The motorcade for President Obama’s Inaugural Parade on Monday will feature a shout-out to Washington, D.C., voting rights advocates. D.C. Councilwoman Mary Cheh’s office confirmed to ABC News that Obama plans to equip his limos with license plates reading “Taxation Without Representation,” a reference to D.C.’s lack of a proxy in the House of Representatives and the Senate. “President Obama has lived in the District now for four years, and has seen first-hand how patently unfair it is for working families in D.C. to work hard, raise children and pay taxes, without having a vote in Congress,” White House spokesman Keith Maley said in a statement.
The national battle over voter ID laws that roiled the presidential campaign for a time then fizzled before Election Day is set to rage again in 2013. This year promises a flurry of new voter ID legislation across the country as well as reignited court battles in states where the laws were blocked last year and a Supreme Court ruling on part of the Voting Rights Act. All of the activity will bring the debate — which pits conservatives targeting potential election fraud against voting-rights groups convinced the laws are really about disenfranchising low-propensity liberal voters — to the forefront again. “There are a number of states where there’s clearly active legislative attempts to make their voter ID laws more restrictive,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, which has been involved in court challenges to a handful of the voter ID laws around the country. “This is not an issue that has gone away.”
There were numerous reports of multihour long lines in the November 2012 Presidential Election in many states across the country. This problem was mentioned by President Obama in his acceptance speech. Long lines disenfranchise people who cannot wait and have to leave, for example, because of health issues, because they need to get to a job, because they have child care responsibilities. These are often poor people who don’t have a lot of control over their lives. Efficient elections are fundamental to democracy and not just “nice to have.” Lines form when there are too many people for the available voting means. The question is how to quantify this phenomenon and get the right amount of equipment for the expected number of voters, including the possibility that there may be uneven voter arrivals and surges that put even more pressure on the voting system.
Questions continue to swirl around activists’ complaints regarding irregularities in the Boulder County election process, and while the secretary of state has largely brushed aside the concerns, a local elections official says the clerk and recorder’s office will take them seriously. Boulder Weekly reported in early September that there was evidence that ballots could be traced back to individual voters, and election concerns have snowballed ever since. But in a Dec. 31 letter accepting the county’s vote totals, Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert dismissed most of the allegations outlined in a Nov. 26 report written by the majority of the local canvass board, which declined to certify the results of the election.
In the way of higher-than-usual turnout for November’s election, advocates say even more people would have turned out if registering to vote were easier. Voting is an essential American right, but to exercise it, Americans have to sign up. The process takes a couple of minutes, but in Florida, hundreds of thousands of people haven’t registered. That would change under a new Democratic bill, which says anyone who is eligible to vote and has a driver’s license would be automatically registered.
Hoping to avert future voting meltdowns, Florida election supervisors will urge the Legislature to restore up to 14 days of early voting and expand voting locations. They also want lawmakers to limit legislatively backed constitutional amendments to 75 words on the ballot, a requirement for citizen amendments. Lawmakers’ insistence on publishing the full text of several ballot questions, totaling more than 3,000 words, contributed to the longest ballot in Florida history and was a big factor in bottlenecks at the polls last fall.
It’s the start of what’s set to take a few weeks, but the Guam Election Commission started the official recount of over 11,000 ballots as part of the audit of the 2010 general election. Sealed away for over two years, the GEC officially began the handcount of an estimated thousands of ballots as part of the audit of the 2010 general election. “So we will count one precinct at a time so today at 9:30am we started with precinct 10 from Yona,” noted executive director Maria Pangelinan. As part of the election reform mandate to conduct an audit of the 2010 general election, the commission decided to handcount a small sample of ballots from 5 different precincts – Precinct 10 in Yona, 14 from Mongmong-Toto-Maite, 15b and 15c from Barrigada, and 19b from Yigo.
Illinois: State election board sued over late ballots for overseas military in 2nd District race | Chicago Sun-Times
The U.S. Department of Justice is suing the Illinois State Board of Elections, saying it hasn’t allowed enough time for military personnel serving overseas to know who they can vote for in the special election to replace U.S. Rep Jesse Jackson. By law, overseas U.S. voters were supposed to receive by Saturday absentee ballots that include the names of all qualified candidates’ for the Second Congressional District primary, the federal lawsuit filed late Thursday says. But snafus mean they aren’t likely to receive the full printed ballots for at least another two weeks, it’s alleged.
So long, spoilers.That’s the message two Yarmouth legislators hope to send with legislation aimed at eliminating the chances of electing statewide candidates with less than a majority vote. Freshman Rep. Janice Cooper, D-Yarmouth, and veteran legislator Sen. Dick Woodbury, U-Yarmouth, have submitted draft legislation for ranked-choice voting to the Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee. “Today, there are more third-party and unenrolled candidates, and the current system doesn’t work well when there’s a broader range,” Woodbury said. “I think that it tends to give an advantage to candidates that are more at the party extremes, and are less moderate, which can lead to candidates winning with less than 50 percent of the support from voters.”
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk put his name on a bill that would make it tougher for lawmakers to put constitutional amendments on the ballot in Minnesota. The Iron Range Democrat decried the “sign wars” that marked an extraordinary election year in 2012, when voters in Minnesota were asked to decide two constitutional questions. “Minnesotans shouldn’t ever have to live through something like that again,” Bakk complained. His bill would require support from three-fifths of the members in both chambers of the legislature to approve a proposed constitutional amendment.
A state political official wants New York added to the list of states that participate in early voting. Under legislation submitted by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and co-sponsored by Assemblyman Michael Cusick, voters would be able to cast ballots at designated locations starting 14 days before a general election and seven days before a primary or special election. Under the legislation, the boards of elections for each county and New York City would have to designate at least five polling places for early voting from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the advance periods, including Saturdays and Sundays, which would be counted at the close of the polls on Election Day and included in that night’s tallies.
Pat McCrory and Republican legislative leaders pledged that if elected, they would undo vetoes from Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue that GOP legislators could not override because they lacked enough votes. At the top of the list was the 2011 bill requiring voters to show photo identification to cast ballots in person. “If we require an ID to get Sudafed … then I think an ID is good enough for the voting box in North Carolina,” McCrory said in October, referring to a law requiring purchasers of certain cold medicines to show photo ID. Fulfilling their pledge is nearly certain because McCrory was elected governor and Republicans expanded their House and Senate majorities. “I expect a voter ID bill to be passed in the very near future and I will sign that bill,” McCrory said this past week. But getting a bill to McCrory won’t be simple, with some lawmakers insistent on a tough photo ID measure and others comfortable with some non-photo documents. And while 11 states required voters to show some form of photo identification in November, photo ID laws in six other states were in legal limbo for 2012, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
South Carolina: Richland County Elections Attorney presents possible solutions to fix voting process | MidlandsConnect.com
Richland County Elections Attorney Steve Hamm and his team have been working to resolve the issues that caused problems for Richland County voters; many stood in line for hours to cast their ballot on November 6. It also took officials weeks to certify the results. Hamm addressed the Richland County Elections Board Wednesday afternoon providing board members with a detailed report about what went wrong on election day.
State Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, started the 83rd legislative session with one issue in mind: voter identification laws. Johnson filed five bills Thursday, his first legislation of the new session, aiming to both increase voter participation and strike down a bill requiring voters to show photo IDs at the polls. Senate Bill 14, the voter ID law, passed in 2011, requires voters to present a government-issued photo ID to cast their ballot, but the law has yet to be implemented. It was rejected by both the U.S. Department of Justice and a federal three-judge panel in 2012. The rulings said that Texas did not prove that the measure did not discriminate against minorities.
What’s wrong with this picture: Democrats leaping to their feet to give Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell a standing ovation. The ACLU praising him. Tough-on-crime GOP legislators denouncing perhaps the most significant criminal justice initiative of the final year of his term. Welcome to Virginia’s version of Bizarro World _ the 2013 General Assembly. McDonnell opened the session by advocating legislation that would allow nonviolent felons to regain their civil rights, including the right to vote, once they finish their sentences. By doing so, he co-opted a perennial Democratic issue and clashed with conservative Republicans bent on preserving their law-and-order credentials in an election year.
Citing the long lines to vote on Election Day last November, House of Delegates Democrats said Thursday that they’ll push for legislation to extend voting hours and allow early voting. Democrats said the state should be making it easier for people to vote, and that last November’s long lines and occasional equipment glitches show it’s time for Virginia to change how it does elections. Del. Onzlee Ware, D-Roanoke, said Virginia’s voting system is “archaic” and restricts voting access for some voters. He’s proposing a bill to allow early voting for any reason, at specified places and times set up by election officials. Currently Virginia allows voters to vote early by absentee ballot, but you have to have a reason to do so (such as planning to be out of town on election day).
Czech Republic: Ex-prime minister, foreign minister advance to presidential runoff | The Washington Post
A former leftist prime minister and the Czech Republic’s conservative foreign minister will face each other in a presidential runoff later this month after finishing Saturday as the top two candidates in the ballot’s first round. Ex-Premier Milos Zeman and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg will compete in the second round of voting for the largely ceremonial post on Jan. 25-26. Czechs are electing the country’s president in a direct popular vote for the first time, to replace euroskeptic President Vaclav Klaus, whose second and final term ends March 7. Since Czechoslovakia officially split into Slovakia and the Czech Republic in 1993, the republic has had two presidents elected by Parliament: Vaclav Havel and Klaus. But bickering during those votes led the legislature to give that decision to the general public.
Elections to pick Iran’s next president are still five months away, but that’s not too early for some warning shots by the country’s leadership. The message to anyone questioning the openness of the June vote: Keep quiet. A high-level campaign — including blunt remarks by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — seeks to muzzle any open dissent over the process to select the successor for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and likely usher in a new president with a far tamer political persona. Public denunciations are nothing new against anyone straying from Iran’s official script. But the unusually early pre-emptive salvos appears to reflect worries that the election campaign could offer room for rising criticism and complaints over Iran’s myriad challenges, including an economy sputtering under Western-led sanctions, double-digit inflation and a national currency whose value has nosedived.