of their voting machine manufacturer this week after five of the machines malfunctioned during Tuesday’s general election. Three machines broke down in the Phillipsburg area in addition to one in Allamuchy Township and another in Independence Township.

“Little things like that happen in every election … in every county in every state in the country,” county Clerk Patricia J. Kolb said today. “It’s not unique to us.”
The malfunctions added fire to an already heated Phillipsburg mayoral race.
Unsuccessful candidate Todd Tersigni did not concede the election Tuesday night, citing concerns with the machines.

New York: Voting technology frustrates Ontario County officials | Democrat and Chronicle | democratandchronicle.com

The high-tech voting systems now being used across the country may provide a secure and accurate method of tallying votes, but they don’t necessarily offer a fast and efficient method of getting results out to the public. Like most places, polls closed in Ontario County at 9 p.m. Tuesday, and Board of Elections officials there managed to get the memory cards from voting machines in 92 districts to their office on Ontario Street in Canandaigua by 11:10 p.m., where the cards were “read” by a computer.

But because of a software glitch, it wasn’t until about 9 a.m. Wednesday before the complete results were actually posted on the Board’s website. In Wayne County, memory cards from 67 machines were delivered to the Board of Elections office in Lyons by about 10:15 p.m., but the results weren’t posted on the site for another three hours.

New York: Westchester voting machines seized; many ballots uncounted in several legislative races | LoHud.com

Now it’s up to the lawyers. Voting machines throughout Westchester County have been impounded by a state Supreme Court justice so ballots won’t be counted until next week, election officials said Wednesday. And in some county legislative races, it’s still unclear who is leading because the county Board of Elections hasn’t posted results from all the voting districts.

The machines and ballots, which include 3,245 affidavits, are under “lockdown” and therefore cannot be tallied, said Reginald LaFayette, Democratic election commissioner. “Until we all get it sorted out, we’re not giving out any information,” he said Wednesday.

Morocco: Morocco’s New Constitution and Upcoming General Elections | moroccoboard.com

It was under the watch of the government of Abbas Fassi that a New or a completely revamped constitution emerged out of the blue precipitated by the ‘Arab Spring’ and considered revolutionary by some and more of the same by others. It was put to a referendum on 1 July 2011 and was accepted by 98% of the 74% of the people who made it to the ballot box. This kind of results might seem bizarre to us in West, but Arabs and Muslims always claim their singularity and uniqueness from the outside world as they fail to see the other.

However, this apart, the most important innovative change made is that of the role of the Prime Minister, who becomes the President of Government and is given to the party with majority votes at elections, a great improvement of the previous ones, bringing this nomination in line to what is generally recognized as one of the principles of democracy. In other words, now the king can no longer choose any prime minster as it used to be the case, but must respect the will of the people through elections and name the new president of the government from the party that received the most votes.

Tunisia: Tunisia Moves to the Next Stage | Middle East Research and Information Project

Tunisia was the first Arab country to have a pro-democracy uprising in the winter of 2010-2011, and now it is the first to have held an election. Tunisians took to the polls on October 23 to choose a constituent assembly that will be tasked with drafting the country’s first democratic constitution and appointing a new transitional government. The elections were judged free and fair by a record number of domestic and foreign observers, testimony to the seriousness with which the interim government approached the poll. In the eyes of many observers, Tunisia is lighting the way forward where others – notably Egypt -are faltering.

In the days immediately after the January 14 departure of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia’s dictator of 23 years, the country’s future did not look so promising. Ben Ali’s former ministers attempted to provide continuity without popular legitimacy, the economy was a shambles, and protests and insecurity continued. It took three months for a government more representative of the revolution to be appointed, the former ruling party disbanded and the former regime elements sniping at passersby rounded up. The government, trade unions and major employers negotiated salary increases (generally of 10-15 percent), thus beginning to address the socio-economic grievances that were part of the uprising, notably in Tunisia’s poorer interior provinces, where mass protests against poverty and unemployment had taken place intermittently since at least 2008. With these tasks done, the path was cleared for the constituent assembly election, whose rules were hammered out between technocrats who had served under Ben Ali but were untainted by the worst of his abuses, and political forces that had to transform themselves quickly from underground and vanguard parties into mass-based organizations.