The man behind a company that got a big state contract to educate Pennsylvania voters on the commonwealth’s restrictive new voter ID law is a fundraiser for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Ads created by his company, a Republican lobbying group, encourage Pennsylvania residents to obtain state-issued photo identification so they don’t “miss out” on their right to vote. Republican lobbyist Chris Bravacos, who according to the Center For Responsive Politics has thus far bundled $30,000 for Romney’s campaign, is president and CEO of the Bravo Group, which received a $249,660 government contract from Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration for the ad campaign. Two ads the company created were posted online by the Bravo Group back in April (according to a Google cache) and taken down after Philadelphia City Paper’s Daniel Denvir published a story about the contract on Sunday. Occupy Harrisburg later reposted the two videos, one of which uses what looks like stock photos of a diverse cast of smiling individuals holding ID-sized cards that read “My Valid Pennsylvania Identification.” The campaign’s slogan? “Your right to vote: it’s one thing you never want to miss out on.”
National: Texas case puts voter ID laws to test | The Washington Post Voter ID laws face a high-profile test this week as the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC hears arguments about Texas’ controversial new regulations. The case pits Texas against Attorney General Eric Holder, who has earned the ire of Republicans across the country…
Voter ID laws face a high-profile test this week as the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC hears arguments about Texas’ controversial new regulations. The case pits Texas against Attorney General Eric Holder, who has earned the ire of Republicans across the country for challenging new voting restrictions. Republicans say the Justice Department should be more concerned about fraud; the DOJ counters that these laws suppress minority turnout. Gov. Rick Perry (R) signed Texas’ voter ID law in May 2011. The state already required an ID to vote; the new law requires a photo ID. Those who don’t have a valid photo ID can apply for a new “election identification certificate.” As a state with a history of voter discrimination, Texas must get preclearance from the Department of Justice for changes in election law. The DOJ blocked Texas’ law under Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, declaring that it would disproportionately affect Hispanic voters.
In my recent post about the new PA voter ID law, I noted that a very, very significant number of registered voters – up to 18% of all registered voters in Philadelphia (home to half of the state’s African-American population) – may not currently possess an identification card that will allow them to vote in November. Supporters of these laws argue that requiring people to get an ID is a small price to pay in order to prevent voter fraud. It seems worth figuring out what the actual supplemental cost of voting is for those who currently lack required ID. I therefore present may totally back-of-the-envelope calculation of the poll-tax assessed by PA’s voter ID law. I use the working assumption that time is worth 7.25/hour. This is a fiction if the preparation time does not actually displace paid labor, but does allow us to monetize the cost of voting to be allocated to ID acquisition. I assume that photocopies cost .15 per page and that all mailings can be done for .45 first class postage. I also assume that this is all occuring in Philadelphia County, where there is public transportation to help you get to one of the five DMV locations in the county. In other counties, a person without a driver may have to spend even more to get cab service. Of course, some people will be able to get a ride – but given gas prices (and the cost of parking in cities), it seems unlikely that the effective cost of such travel will be less than the SEPTA public transit fare of $2 each way. More elaborate details on my calculations appear at the bottom of the post. And yes: I recognize that some people miss work, school or other activities in order to vote. I assume, however, that this cost is borne by all voters.
At first glance, it seems appropriate to require voters to show photo ID cards. But stop and think: What sort of person is unlikely to have a driver license or similar card? Answer: the poor, young blacks, the aged, Hispanics, teens — all groups who tend to vote Democratic. That’s why Republican legislators across America are waging an all-out drive to clamp restrictions on voting. They claim they’re doing it to stop “vote fraud,” but that’s a smoke screen. In reality, the new laws amount to vote fraud themselves because they’re designed to block left-leaning people from the polls. The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University estimates that 5 million Americans could be prevented from voting this year because of GOP-passed state laws requiring picture IDs, halting election-day registration, curbing early and absentee balloting, etc.
Voting Blogs: Report on Anchorage Ballot Problems Highlights Importance of Turnout to Election Planning | Election Academy
Dan Hensley, an outside attorney hired to investigate Anchorage’s troubled April election delivered hisreport to the Anchorage City Assembly last week. The report highlights management issues in the municipal clerk’s office – including the clerk’s “hands off” style that led to inattention to election preparations by the deputy clerk – but Hensley found that the biggest problem contributing to the widespread ballot shortages on April 3 was the deputy clerk’s failure to anticipate voter turnout. In particular, he found that the combination of a mayoral election year and a controversial gay rights initiative should have alerted the deputy to the strong likelihood of a turnout above the levels experienced in 2010 and 2011. Moreover, he learned that other members of the staff had alerted the deputy to higher rates of absentee ballot requests – a key indicator of turnout – which she failed to take into account.
Arizona: GOP alternative to open primary initiative falls apart; Brewer lacks votes for special session | East Valley Tribune
Plans by Republicans to craft their own alternative to an open primary initiative blew apart late Friday as some party members balked. Matthew Benson, press aide to Gov. Jan Brewer, said his boss believes there is a key weakness in the proposal submitted Thursday to go on the November ballot: It would allow candidates to run for office without disclosing their party affiliation. Benson said letting people hide their true party affiliation would allow candidates to “game” the system. He said that could give a leg up to Democrats in heavily Republican areas like Mesa — and vice versa in Tucson — as many voters cast their ballots based largely on a candidate’s party. So Brewer was prepared to call a special session for this week to offer an alternative to the initiative, one that kept the essence of the “open primary” but with the disclosure requirement. But Sen. Frank Antenori, R-Tucson, said that was not the deal sought by many fellow GOP lawmakers. So they refused to go along, leaving the Brewer-preferred modification without the votes.
Gov. John Lynch let become law without his signature Friday a key change in the new requirement that voters will be asked for a photo ID at the polls this fall. The change means that those casting ballots who don’t have an ID will have to sign an affidavit under penalty of perjury that they are who they claim to be and that they live in the voting district. Legislative leaders passed this second bill, HB 1354, after Lynch had vetoed an earlier voter ID bill, SB 289, because that bill would have required those without an ID to answer many more questions on a different affidavit including about their past immigration status. Two weeks ago, the Republican-led Legislature passed the original voter ID law over Lynch’s veto.
Alarmed by the shifting vote tallies that have turned Charlie Rangel’s apparent reelection into a court battle, legislative leaders say they want to fix the way city votes are counted. The operation needs to be totally computerized, rather than having a bungle-prone process that requires the city Board of Elections to count paper ballots by hand, said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan). “That should definitely be something they do — just collect all the flash drives (from the voting machines) and bring them to [BOE] headquarters,” Silver said. “I don’t think you’ll change the outcomes as a result, but you’ll certainly know the results faster.”
Pennsylvania: Two groups file voter registration suit against Pennsylvania | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Two activist organizations today announced that they have sued three state agencies, saying they have failed to do their duty to offer voter registration forms to public assistance applicants. The Pittsburgh-based Black Political Empowerment Project and the Philadelphia-based group Pennsylvania Communities Organizing for Change filed the lawsuit in the Eastern District of U.S. District Court Thursday, according to a press release. The complaint names the secretaries of the Department of State, Department of Public Welfare and Department of Health as defendants, and seeks to force them to comply with the National Voter Registration Act.
The Associated Press reports Monday that new voter identification laws could block thousands of Americans from voting this fall. As part of its investigation, the AP examined voting in the 2008 general election in Indiana and Georgia, where it found more than 1,200 votes were thrown out. But the state that could be worst affected in 2012, a voters rights group tells Whispers, is the swing state of Pennsylvania. Last week, Pennsylvania officials released new data that estimated 750,000 voters who don’t have photo IDs could be impacted by new voter identification laws. Marcia F. Johnson-Blanco, co-director of the Voting Rights Project, said that number makes sense. And she notes that the groups most affected by the law will be Pennsylvania’s minorities and elderly–voters that most often for Democrats.
Wisconsin: Racine County Sheriff’s Office finishes investigation into Wisconsin recall election allegations, reports sent to DA | Journal Times
The Racine County Sheriff’s Office has finished its investigation into several June 5 recall election complaints. “All the reports have been turned over to the district attorney,” Racine County Sheriff’s Lt. Steven Sikora said Monday. The sheriff’s office also on Monday turned over its investigation into allegations that a Raymond town supervisor ripped up nomination papers pertaining to a separate Raymond recall, Sikora said. Sikora couldn’t say if the sheriff’s office is recommending charges for any election related complaints. “It’s now in the DA’s hands,” Sikora said. Following the June 5 recall elections, in which former state Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine, defeated state Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, multiple allegations of irregularities at the polls have come up.
Texas and the Justice Department began their federal court fight on Monday in a trial over Texas’ new voter ID law, which requires all voters to show a government-issued photo ID in order to vote. Back in March, the Justice Department blocked the law on the grounds that they felt it might discriminate against minority voters. As a result, Texas fired back with a lawsuit against Attorney General Eric Holder. At issue is a 2011 law passed by Texas’ GOP-dominated Legislature that requires voters to show photo identification when they head to the polls. The state argued Monday that the law represents the will of the people and does not run afoul of the Voting Rights Act, passed in 1965 to ensure minorities’ right to vote. The opening statements from both sides of the argument have set the stage for a legal battle over the federal Voting Rights Act.
The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) thinks that the electronic voting hides too many risks, said Mladen Chervenyakov, Chairperson of the BSP National Council, speaking at a press conference on Monday, organised to present socialists’ ideas for amendments to the Elections Code, FOCUS News Agency reporter informs. In Chervenyakov’s words, the Bulgarians are good hackers, adding that there were too high concerns that the online voting could be manipulated.
According to Wissam Sghaier, a member of the Libyan High National Elections Commission (HNEC), the final results of Libya’s General National Congress (GNC) elections in will begin to trickle in today. Given that the elections took place in 13 constituent districts across Libya, today’s results will be partial, and will not include all regions of the country.
Libya: Libyans vote in 1st nationwide election in decades but violence underscores challenges ahead | The Washington Post
Jubilant Libyans chose a new parliament Saturday in their first nationwide vote in decades, but violence and protests in the restive east underscored the challenges ahead as the oil-rich North African nation struggles to restore stability after last year’s ouster of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Women ululated, while men distributed sweets and the elderly with canes or wheelchairs struggled to get to polling centers in a show of joy over the most visible step toward democracy since the eccentric ruler was killed by rebel forces in late October after months of bitter civil war. “Look at the lines. Everyone came of his and her own free will. I knew this day would come and Gadhafi would not be there forever,” said Riyadh al-Alagy, a 50-year-old civil servant in Tripoli. “He left us a nation with a distorted mind, a police state with no institutions. We want to start from zero.”
The media rewrites history every day, and in so doing, it often impedes our understanding of the present. Mexico’s presidential election of a week ago is a case in point. Press reports tell us that Felipe Calderón, the outgoing president from the PAN (National Action party), “won the 2006 election by a narrow margin”. But this is not quite true, and without knowing what actually happened in 2006, it is perhaps more difficult to understand the widespread skepticism of the Mexican people toward the results of the current election. The official results show Institutional Revolutionary party (PRI) candidate Enrique Peña Nieto winning 38.2% of the vote, to 31.6% for Andrés Manuel López Obrador, of the party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and 25.4% for Josefina Vázquez Mota of the PAN. It does not help that the current election has been marred by widespread reports of vote-buying. From the Washington Post: “‘It was neither a clean nor fair election,’ said Eduardo Huchim of the Civic Alliance, a Mexican watchdog group funded by the United Nations Development Program. “‘This was bribery on a vast scale,’ said Huchim, a former [Federal Electoral Institute] official. ‘It was perhaps the biggest operation of vote-buying and coercion in the country’s history.'”