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)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

Texas: Texas voter ID law unnecessary but state AG must defend it nonetheless | Fort Worth Star Telegram

When the U.S. Justice Department last week blocked South Carolina’s new voter ID law because of possible discrimination against minorities, attention quickly focused on Texas, which passed similar legislation this year.

Tentatively set to go into effect Sunday, the Texas law requires that a valid photo ID be presented at the polls along with a voter registration card. The accepted forms of identification are: Texas driver’s license, Texas election ID (issued by the Department of Public Safety), a personal identification card from the DPS, a Texas concealed handgun license, U.S. military ID card, U.S. citizenship certificate or U.S. passport.

In rejecting South Carolina’s law, the Justice Department used the state’s own data to show that tens of thousands of residents did not possess the required photo IDs, and that nonwhite voters would be most burdened under the statute.

Editorials: Virginia: If it’s wrong to exclude Gingrich and Perry, can they get on ballot? |

Mitt Romney is having fun with Newt Gingrich’s inability to qualify for the Virginia primary ballot, likening him to Lucille Ball in the famous episode of “I Love Lucy” where she can’t keep up with a conveyor belt of chocolates. “You’ve got to get it organized,” Mr. Romney chided Tuesday in New Hampshire. But to Mr. Gingrich, the former House speaker and a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination, the ballot failure is no laughing matter.

He also has influential Virginians who agree that it was wrong to exclude Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry from the March 6 Virginia primary. Each had submitted more than the required 10,000 signatures, but on Dec. 24, state election officials deemed that they did not have enough valid signatures to qualify.

Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul are the only two candidates to qualify for the Virginia primary ballot. Other major contenders, such as Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, did not attempt to collect the necessary signatures.

Virginia: Effort made to get more GOP hopefuls on ballot |

Two former state political party chairmen are asking for emergency legislation to get more Republican presidential candidates on Virginia’s March 6 primary ballot.

Standing outside the State Capitol, Paul Goldman, the onetime state Democratic Party chairman, and ex-Republican Party chairman Patrick McSweeney called Virginia’s ballot-qualification rules onerous and flawed. They urged lawmakers to change them immediately when they convene Jan. 11 so voters can choose from an array of Republican candidates on Super Tuesday.

Their appeal came the same day that state election officials approved the Virginia GOP’s request for a closed primary – meaning that would-be voters must promise to vote for the eventual Republican presidential nominee in the November election before they’ll be given a primary ballot.

Wisconsin: Court rules out intervention by recall groups | JSOnline

A judge Thursday ruled against recall campaigns that sought to intervene in a lawsuit over how state election officials check recall signatures. Waukesha County Circuit Judge J. Mac Davis also set Jan. 5 for the next hearing in the case, in which the Friends of Scott Walker and Stephan Thompson, executive director of the state Republican Party, asked Davis to order the state Government Accountability Board to look for and eliminate duplicate signatures, clearly fake names and illegible addresses. All of the issues in the case are expected to be handled during that hearing.

Jeremy Levinson, attorney for recall groups targeting Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and three Republican state senators, had sought to make the groups, and some individuals connected with them, parties in the case. Levinson also sought to have the Republicans submit to discovery, which could potentially have opened Walker campaign records to scrutiny by Democrats. With Davis denying the motion to intervene, discovery won’t occur, as an attorney for the accountability board said it didn’t see a need to conduct discovery.

India: Election Commission allows disbursement of relief funds, changes earlier decision | The Economic Times

Changing its earlier decision, the Election Commission has allowed the disbursement of relief funds, which it had earlier said had been deferred till the election process in Punjab, which goes to polls on January 30, was over. The Commission has further also allowed giving compensation to the farmers whose land was earlier acquired by the government. The EC conveyed that the same be disbursed only by the officers and not by any political leader.

Earlier, Punjab’s Chief Electoral Officer, had said the Commission has deferred the disbursement of relief funds till the election process in the state is over. “We have received a revised order in the evening only, as per which only the officers will be allowed to disburse the funds to the already identified beneficiaries,” Special Chief Electoral Officer of Punjab Usha R Sharma said.

Ireland: Disposal plan sought for e-voting machines | The Irish Times

Suggestions are to be drawn up early next year for the disposal of the 7,000 unused electronic voting machines that have so far cost taxpayers €54.7 million. Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan has asked the taskforce, which was set up to supervise the winding down of the project, to outline proposals soon for their disposal.

A Department of the Environment spokesman said the “priority is to pursue the most economically advantageous approach, with a view to achieving the maximum recovery of cost possible in the circumstances, consistent with environmental and other obligations”. Government sources are privately sceptical about recouping some of the costs involved, given that the machines are regarded as out of date.

Jordan: Cabinet approves law on independent commission to oversee elections | Jordan News Agency

The Cabinet approved during its session yesterday that was chaired by Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh, a law governing the independent commission that will oversee and manage parliamentary elections.

Under the draft law which will become effective after being published in the Official Gazette and after passing through all its constitutional stages, the commission will oversee and manage parliamentary elections. The commission will also oversee other elections decided by the Cabinet in line with legislation.

Kuwait: Interior Minister forms teams to fight vote-buying | Kuwait Times

The interior minister yesterday made an unprecedented decision by forming special teams with the participation of members of non-governmental organizations to combat vote-buying ahead of the forthcoming general elections. Sheikh Ahmad Al-Humoud Al-Sabah, who is also defense minister, formed five teams, one in each electoral constituency, consisting of the head of the police station in the concerned areas in addition to members from the Kuwait Transparency Society, Kuwait Lawyers Association and Kuw
ait Journalists Association.

The decision comes amid allegations of rampant vote-buying in all the constituencies and accusations that “political money” was being used in a massive way to influence the outcome of the Feb 2 elections. The move comes a day after Kuwait Transparency Society announced a reward of KD 5,000 for those who inform about any vote-buying case in all the constituencies, and urged the government to sponsor the idea. Head of the society Salah Al-Ghazali said the money was donated by a private person and called on t
he government to take a similar measure in order to curb vote-buying. Hours after their formation, assistant undersecretary for public security Maj Gen Mahmoud Al-Dossari chaired a meeting of the teams which discussed ways and means to apply the law and prevent irregularities during the elections.

Editorials: Verifying Pakistan’s voter lists |

The Election Commission of Pakistan was given the task to remove the 37 million bogus voters from the list (Dec 16) and replace them with new ones eligible to vote. The Supreme Court observed that the preparing of voter list can be delegated to National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) if the Election Commission is not able to complete the task.

Nadra has the record of all eligible voters and is also responsible for issuing the National Identity Card. It is better equipped to prepare the voter list. The Election Commission’s prime responsibility should be to ensure transparent, free and fair election, it should consider making voting compulsory and improving the system of vote casting at polling stations.

Saudi Arabia: Women to run and vote in local elections without male guardian permission in 2015 | The Washington Post

Women in Saudi Arabia will not need a male guardian’s approval to run or vote in municipal elections in 2015, when women will also run for office for the first time, a Saudi official said Wednesday. The change signifies a step forward in easing the kingdom’s restrictions against women, but it falls far short of what some Saudi reformers are calling for.

Shura Council member Fahad al-Anzi was quoted in the state-run al-Watan newspaper saying that approval for women to run and vote came from the guardian of Islam’s holiest sites, the Saudi king, and therefore women will not need a male guardian’s approval. The country’s Shura Council is an all-male consultative body with no legislative powers.