The Voting News Daily: Voter suppression: No free speech protection for fraud, South Carolina GOP Funding Decision Scrambles Counties’ Primary Plan

Maryland: Voter suppression: No free speech protection for fraud | “Come out to vote on November 6.” “Before you come to vote make sure you pay your parking tickets, motor vehicle tickets, overdue rent, and most important any warrants.” That’s the text of a flier distributed in African-American and Hispanic communities the weekend before Election…

National: Civil rights groups fighting voter ID law | Hattiesburg American

National and local civil rights groups are asking federal officials to aggressively challenge new election laws in Alabama, Mississippi and other states, saying the laws threaten to reverse decades-old efforts to expand voting rights to all Americans. “

It’s a widespread rollback of voting rights the likes of which we haven’t seen since poll taxes,” said Judith Browne Dianis, co director of the Advancement Project, a voting rights group based in Washington. “So we’re going to fight like we did in 1964.” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he understands the fight, calling voting rights protection a priority for the Justice Department.

“Despite so many decades of struggle, sacrifice, and achievement, we must remain ever vigilant in safeguarding our most basic and important right,” Holder said in a speech in Texas Tuesday. “The reality is that in jurisdictions across the country, both overt and subtle forms of discrimination remain all too common.”

Maryland: Voter suppression: No free speech protection for fraud |

“Come out to vote on November 6.” “Before you come to vote make sure you pay your parking tickets, motor vehicle tickets, overdue rent, and most important any warrants.”

That’s the text of a flier distributed in African-American and Hispanic communities the weekend before Election Day in 2002 when Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. ran for governor against Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. November 6 would be too late to vote; it was a Wednesday. Failure to pay the rent or parking or motor vehicle tickets is not a barrier to voting; neither is an outstanding warrant.

The Maryland General Assembly first outlawed voter suppression efforts in 1896, making it illegal to use “force, threat, menace, intimidation, bribery, or reward, or offer…[to] otherwise unlawfully, either directly or indirectly, influence or attempt to influence any voter in giving his vote.”

Pennsylvania: Voter ID bill undergoes changes |

Changes made to a proposal that would require all voters to show photo identification at their polling place are intended to address concerns about potentially disenfranchising some legitimate voters.

An amendment added to the House-passed voter ID bill by the Senate State Government Committee this week would allow voters to use IDs issued by colleges and nursing homes in addition to official state IDs, such as drivers’ licenses. In addition, absentee voters would be required to include their drivers’ license or Social Security number on the form for their absentee ballot. Another change would allow voters without a valid ID to cast a provisional ballot that would become official if they supply a valid ID — via mail, fax or in person — to their county election officials within six days of the election.

“This is a balancing act. We’re not trying to disenfranchise anyone, but at the same time we do not want our system of underlying democracy to be manipulated in any way,” said state Sen. Charles McIllhinney, R-Bucks, chairman of the committee. Democrats and other opponents of the voter ID proposal said the bill puts voting rights at risk, particularly for the elderly and minorities.

Voting Blogs: AAUGH! South Carolina GOP Funding Decision Scrambles Counties’ Primary Plans | Doug Chapin/PEEA

Earlier this week, the South Carolina GOP stunned election officials by announcing that they would not, as promised, be paying $650,000 to the cost of the state’s January primary but would instead limit their contribution to $180,000 from filing fees by the candidates in the January 21 vote.

Party officials claim their decision is required by the recent state Supreme Court ruling – described by the party chair as a “game changer” – that the state and county election officials are required to run the primary as part of their authority under state law. The party’s executive director suggested that county election officials only had themselves to blame: “The state party was negotiating in good faith with these four counties through the state Election Commission, and yet they filed a hugely expensive lawsuit knowing this was one of the potential outcomes.”

US Virgin Islands: Elections reform bill passed | Virgin Islands Daily News

Senators passed multiple bills at Thursday’s Legislative session, including a bill that makes changes to the territory’s election system. The elections bill passed Thursday is separate from the election reforms recently submitted to the V.I. Legislature by the Joint Board of Elections.

The approved bill, sponsored by Sen. Usie Richards, was based on proposed legislation submitted by prior boards of elections. The measure clarifies definitions, prevents board members running for office from participating in election activities and gives the boards of elections the discretion to use the legal counsel provided by the V.I. Attorney General’s Office or hire outside counsel. It also raises the per diem pay for election workers.

Tennessee: Governor Bill Haslam voices concerns about requiring photo ID for voting | Knoxville News Sentinel

Gov. Bill Haslam says he has voiced concern to legislators that the new state law requiring voters to have photo identification will make it “unnecessarily hard” for some people to cast ballots in next year’s elections. The governor said he is not recommending changes in the new law or delaying implementation.

“We haven’t made that recommendation to them yet,” Haslam said in an interview. “I think the way government works, you know, is that our job is to carry out things and also to propose things. At this point in time, all we’ve done is raise the issue.”

Texas: Redistricting creating chaos in 2012 primary | El Paso Times

Another attempt to redraw political districts in Texas brings yet another appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of politicians are anxiously waiting to see if the nine judges in Washington will give them a fighting chance to keep or win a seat in the Texas House, Texas Senate or Congress. With dozens of incumbents retiring, the stakes are high and who ends up winning depends largely on what the final district maps look like.
One proposed map guarantees Republican dominance for the next 10 years. The other would likely give Democrats a big boost. And the Supreme Court could order a new, third version.

American politicians face this problem every 10 years when states redraw political maps based on the latest census. The state needs to ensure every political district has roughly the same number of people. Texas law gives that task to incumbent members of the Legislature, and they seize upon this rare opportunity to choose the voters they want. Since their first priority is to get re-elected, they draw their districts to suit them. Then the party in power usually tries to draw districts that will hurt their opponents.

Wisconsin: Waukesha County Clerk feels exonerated in election flub | Green Bay Press Gazette

Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus said last week she believes she has been exonerated even though her office is undertaking numerous changes in how it handles ballots following the nonreporting of 14,000 votes in the spring Supreme Court election. State investigators in September determined that Nickolaus likely broke the law by not reporting the votes in the hotly contested race between Justice David Prosser and challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg, but her conduct was unintentional and not criminal.

… The Government Accountability Board on Tuesday approved numerous changes designed to improve the procedures used by Nickolaus’s office on election night. Both before the meeting and during a break, Nickolaus told reporters that the investigative report vindicated her handling of the votes.

“I’ve been exonerated,” she said. Government Accountability Board director Kevin Kennedy disagreed. “I would not characterize it that way,” Kennedy said. The September report, led by former Dane County prosecutor Timothy Verhoff, found that Nickolaus likely broke state law requiring the posting of all returns on election night.

Congo: Tshisekedi Says He Won, Can He Prove It? | Congo Planet

Unlike the Independent National Electoral Commission, which published the results of the presidential election showing why it says Joseph Kabila won and for everyone to see and scrutinize, Etienne Tshisekedi has so far provided no proof to support his claim of an outright victory. Yet, the longtime opposition leader has said, once again, that he now considers himself president.
Does Mr. Tshisekedi expect all Congolese to just trust his word? He must have proof that he is the one who was elected. Not Joseph Kabila, Vital Kamerhe, or Kengo wa Dongo. There must be pictures out there, videos, signed summaries of the tallies at polling stations,…  These claims of victory, coming from such a respected politician, cannot be baseless.

Of course, Mr. Tshisekedi declared himself president even before the Nov. 28 presidential elections. His proof then was that “the Congolese people have already chosen me.” Well, maybe in a parallel universe they did. But in this world, we humbly ask for proof of Mr. Tshisekedi’s victory. The Carter Center, the European Union, the United States, have said that the elections “lacked credibility”, “were not transparent”, “were seriously flawed.” Great! Maybe someone out there has the proof that Mr. Tshisekedi won. Or do they? It’s one thing to say that the 2011 elections were marred with irregularities; it’s completely different to claim that the opposition won. Even these international observers missions have not gone that far.

Egypt: Accusations of ballot abuse flare up as Egyptians vote in 2nd round of parliamentary elections | The Washington Post

Islamists and liberals accused election officials Thursday of filling out ballot forms for elderly or confused voters at some polling stations during the second round of parliamentary elections. If confirmed as a pattern, the reports could chip away at the credibility of what has so far been the freest and fairest vote in Egypt’s modern history.

Under Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year regime, elections were systemically rigged and the corruption was a major impetus behind the popular uprising that ousted the authoritarian leader in February. But as the polls closed, it was still unclear how widespread the problems were.

Russia: Russia after Duma election |

On December 4, 2001 the Russians voted in the State Duma election.
The outcome of the election and the subsequent protests in several Russian cities have inflamed the media on many meridians. Almost all comments on the Russian legislative election have featured quite incendiary headlines in the international media. The demonstrations in Russia were put in parallel with the developments in the ‘Arab spring’ or the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement in the US.

It has been alleged that the election of the State Duma had been evidently fixed, had not taken place in a free context and according to democratic norms and, more than that, in the initial phase (about 1,000 arrests have been mentioned), the authorities had taken reprisals against the protestors taking to the streets in major cities and particularly in Moscow.

United Russia, the party that supports the sitting premier and the candidate for a new presidential term (the third) in March next year, Vladimir Putin, obtained between 49 and 50 per cent of the votes cast (apart from the 19 percent gathered by the Communists and 12 per cent going to other parties close to the power), losing therefore roughly 15 per cent of the votes it had presumed to get. Analyses have shown that, should results have not been defrauded, the ruling party in Russia would have actually lost one third of the total number of cast votes (just over 30-35 per cent instead of 49-50 per cent).

Russia: Thousands rally over fraud-tainted vote |

Thousands took to the streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg on Sunday, braving strong winds and torrential rains for a second week of protests over Russia’s fraud-tainted parliamentary vote. About 4,000 supporters of the Communist Party rallied just outside the walls of the Kremlin on a snowy afternoon, demanding a re-count and the government’s resignation. Wind and rain later turned into a blizzard.

Frustration has grown with the ruling United Russia party and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has dominated Russian politics for over a decade. “I think it’s a crime to keep silent,” said Vyacheslav Frolov, who was at the Moscow protest. In St. Petersburg, a rally in a central square drew about 4,000 people from various political parties. Protesters chanted: “Russia without Putin!” and held posters saying “We want to live in an honest country!”

Syria: Within Atmosphere of Democracy and Free Will, the Syrians Cast Their Votes to Elect Their Representatives at Local Administration Councils | SANA

Within an atmosphere of  democracy and  mass popular participation that reflected the Syrian citizens’ commitment to practice their electoral right with a free will to elect whom they see more fit and qualified to represent them at Local Administration Councils, the Syrians cast their votes to select their representatives who competed for 17588 seats in different Syria cities.

Judge Nazir Kheir Allah, Head of the Elections’ Sub-Committee in Damascus said in a statement to SANA  that the voting process was run within an atmosphere of democracy and transparency, adding “The committee is permanently sitting at the Palace Justice till the final announcement of the results.” He underlined that the electoral process has been run successfully without any breaches, saying that the Committee has provided all facilitations needed to make the election process a success.

Yemen: Noncompetitive Presidential Election Draws Wide Support | VoA News

As Yemen transitions towards democracy, it is organizing a presidential election with only one likely candidate: Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. And that idea is drawing wide support from opposition parties and Yemen’s diplomatic partners. For months, they have been pushing for the replacement of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who recently agreed to end his 33-year rule after months of protests against him.

Analysts say those with interests in Yemen’s future have differing motives for backing an uncompetitive democratic process. The election is scheduled for February. In the view of Yemen’s opposition coalition, known as the Joint Meeting Parties, Hadi is a neutral figure who played no role in Saleh’s violent crackdown on opposition protesters.