The Voting News Daily: In Saguache, a vote for voters, Academy Awards Partners with Everyone Counts for 2013 Internet Oscar Ballots

Editorials: In Saguache, a vote for voters | The Denver Post The recall of Saguache County Clerk Melinda Myers offers some lessons about transparency and the good sense of voters. Myers, who oversaw a messy election in which she prevailed over a challenger, was booted out of office this week with a resounding 68 percent of…

Editorials: In Saguache, a vote for voters | The Denver Post

The recall of Saguache County Clerk Melinda Myers offers some lessons about transparency and the good sense of voters. Myers, who oversaw a messy election in which she prevailed over a challenger, was booted out of office this week with a resounding 68 percent of the vote. We suspect voters were dismayed not only by the controversial outcome in the 2010 election, in which results were reversed days after the polls closed, but by the clerk’s fight to keep ballots secret. We supported a public recount of the ballots in an effort to build public trust in the process. And we think county clerks, who are pushing for legislative action this session to restrict public access to voted ballots after elections, ought to take note of the Saguache recall. Voters may not be as keen on their efforts as they think.

National: Academy Awards Partners with Everyone Counts for 2013 Internet Oscar Ballots | Thompson on Hollywood

The Academy will mail final ballots for the 84th Awards on February 1 to 5,783 voting members. The completed ballots are due at 5 PM February 21. Most members–whether in London, New York or Borneo–will anxiously mail their ballots or, if they are in Los Angeles, walk them into PricewaterhouseCooper’s offices. After tabulating the votes, PricewaterhouseCoopers will place winners’ names in the sealed envelopes that are opened on the Oscar show February 26. This seems positively archaic in the digital age. Why can’t Academy voting take place online? The Broadcast Film Critics, the Canadian Genies, BAFTA and others do it that way. Academy president Tom Sherak told TOH last year that the Academy starting considering electronic ballots because they wanted to move up the Awards date: online voting was a prerequisite of making that happen. But Sherak was afraid that the Oscars offered a fat juicy target. “I’ve yet to be convinced that you couldn’t find someone to hack into it,” he said. “Nobody has said to me, ‘you can’t get in.’ The Academy is as pure as the driven snow.” Until Sherak was convinced that no one could influence the voting by hacking into an online voting system, he was sticking with paper ballots, he said. “They can hack into the Pentagon!” he says. “The chances of getting online ballots are slim to none.”

Editorials: Citizens United v. FEC decision proves justice is blind | Jeffrey Rosen/Politico.com

Last week, the Occupy movement came to the Supreme Court. To protest the second anniversary of the Citizens United decision, the group called Move to Amend organized demonstrations at courthouses around the country — including the steps of the high court itself. (The protests began peacefully but ended with 11 arrests.) Say what you will about the strategy of organizing political protests against controversial judicial decisions, which can be overturned only by constitutional amendment, but one thing is clear: The Supreme Court was spectacularly wrong in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission when it confidently predicted that the ruling would have no significant impact on Americans’ confidence in their political system. In this sense, the Citizens United decision has much in common with the ruling in Paula Corbin Jones v. William Jefferson Clinton, which allowed President Bill Clinton to be sued for sexual harassment while in office.

Editorials: FEC Chair Hunter: Sizing up the superPACs | Washington Times

Jan. 21 marked the second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in CitizensUnitedv. FederalElectionCommission. Already controversial at the time it was issued, the ruling has taken center stage in the debate over superPACs’ role in the race for the White House. Contrary to some suggestions that superPACs are acting under the radar and outside of any regulation, they are, in fact, subject to the same long-standing disclosure requirements and objective rules applicable to everyone else. To place superPACs in context, it is important to understand their origin. In CitizensUnited, the government was put in the unenviable position of defending a statute dictating who could speak, when they could speak and how they could speak. Specifically, the law prohibited corporations and labor unions from sponsoring broadcast advertisements that expressly advocate the election or defeat of candidates for federal office. Not only that, the law purported to impose a blackout period on certain ads that even mentioned candidates.

Voting Blogs: Los Angeles County “Challenge” Could Be the Future of Voting Technology | Doug Chapin/PEEA

Los Angeles County, CA has announced an Open Innovation Challenge that it hopes will revolutionize the way the County – and someday, the nation – casts and counts its ballots. According to the press release for Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean [RR/CC] Logan:

The underlying goal of the initiative is to design, acquire, and implement a new voting system that meets the needs of current and future Los Angeles County voters. The County launched its Voting Systems Assessment Project (VSAP) in 2009 and since then has been working with community groups to learn about voter needs and preferences. Working with a projectadvisory committee representing a broad spectrum of interests, in 2011 the Department adopted a set of general voting system principles that serve as the foundation for the development of the new system. The County now seeks to engage the genius and talents of the best and brightest designers, academics and experts in various fields to help envision what this new system might look like. “As we look to the future of voting in Los Angeles County, we want to craft a vision that encompasses the diversity, creativity and desires of the community we serve. The online crowdsourcing challenge is an exciting and innovative approach aimed at inviting broad participation in the ongoing discussion and design of our future voting system”, said RR/CC Logan.

 

California: Working group examines future of California elections – “Roadmap” highlights opportunities for policymaking, partnership and innovation | electionlineWeekly

Late last year, a working group of California election officials, advocates and experts came together to talk about the future of elections in the Golden State. The shared goal was to step back from the day-to-day, election-to-election concerns that often consume the debate and take a long view on behalf of the state’s current and future voters. Convened with the support of the James Irvine Foundation through its California Democracy Program, the group met in person in Los Angeles, Mountain View and Sacramento to share ideas about the current state of elections in California, to identify needed reforms and opportunities for growth, and commit to working toward concrete solutions in various areas of the voting and election process.

Colorado: Battle rages over tracing voted ballots in Colorado – The Denver Post

Last fall, Larimer County Clerk and Recorder Scott Doyle invited state lawmakers and a handful of other people to an eye-opening presentation. Flipping through a slide show, Doyle showed them how, because of the level of reporting required for Colorado elections, he could use publicly available logs and reports to locate which ballots that some of the lawmakers — and one legislator’s wife — cast in the 2010 election. Doyle didn’t go so far as to remove the ballots from their sealed boxes to see how each person voted, but his point was clear: If someone had all the pieces at their fingertips, that person could do so, at least for some voters in many counties.

Florida: In Tampa, U.S. Senate Hearing to Target Florida’s Voter Rules | South Florida Times

A new state law that limits Florida’s early voting period and makes it more difficult for third-party organizations such as the NAACP and the League of Women Voters to register voters will be examined Friday at a special U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing in Tampa. Concerned state and federal lawmakers and civic leaders say they want the session to be a mandate for reversal of some of the restrictive measures passed last year by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Among the bill’s controversial provisions are tougher voter-ID requirements that critics say discourage, if not disenfranchise, minorities, the elderly, the disabled and the homeless and new and young voters.

Indiana: Election law bill passes Indiana Senate by unanimous vote | WLFI

State Senator Ron Alting (R-Lafayette) authored Senate Bill 233, which unanimously passed the Senate Tuesday by a 50-0 vote. The bill would change a law passed last session, which removed the names of unopposed municipal candidates from the election ballot. The law’s intent was to save money by eliminating the need to print ballots where municipal candidates were unopposed. According to a news release, Alting said the decision to remove names of unopposed candidates was made based on good intentions but created some unexpected consequences. While the deletion of those candidates may have saved some printing costs, it increased voter confusion.

Editorials: Return voting rights to ex-felons | Kentucky.com

The Kentucky House of Representatives is once again acting favorably on a proposal (HB 70) by Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, D-Lexington, to amend the state constitution to automatically restore voting rights to non-violent felons who have paid their assigned debt to society. Remarkably, each time in recent years this measure has passed out of the House it has stopped dead in the Senate. This is a good year to change that pattern. We are, after all, witnessing one of the great political processes as the presidential campaign unfolds before our very eyes. There is a lot of debate these days about the role of government in our lives, but does anyone really think it should be government’s task to prevent people from voting?

Minnesota: Voter ID constitutional amendment introduced in Minnesota Senate | Politics in Minnesota

A host of Republican Senators, including Judiciary Chairman Warren Limmer, member of leadership Ted Lillie and Environment Chairman Bill Ingebrigtsen, have introduced a bill to implement a Voter ID requirement by way of constitutional amendment. A total of 10 senators have signed on to two versions of the bill, SF 1577 and SF 1578, that would bypass Gov. Mark Dayton’s threatened veto and instead put the controversial elections reform measure before voters this fall. The bills will be formally introduced Thursday in the Senate. Voter ID laws have long been a goal of Republicans in Minnesota and around the country, as opponents say they help reduce fraud and protect election integrity. Opponents — mostly Democrats — say they add unnecessary burdens to voting and target typically Democrat-friendly constituencies such as college students, the elderly and minority populations.

Pennsylvania: High court throws out assembly redistricting plan, says it’s ‘contrary to law’ | PennLive.com

A divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Wednesday invalidated a plan to redraw state House and Senate district lines, calling the redistricting approach “contrary to law.” The justices voted 4-3 to send the plan back to the Legislative Reapportionment Commission, and the majority said their opinion in the case, laying out the reasoning, would be released later. The high court’s ruling immediately threw into disarray plans by candidates and parties for this year’s General Assembly races.

South Carolina: Dead Wrong? Election Official Disputes Claim That Deceased Voted in South Carolina | Columbia Free Times

A top state election official disputes a recent claim that more than 950 people who voted in recent elections could actually be dead. Of the six names her office was allowed to examine, all were eligible to vote. But to hear some Republican officials tell it, you’d think that on Election Day in South Carolina, graveyards all across the state empty out and hordes of zombie voters lurch to the polls. But dead people can’t vote. They’re dead.

Chile: Constitutional Court approves Chile’s universal voter registration law | Santiago Times

Chile’s Constitutional Court (TC) approved a new law that would make voter registration automatic and the act of voting itself voluntary on Thursday. The new law will add between 4.5 and 5 million new members to Chile’s voting population, in time for the October municipal elections. “This is a historic event,” Secretary General Cristián Larroulet told local press. “It is an important step in strengthening our democratic system and facilitating citizen participation in political decisions in our country.” Under Chile’s current system, registering to vote is a voluntary act, and once registered, voting is mandatory. Fines up to US$210 are imposed on those who are registered but don’t vote.

Finland: Pekka Haavisto, Finnish Gay Presidential Candidate, To Face Off With Former Finance Minister In Race | Huffington Post

The conservative favorite easily won the first round of Finland’s presidential election Sunday, setting up a runoff against an environmentalist leader who is the first openly gay candidate to run for head of state in the Nordic country. Sauli Niinisto, a former finance minister, won 37 percent of the vote, well ahead of the other candidates but short of the majority needed to avoid a second round, official preliminary results showed. With all votes counted, Pekka Haavisto, of the Greens party, was second with 18.8 percent, securing his place in the Feb. 5 runoff.

Editorials: Kazakhstan’s Elections: Aspirations for Democracy amidst Expectations of Paternalism | Registan.net

The background to the January 15 Kazakhstan’s parliamentary elections has been most unfavorable. The image of stability that Kazakhstan’s government had carefully cultivated over the years has been tarnished with the outbreak of violence in an oil town of Zhanaozen. In neighboring Russia, on which Kazakhstan depends both culturally and politically, dozens of thousands of people protested in December against falsifications in the Russian Duma elections held on December 4. These combined events generated warning signs that the Kazakh authorities should brace themselves for a stormy political season. However, the elections went as planned with a high turn-out (lower than in the 2011 Presidential elections but still solid 75 %) and very few instances of protest or boycott; the expected rendering of the elections as undemocratic by the OSCE and the usual accusations by the losing parties managed to gather only about a couple of hundred protesters in the center of Almaty on January 17. The charges leveled by the OSCE were that the elections “though well administered, did not meet key democratic principles.” As the OSCE statement said, “the authorities did not provide the necessary conditions for the conduct of genuinely pluralistic elections.” The accusations of not facilitating a “genuine pluralism” and not allowing all aspiring candidates and parties to enter free competition for the parliament seats comes as no surprise. After all, in a widely-held view, the authoritarian regime in Kazakhstan has been faking democratic processes for quite a while. So, now, on top of the previous simulations, it began to fake a multi-party parliament with 83 seats in the lower chamber given to the ruling Nur Otan party, 8 seats to the “Ak Zhol” (translated as “bright path”), 7 seats to the KNPK (communist) party, and 9 seats reserved for the representatives of ethnic minorities through the Assembly of the People.

Kuwait: Warning against election malpractices | Kuwait Times

His Highness Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah, the Prime Minister, asserted here yesterday that “the government will not turn a blind eye on the phenomenon of vote buying during elections.” HH the Prime Minister thanked, after his tour of the Media Center for National Assembly elections 2012, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense and Interior Minister Sheikh Ahmad Al-Humoud Al-Sabah for involving the Kuwait Transparency Society in monitoring the elections for the first time, stressing that “the government cannot accept any sort of disturbance of the electoral process”.

Senegal: Senegal on edge ahead of ruling on Wade’s election bid | Capital News

Senegal anxiously awaits a ruling Friday on whether President Abdoulaye Wade can seek a third term in office, with fears of violence rising as the opposition threatens to defy a protest ban. Amnesty International warns in a new report that the nation is at a crossroads ahead of a tumultuous election period and the potential for violence high as the 85-year-old leader bids for a third shot as leader. Some 20 presidential candidates, including Grammy-award winning singer Youssou Ndour, will have submitted their candidacies to the Constitutional Council for the February 26 presidential election by Thursday night.

Turkmenistan: Presidential campaign intensifies in Turkmenistan | Trend.az

The background to the January 15 Kazakhstan’s parliamentary elections has been most unfavorable. The image of stability that Kazakhstan’s government had carefully cultivated over the years has been tarnished with the outbreak of violence in an oil town of Zhanaozen. In neighboring Russia, on which Kazakhstan depends both culturally and politically, dozens of thousands of people protested in December against falsifications in the Russian Duma elections held on December 4. These combined events generated warning signs that the Kazakh authorities should brace themselves for a stormy political season. However, the elections went as planned with a high turn-out (lower than in the 2011 Presidential elections but still solid 75 %) and very few instances of protest or boycott; the expected rendering of the elections as undemocratic by the OSCE and the usual accusations by the losing parties managed to gather only about a couple of hundred protesters in the center of Almaty on January 17. The charges leveled by the OSCE were that the elections “though well administered, did not meet key democratic principles.” As the OSCE statement said, “the authorities did not provide the necessary conditions for the conduct of genuinely pluralistic elections.” The accusations of not facilitating a “genuine pluralism” and not allowing all aspiring candidates and parties to enter free competition for the parliament seats comes as no surprise. After all, in a widely-held view, the authoritarian regime in Kazakhstan has been faking democratic processes for quite a while. So, now, on top of the previous simulations, it began to fake a multi-party parliament with 83 seats in the lower chamber given to the ruling Nur Otan party, 8 seats to the “Ak Zhol” (translated as “bright path”), 7 seats to the KNPK (communist) party, and 9 seats reserved for the representatives of ethnic minorities through the Assembly of the People.

The obvious question is: why go to the trouble of faking a multi-party system if the parliament is overshadowed by the President anyway, and the most important policy decisions are made in the government and in the corridors of the Presidential Apparatus which are then just rubber-stamped in parliament? As several Kazakhstani analysts, such as Daniyar Ashimbayev and Dosym Satpayev, have noted, after many years of consolidating power in the institute of presidency, the President himself and the ruling elite now want to transform the system from the presidential to the parliamentary-presidential. Having the almost omnipotent first President in the figure of Nazarbayev is seen as an exceptional situation of the first decades of independence and it is presumed and hoped that the next President, whoever he/she is, should have far less power than President Nazarbayev had. In line with this vision for the future, the parliament has already started flexing its powers through the vote of confidence for the newly appointed “old” government of Karim Masimov. All presidential appointees have to be approved by parliament and it is possible theoretically and legally (although it is difficult to imagine now) that the parliament might not always agree with the President.

Yemen: UN: Yemen Faces Challenges as Presidential Election Approaches | VoA News

With Yemen’s landmark presidential election less than a month away, the U.N.’s top advisor for that country said Wednesday the political and security situation remains fragile, but that he believes the vote will take place on time. Jamal Benomar told reporters after privately briefing the U.N. Security Council on his eighth and latest mission to Yemen that there has been significant progress in the run-up to the February 21 election, but that serious political, economic and humanitarian challenges lie ahead.