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 |

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 |

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.

The Voting News Daily: The Voting Poor, Voter ID proponents should have to answer for the ugly history of Jim Crow

Editorials: The Voting Poor | State of Elections Initiatives aimed at registering poor Americans to vote is un-American, or at least that is the conjecture Matthew Vadum made early last month in acontroversial article published by American Thinker. Vadum, the author of Subversion, Inc.and Senior Editor for the non-profit watchdog group Capital Research Center, argues that…

Editorials: The Voting Poor | State of Elections

Initiatives aimed at registering poor Americans to vote is un-American, or at least that is the conjecture Matthew Vadum made early last month in acontroversial article published by American Thinker. Vadum, the author of Subversion, Inc.and Senior Editor for the non-profit watchdog group Capital Research Center, argues that leftist groups are trying to use the poor as a “battering ram” to advance redistributionist policies. The poor masses, Vadum suggests, are the tools with which Obama and like-minded organizations plan to drag America further from small government ideals. Vadum essentially asserts that voter registration is infringing on his American Dream.

The progressive radio host Thom Hartmann went toe-to-toe with Vadum shortly after the article was released. On the Thom Hartmann ProgramVadum defended the views he put forward in the article arguing that, given the chance, welfare recipients would vote for their own interests. Hartmann, expressing concern for the one in seven Americans below the poverty line, argued that everyone, not just the poor, votes for their own interests. Vadum had no substantive response to Hartmann’s prodding.

Editorials: Voter ID proponents should have to answer for the ugly history of Jim Crow | Slate Magazine

An elderly black woman in Tennessee can’t vote because she can’t produce her marriage certificate. Threatening letters blanket black neighborhoods warning that creditors and police officers will check would-be voters at the polls, or that elections are taking place on the wrong day. Thirty-eight states have instituted new rules prohibiting same-day registration and early voting on Sundays. All of this is happening as part of an effort to eradicate a problem that is statistically rarer than heavy-metal bands with exploding drummers: vote fraud.

Many commentators have remarked on the unavoidable historical memories these images provoke: They are so clearly reminiscent of the Jim Crow era. So why shouldn’t the proponents of draconian new voting laws have to answer for their ugly history?

Proponents of reforming the voting process seem blind to the fact that all of these seemingly neutral reforms hit poor and minority voters out of all proportion. (The Brennan Center for Justice estimates that while about 12 per­cent of Amer­i­cans don’t have a government-issued photo ID, the figure for African-Americans is closer to 25 percent, and in some Southern states perhaps higher.) The reason minorities are so much harder hit by these seemingly benign laws has its roots in the tragic legacy of race in this country. They still work because that old black man, born into Jim Crow in 1940, may have had no birth certificate because he was not born in a hospital because of poverty or discrimination. Names may have been misspelled on African-American birth certificates because illiterate midwives sometimes gave erroneous names.

National: Democrats Fret About Stricter Voter ID Laws | Roll Call

Congressional Democrats are warning that stricter voter identification laws sweeping through state legislatures could suppress voters in the 2012 elections. At least 34 states have introduced legislation, with varying degrees of restrictiveness, that would require voters to display identification at the polls before they are given a ballot. Some of these laws require voters to produce photo identification; some do not.

The battleground state of Wisconsin has a new law requiring photo IDs, while proposals at various legislative stages in the perennial presidential swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania are also giving Democrats heartburn. The more restrictive voting ID measure in Ohio is pending Senate floor consideration. A bill to introduce ID rules for the first time in Pennsylvania has passed the state House and is currently in a state Senate committee. Democratic National Committee spokesman Alec Gerlach said Ohio is “one of the states where this has been a big concern.”

Voting Blogs: Crowd-Geeking the New Military Voting Report | Doug Chapin/PEEA

On Tuesday, the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) released a report and underlying dataassessing the extent of voting by military voters in the 2010 election.

The data paints an encouraging but still mixed picture; while participation rates for members of the military (adjusted for age and gender) appear to be strong, there are still areas where the system could improve. For example, 29% of military voters reported that they requested but never received an absentee ballot – up from 16% in 2008. These figures are likely to form the backdrop for continued enforcement and potential expansion of the MOVE Act of 2009, which was designed to improve voting for military and overseas voters.

The FVAP report is so rich with data that I knew there was no way I could dive in alone; that’s why I reached out to my fellow election geeks for their read on the release. Not everyone wanted to speak for the record, so we’ll keep all of these anonymous – but what they had to say was fascinating and helped me (and hopefully you) see the data in different ways.

Indiana: Charlie White’s request to investigate Bayh voter fraud claims denied |

The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office released a statement Thursday stating they have declined Indiana Secretary of State Charles White’s request to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate allegations of voter fraud by former Senator Evan Bayh and his wife, Susan.

White is accused of voting in the wrong precinct during the May 2010 primary among several other charges. He is accused using his ex-wife’s address to vote. White maintains he was the victim of an innocent mistake. White was indicted on seven felony charges in March, including voter fraud, theft and perjury.

The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office said they reviewed documents delivered to them by White, who accused the Bayh’s of committing voter fraud by voter fraud in May 2011, because they had property in both Washington, D.C. and Marion County.

Voting Blogs: Did You Forget Something? Mississippi’s Missing Ballot Language Prompts Scramble | Doug Chapin/PEEA

On November 8, Mississippi voters will head to the polls for a statewide general election. The ballot includes three statewide questions, including one on voter ID. Absentee voting has already started in the state’s 82 counties and election officials have begun to prepare voting machines for Election Day.

Now, however, the election community is scrambling to correct an omission on the ballot: language detailing the fiscal impact of voter ID and two other initiatives. Last Friday, the state Attorney General notified the Secretary of State’s office that the ballots published to the counties in mid-September lacked the following required language for the voter ID initiative:

Based on Fiscal Year 2010 information, the Department of Public Safety issued 107,094 photo IDs to offset a portion of $17.92 cost per ID. The cost is estimated to remain the same, but the assessment will no longer be allowable under the provision of Initiative 27 (voter ID). Therefore, the Department of Public Safety is estimated to see a loss of revenue of approximately $1,499,000.

Pennsylvania: Officials concerned about voter ID bill |

As a bill that would require voters to show valid photo ID at the polls works its way to the state Senate, some officials are raising concerns about the as-yet-unknown ramifications if it passes. “No one ever called and asked if there were voter fraud issues,” Cumberland County Commissioner Rick Rovegno said.

The purpose of the bill is to prevent voter fraud by requiring state-issued or state-approved photo ID from voters before they are allowed to vote at the polls on an election day. “We meet with the state legislation delegation quarterly. We always exchange ideas, talk over issues. This matter no one talked about,” Rovegno said. “We’ve never had any issues of voter fraud,” Penny Brown, director of county voter services, said.

Voting Blogs: South Carolina GOP Operative: AP Story Showing Impact Of Voter ID On Blacks ‘Proves EXACTLY’ Why Law Is Needed | TPM

The Associated Press put out a story this week showing that South Carolina’s voter I.D. law “appears to be hitting black precincts in the state the hardest.” One person who really loved the story was Wesley Donehue, the CEO of Donehue Direct and a political strategist for the South Carolina Senate Republican Caucus, who took to Twitter to write that the story “proves EXACTLY why we need Voter ID in SC.”

It wasn’t long until Donehue’s tweet was bouncing all around the progressive twittersphere. In subsequent tweets, Donehue clarified that he wasn’t talking about the fact that the story showed, for example, that “among the state’s 2,134 precincts there are 10 precincts where nearly all of the law’s affect falls on nonwhite voters who don’t have a state-issued driver’s license or ID card, a total of 1,977 voters.” Rather Donehue said the story “has proven that a bunch of non-South Carolinians are voting in SC elections. Did they vote in other states too?? FRAUD!”

Tennessee: How A 96-Year-Old Woman Rejected A Voter ID | News One

This week, conservative-leaning, African-American columnist Juan Williams wrote an op-ed in The Hill defending the right to vote against states that are now imposing restrictive laws such as identification requirements. Citing the Brennan Center for Justice report that up to five million citizens could be denied voting privileges in 2012 due to new state rules, Williams wrote of the GOP:

“They are turning back the clock on voting rights in America. … It is no secret that 10 percent of all Americans don’t have government-issued identification and that this includes nearly 20 percent of young voters and 25 percent of black voters.”

Someone should ask GOP candidate Herman Cain how he feels about that. After all, his state of Georgia is one of eight states that have passed photo voter ID laws, and is one of five that also requires proof of citizenship to vote. Such laws impact minorities, students and the elderly disproportionately. With the exception of Kansas, each of the states with both voter ID and proof of citizenship laws have significant African-American populations: Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.

Palestine: Abbas to present Hamas general elections offer | xinhuanet

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will present an offer of general elections to rival Hamas movement, a senior official said Wednesday. Abbas will present the offer to Khaled Mashaal, the Damascus- based leader of the Palestinian Islamic movement, said the official, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Executive Committee, on condition of anonymity.

The elections have often been seen as the only way to restore unity to the Palestinian territories, mainly the West Bank, where Abbas’ Fatah party holds sway, and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Abbas wants the elections to be as soon as possible, preferably at the beginning of next year.

Seychelles: Electoral Commission, again affronted by Opposition Alliance | The People

The electoral commission, headed by its Chairman, Mr.  Hendricks Gappy handed a copy of the Electoral Review program, which is aimed at strengthening and consolidating democracy in Seychelles, to the Head of State at State House. After that the Commission met with political parties to discuss the same subject.

The Opposition alliance led by SNP refused to attend the discussion, as usual they were not happy with what was being presented. The Commission replied by saying that it was unfortunate that SNP would think such things especially since they were not even aware what’s in the roadmap. Then we heard about Christopher Gill also not attending the meeting but he has made it a point to say that it was not for the same reasons as the Opposition alliance.

Tunisia: Women Fighting Emancipation’s Peril on Eve of Election | Businessweek

Maya Jribi, the only woman in a leadership job at one of Tunisia’s main political parties, says it’s been an uphill battle to persuade other women to run as candidates in the Oct. 23 elections. “I recruited some excellent lawyers but they all had reasons not to run,” said Jribi, deputy head of the Democratic Progressive Party, or PDP, in an interview in the capital, Tunis. “They didn’t have enough experience, they didn’t like speaking in public.” Jribi’s party has put women at the top of its candidate lists in only three of the 33 constituencies, and she’s “not happy about it.”

Tunisian women played a major role in the protests that ended the rule of Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and triggered revolts across the Middle East. Their priority now, in the Arab Spring’s first free election, is to preserve parts of Tunisia’s old regime, which gave women more rights than other Arab countries, while ending its corruption and repression.

Tunisia: Tunisians prepare to head to the polls | AlArabiya

Campaigning closes in Tunisia Friday, two days before its first democratic elections, with a formerly banned Islamist party poised to dominate an assembly that will pave the way for a new government.

Nine months after the ouster of strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in a popular revolt that sparked region-wide pro-democracy uprisings, more than seven million potential voters will have a final chance to hear the main parties’ election promises at closing rallies planned countrywide. Campaigning closes at midnight.

On Sunday, three days after the Arab Spring claimed its latest victim with the killing of Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, Tunisians will seek to turn the page on decades of post-colonial autocratic rule by electing 217 members of a constituent assembly from more than 10,000 candidates.

Ukraine: Draft parliamentary election law can be made fairer, say ODIHR and the Venice Commission | ODHIR

Ukraine’s draft law on parliamentary elections could go further to ensure fully democratic elections, says a joint opinion by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission.

While the draft law incorporates a number of recommendations previously made by ODIHR and the Venice Commission, the joint opinion notes that the choice of a mixed majority-proportional representation system, the threshold the draft law sets for securing places in parliament, and the ban it establishes on electoral blocs were introduced by the parliamentary majority, and without consultation with other political parties and civil society.

California: State Won’t Fund Vote-by-Mail | Central Coast News

The state’s budget problems have reached your mailbox and it could hamper your right to vote by mail in years to come. Central Coast counties are making sure you still get your ballot, but it will cost you.

“It’s very frustrating because voters are caught up in the budget process,” said Monterey County head of elections Linda Tulet.  She said that’s because this past June the state eliminated the funding counties receive for the permanent vote by mail option. To understand why you should care, I need to take you back several years.   State law used to allow only certain people to permanently vote by mail.  For example: people with a disability or active military.

But in 2002, California changed the law to allow anyone to sign-up for a permanent vote by mail ballot and the state footed the bill for the cost to vote by mail. Now, because of budget cuts each county must decide whether to foot the bill for you to get your mail-in ballot come June 2012. “Now 63% of our voters are signed up to receive a ballot in the mail,” said Tulet.

Florida: New smart phone tag will connect voters to election offices | Orlando Sentinel

In what is being hailed as the first in the country and probably the world, the League of Women Voters of Florida and Microsoft rolled out an app that will allow voters to use smart phones to link with Florida Supervisor of Elections offices to check and update voter registration information.

The program, which will include Martin, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach and Polk counties immediately and eventually all 67 Florida counties, will provide Microsoft-powered smart phone “tags” that smart phone users can use to get direct connections to the elections offices.

The tags are smart phone variations on bar codes applied to products in stores. Each unique tag can be read by a smart phone, directing the phone to a smart phone site with information.

Indiana: Vote centers up for debate in Monroe County | Indiana Daily Student

Voting rights and procedures were debated again, as they were last fall, at a 4 p.m. Tuesday work meeting of the Monroe County Election Board. The board, staffed by Judith Smith-Ille, Jan Ellis and Monroe County Clerk Linda Robbins, discussed a motion to stop using voter precincts and instead open vote centers for the 2012 elections.

Smith-Ille, the lone Republican on the board, questioned the timing of the proposal. “I don’t want you to think I’m against vote centers. I’m not. I just don’t think 2012 is the year to do them,” Smith-Ille said. There are currently 90 voting precincts in Monroe County, Robbins said. There would be far fewer vote centers, if they were implemented, which would make the voting and vote counting processes easier, she said.

Maine: Fate of Election Day voter registration at stake with Question 1 | Bangor Daily News

For 38 years, Maine residents have been able to go to their polling place on Election Day, fill out a registration card and then vote. With the passage of a bill during the 125th Legislature’s first session, that option was eliminated and replaced with a requirement that voters register at least two business days before an election.

Shortly after the bill’s passage, a broad coalition of progressive groups gathered enough signatures to initiate a people’s veto. Now Maine voters get to decide whether to affirm the changes or keep in place the decades-long practice of allowing registration and voting on the same day.

Question 1 on the Nov. 8 statewide ballot reads: “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?”

Mississippi: State election officials scramble to fix ballots lacking required information |

Election officials across Mississippi are scrambling to get ballots reprinted or add inserts that include the cost to taxpayers for each of three initiatives that voters will decide on Nov. 8. The move comes after the office of state Attorney General Jim Hood called Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s office on Friday to say the information should be included on the ballots, as per the state Constitution.

The Mississippi Legislative Office found that there was no financial impact for the personhood and eminent domain initiatives, but a $1.49 million impact for the voter ID initiative. Hosemann’s office reported that it published the statewide ballot to individual counties on Sept. 14, and learned that by Oct. 17, circuit clerks in all 82 counties had developed their ballots and started absentee voting.