Editorials: 2012 – the year of elections | Fareed Zakaria/

2011 will likely be recorded as a year of historic change. Mass uprisings have upended governments across the Arab world. Economic mismanagement in Europe led to changes at the top in Italy, Greece and Spain. 365 days ago you couldn’t have predicted these events. You couldn’t have imagined so many leaders would lose their jobs. So what if I told you that you can predict that in 2012, a lot of leaders will say goodbye? No, I’m not gazing into a magic crystal ball. You see, 2012 is the year of elections.

59 countries will be tallying up votes – local, state or national. There are 193 countries in the world so that’s about a third of the world’s nations. 26 of these may see a change in national leadership. Together, these changes could affect 53% of the world’s population, representing half of the world’s GDP. And a lot of the change is concentrated in the world’s most powerful countries. Four out of the five U.N. Security Council members could see changes at the top. That’s Russia, China, France, and, of course, the U.S. These four countries alone represent 40% of the world’s GDP.

Full Article: Zakaria: 2012 – the year of elections – Global Public Square - Blogs.

Editorials: Holder’s Voting Rights Gamble – The Supreme Court’s voter ID showdown. | Rick Hasen/Slate

On the Friday before Christmas Day, the Department of Justice formally objected to a new South Carolina law requiring voters to produce an approved form of photo ID in order to vote. That move already has drawn cheers from the left and jeers from the right. The DoJ said South Carolina could not show that its new law would not have an adverse impact on racial minorities, who are less likely to have acceptable forms of identification.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley denounced the DoJ decision blocking the law under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act: “It is outrageous, and we plan to look at every possible option to get this terrible, clearly political decision overturned so we can protect the integrity of our electoral process and our 10th Amendment rights.” The state’s attorney general vowed to fight the DoJ move in court, and thanks to an odd quirk in the law, the issue could get fast-tracked to the Supreme Court, which could well use it to strike down the Voting Rights Act provision as unconstitutional before the 2012 elections.

The current dispute has an eerie echo. More than 45 years ago, South Carolina also went to the Supreme Court to complain that Section 5 unconstitutionally intruded on its sovereignty. Under the 1965 Act, states with a history of racial discrimination like South Carolina could not make changes in its voting rules—from major changes like redistricting to changes as minor as moving a polling place across the street—without getting the permission of either the U.S. Department of Justice or a three-judge court in Washington, D.C. The state had to show the law was not enacted with the purpose, or effect, of making minority voters worse off than they already were.

Full Article: The Obama Administration’s Risky Voter ID Move Threatens the Voting Rights Act.

Iowa: Suspected hackers could target Iowa caucuses | WQAD

A Christmas scrooge stole credit card information from a Texas-based company Saturday, by hacking into its website. We’ve told you about a cyber threat that could impact the Iowa caucuses on January 3rd. Turns out, this latest internet breach could be affiliated with the same group of hackers, which released credit card information from Stratfor, a think-tank that concentrates on security issues, totaling losses of $1 million.

The group thought to be behind it is called Anonymous. That’s the same one responsible for threats made against the upcoming Iowa caucuses. How the group could hamper the process is unknown. University of Iowa professor, Douglas Jones, has two theories.

Full Article: Suspected hackers could target caucuses - WQAD.

Iowa: GOP explains moving vote tabulation away from HQ |

Iowa GOP chair Matt Strawn was largely mum when I asked yesterday about a tip I got that the state party was moving the vote-tabulation away from their headquarters to an “undisclosed location.” But after the Iowa GOP HQ was flooded today with questions from Ron Paul backers and conspiracy-minded types about why the Republicans were compiling the votes from the state’s 99 counties in private, the state party’s executive director confirmed that they were going off-site and said it was only to avoid a sabotage.

“The Party is simply moving off-site in the event that protesters or others attempt to disrupt the reporting process by cutting phone lines, etc,” said party ED Chad Olsen. He added: “Every vote is counted. Every vote is reported. The vote-counting process is carried out in public.” 

Full Article: Iowa GOP explains moving vote tabulation away from HQ -

Montana: State Supreme Court Upholds State’s Century-Old Ban on Corporate Money in Elections |

The Montana Supreme Court today upheld Montana’s century-old ban on corporate political expenditures in state elections. The Court’s 5-2 ruling sets up the first direct challenge to the US Supreme Court’s January 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which equated corporations with people under the First Amendment and swept away longstanding precedent that had barred corporate expenditures in federal elections. Montana’s 1912 Corrupt Practices Act came under legal attack following the Citizens United decision, and Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock has vigorously defended the state’s law in the Montana courts, leading to today’s state supreme court ruling.

“[T]he State of Montana, or more accurately its voters, clearly had a compelling interest to enact the challenged statute in 1912,” wrote Chief Justice Mike McGrath for the Court’s the majority opinion in the case of Western Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. State of Montana. “At that time the State of Montana and its government were operating under a mere shell of legal authority, and the real social and political power was wielded by powerful corporate managers to further their own business interests.”

Full Article: Montana Supreme Court Upholds State's Century-Old Ban on Corporate Money in Elections |

Voting Blogs: Politics and Pictures: Rhode Island and its new voter ID law | State of Elections

In elections past, Rhode Island has not required photo identification for a ballot to be counted. However, with the passage of a new law the state has at least superficially joined the ranks of states which have approved legislation that will hamper the voting rights of its most vulnerable citizens. Yet the truth may not be so simple. Rhode Island’s law is less restrictive and more benign than legislation passed by other states which may explain the unique politics behind the passage of RI’s new photo identification bill.

The law will be implemented in two stages. “The first stage will require non-photo ID beginning Jan. 1, 2012. The second stage will require photo ID beginning Jan. 1, 2014.” For the upcoming 2012 election, voters are able to vote by establishing their identity through possession of forms of ID that do not have their photo, “including without limitation”: a birth certificate, social security card, or government-issued medical card. The language “without limitation” can reasonably be construed as meaning that “any current photo identification that includes the name and photograph of the voter will be accepted.”

Full Article: RI (photo ID): Politics and Pictures: Rhode Island and its new voter ID law : State of Elections.

Virginia: Rick Perry to ‘Activist Judges’: Save Me | Garrett Epps/The Atlantic

Rick Perry appears to be riding into the sunset, but he is not leaving the stage without exercising a true politician’s prerogative of cheerfully sacrificing any principle, no matter how strongly stated, when it becomes inconvenient.

If there’s one thing we know about Perry — one dry-gulch bedrock to his cowboy constitutional philosophy — it’s that he just hates them activist judges and all the perverted things they have done to the Fourteenth Amendment. “[T]he Fourteenth Amendment is abused by the Court to carry out whatever policy choices it wants to make in the form of judicial activism,” he lamented in his book, Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington. In particular, courts “should be particularly protective of our founding structure — a unique structure of dual sovereigns that placed power as close to the people as was practical so that the people could govern themselves.”

Surely that would mean that the people of Virginia should have a right to determine what level of support a candidate needs to be a serious presidential candidate, deserving of a place on its primary ballot? Or should that decision be made by “unelected judges”? Well, actually, unelected judges are suddenly looking right good to Gov. Perry. Perry last week failed to qualify for the Virginia Republican Primary ballot, both a humiliating blow to his dignity and a concrete setback to his hope of remaining in the presidential race after his expected low showing in Iowa. 

Full Article: Rick Perry to 'Activist Judges': Save Me - Garrett Epps - Politics - The Atlantic.

Bosnia: A new government: Bosnia’s December surprise | The Economist

Out of the blue, Bosnia’s leaders have agreed to form a government, almost 15 months after the October 2010 general election. The country’s politicians had supposedly been on the verge of agreement for so long that most observers had lost faith they would ever be able to strike a deal. There was even talk of a new election.

The deal came on December 28th. “We did not get what we thought we should, but no one got everything they wanted,” said Milorad Dodik, president of the Republika Srpska, the Serbian-dominated half of the country. A corruption investigation into Mr Dodik was dropped on the same day the deal was struck. Vjekoslav Bevanda, a member of one of the two main Bosnian Croat parties, has been nominated for the post of prime minister.

Full Article: A new Bosnian government: Bosnia's December surprise | The Economist.

Ghana: I got a ‘permit’ to film Electoral Commission’s strong room – Film-maker | GhanaWeb

The heavily criticised director of ‘An African Election’ – a movie on the 2008 elections of Ghana – Jarreth Merz, has revealed that his political neutrality and background did the trick to give him access to the Strong Room of the Electoral Commission of Ghana.

The director of the award-winning movie said he sought permission from the Electoral Commission and mainly the political parties’ representatives in the Strong Room after a gentleman’s agreement was reached that he will not make the video clips public until the elections were over. He stated that one of the major reasons why he was allowed to film all the actions in the Strong Room uncensored was due to the fact that he was seen to be a “neutral” person.

Full Article: I got a ‘permit’ to film Ghana EC’s strong room – Film-maker | General News 2011-12-30.

India: Election Commission declares stringent steps for free and fair polls in Uttarakhand | NewsTrackIndia

Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi hereon Friday, issued strict guidelines to ensure free and fair assembly elections in Uttarakhand. Briefing the mediapersons about the preparations, the Chief Election Commissioner revealed that observer’s teams will keep a tab on all activities of the candidates to ascertain if they are indulging in resorting to money and muscle power including luring the voters with liquor.

“Our general observers and expenditure observers will keep an alert eye on money, muscle power and liquor during the state polls and they would check that any such things do not affect the elections,” said Qureshi. He mentioned that the Election Commission has specified all necessary guidelines and that it is monitoring the pre-polls process in the five states where polls are scheduled to take place.

Full Article: Election Commission declares stringent steps for free and fair polls in Uttarakhand.

Kiribati: Elections delayed | ABC Radio Australia

Kiribati has put its presidential election on hold until next year so citizens travelling to celebrate the New Year can vote. Elections were held in mid October, with over 100 candidates contesting the 23 constituencies.

Three successful politicians have nominated to contest the presidency, the incumbent Anote Tong, the opposition leader in the last parliament Rimeta Beniamina, and Doctor Tetaua Taitai. Mr Tong said the vote would now be held on the 13 of January.

Senegal: Presidential Politics Gear Up in Senegal | VoA News

Presidential politics in Senegal is in full swing now that President Abdoulaye Wade’s party made official his controversial bid for a third term in the February elections. The announcement has re-ignited a six-month-old opposition movement.

President Wade’s Senegalese Democratic Party [PDS] chose a controversial date to announce a controversial decision. The party confirmed that the president is its candidate for the February 26 election at a rally on Friday, which is the six-month anniversary of one of his biggest political defeats. It was on June 23 – in the face of protests and riots – that Wade was forced to withdraw a proposed constitutional referendum to make it easier for him to win the upcoming election in the first round.

Full Article: Presidential Politics Gear Up in Senegal | West Africa | English.

Turkmenistan: Docile Rivals Appear in Choreographed Presidential Race |

With less than two months before the February 12 presidential elections in Turkmenistan, 14 rival candidates have now appeared on the scene in the last week, following the announcement of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov’s nomination December 15.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the opposition website have reported on these predictable figures selected from reliable ministry bureaucrats, provincial government administrators and factory managers to compete against the incumbent… All of them were nominated by state-controlled industrial or civic groups. The State News Agency of Turkmenistan has maintained enthusiastic coverage of this simulated of democracy with declarations like this:

This meeting like all activities in this most important social-political campaign for the elections of president of Turkmenistan took place under conditions of glasnost’ and openness, which once again vividly reflected the opportunity, established by law, for citizens of our country to freely and fully realize their constitutional rights.

Full Article: Turkmenistan: Docile Rivals Appear in Choreographed Presidential Race |

Verified Voting Blog: Roadmap for Future California Elections

When it comes to elections, what does California do well? What could California do better? How have we led, and how have we perhaps lagged behind? These are questions that a diverse group of individuals and organizations asked themselves and one another over the course of three months, with an aim to envision the future of California’s elections. It turned out to be an extraordinary conversation and a process which could very well serve as a model for other states as well. One driving force in the process was the convening organization, the James Irvine Foundation, which has long worked on issues of importance to Californians. The participants included a diverse range of representatives with a concern for voters and not-yet voters, for elections and how they function, and for California’s democracy.

Download the Roadmap for Future California Elections (pdf)

The immediately tangible result of the convenings is the “Roadmap for the Future of California Elections,” which contains a common vision we all support in the form of a set of principles. Naturally we do not all find all of our own strategies and priorities in all of the subsequent recommendations, but a good many of us agreed with most of those as well, a remarkable achievement in light of the varied points of view represented.

Out of these recommendations come action steps, with participants signing on to continue the process and expand the conversation about this vision and what can be for California.

Verified Voting is pleased to be part of the process and looks forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas about the Roadmap and ways you envision a better future for California elections.

Editorials: Voter ID Laws Could Keep Students From Voting in 2012 Elections | Camira Powell/PolicyMic

College campuses across the nation are teeming with students ready to exercise their right to vote, one of the few perks that comes with turning 18. Yet, instead of encouraging students to take part in this rite of passage, some states are imposing voter ID requirements that make it much harder for them to vote. The fact that some Republicans see these new voter restrictions as a good thing shows their complete disregard for the democratic process. Moreover, it is demonstrative of their reasonable fear of losing the upcoming presidential election.

At first glance, the laws do no seem that restrictive. The new laws are requiring voters to present government-issued IDs, such as a passport or drivers license. However, when considering that a significant portion of students only carry a form of student ID, it becomes an issue. Additionally, other laws being endorsed by Republican lawmakers regarding voter ID can be interpreted as prohibiting out-of-state drivers’ licenses; thus, excluding more students from being able to vote.

Full Article: Voter ID Laws Could Keep Students From Voting in 2012 Elections @PolicyMic | Camira Powell.

National: Voter ID battle will spread from South Carolina to several other key states | theGrio

The Justice Department’s decision last week to block a new South Carolina law requiring voters to present photo identification is only the first of what will be a year-long battle between advocates and opponents of stricter voting laws. And the results of those fights could determine the winner of the 2012 presidential election.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican, said her state will appeal DOJ’s decision in court, casting it as “bullying” by the federal government. At the same time, civil right groups are promising to fight similar provisions in states such as Wisconsin and Texas, arguing these laws unfairly target minorities, who are less likely to hold photo identification.

Full Article: Voter ID battle will spread from South Carolina to several other key states.

Georgia: Justice Department approves new Georgia district maps on first try | The Times-Herald

When the U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday that it was approving Georgia’s new House, Senate and Congressional district maps, it was the first time ever that all three Georgia maps had been “pre-cleared” on the first try.

“I am proud to say that this year was the first time Republicans ever controlled the redistricting process and both the process and the product were very different than anything Georgia has seen before,” said former state senator Mitch Seabaugh, R-Sharpsburg. Seabaugh, now deputy state treasurer, served as chairman of the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee this summer.

Full Article: Justice Dept. approves new Georgia district maps on first try - The Times-Herald.

Voting Blogs: No Photo ID Required to Vote in GOP’s Iowa Caucus | BradBlog

For all of their years of claims that massive voter fraud is going on at the polling place, such that Photo ID restrictions are required to ensure the integrity of the vote, you’d think that when Republicans have a chance to run their own elections, they’d be sure to want it to be as “fraud” free as possible.

Nonetheless, despite onerous polling place Photo ID requirements now passed into law in about a dozen states where the GOP controls both the legislative and executive branches, voters will be able to cast their ballot in next Tuesday’s “First-in-the-Nation” Republican Iowa Caucuses without bothering to show a Photo ID — even though the Republican Party itself sets their own rules for voting there.

Unlike most primary elections where an official state election board or agency sets the rules and runs the registration and balloting processes, the Iowa Republican Party runs its own state caucuses, determines the rules, tabulates all the votes and announces the results to the public and media themselves. They have complete control over the entire process, and yet they don’t bother to ask their own voters to show a state-issued Photo ID before casting their ballot.

Full Article: The BRAD BLOG : No Photo ID Required to Vote in GOP's Iowa Caucus.

Indiana: Court Upholds Robocall Ban | WRTV Indianapolis

The Indiana Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a state law that requires a live operator on the phone before any recorded message is delivered does not violate the right to free speech or the right to participate in political speech.

Read the Court Opinion (h/t Election Law Blog)

The 4-1 decision involves a case that began in 2006 in which, an automated phone messaging operator, sought to overturn an Indiana law that forbade so-called robocalls, or unsolicited calls with automated messages.
The case stemmed from automated calls the company made on behalf of a group called the Economic Freedom Fund during the 2006 congressional campaign.

Full Article: Court Shoots Down Indiana Robocalls - Indiana News Story - WRTV Indianapolis.

North Carolina: Federal judge: For blacks, ‘voting rights’ include identifying Democrats on ballots | The Daily Caller

A U.S. District Court judge has rejected a challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — filled when the Department of Justice barred the city of Kinston, N.C. from holding nonpartisan elections — reasoning that lack of access to party affiliation would discriminate against minority voters who otherwise wouldn’t know how to find Democratic candidates on a ballot.

The challenge was initiated after the Justice Department rejected a 2008 referendum vote in which the city of Kinston voted to stop listing candidates’ party affiliations on ballots. Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the Justice Department must approve changes to election law in regions with a history, however distant, of racial discrimination.

The Justice Department prevented the 2008 referendum change, arguing in part that “the elimination of party affiliation on the ballot will likely reduce the ability of blacks to elect candidates of choice.”