Editorials: Easing the burden of voter registration | The Washington Post This month, Ferenc Gyurcsány, the former prime minister of Hungary, and three other members of his political party set up tents in front of the parliament building in Budapest and embarked on a week-long hunger strike. They ended it with a rally before thousands…
This month, Ferenc Gyurcsány, the former prime minister of Hungary, and three other members of his political party set up tents in front of the parliament building in Budapest and embarked on a week-long hunger strike. They ended it with a rally before thousands of their compatriots — all to protest a proposed law that requires Hungarians to register before voting in the upcoming election. Why so much passionate resistance to registering 15 days before the election? One ally of the protesters went so far as to say that they were doing it “to call the attention of the people to how the government is bringing down democracy.” Gyurcsány said that he believes “it is unacceptable that anyone who happens to decide two days before an election that he wants to vote cannot do so and take part in the election.”
Today is Election Day. And so is tomorrow. And the day after that. By the end of September, voters in 30 states will start casting early or absentee ballots in the presidential race — a fact that both poses challenges for the campaigns seeking to make their final pitches as well as raises the stakes between now and Nov. 6. Absentee ballots have been mailed out in key swing states like North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin and New Hampshire. In South Dakota and Idaho — firmly red states — early voting began Friday, and in-person early voting in the crucial swing state of Iowa begins this Thursday. “It’s no longer Election Day; it’s election two months,” said Pete Snyder, the Republican National Committee Victory chairman in Virginia.
National: Study says voter roll purges, citizenship proof demands, photo ID may affect 10 million Hispanics | The Washington Post
The combined effects of voter roll purges, demands for proof of citizenship and photo identification requirements in several states may hinder at least 10 million Hispanic citizens who seek to vote this fall, civil rights advocates warn in a new report. Hispanic voters are considered pivotal to the presidential election this November, and are being heavily courted by both Democratic incumbent Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. If they turn out in large numbers, Hispanics could sway the outcome in several swing states. In an analysis based on government data, civil rights group The Advancement Project identified legal barriers that could deter voter registration and participation among eligible Hispanics. In some of those states, the group’s researchers said, the number of voter-eligible Latino citizens potentially blocked by those barriers exceeds the margin of victory in the 2008 election.
Millions of Latinos may have a difficult time voting this year. New laws that require voters show proof of citizenship and photo identification at the polls — as well as recent voter roll purges — could hinder at least 10 million Hispanics in 23 states who try to cast a ballot in November. The number of Latinos eligible to vote who might be blocked from voting this year is equal to the margin of victory in a number of states, according to a new study by the Advancement Project, a civil rights group. Overall, 17 states have enacted laws that would require voters to present photo identification at the polls before casting a ballot. Propoents have said the laws are needed to combat voter fraud, but civil-rights activists have countered that the laws are a political ploy on behalf of Republicans to limit turnout from minority voters who traditionally favor Democrats.
They vowed to wage a war on voter fraud. But those officials are having a hard time finding much of an enemy to fight. State officials in key presidential battleground states, many of them Republican, have found only a tiny fraction of the illegal voters they initially suspected existed. Searches in Colorado and Florida have yielded numbers that amount to less than one-tenth of 1 percent of all registered voters in either state. Democrats say the searches waste time and, worse, could disenfranchise eligible voters who are swept up in the checks. “I find it offensive that I’m being required to do more than any other citizen to prove that I can vote,” said Samantha Meiring, 37, a Colorado voter and South African immigrant who became a U.S. citizen in 2010. Meiring was among 3,903 registered voters who received letters last month from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office questioning their right to vote.
California: Gov. Jerry Brown signs Election Day voter registration bill into law | San Jose Mercury News
Californians will be able to register to vote as late as Election Day, though not for a few years yet, under a bill signed Monday by Gov. Jerry Brown. The Golden State just last week implemented online voter registration, so as some states enact voter ID laws placing new strictures on voter access, California is heading in the opposite direction. AB 1436 by Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-West Hollywood, will let a Californian vote with a provisional ballot if he or she presents a properly completed registration form at his or her county elections office in the 14 days up to and including Election Day. This law won’t take effect until the Secretary of State certifies VoteCal, the new statewide voter database; that’s expected to happen in 2015. The deadline to register for this November’s election remains Monday, Oct. 22. Under the new law, a voter’s registration information must match data on file with the California Department of Motor Vehicles or the Social Security Administration; if not, the voter will be issued a unique identification number in order to confirm his or her eligibility before the ballot is counted. Fraud on such a form would be punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a $25,000 fine. The governor also signed bills Monday letting family members from the same household drop off each other’s vote-by-mail ballots at polling places, and letting county elections officials use information from credit-reporting.
Colorado: It’s no secret: Judge tosses ballot privacy lawsuit against Larimer County CO | The Coloradoan
A federal judge in Denver ruled Friday that the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee the right to a secret ballot. U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello dismissed a lawsuit brought by voting-rights activists with the Aspen-based Citizen Center that accused Colorado election officials including the Larimer County clerk’s office and Secretary of State Scott Gessler of managing voted ballots in a way that is traceable to individual voters. “Coloradans until today have believed they are entitled to a secret ballot,” said Citizen Center founder Marilyn Marks. “Now we’re being told we are mistaken.”
A federal judge in Jacksonville refused to halt Florida’s plan to cut the number of early voting days from 14 days to eight days. Judge Timothy Corrigan ruled Monday there was not enough proof to show that the change approved last year by the Florida Legislature would harm black Americans’ right to vote. U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., along with the Duval County Democratic Party and a civil rights group, challenged the law this summer in federal court. Their lawsuit contended the change was discriminatory because blacks voted early in higher percentages, especially during the 2008 election in which President Barack Obama carried Florida. They were especially critical of the new law because it eliminated early voting on the Sunday before Election Day when black churches would organize “souls to the polls” drives.
If you vote early in an election in Florida, it’s there for the world to see: The Legislature requires an online listing of everyone who voted early and when and where they voted. But if you vote by mail and request an absentee ballot, it’s a closely held secret, available to a few. The Legislature mandated that, too. As more people vote by mail, including one of every three people who voted in the Aug. 14 primary, candidates must spend more time and money seeking to influence those voters before they fill out their ballots.
A state push to bring felony charges against noncitizens who voted in recent Iowa elections could run into two key roadblocks: local prosecutors who do not want to pursue the cases and jurors who may find no criminal intent. The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation announced Thursday that three Council Bluffs residents — a husband and wife from Canada and a Mexican citizen living legally in the U.S. since 1986 — were arrested and charged with election misconduct for illegally voting. They were the first, and likely not the last, charges brought under an unusual two-year, $280,000 contract Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s office signed with the DCI to investigate voter fraud, his signature issue. But the push to prosecute legal residents who were ineligible to vote because they are not U.S. citizens may raise questions about selective enforcement and whether they had the intent to commit fraud. Police and prosecutors this year already declined to bring some similar cases discovered before the statewide effort started, citing a lack of intent, the cost associated with the cases and the harsh penalties they entail.
Strafford County Superior Court Judge John Lewis ruled Monday that out-of-state students have the right to vote in New Hampshire, a decision immediately criticized by top Republican legislators. “New Hampshire citizens have a right to elect individuals of their own choosing,” House Speaker William O’Brien said in a joint statement with Senate President Peter Bragdon. “Allowing non-residents into New Hampshire to dictate who will be our presidential choice, who shall be our governor, and who shall represent us in the Legislature takes away our voting rights.” He added: “Legislating otherwise from the bench to say there are two classes of voters — all of us who reside in New Hampshire, and those residents of other states who choose to vote here because we are a battleground state — is judicial activism of the worst sort. The Supreme Court needs to act quickly to restore the voting rights of New Hampshire’s citizens” The law — passed in June by a Senate override of Gov. John Lynch’s veto — required people to sign a form declaring New Hampshire as their domicile.
An overnight intruder smashed several windows and gained entry into Rep. Michael Grimm’s New Dorp headquarters over the weekend, possibly tampering with computers inside the office, authorities said. Grimm’s staff discovered the damage Sunday morning — two large chunks of cement and some smaller rocks had been hurled through three, 4×8-foot vertical windows, according to a campaign spokeswoman. They also believed that someone had deleted computer hard drives. The congressman and his campaign staff believe the vandalism was staged to cover up the computer tampering. On further inspection it was determined the intruder had caused a different type of damage — someone installed the Linux operating system on the office’s computers, Grimm told the Advance Sunday night, and in the process wiped the hard drives clean. “All of my polling data, all of the data from my IDs of voters, and a bunch of other campaign information. But fortunately we had everything backed up from literally hours before, so we don’t lose anything because we have backups,” Grimm said. He has no doubt his office was targeted, and called the incident cowardly.
The state of Pennsylvania’s ability to get every would-be voter a government-issued photo ID by Election Day will literally be on trial Tuesday. The hearing before Commonwealth Judge Robert Simpson comes after the state Supreme Court last week instructed him to block a new law requiring ID at the polls unless he determines “that there will be no voter disenfranchisement” arising from its implementation. Opponents of the law have said the state can’t possibly prove that case, as the law’s entire reason for existence is precisely to make it harder for the poor, members of minority groups, students, and the elderly to cast their ballots, and in that way suppress the Democratic vote. Republican backers of the law have said it was intended to fight voter fraud. But in-person voter fraud — the only kind voter ID would reduce — is almost nonexistent.
The Pennsylvania judge who last month upheld a law requiring voters to show photo identification is scheduled today to hear arguments over whether people will be able to comply before the general election in November. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Sept. 18 ordered Commonwealth Judge Richard E. Simpson to consider whether all eligible voters will be able to obtain acceptable ID if the law is upheld. Simpson ruled Aug. 15 that plaintiffs including the American Civil Liberties Union hadn’t proved the law would disenfranchise voters. The state high court asked Simpson to submit a supplemental opinion on the availability of alternate IDs by Oct. 2.
South Carolina: States’ voter ID laws are underlying issue in 2012 presidential race | The Washington Post
South Carolina is in federal court arguing that its new law requiring people prove their identity at the polls won’t make voting so tough that it reduces turnout of African-Americans, Hispanics and other minorities. A federal panel is to determine whether South Carolina’s voter identification law violates the Voting Rights Act by putting heavy burdens on minorities who don’t have the identification. Last December, the Justice Department refused to allow South Carolina to require the photo IDs, saying doing so would reverse the voting gains of the states’ minorities. Closing arguments in the case — which went to trial in August and included several state officials as witnesses — were scheduled for Monday. South Carolina has said it would implement the law immediately if the three-judge panel upholds it, although a decision either way is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Recognizing this year’s elections are just a few weeks away, a panel of three federal judges questioned on Monday whether South Carolina should wait until 2014 to put its voter identification law into effect. The judges raised the question as an attorney for South Carolina delivered closing arguments in the trial over whether the state’s law discriminates against minorities. Last December, the Justice Department refused to “preclear” — find it complies with the Voting Rights Act — the law so it could go into effect. A decision in the case is expected in early October.
A lawyer for South Carolia said on Monday there are plenty of reasons voters would be able to sidestep the state’s voter ID law if a panel of federal judges allows it to take effect this year, but laziness is not among them. While defending the state’s voting law during closing arguments in federal court here, attorney H. Christopher Bartolomucci said voters could offer any number of reasons for showing up to the polls without a government-issued photo ID. However, he added, those who simply say they “didn’t feel like” it will be turned away. South Carolina is among the states that must have changes to their voting laws cleared by either the Justice Department or a panel of judges in D.C. under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The state wants its voter ID law to go into effect for the November election.
Despite vocal mistrust of e-voting, 151 Flemish municipalities in Belgium will use new electronic voting machines in October 14 elections. More than 60 percent of the country’s Flemish citizens as well as voters in the Brussels region will choose their local and provincial leaders using a newly developed Linux-based e-voting system made by Venezuelan company Smartmatic. Belgium has been experimenting with e-voting systems since 1991 and is one of the few European countries that is still using a form of electronic voting. The Netherlands, for instance, banned the use of electronic voting machines in 2008 after a group of activists successfully demonstrated that both types of electronic voting machines then in use could be tampered with. The Federal Constitutional Court in Germany decided in 2009 to stop using electronic voting machines because results from the machines were not verifiable. There were some experiments with e-voting in the U.K., but bigger projects never got a foothold, said a Belgian government report detailing the history of e-voting in Europe. Meanwhile, while a wide variety of voting machines are used in the U.S. and about 20 percent of the population of Estonia votes via the Internet, Belgium is one of the few European countries that still invests in new e-voting technology.
Georgia (Sakartvelo): Georgian Election Commission Imposes Polling Station Filming Rules, Drops Initial Plan of Tough Restrictions | Civil.Ge
The Central Election Commission (CEC) has passed a decision introducing regulations for filming inside polling stations during the voting day imposing less restriction than initially proposed. The decision was passed by 13-member CEC shortly before the midnight on September 24. CEC members from the Conservative Party and Industrialists, both within the Georgian Dream coalition, voted against, citing that there was no need to introduce any regulations for making video recordings and taking photos inside polling stations on the election day. CEC members from ruling party, UNM, as well as Christian-Democratic Movement were among those who voted in favor; Labor Party representative was absent. Initial proposal was offering to give journalists and others, authorized to be present inside the precinct, only five minutes to film and take pictures of the voting inside polling station.
Widespread ballot-box stuffing and fraud likely occurred in the 2012 Russian presidential election that returned Vladimir Putin to the office, according to a new statistical model. The analysis, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also identifies Uganda as a site of widespread election tampering. There have been rumors of election fraud in Russia for the past several elections, and they reached a fever pitch this year. But election fraud is difficult to prove. Past approaches looked for examples of something called “Benford’s law,” which looks for regularities in the numbers reported in elections– like the presence of too many zeros because someone rigging the election prizes multiples of ten. But that approach has been difficult to apply, because it requires that analysts know just how many of each digit are likely to occur in the results of a fair election. The new model, created by a team of Austrian scientists, takes a much more rigorous statistical approach, but it relies on a relatively simple idea: If an election has areas that have extremely high voter turnout — close to 100% — where that turnout is mostly for one candidate, the fix is likely in.
The formation of party blocs, which proved efficient in the elections of 1999, may resume with the weakening of the United Russia position, Nezavisimaya Gazeta said on Monday. “The law on election blocs may become a part of Russian politics again in the next election cycle. The Presidential Administration is considering this initiative. The reason is the weakening position of United Russia,” the newspaper said. “The party rating is down, which leads to the downgrading of the national leaders,” it said. “The United Russia bureaucratic foundation is unchanged, and All-Russia People’s Front bound to back up the United Russia authority increasingly separates itself from the party.”
The former Soviet state of Georgia will hold fiercely contested parliamentary elections on Monday. For the first time since coming to power in 2004, President Mikheil Saakashvili’s fervently pro-Western government risks being ousted – by a billionaire tycoon, suspected of having close links to the Kremlin, who wants to re-establish relations with Russia. Two elderly women selling fruit at one of Tbilisi’s many outdoor markets shout loudly at each other, arguing about who should lead the country. A man carrying his shopping yells over his opinion as he walks past. This is political debate, Georgian-style. Apathy is certainly not a problem in these elections. Both sides regard this vote as an all-or-nothing fight for power. Most of the people standing behind the stalls here scrape by on a few dollars a day, selling fruit and vegetables. They see Georgia’s richest man – the billionaire opposition leader, Bidzina Ivanishvili, as their saviour – and the possibility of renewed trade links with Russia as an economic lifeline.