Editorials: Protecting your vote | Ron Rivest/Boston.com Sometimes, a few votes make a huge difference. Just ask Rick Santorum. In January, Rick Santorum won the Iowa caucuses, but, because of vote counting and tabulation errors, Mitt Romney was declared the winner. In the two weeks before the error became clear, Romney’s campaign gained momentum, while Santorum’s…
Sometimes, a few votes make a huge difference. Just ask Rick Santorum. In January, Rick Santorum won the Iowa caucuses, but, because of vote counting and tabulation errors, Mitt Romney was declared the winner. In the two weeks before the error became clear, Romney’s campaign gained momentum, while Santorum’s withered. Unfortunately, the same problem – or worse – could easily occur in Massachusetts. This year, voters will choose the president, and control of the US Senate may come down to the race shaping up between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren.
As David Karpf wrote here ten days ago, the Americans Elect third-party experiment of 2012 looks like it has hit a dead end. No declared candidate is anywhere close to hitting the group’s requirement of earning 10,000 supporters across at least ten states, with at least 1,000 from each state. Former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer the closest at just 5,840. He has less than 600 from California. As Jonathan Tilove points out in his story in the Times-Picayune, that means Roemer has more followers on Twitter than he has supporters who actually want him on AE’s presidential ballot line. Americans Elect had an ambitious plan to hold several rounds of online voting to winnow down what its leaders had hoped would be a competitive field of national candidates, and spent a reported $35 million circulating ballot petitions and building the organizational and online infrastructure to attract those candidates to its fold. It also attracted a fair amount of media coverage for its efforts, and encomiums from the likes of Thomas Friedman, John Avlon and Lawrence Lessig. But it never caught on, in part for the reasons I outlined almost a year ago: the lack of transparency about its finances made potential supporters distrustful (even spawning a watchdog blog called AETransparency), and the evident lack of public interest in its founders’ evident desire to find a “centrist” candidate. It’s possible that AE could have evolved differently, but that would have required that the vehicle be more genuinely controlled by its supporters, and that was an option that AE’s leaders clearly didn’t want to allow.
Two witnesses with a wealth of knowledge about campaign finance laws testified in the John Edwards trial Monday that the $900,000 at the heart of the case went to personal expenses for the candidate – and therefore should not be subject to public reporting or campaign finance caps. The jury heard from one of the witnesses – a former Edwards campaign treasurer. But the other, a former Federal Election Commission chairman, testified outside the presence of the jury. The judge limited what he can say if he’s called to the stand later in front of jurors. The Edwards defense team began calling witnesses Monday as the trial entered its fourth week. In comparison to the first three weeks, which featured salacious details about Edwards’ extramarital affair with former campaign videographer Rielle Hunter, the first defense witnesses focused more on campaign finance and policy. On Tuesday, Cate Edwards, the 30-year-old daughter of the one-time Democratic presidential hopeful, is on the list of possible witnesses. A Harvard law school graduate who’s married now, living in Washington, D.C. and running her late mother’s foundation, Cate Edwards has been in the courtroom for most of the testimony. She occasionally leans in to discuss legal points with her father. Defense attorney Abbe Lowell said at the close of the day Monday that no decision has been made on whether Edwards will take the stand in his defense. Lowell said he will let the judge know Tuesday or Wednesday.
Alaska: Confusion holds upper hand as Alaska redistricting deadline nears | Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
With less than three weeks left before the primary filing deadline, confusion leads at the polls. The Alaska Supreme Court ordered Thursday that the so-called “amended” redistricting plan should be used for 2012. The court has not decided on the key constitutional questions raised by Fairbanks plaintiffs who object to the proposed Goldstream/Ester/Bering Sea House district. It’s not at all clear that any new plan will be in place by the June 1 filing deadline for the state primary election. This creates confusion on many fronts, starting with candidates and potential supporters. The next major step may be in federal court, and the issues raised there could lead to a request that the existing districts be kept in place for the 2012 elections while the challenges related to the state Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act are dealt with.
Six months before the presidential election, the Florida ground game is already under way. In political terms, the ground game is the process of mobilizing voters and getting them to the polls. And the first step is registering people to vote. But in Florida this year, there are tough new restrictions on groups that conduct voter registration drives. The restrictions already appear to be having an impact on the number of people who are registering to vote. “We go to dense Hispanic neighborhoods — shopping plazas, supermarkets,” says Natalie Carlier of the National Council of La Raza, “and basically we’re just out there talking to people, letting them know that we’re providing a service and that we want them to vote.”
For more than a decade, critics have complained of a loophole in Maine’s Clean Election law. Candidates who pay for their campaigns using taxpayers’ funds — and thus avoid accusations of being beholden to special interests — can and do raise thousands of dollars in private donations for their personal political action committees, or “leadership PACs.” The problem isn’t going away, with substantial sums being raised months ahead of State House primaries. From January to March of this year, 11 legislators who ran or are currently running as Clean Election candidates raised a combined $21,860 from lobbyists, corporations and individual supporters, according to disclosures filed April 20 with the state ethics commission. For a sense of scale, each Clean Election House candidate will run their general election campaign on a state payment of $3,937, a state Senate candidate, $18,124.
Voting Blogs: Montana and Vote-By-Mail: Change Coming Slowly – but Coming Nonetheless | Election Academy
Friday’s Great Falls (MT) Tribune had a great piece on Montana’s slow evolution toward vote-by-mail. There isn’t necessarily a whole lot of news in the piece for someone who follows elections across the nation, but I thought the article was terrific in how well it captured the nature – and pace – of change in elections. Recent headlines have all been about struggles in states where legislatures have made significant and rapid changes to election procedures. As I’ve discussed here in many different posts, such change is a natural offshoot of the different policy views of the parties combined with change in legislative control due to elections.
Republican lawmakers on Friday dropped their lawsuit against the state’s elections chief over the handling of provisional ballots after a federal judge threatened them with contempt of court. Secretary of State Jon Husted had defended his decision to require county election boards to follow U.S. District Court Judge Algenon Marbley’s decree instead of state law when counting the ballots. At issue were requirements for providing identification when a voter has to cast a provisional ballot, typically a ballot cast in the wrong precinct. Senate President Tom Niehaus and House Majority Leader Lou Blessing sued Husted, a fellow Republican, last month, arguing he was violating the state constitution by his orders to the county election boards.
Jefferson County commissioners Thursday agreed to appropriate more money to the county board of elections to cover increased expenses associated with the upcoming presidential election. Frank Bruzzese, board of elections board member, said presidential elections are always more expensive to conduct, especially this year when every voter will receive an application for an absentee ballot. The commissioners appropriated $605,000 to the board of elections, with the state contributing an additional $17,000 for mapping congressional districts. Bruzzese said the board of elections spent $746,000 four years ago during the presidential election. Commissioners agreed to appropriate an additional $102,000 to the board of elections, bringing the budget total to $722,000. Bruzzese said that should be enough to cover expenses associated with the general election in November.
A panel of federal judges threw out a lawsuit dealing with primary ballots sent overseas. Attorney Todd Kincannon argued that the state’s decision to send partial ballots to overseas voters was a violation of federal election law. The attorney says the state Election Commission was in violation of the Voting Rights Act when it opted to send ballots with only federal races on them to military and overseas voters.
An attorney is abandoning his effort to reinstate nearly 200 candidates left off of June 12 primary ballots by a South Carolina Supreme Court decision, saying Friday he is focusing instead solely on allegations the state violated the Voting Rights Act in sending separate ballots overseas for federal and local races. “The court has ordered Amanda Somers to focus on the issues where she has clear standing. And that we will do,” Todd Kincannon told The Associated Press. “Amanda Somers is focused entirely on military absentee ballots from here on. It’s clear at this point the military absent ballot issue is about the only issue left in this election.” Kincannon filed a federal last suit last week on Somers’ behalf, saying the state Senate hopeful’s candidacy was thrown into question after state Supreme Court justices ruled that financial and candidate-intent paperwork must be filed simultaneously.
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit in U.S. District Court, challenging Virginia’s statewide ballot access rules for minor-party presidential candidates. The ACLU Voting Rights Project and the ACLU of Virginia filed suit on behalf of the Libertarian Party of Virginia, challenging the Virginia law that imposes a state residency requirement on people who circulate ballot petitions. The party needs to collect 10,000 valid signatures — at least 400 from each of the state’s 11 congressional districts — by Aug. 24 to qualify for the general election ballot in November. The Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee is Gary Johnson, who, as a Republican, was governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003. The ACLU is seeking an injunction, saying the Libertarians will suffer “irreparable harm” if they cannot use people from out of state to circulate ballot petitions in Virginia.
The nation has moved on after its brief fixation last week with the felon who won 41 percent against Barack Obama, but West Virginia continues to wrestle with the aftermath of its May 8 primary. Phil Kabler of the Charleston Gazette reported this weekend on two conspiracy theories making the rounds. The first holds that GOP operatives were working behind the scenes to gin up the vote for Keith Judd as a means of embarassing Obama. The second speculates that top Democratic Party officials “went to lengths to assure that West Virginia voters would not be aware that he was a convicted inmate sitting in a federal prison in Texas.”
Cypriot President Demetris Christofias, the European Union’s only Communist head of state, said on Monday he would not seek re-election next year, citing lack of progress towards the island’s reunification. Elected in 2008, Christofias is lagging in opinion polls over a faltering economy and unpopular concessions in peace talks. The presidential election is due in February 2013. “Taking as a fact that the Cyprus problem has not been solved, and it does not appear that there can be definitive progress in the next few months … I will not seek re-election,” he said in a televised address.
With Greece hurtling toward new elections and a possible exit from the euro zone, President Karolos Papoulias prepared to make a last-ditch appeal on Monday for the country’s sharply divided political parties to form a unity government even as his hopes for success all but evaporated over the weekend. The leaders of Greece’s main political parties remained adamant in their positions on the country’s debt agreement with foreign lenders, making a unity coalition appear impossible and new elections all but inevitable. Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the Coalition of the Radical Left, refused on Sunday to take part in any government that would go through with the harsh austerity measures required in the debt deal, saying that Greek voters had resoundingly rejected austerity in elections on May 6. The parties that favor preserving the debt deal lack enough seats in Parliament to govern on their own, and Mr. Papoulias spent Sunday trying to persuade several smaller parties to join them.
The Kerala State Election Commission (SEC) Monday decided to request the state government to amend the laws and make photo-ID cards mandatory for the electorate in the local bodies polls. Speaking to IANS, an official attached to the state election commission said the panel would ask the state government to amend the Kerala Panchayat Raj Act and the Kerala Municipalities Act to enforce photo-ID rule.
In less than 40 days, Libya is set to witness the first elections since the ouster of the late Moammar Gahdafi. But are the elections coming too early? Post-conflict elections should mark the pinnacle point in the recovery and reconstruction of Libya. Libyans and the international community look at the election on June 19 as a milestone toward peace and democracy. But some studies show history can paint a gloomy picture of elections held soon after bloody armed struggles, when political institutions may be weak or non-existent. Many believe elections soon after the armed conflict that ended Moammar Gadhafi’s regime would foster the promise of peace and democracy. It would show a democratic transition and effective recontruction, which in turn would assure the international community about the stability of Libya. Elections would also help post-conflict Libya attract much needed foreign assistance and investment to help rebuild the country.
Sir Mekere Morauta gave the assurance amid renewed uncertainty over whether the general election will proceed as scheduled. On Friday, the Governor-General is due to issue writs signalling the start of the campaign period. But there are reports many Members of Parliament want the vote delayed because of concerns over the veracity of the electoral roll. Local media has reported rumours some MPs might move a no-confidence vote against the prime minister.
Serbia’s ruling Democratic Party asked local and foreign watchdogs to step up scrutiny of the presidential runoff vote after the opposition claimed election fraud during May 6 balloting. The party, led by incumbent President Boris Tadic, urged the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Belgrade-based Center for Free Elections and Democracy to deploy more observers during the May 20 second round between Tadic and Tomislav Nikolic, the leader of the opposition Serbian Progressive Party. “It is in our deep interest that we have fair and regular elections and that the legitimacy of elected institutions is not in question,” the Democrats said in the e-mailed statement. The outcome of the presidential elections may determine whether Serbia keeps striving for European Union membership under Tadic or turns east for political and economic ties under Nikolic’s leadership. Tadic won the first round, while his party finished second in a concurrent parliamentary race, giving it six seats less than the Progressive Party’s 73 in the 250-member assembly. The Progressive Party claimed vote rigging on May 10, a day after the second-place Democrats and the third-ranking Socialist Party of former strongman Slobodan Milosevic agreed to stay in a coalition, leaving Nikolic’s party in opposition.