State Senator Michael Gianaris, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law joined with good government and advocacy groups on June 7 to announce the introduction of the Voter Empowerment Act of New York, a nonpartisan initiative to increase voter participation as the 2012 election season commences. This legislation would amend the election law to update, streamline and make more efficient the voter registration process in New York. Currently, the single biggest barrier to voting is our antiquated registration system. The proposed bill would improve New York’s voter participation by automatically registering citizens to vote with their consent and updating their registration information when they interact with specific government agencies. It would also computerize the entire registration process, reducing typographical and clerical errors that come with hand-written registration documents and making it easier for eligible voters to register.
The Voting News Daily: Supreme Court may hear Montana campaign finance, AFL-CIO to fight voter ID laws in six battleground states
National: Supreme Court justices may hear Montana campaign finance case addressing two-track system | latimes.com When the Supreme Court ruled that corporations had the right to political free speech, it set loose a tidal wave of campaign money that helped elect a new Congress in 2010 and is now reshaping the presidential race. But the impact…
National: Supreme Court justices may hear Montana campaign finance case addressing two-track system | latimes.com
When the Supreme Court ruled that corporations had the right to political free speech, it set loose a tidal wave of campaign money that helped elect a new Congress in 2010 and is now reshaping the presidential race. But the impact of the Citizens United decision has been as surprising and controversial as the ruling itself. Although the high court’s 5-4 decision is best known for saying that corporations may spend freely on campaign ads, the gusher of money pouring into this year’s campaigns has mostly not involved corporate funds. And some of the practices that critics of the decision decry actually stem from a separate case decided by a U.S. Court of Appeals after the Citizens United ruling. The rise of “super PACs,” which may raise and spend unlimited amounts so long as they do so independently of a candidate, has allowed close aides to candidates to set up supposedly independent committees that have raised huge amounts, primarily from wealthy individuals. The PACs have spent most of their money on negative ads attacking the opposition. That unlimited fundraising was set in motion by Citizens United, but came to full flower after the subsequent Court of Appeals decision.
The nation’s largest labor federation plans to mount an aggressive campaign against voter identification laws in a half-dozen battleground states that will be key in the presidential election. AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker told reporters on Tuesday that the labor federation will have boots on the ground registering and helping voters in Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in coordination with the group’s political program. Labor is pushing back against voter ID laws, which they say suppress voting by minorities, the elderly, the poor and students. Supporters of the measures say showing identification to vote is needed to crack down on fraud and protect the integrity of elections.
Voting Blogs: Voting Rights Groups Move to Hold Alabama Accountable to Federal Voter Registration Law | Project Vote
Citing clear evidence that Alabama public assistance agencies are violating their federally-mandated responsibilities to offer tens of thousands of public assistance clients opportunities to register to vote, today attorneys from Demos, Project Vote, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law sent a pre-litigation notice letter to the Alabama Secretary of State on behalf of the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP. The letter details violations of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and demands that the Secretary act immediately to bring the state into full compliance with the law or face litigation. The groups forwarded copies of the letter to the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) and Medicaid Agency.
Phoenix is preparing to sue the state to block a new law that would force Arizona cities and towns to hold elections in the fall in the same years as state general elections. City Council members who want to challenge the law say it infringes on the city’s authority to control its own affairs and govern based on its city charter. Some are also worried about the unintended consequences of the law, such as forcing sitting council members to serve at least a year longer than their elected terms to comply with the legislation. If Phoenix follows through with the suit, the League of Arizona Cities and Towns and other municipalities likely will add their support, league officials said. But not all council members agree with a legal challenge. Some question why the city should fight legislation aimed at increasing voter turnout and saving taxpayers money.
Bolstering the election’s division staff and considering the privatization of the State Capitol Police force are among recommendations in a report released Tuesday on making the secretary of state’s office more efficient. The 26-page report concluded an eight-month review of the secretary of state’s office by a 10-member committee chaired by former Republican U.S. Senate candidate Curtis Coleman. First-term GOP Secretary of State Mark Martin requested the report. “The committee was taking an almost a-political, almost antiseptic, business-oriented look at the structure,” Coleman said Tuesday. “The committee was looking for what … will help make the secretary of state’s function fundamentally more efficient. How can people get better government for less money?”
The Department of Justice on Tuesday followed through on warnings that it would sue Florida over the state’s plan to remove noncitizens from its voter rolls. The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Tallahassee, intensified a legal battle between the Obama administration and Republican leaders in Florida, a crucial swing state. Florida has asked county election officials to remove up to 2,600 voters who may be registered illegally. But the federal government’s suit says the state’s list is “outdated and inaccurate.”
Florida’s latest elections controversy began in the smallest of ways: a five-minute chat a year ago between Gov. Rick Scott and his top election official. At the time, about February 2011, the newly elected governor was touring the office run by then-Secretary of State Kurt Browning, who put on a presentation about Florida’s voting rolls and elections issues for the political newcomer. That’s when Scott — a Republican who campaigned as an immigration hardliner — asked a simple question: How do we know everyone on the rolls is a U.S. citizen? “I said it was an honor system,” Browning recalls. “That’s how it’s always been done.” “People don’t always tell the truth,” Browning recalled Scott saying. So Browning decided to find out how many noncitizens were actually on the rolls.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) said he will sue the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to move forward with his controversial attempt to purge the voter rolls in his state of ineligible voters. “I have a job to do to defend the right of legitimate voters,” Scott told Fox News on Monday. “We’ve been asking for the Department of Homeland Security’s database, SAVE, for months, and they haven’t given it to us. So this afternoon, we will be filing a lawsuit, the secretary of State of Florida, against the Department of Homeland Security to give us that database. We want to have fair, honest elections in our state and we have been put in a position that we have to sue the federal government to get this information.” Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner produced the lawsuit, filed in Washington, D.C. district court on Monday, shortly after, along with a statement. “For nearly a year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has failed to meet its legal obligation to provide us the information necessary to identify and remove ineligible voters from Florida’s voter rolls,” Detzner said. “We can’t let the federal government delay our efforts to uphold the integrity of Florida elections any longer. We’ve filed a lawsuit to ensure the law is carried out and we are able to meet our obligation to keep the voter rolls accurate and current.”
Wisconsin state GOP. Sen. Van Wanggaard asked elections officials Friday for a recount in his recall race, the outcome of which will decide the majority party in the state Senate. An official canvass this week showed the Racine Republican trailing his Democratic challenger by 834 votes, or 1.2 percent. Democrats had called on Wanggaard to concede, saying a recount would only delay their inevitable and waste taxpayer money. But Wanggaard’s campaign said it was concerned about possible reports of voting irregularities, and said it wanted to ensure the outcome was accurate.
Michigan: Democrats to GOP on election reforms: ‘You will be held accountable for this vote’ | MLive.com
Democrats say a package of election reform bills clearing the state House on Tuesday is aimed at suppressing the vote in November’s election. And Republican state Rep. Peter Lund said he doesn’t totally disagree. “Yes, we’re suppressing the dead vote. If someone is dead, they should not be voting,” said Lund, of Shelby Township, during heated debate on the floor.
Minnesota: Ramsey County elections official estimates photo ID cost per biennium at $1.7 million | Minnesota Public Radio
Elections officials in Ramsey County may consider an innovative response to a photo identification requirement if voters amend the constitution to require it this fall. Ramsey County elections manager Joe Mansky said the requirement could make voting difficult for thousands each year of county residents who change their addresses. Mansky told the county board Tuesday that they might want to consider providing IDs to voters at the polling places.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and lawmakers on Tuesday were nearing an agreement to simplify the much-criticized ballots used in the state’s elections. The new ballot would contain shorter instructions, without legal jargon, and would emphasize the names of candidates in clear, bold type. The proposed design, which was described by an official with direct knowledge of it, would also forbid more than two languages to be used on a ballot, allowing for larger and more legible text.
A state plan to allow motorists to register to vote electronically at the DMV — and eventually online — has triggered sharp push-back from local elections officials who fear it will make it harder to detect voter fraud. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration says those fears, which center largely on the use of digital signatures, are based on a fundamentally flawed understanding of how the process would work at state Department of Motor Vehicle sites. State and good-government groups contend the changes streamline the registration process and have been proved elsewhere as cheaper, more user-friendly and accurate. Despite the claims, elections officials in Albany County, which is to be a pilot site for the program expected to fully roll out next year, say they won’t accept the electronic registrations — even as the Cuomo administration argues that state law gives them no choice.
A combination of high voter turnout and redistricting changes contributed to often long lines at Minot’s four polling places Tuesday. Devra Smestad, Ward County auditor, said there was a learning curve that resulted in longer lines earlier in the day, particularly at the Maysa Arena voting site. Movement through the system went faster with the addition of more scanners and changes in the way election workers handled the flow, such as giving voting directions to groups of voters rather than each voter individually. “We are seeing where we need to improve and we see where things are going very well. We appreciate the people’s patience and we understand their frustration,” Smestad said.
South Carolina: Democrats call for runoff between Tinubu, Brittain in 7th Congressional District Primary | SCNOW
The South Carolina Election Commission may think Glora Bromell Tinubu avoided a runoff with Preston Brittain, but the state’s Democratic Party isn’t so sure and they may take legal action to correct what they say is a mistake. According to results from the election commission, Tinubu secured 52 percent of the vote in Tuesday night’s primary contest against the 32 year old Horry County attorney, who was well behind her with 39 percent; however, state Rep. Ted Vick still appeared on ballots across the state even though he dropped out of the race at the end of May following his arrest in Columbia and still garnered over 2,300 voters — 8 percent — but instead of counting those ballots the commission simply discarded them. With Vick’s votes included, Tinubu only had 49 percent of the vote to Brittain’s 36, which would trigger a runoff between the two on June 26.
The town of Webster, Texas, is rolling the dice on its newest city council member. Literally. After Diana Newland and Edward Lapeyre each won 111 votes in a runoff election Saturday and a recount confirmed the result yesterday, Texas election code forced the two to “cast lots.” A nearby pair of dice settled the matter: Newland rolled a five, while Lapeyre came up short with a four. “It seemed odd, but after discussing it [with Lapeyre], we were just ready to get it over with,” Newland said, adding that her opponent was gracious about his misfortune. “I could not have gone out and campaigned a third time, and we had already gotten people to come out twice, bless their hearts.”
In view of an expected ruling on the disenfranchisement law today, a number of political movements in Egypt have called for marches this morning to the Supreme Constitutional Court in Cairo suburb of Maadi. The SCC is anticipated to rule on the constitutionality of the Political Isolation Law, which would disqualify former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq from the presidential runoff election on 16 and 17 June if applied. The court would also consider the validity of the parliamentary polls. The April 6 Youth Movement has called on revolutionary groups and citizens to take part in a march demanding the application of the Political Isolation Law on all former regime members.
Nervous Greeks are withdrawing up to 800 million euros ($1.01 billion) a day and stocking up on canned food as they fear the country will be forced to leave the eurozone after this Sunday’s election. Greek citizens fear the ramifications of a return to the country’s previous currency, the drachma, if the radical left-wing party and strong election contender SYRIZA wins this weekend. Bankers said daily withdrawals from the major banks were hitting €500-€800 million ($631.8 million-$1.01 billion), Reuters reported. Meanwhile, retailers say consumers are stocking up on non-perishable foods like pasta and canned goods.
Papua New Guinea: Australian help for Papua New Guinea election ‘unprecedented’ | ABC Radio Australia
Australian officials say they are providing an unprecedented level of help to Papua New Guinea as it prepares for this month’s general election. PNG is now gearing up for its general election after a tumultuous year in politics, stemming from the long-running leadership dispute between Peter O’Neill and Sir Michael Somare over who is the legitimate prime minister. But preparing for the election is not a task the country can handle on its own.