A week ago I noted a new Republican push to gerrymander the electoral college to make it almost impossible for Democrats to win the presidency in 2016 and 2020, even if they match or exceed Barack Obama’s vote margin in 2012. Is something like that really possible? Yes, very possible. To review, here’s how it works. The US electoral college system is based on winner take all delegate allocation in all but two states. If you get just one more vote than the other candidate you get all the electoral votes. One way to change the system is go to proportional allocation. That would still give some advantage to the overall winner. But not much. The key to the Republican plan is to do this but only in Democratic leaning swing states — not in any of the states where Republicans win. That means you take away all the advantage Dems win by winning states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and so forth. But the Republican plan goes a step further.
On two major occasions – during his election night speech and second inaugural address – President Obama has highlighted the need for election reform. “By the way, we have to fix that,” he said on November 6 about the long lines at the polls in states like Florida. Shortly thereafter, the cause of election reform seemed to fall by the wayside, with more pressing events, such as the Sandy Hook shooting and the fiscal cliff, dominating the news. But Obama returned to the issue on January 21, saying “our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.” Now the question is whether the Obama administration and Congress will actually do something to fix the shameful way US elections are run. There are smart proposals in Congress to address the issue. The most comprehensive among them is the Voter Empowerment Act, reintroduced today by Democratic leaders in the House, including civil rights icon John Lewis, and Kirsten Gillibrand in Senate.
The perception that America’s electoral system is rife with voter fraud presents a challenge for elections officials, several secretaries of state said Thursday. “I think perception is a problem. You have to work aggressively to try to deal with perception irrespective of whether or not voter fraud occurs in any degree of significance,” Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller (D) said at a D.C. panel on modernizing the election process hosted by the Brennan Center on Thursday. Miller said his approach was to form an election integrity task force made up of a variety of local officials and law enforcement personnel. “What it has allowed us to do is say, look, this isn’t just one partisan official that’s burying these allegations under the rug, this is a multi-jurisdictional approach. If there were any evidence of it, we’d investigate it.”
It’s not too difficult to get an “I voted” sticker in Alaska. As long as you’re registered, you just have to show a piece of identification at the polls, like a driver’s license or a utility bill. Even if you don’t have ID, you can cast a questioned ballot if an election worker can vouch for you. But two bills lawmakers are considering this year could change that process, in very different ways. The first piece of legislation would create stricter rules for what qualifies as an acceptable ID. It would amend current statute so you would have to show a photo ID, or bring two non-photo IDs like a birth certificate or a government permit. Utility bills wouldn’t be enough anymore. And if you don’t have anything on you, you would now need two election workers to recognize you instead of just one.
Republicans in five states, notably Virginia, have discussed changing the way they award Electoral College votes in presidential races by apportioning them on each congressional district, rather than thestate’s popular vote. The reason: Republican Mitt Romney would have won the presidency despite losing the popular vote in states where the GOP controls the legislatures: Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida. But Florida, the largest swing state, won’t go along with changing the Electoral College if Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford has any say (and he has a major say).
Senate Republicans said Thursday they would introduce legislation requiring that Iowans present photo identification in order to vote. Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, said the law would protect the integrity of the voting system. Existing Iowa law doesn’t require voters to show photo identification. Although Democrats note Iowa has little history of voter fraud, Republicans argue the risk remains and identification should be required. … Democrats have opposed Schultz’s proposal and investigations. They argue Republicans are motivated by a desire to discourage voting by groups who typically favor Democrats, such as immigrants, low-income people and the elderly.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach says the voter identification requirements that debuted last year were a resounding success and legislators can move on to more changes, such as consolidating local and state elections. But House Democrats, led by freshman Rep. John Alcala, D-Topeka, say not so fast. Alcala, a former Topeka City Council member, said he is alarmed by a bill to move local spring elections to November and Kobach’s ideas to streamline the hefty ballots that would cause. “I have serious concerns about moving spring elections to the fall, and I also have concerns about switching to at-large elections,” Alcala said.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes’ proposal to make it easier for members of the military to vote has been hailed by legislators of both parties and even given the honorific designation as Senate Bill 1 for this year’s legislative session. But the proposal drew opposition Wednesday from groups that say a key provision allowing electronic voting from overseas makes votes vulnerable to fraud. “We agree with almost all of the recommendations,” Richard Beliles, chairman of Common Cause of Kentucky, said in a letter he delivered to Grimes’ office Wednesday. “However, we strongly recommend against allowing ballots to be cast online via email, efax, or through Internet portals.” The letter, also endorsed by an official of a California-based public interest group called Verified Voting Foundation, argues, “Online voting presents a direct threat to the integrity of elections in Kentucky because it is not sufficiently secure against fraud or malfunction. Cyber security experts with the Department of Homeland Security have publicly warned against Internet voting.”
State elections officials removed about 52,000 inactive voters from Louisiana’s voter rolls after November’s presidential election, according to new secretary of state office statistics. State Elections Commissioner Angie Rogers said election laws require the purge of voter registration rolls once every two years or so, to remove the names of people who have not voted in the past two federal elections or any state or local race during that time period. “They have never voted in any state or federal election,” Rogers said. “They are obviously not here or don’t want to vote.”
On January 23, voting rights advocates won a major legal victory on behalf of Louisiana’s public assistance agency clients, the state’s most vulnerable and most marginalized residents. In a 36-page ruling, following a trial in October 2012 in the United States District Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana, Judge Jane Triche Milazzo found that the state of Louisiana violated federal law by failing to offer an opportunity to register to vote to all applicants and recipients of food stamps, TANF, Medicaid, and WIC. The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) requires that voter registration be offered to all such individuals, whether they seek benefits in person, or by the internet, telephone, or mail.
With an eye toward preventing the governor from appointing a new lieutenant governor, the Missouri House passed a bill Wednesday that aims to clarify how some elected officials would be replaced if they leave office early. The chamber approved the bill, which would require that openings in most statewide offices be filled through special elections, in a 115-45 vote, making it the first major piece of legislation to successfully pass a chamber this session. In order to become law, the bill must also be approved by the Senate and signed by the governor. Though the legislation isn’t directly tied to Missouri’s 8th District Congressional vacancy and would not change how former U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson is replaced, the special election has motivated lawmakers to move quickly on the bill.
A bill meant to prevent another ballot-tossing election mess is heading to the South Carolina House. The Senate had a third reading Wednesday for legislation syncing the candidate filing process for incumbents and those seeking to be officeholders. It also allows those who don’t file properly to pay a fine and remain on the ballot, as long as they fix it before primaries. “We fixed it!” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin, R-Pickens, noting that the bill is designed to address only last year’s election debacle. “I tried to keep from wading into the weeds. We needed to respond and address what happened last year.”
South Carolina would turn running its elections back over to the elected Secretary of State under a bill that was sent to the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Making an elected official directly responsible for elections would give voters accountability on how they are conducted, said Rep. Alan Clemmons, one of the bill’s sponsors. But the director of the agency that currently runs elections said having a non-partisan commission oversee voting is better because it keeps politics out of one of the most important functions of the government. The bill passed a subcommittee Thursday and should be taken up by the Judiciary Committee next week. It is separate from legislation to overhaul how people file to run for office, which was prompted by 250 candidates being thrown off primary ballots last year.
Virginia: Group Working To End Electoral College Condemns GOP’s ‘Indefensible’ Virginia Scheme | TPM
FairVote, a non-partisan advocacy group, wants to radically transform the Electoral College through state legislation. So do Virginia Republicans pushing a scheme to reapportion their electoral votes by Congressional district. But the similarities end there as FairVote is condemning the Virginia bill as a partisan perversion of their own mission. FairVote executive director Rob Richie described the Virginia plan as “an incredibly unfair and indefensible proposal” to TPM and said he was drafting a message to supporters rallying against its passage. He testified against a similar proposal in Pennsylvania, whose lawmakers briefly considered splitting its electoral votes for the 2012 election before backing down amid a public outcry against the maneuver.
Sen. Richard L. Saslaw got wind Thursday that House Democrats might force a vote on a bill to redraw Senate lines across the state, so he dashed from his chamber to make sure that didn’t happen. Republicans had rammed the measure through the Senate on Monday in a sneak attack that Saslaw had compared to Pearl Harbor. And ever since, the Senate Democratic leader from Fairfax has been quietly pressing House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) to do away with it, according to legislators and Capitol staffers. Even though they were in close contact, Saslaw was not sure where Howell stood on the bill, which the speaker could kill with a procedural move. And with good reason.
Hamas on Thursday invited the Palestinian electoral commission chief to come to Gaza to discuss restarting voter registration, in a key step towards Palestinian reconciliation. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya “called Central Elections Commission chief Hanna Nasser and invited him to Gaza for talks about voter registration,” a statement said. Hamas and the rival Fatah movement have been taking tentative steps to restart long-stalled reconciliation efforts, seeking to implement an agreement signed in Cairo in 2011 that was intended to lead to new elections.
In March, elections to the City of London Corporation take place. They could be used to challenge the unaccountable power wielded by this state-within-a-state. On the 21st March the City of London Corporation will hold elections for its ‘Common Council’, the democratic component in its ancient system of local government. To understand why elections to this small, historic local authority matter it is necessary to appreciate the role that the Corporation plays in the life of the United Kingdom. For, as understanding of the importance of the Corporation grows, so does the case for using the 2013 elections to campaign for its reform.
Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has added his voice to the possibility of an election being held this year after Zimbabwe’s political parties agreed on a final draft constitution that will be put to a referendum. In an interview with Bloomberg TV, Tsvangirai said the constitution had always been a significant step towards a referendum and an election. “What has now happened is that all the issues have been resolved. We believe that we can have this constitution drafted by the drafters next week, and hopefully after that we can set the date for the referendum,” Tsvangirai said.