Imagine this: a Republican governor in a crucial battleground state instructs his secretary of state to purge the voting rolls of hundreds of thousands of allegedly ineligible voters. The move disenfranchises thousands of legally registered voters, who happen to be overwhelmingly black and Hispanic Democrats. The number of voters prevented from casting a ballot exceeds the margin of victory in the razor-thin election, which ends up determining the next President of the United States. If this scenario sounds familiar, that’s because it happened in Florida in 2000. And twelve years later, just months before another presidential election, history is repeating itself. Back in 2000, 12,000 eligible voters – a number twenty-two times larger than George W. Bush’s 537 vote triumph over Al Gore – were wrongly identified as convicted felons and purged from the voting rolls in Florida, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. African Americans, who favored Gore over Bush by 86 points, accounted for 11 percent of the state’s electorate but 41 percent of those purged. Jeb Bush attempted a repeat performance in 2004 to help his brother win reelection but was forced to back off in the face of a public outcry. Yet with another close election looming, Florida Republicans have returned to their voter-scrubbing ways.
The Voting News Daily: Voting rights gains of ‘60s in jeopardy, Are We Headed for Another Electoral Mess?
National: Voting rights gains of ‘60s in jeopardy, Attorney General Eric Holder says | The Sacramento Bee Attorney General Eric Holder told African-American clergy leaders Wednesday that a wave of new state laws on voting and legal challenges to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 may jeopardize rights they helped fight for in the civil…
National: Voting rights gains of ‘60s in jeopardy, Attorney General Eric Holder says | The Sacramento Bee
Attorney General Eric Holder told African-American clergy leaders Wednesday that a wave of new state laws on voting and legal challenges to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 may jeopardize rights they helped fight for in the civil rights era. “Despite our nation’s long tradition of extending voting rights . . . a growing number of our fellow citizens are worried about the same disparities, divisions and problems that – nearly five decades ago – so many fought to address,” Holder told a meeting of the Conference of National Black Churches convened by the Congressional Black Caucus to discuss the laws. “In my travels across the country, I’ve heard a consistent drumbeat of concern from citizens, who – often for the first time in their lives – now have reason to believe that we are failing to live up to one of our nation’s most noble ideals. And some of the achievements that defined the civil rights movement now hang in the balance.” Holder spoke in response to an array of new voting measures enacted by several mostly Republican state governments that proponents say are needed to protect against voter fraud and to prevent illegal immigrants from voting. However, the mostly Democratic black caucus – along with several civil rights, voting rights and civil liberties groups – contends that the laws are really efforts to suppress the votes of minorities and others.
The 2012 presidential election looks like it could well be another squeaker, and if it is, a number of possible outcomes could produce national hand-wringing, finger-pointing, complaints of unfairness and anger, further dividing Americans and undermining confidence in our political system. A dozen years ago, Democrat Al Gore drew 540,000 votes more than Republican George W. Bush but lost the presidency when Bush carried Florida and won 271 electoral votes. There is no reason that couldn’t happen again, with President Barack Obama winning a narrow popular vote victory and losing in the Electoral College. Most of the same states are in play as were in 2000, and any close popular vote outcome raises the possibility of a split decision, especially because Obama is likely to “waste” large numbers of votes in carrying a handful of populous states. In 2000, six states delivered a plurality of at least 500,000 votes to one of the major party nominees. Five of those states — New York, California, Massachusetts, Illinois and New Jersey — went for Gore, while only one, Texas, went for Bush. Bush carried 30 states that year, while Gore won 20 states and the District of Columbia. Eight years later, in a relative blowout, 10 states delivered pluralities of at least 500,000 votes for one of the nominees. Obama won nine of those states (the five above plus Michigan, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington), while Texas gave Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) a huge win. McCain won only 22 states that year to Obama’s 28 (plus D.C.), though the Democrat also won one of Nebraska’s electoral votes by carrying the state’s 2nd district.
Republican super PACs and other outside groups shaped by a loose network of prominent conservatives – including Karl Rove, the Koch brothers and Tom Donohue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – plan to spend roughly $1 billion on November’s elections for the White House and control of Congress, according to officials familiar with the groups’ internal operations. That total includes previously undisclosed plans for newly aggressive spending by the Koch brothers, who are steering funding to build sophisticated, county-by-county operations in key states. POLITICO has learned that Koch-related organizations plan to spend about $400 million ahead of the 2012 elections – twice what they had been expected to commit. Just the spending linked to the Koch network is more than the $370 million that John McCain raised for his entire presidential campaign four years ago. And the $1 billion total surpasses the $750 million that Barack Obama, one of the most prolific fundraisers ever, collected for his 2008 campaign.
While the presidential campaign commands the most attention, Senate Democrats are bearing an early television advertising assault by Republican-leaning groups that is reshaping those races. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, who is seeking a Senate seat, are being outspent by at least a 3-to-1 ratio on television advertising as super political action committees supporting Democrats struggle to raise money and President Barack Obama and the national party conserve resources for the fall election.
Mariam “Mimi” Bell, a Latina Republican from Colorado, resents the implication that Hispanic voters are somehow negatively affected by the state’s new voter identification law. “It’s insulting when they say we’re going to disenfranchise the Hispanics,” Bell said of the law that requires voters to present an ID such as a driver’s license, passport, utility bill or birth certificate to vote. The suggestion, Bell said, is “because we’re Hispanics we’re inept to get an ID.” The debate over the wave of voter identification laws cropping up in more than 30 states is playing out against the backdrop of the 2012 general election’s high-profile fight for Latino voters. The two presidential candidates hold widely divergent views on the matter.
Arkansas: Faulkner County Election Commission certifies election, deals with voting problems | TheCabin.net
The Faulkner County Election Commission on Tuesday certified results from the preferential primary election held one week earlier, but not before the newest commissioner pleaded for more transparency from the commission and the county clerk’s office. Chris Carnahan of Conway, the commission’s newest member, said he was informed the day after the election that about 500 votes were not initially counted. He later learned that the number was 759. The uncounted votes were discovered after officials dealt with a computer error. The votes were added to candidates’ totals before election results were certified. The 759 votes did not change the outcome of any primary race. “It is troubling that I was not informed about this,” said Carnahan, who served as executive director of the Arkansas Republican Party from 1999-2001. “I think that all three election commissioners should be notified as soon as possible.”
California: Eleven California counties miss deadline to send ballots to overseas, military voters | North County Times
Elections officials throughout California missed a deadline to send 8,250 ballots to overseas and military voters for next week’s presidential primary, prompting a lawsuit and swift settlement over the weekend between the state officials and the U.S. Department of Justice. Eleven of the state’s 58 counties violated the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act by failing to send ballots to voters abroad on April 21 – 45 days before the primary. While about 5,450 of the late ballots were sent out within two days of missing the deadline, some were delayed as much as a week. On Saturday, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit [PDF] against California for missing the deadline, but Secretary of State Debra Bowen reached an agreement on the matter that same day, federal officials said. As part of the settlement, the secretary of state’s office will hold training sessions with at least one election official in each county before the general election in November.
Yesterday, Florida GOP Chair Lenny Curry released a statement defending Gov. Rick Scott’s (R-FL) plan to purge tens of thousands of voters from Florida’s voter roles. The purge is based on an error riddled list of purportedly ineligible voters which includes hundreds of eligible U.S. citizens in just one county. According to Curry, purging voters is just like a DUI checkpoint:
This past Memorial Day weekend, law enforcement put up checkpoints to ensure drunk drivers did not threaten the safety of fellow motorists. Undoubtedly, many of the drivers who were met by police were, in fact, not driving drunk. However, we accept the notion that on such a heavily traveled holiday, a few moments of inconvenience to law-abiding drivers is worth it if we can ensure safe highways. Similarly, officials in Florida are undertaking a methodical and reasonable effort to maintain the security of Florida’s voter rolls.While some who are citizens, and others who are not deceased, may be asked to simply participate in the verification process, thousands of these records do accurately reflect non-citizens and people who have died.
But, of course, police do not throw sober drivers in jail or take away their license. Curry’s metaphor would only make sense if Florida police randomly pulled over and jailed thousands of citizens, with little evidence they had been drinking, and then required them to show proof of their soberness before letting them out of jail.
Federal judges deciding the fate of Kansas’ legislative districts sent strong signals Wednesday that they might jettison plans that didn’t make it through the Legislature and draw their own district maps. On the second day of hearings in the Kansas City courthouse, the three-judge panel spent significant time pressing Corey Carnahan – the Legislature’s go-to guy on maps – for details of how redistricting is done and how they could take advantage of his services. The hearings had begun Tuesday with Carnahan, an analyst in the Department of Legislative Services, giving the court a primer on the use of mapping software to develop legislative districts. Wednesday, the judges put him back in the witness box for a more lengthy and detailed tutorial on producing redistricting maps. “Could you tell us how we could do that?” asked John Lungstrom, senior judge in the Kansas City federal District Court. “How would we as the court do that?” As to helping the judges draw maps, Carnahan said, “That would be a request we could accommodate.”
The State Board of Elections may move to implement an online ballot marking system for all absentee voters in time for this year’s elections, depending on an opinion from the attorney general. But some voter advocacy groups worry about the potential for fraud. The move to online ballot marking comes after a 2010 federal mandate that required states to provide overseas voters and active military personnel with access to online absentee ballot applications. The attorney general’s opinion, requested by Sen. Edward Kasemeyer, would say whether or not the elections board should seek federal and state certification for the online ballot marking tool. The board staff is currently developing the device through a Department of Defense grant. Certification would test the system and look for vulnerable areas, including where fraud or manipulation could occur. All whole voting systems are federally required to receive certification, but the state board argues the ballot marking tool would be only part of a voting system.
Michigan: McCotter’s miscue in 11th District might not matter as redistricting puts GOP ahead of the game | Detroit Free Press
Memorial Day weekend began inauspiciously for Michigan Republicans when Secretary of State Ruth Johnson called her old state legislative colleague, Thad McCotter, last Friday afternoon to deliver some shocking news: McCotter, a fifth-term congressman from Livonia, was unlikely to appear on his party’s Aug. 7 primary ballot. The hurdle an incumbent member of Congress must clear to qualify for the primary is not a high one; all that was required of McCotter was to turn in nominating petitions signed by 1,000 voters in his 11th Congressional District. Two college interns stationed outside a half-dozen Lincoln Day dinners might have been able to pull it off. But somehow, McCotter’s campaign had fumbled the ball. A cursory examination by state election officials had concluded that nearly four out of every five signatures McCotter had submitted were invalid. With the May 15 deadline for nominating petitions well past, the GOP’s options were limited.
Utah: Voting goes virtual – online features allow residents to register to vote, change affiliation | The Park Record
Prior to the Primary Elections on June 26, the Summit County Clerk’s Office is unveiling a slew of online features to make registering to vote, finding a polling location or previewing the ballot even easier. According to Summit County Deputy Clerk Ryan Cowley, anyone who has a current Utah driver’s license can register to vote online, change their registration information or request an absentee ballot. Residents can also download a voter app to their smart phones or tablets that uses their current location to locate the proper polling place and give them directions. “If someone is in college, or away, they can just go online to request an absentee ballot and even track its delivery,” Cowley said. “It makes the process a lot easier and may encourage residents to get absentee ballots and vote.”
Wisconsin: Recall Fever: As Scott Walker Fights To Keep His Post, Recall Elections Spread Across U.S. | International Business Times
It’s uncommon for a gubernatorial or state legislative election to make national headlines. But the upcoming recall election of divisive Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who could be booted less than two years into the job, has been closely tracked by the media and voters, who may be watching the results of the June 5 recall election with a looming thought on their mind — could that happen where I live? The ability to remove an unpopular politician from office, driven by the sheer will of unhappy constituents, is a power that could certainly inspire exasperated citizens. However, that power is not universal. Only 18 U.S. states allow for the recall of state officials, while one other, Illinois, solely permits the recall of a governor (a recent development inspired by the fall of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich as the result of a corruption scandal.) Wisconsin’s recall will pit Walker, a Republican, against Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, whom Walker defeated in the state’s 2010 gubernatorial election. Walker, a Tea Party favorite, campaigned on a deeply conservative platform pledging to, among other things, cut collective bargaining rights for certain state employees in order to pay for a series of tax cuts. That provoked the ire of Democrats and public sector workers, who say the new governor penalized them in order to preserve tax breaks for the wealthiest Wisconsinites.
The chairman of the Republican National Committee said Wednesday GOP candidates have to perform 1 or 2 percentage points better than they otherwise would to overcome voter fraud — claiming that voter fraud is far more pervasive than what official reports have shown. About 2.1 million votes were cast in the 2010 race for governor, and 1 to 2 percent would equate to 21,000 to 42,000 votes. Some law enforcement officials have raised concerns about isolated incidents of voter fraud, but never suggested it approached a scale like that. “I’m always concerned about voter fraud, you know, being from Kenosha, and quite frankly having lived through seeing some of it happen,” said Reince Priebus, the RNC chairman and former state Republican Party chairman. “Certainly in Milwaukee we have seen some of it and I think it’s been documented. Any notion that’s not the case, it certainly is in Wisconsin. I’m always concerned about it which is why I think we need to do a point or two better than where we think we need to be to overcome it.”
Richard Saks, an attorney who has successfully challenged Wisconsin’s new voter ID law, said Priebus can’t back up that claim. “They have zero, zero evidence to substantiate it,” Saks said. “It’s simply demagoguery to whip up fear.” He noted that a 2008 investigation in Milwaukee County by Democratic District Attorney John Chisholm and Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen resulted in 20 prosecutions, mostly for voting by felons who were not qualified to vote. “The notion there’s any kind of large scale fraud is simply not borne out by the facts,” Saks said. “It’s a scare tactic that’s used … to try to claim that primarily vulnerable people shouldn’t have a full opportunity to vote.”
Wisconsin: Election officials say voter turnout in Wisconsin recall could reach 65 percent | Wisconsin State Journal
Wisconsin election officials are predicting that between 60 to 65 percent of the voting age population, or about 2.6 to 2.8 million people, will cast regular and absentee ballots in the June 5 recall election. That level of turnout would be higher than the 49.7 percent of voters who turned out in the November 2010 gubernatorial general election, in which Gov. Scott Walker beat Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, his current challenger, by about five percentage points. It would not be as high as the 2008 general election for president, when some 69.2 percent of Wisconsin voters turned out to vote.
All of Europe is looking to Ireland as the country prepares to vote on Thursday in a referendum on the unpopular fiscal compact for greater budgetary discipline. If the Irish reject the new treaty, it won’t just be a major blow to its main advocate Angela Merkel. It could also spark panic on the financial markets. Though past referendums on European Union issues in Ireland have proven to be problematic, this time things are expected to go off without a hitch. When the Irish vote on the EU “fiscal compact” treaty on Thursday, their clear approval is expected. Polls predict that some 60 percent of the voters will tick the Yes box on the controversial treaty, which commits all ratifying members to fiscal responsibility.
Amidst a generally dull election season, an incipient social movement calling itself “I’m132” (YoSoy132) is shaking up the presidential campaigns. This decentralized and apparently nonpartisan movement is composed of thousands of students and young people and relies heavily on social media to organize and communicate. Its members appear to be united against what they perceive as a biased media and entrenched vested interests; they demonstrate a clear opposition to PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto (EPN), as they perceive his party and his candidacy as embodiments of the status quo. YoSoy132 is notable for having moved beyond the online realm and gaining support and press coverage at a national level. The students have already staged protests in various cities throughout the country and have been profiled by all the major media outlets.