National: Ballot Secrecy Keeps Voting Technology at Bay | Scientific American

Republicans during Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary will use a technology recognizable to Washington and Lincoln to make their choices Posted at Scientific American: Voters in the recent Iowa caucuses and Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary will rely on paper ballots as they have for generations. In the very next primary on January 21, South Carolinians will vote with backlit touch-screen computers. In an age of electronic banking and online college degrees, why hasn’t the rest of the nation gone the way of the Palmetto State? The reason is simple and resonates with the contentious debate that has yet to be resolved after at least 15 years of wrangling over the issue of electronic voting. No one has yet figured out a straightforward method of ensuring that one of the most revered democratic institutions—in this case, electing a U.S. president—can be double checked for fraud, particularly when paperless e-voting systems are used. Voters can cast their ballot in a variety of ways, depending upon the method adopted by their election district. This includes paper ballots, punch cards, two different types of touch-screen electronic voting system (one that prints out a receipt verifying your vote and one that does not), optical scanners used to digitize paper ballots, or some combination of these. New Hampshire, like nearly two-thirds of the country, has a paper ballot system that voters mark up and turn in to election officials who count the ballots either by electrical scanners or by hand. With the optical-scan approach, if the ballot is not filled out properly or is unreadable, the scanner will not accept the vote and the voter can fix his or her ballot before leaving the polling place, Dill says.

The Voting News Daily: Super PACs alter the dynamics of fundraising, ES&S DS200 digital scanning device for presidential vote has bugs, report confirms

Editorials: Super PACs alter the dynamics of fundraising | The Washington Post Well-established candidates have always had the edge in fundraising, but under the new rules governing money in politics, it looks as if the rich are just getting richer. The vast majority of the $14 million in spending from “super PACs,” a new type of political…

Editorials: Super PACs alter the dynamics of fundraising | The Washington Post

Well-established candidates have always had the edge in fundraising, but under the new rules governing money in politics, it looks as if the rich are just getting richer. The vast majority of the $14 million in spending from “super PACs,” a new type of political group, has been spent on behalf of three candidates: Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman Jr., federal records show. Those are the same three candidates already most reliant on money from large donors.

“It’s just proven to be a vehicle for getting around contribution limits,” said Michael Malbin, a scholar at the Campaign Finance Institute, which advocates for regulations encouraging small donors. “It’s made for people who’ve already maxed out.”

Two years after the Supreme Court decided the landmark Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case, it is becoming clear that the super PACs created under the new rules will act as a counterweight to a rise in online grass-roots fundraising. The online efforts, which tend to attract small donations, have been driving unconventional contenders in the GOP field, including Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.). (Bachmann dropped out of the race last week after a sixth-place finish in Iowa.)

National: ES&S DS200 digital scanning device for presidential vote has bugs, report confirms | CNET News

An e-voting machine that is to be used for the presidential election this year has been found to have “anomalies” such as failing to record votes or logging the wrong vote and freezing, according to a government report.
The Formal Investigative Report issued late last month by the Electronic Assistance Commission (EAC), which certifies electronic voting equipment, issued a notice of noncompliance for the DS200 optical scanning device manufactured by Electronic Systems & Software (ES&S), but did not decertify the machine.

The report found three anomalies:

Intermittent screen freezes, system lockups, and shutdowns that prevent the voting system from operating in the manner in which it was designed

Failure to log all normal and abnormal voting system events

Skewing of the ballot, resulting in a negative effect on system accuracy

Specifically, the DS200 failed in some cases to record when the touch screen was calibrated or the system was powered on or off, failed to read votes correctly when a ballot was inserted at an angle, and accepted a voted ballot without recording the ballot on its internal counter and without recording the marks, according to the report.

Editorials: Super PAC debate a sign they’re here to stay | Kenneth P. Vogel/

There’s no better evidence that the Republican presidential field has embraced super PACs as a driving force in their campaign than the debate over what to do about them. Mitt Romney has called for the abolition of super PACs, while he and Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman have distanced themselves from the groups, suggested they should be more transparent or at least less negative.

But the hand-wringing over the new breed of deep-pocketed outside groups has become a process debate – wrapped in the language of legal arcana and plausible deniability. And, when the candidates are pushed to call for an end to the ads or changes to the legal landscape that spawned them, they mostly back down. It’s a kabuki dance that allows candidates to keep their hands clean even as they become major players in a new big-money system that seems likely to dominate presidential politics for the foreseeable future.

Voting Blogs: Facts, Darn Facts, and Super PACs | Brennan Center for Justice

Recently, the Montana Supreme Court upheld the state’s ban on corporate independent expenditures. This is a direct rebuke of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which struck down a federal ban on corporate independent expenditures, largely based on the assumption that such spending inherently cannot corrupt elected officials.

The majority opinion in Citizens United, authored by Justice Kennedy, concluded that “independent expenditures do not lead to, or create the appearance of, quid pro quo corruption” and that “there is only scant evidence that independent expenditures even ingratiate.” But, thanks to a procedural quirk, the case shot up to the Supreme Court before anyone in the case could engage in any real fact-finding. So, Kennedy’s conclusion was little more than an untested hypothesis, not supported by any hard evidence.

When presented with evidence of corruption in a similar case, Justice Kennedy came to a totally different conclusion. Caperton v. Massey dealt with a West Virginia Supreme Court justice who failed to recuse himself from a case involving a CEO who spent nearly $3 million on independent expenditures in support of the justice’s election. Because the independent expenditures constituted the vast majority of spending in the judicial election, Justice Kennedy concluded that the justice should have recused himself because “no man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, [and] similar fears of bias can arise when…a man chooses the judge in his own cause.”

District of Columbia: D.C. Voting Rights: Should Local Corruption Be Used To Justify City’s Disenfranchisement? | Huffington Post

It’s a common argument used in the case against greater voting rights or statehood for the District of Columbia: Why should the residents of the nation’s capital be given full and equal voting representation in Congress when its local officials have been shown to be corrupt? The situation involving D.C. Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5), who resigned last week before pleading guilty to federal charges that he stole more than $350,000 from the city and filed false tax returns, certainly doesn’t help the D.C. voting rights cause.

The most recent corruption spectacle is particularly ill-timed. A delegation of D.C. officials will soon be heading to New Hampshire to press the cause of the “Last Colony” before state legislators in Concord, who could pass a resolution calling for greater voting rights for the residents of the nation’s capital.

As the Examiner reported this weekend, Councilmember David Catania (I-At-Large) is particularly angry with the current state of affairs in the D.C. government, which, beyond the Thomas drama, involves ongoing federal inquires into allegations of campaign corruption by Mayor Vincent Gray (D) and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown (D).

Illinois: Santorum, Gingrich get on Illinois Republican primary ballot |

Surprise Iowa caucus near-winner Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich filed Friday to secure spots on Illinois’ March 20 primary ballot, adding their names to those of Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Perry.

On the last day to submit paperwork, Santorum filed only 41 candidates for national convention nominating delegates out of 54 possible slots among the state’s new 18 congressional districts. Perry, the Texas governor, filed only one delegate candidate. Romney, Paul and Gingrich filed full elected-delegate slates. Not making the ballot or filing delegate candidates was former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who has made a strong showing in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary a priority.

Voting Blogs: Argument preview: Texas, the courts, and minority voters | SCOTUSblog

At 1 p.m. on Monday, the Supreme Court will hold 70 minutes of argument in three cases — being heard on an expedited schedule — on the new election districts that Texas will use in 2012 balloting for the state legislature and for its expanded delegation in Congress.  Arguing for the state of Texas, with 30 minutes of time, will be former U.S. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement, now in private practice in Washington with the Bancroft law firm.  He will be followed by Principal Deputy U.S. Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan, arguing for the federal government as an amicus, with ten minutes.  Arguing next, for the challengers to the state legislature’s redistricting maps, with 30 minutes, will be Jose Garza, a private attorney in San Antonio who has been representing the Mexican American Legislative Caucus in these cases.


Just as the Supreme Court’s controversial ruling two years ago in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has become a major influence on the financing of the 2012 elections, the Court’s coming decision this Term on three legislative redistricting cases from Texas may have a strong impact on who wins some key election contests — and might even help settle control of the new U.S. House in the Congress that gathers next January.   The ruling also may bring a severe test of the constitutionality of America’s most important law on the voting opportunities of minorities, the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  For a case that could be decided on very narrow grounds, it has developed potentially historic proportions.

Texas: Supreme Court hears dispute over Texas elections, power of key part of Voting Rights Act | The Washington Post

A federal law says states and localities with a history of discrimination cannot change any voting procedures without first getting approval from the Justice Department or a federal court in Washington. Yet Texas is asking the Supreme Court to allow the use of new, unapproved electoral districts in this year’s voting for Congress and the state Legislature.

The outcome of the high court case, to be argued Monday afternoon, could be another blow to a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. In 2009, the justices raised doubts about whether Southern states still should need approval in advance of voting changes more than 40 years after the law was enacted. The case also might help determine the balance of power in the House of Representatives in 2013, with Republicans in a stronger position if the court allows Texas to use electoral districts drawn by the GOP-dominated Legislature.

Wisconsin: Judge Rules For GOP On Recall Procedures | TPM

A judge in Wisconsin threw a curveball Thursday evening into the recall campaign targeting Republican Gov. Scott Walker, ruling that state election officials must make a greater effort to screen out fake or duplicate petition signatures — rather than abide by the pre-existing rules, which have placed more of the burden on the Walker campaign.

The state GOP’s lawsuit filed in mid-December against the state Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections in the state, claims that Walker’s 14th Amendment rights of Equal Protection are violated by putting a burden on his campaign to review and challenge petition signatures within a ten-day period. Instead, they say, the GAB must thoroughly search for and directly strike out duplicate signatures, and invalid names and addresses.

Wisconsin: Government Accountability Board ordered to boost vetting of Wisconsin recall petitions | JSOnline

A judge ruled Thursday that the state Government Accountability Board needs to take more aggressive action to vet recall signatures that are expected to be submitted in two weeks against Gov. Scott Walker and other Republican officeholders.

The ruling by Waukesha County Circuit Judge J. Mac Davis came in a case filed Dec. 15 by Walker’s campaign committee and Stephan Thompson, executive director of the state Republican Party, asking Davis to order the accountability board to seek out and eliminate duplicate and bogus signatures and illegible addresses from recall petitions.

Davis, who refused to enter injunctions in the case, based his decision on his interpretation of state law, more than on constitu tional equal protection arguments brought up by the Republicans. He also said that the board must take “reasonable” actions to eliminate such signatures.

India: Mayawati’s statues, Bahujan Samaj Party symbols to be draped today after Election Commission’s order | NDTV

The elephant motifs and her four faced statues in the company of Dalit greats were Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati’s attempt to immortality. So, on Sunday, when acting on an Election Commission directive the departments that built her monuments came to mask them, they triggered politics and drama. In all, nearly 100 statues had to be covered in Lucknow and Noida.

First, the officials ran out of sheets and ideas. Then came the realisation that the Election Commission was yet to send an official order for covering the statues. So the covers came off. But, the Lucknow District Magistrate said in the evening that they have received the order and it will be implemented Monday onwards.

India: Election Commission removes UP’s police chief, principal secretary ahead of polls | The Times of India

The Election Commission (EC) late on Saturday directed state government to remove director general (DGP) of police Brij Lal and principal secretary home department Fateh Bahadur Singh from their respective posts. Lal and Bahadur have been replaced by Atul Kumar and Manjit Singh. The decision came after opposition parties demanded that the two officers should be removed if EC wants free and fair state assembly elections to be held in February.

The Bahujan Samaj party (BSP) in retaliation has cried foul describing removal of the two officers hailing from the schedule castes as an insult to the dalit community. The BSP also came down heavily on the EC for its order to drape chief minister Mayawati’s statue and those of elephants in various dalit memorials in view of elections. The EC directed to cover the statutes so that they cannot become a medium to influence votes because the election symbol of the BSP is elephant.

Jamaica: People’s National Party delivers crushing 41-22 seat defeat to Jamaica Labour Party |

THE People’s National Party (PNP) sent the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) back into Opposition after scoring a crushing 41-22-seat victory in yesterday’s 16th general election that pollsters and analysts had said was mostly too close to call. A sober but triumphant Simpson Miller told jubilant supporters at PNP headquarters last night that she was thankful to the Jamaican people and Prime Minister Andrew Holness who, she said, called and congratulated her earlier. “He was very gracious.”

PNP President Portia Simpson Miller addressing jubilant supporters last night at PNP HQ after the party’s election victory. She’s flanked by Dr Peter Phillips (right) campaign director and Robert Pickersgill, party chairman. At far left is Delano Franklyn campaign spokesman.

She urged comrades to greet supporters of the losing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) with love in an obvious extension of the olive branch after what was a vigorous and often bitter campaign. “We will be working to move this country forward to achieve growth and development and for job creation,” she said. “As we move to balance the books, we will be moving to balance people’s lives.”

Mexico: Mexico’s Election Will Have Big Impact on Texas |

Texas economists are confident that the financial upheavals long associated with Mexican elections are a thing of the past. Still, they are closely watching what this summer’s presidential contest means for the peso and, in turn, Texas’ symbiotic business ties to Mexico. Texas politicians are paying close attention, too — to whether the trade, security and energy policies of President Felipe Calderón’s successor will affect illegal immigration or the state’s robust trade relationship with Mexico.

Three Texas customs districts, Laredo, El Paso and Houston, rank among Mexico’s top four trading partners. Collectively, they accounted for roughly $235 billion in trade between Texas and Mexico from January to September 2011, according to United States Census data analyzed by WorldCity, which tracks global trade patterns. The figures show an increase over 2010 despite the American recession and unprecedented violence in Mexico because of warring drug cartels.

Taiwan: Taiwanese attend rallies to support presidential candidates as tight race hits home stretch | The Washington Post

Holding balloons and waving flags, tens of thousands of Taiwanese paraded throughout the island Sunday to support their favored presidential candidates less than a week before what is expected to be an extremely tight election. President Ma Ying-jeou, who has improved relations with rival China during his 3 1/2 years in office, led a large crowd of supporters in a three-mile (five-kilometer) march down a main Taipei thoroughfare.

“If you want peace with the mainland and friendly international communities, join me and let’s walk together,” the 61-year-old Ma told supporters. Ma’s Nationalist Party said at least 200,000 people joined the Taipei parade. Police did not give an estimate. Pro-Ma parades were held simultaneously in three other cities. Polls indicate that Ma is locked in a virtual dead heat with his main challenger, Tsai Ing-wen of the opposition Democratic Progressive party, ahead of Saturday’s election.

Turkmenistan: Inside Turkmenistan’s Surreal Presidential Election | The Atlantic

Next month, Turkmenistan, Central Asia’s most closed society, will hold an election for president. There’s no secret who will win—current tyrant Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov—but the field of candidates has grown unexpectedly large. Is an exciting election in the works?

Probably not. Of the candidates currently running against Berdimuhamedov, none look likely to garner even statistically relevant support or votes. Berdimuhamedov, a dentist by trade, was swept to power after Turkmenistan’s previous president, Sapurmurat Niyazov, died. That death sparked some truly bizarre commentary in the west, including speculation that the country would collapse violently as elites battled for control of limited resources. There was no clear succession plan, even if the head of the Parliament was meant to be the interim president.