The run-up to the 2012 elections was one of court battles and legislative jockeying over Republican-backed voter ID and elections laws that critics called bald-faced attempts to suppress turnout and disenfranchise Democratic voters. Now with 2013 legislative sessions getting under way, those fights show no signs of slowing. Lawmakers in as many as a dozen states are considering new or tougher voter ID laws this year, many of which are expected to become law despite criticism similar moves received in 2012. Indeed, it already seems likely more states will have stricter elections administration schemes come 2014 than there were just last year.
An investigation into how Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler uses his discretionary fund, prompted by travel to political events, won’t move forward because lawmakers deadlocked Tuesday on whether to proceed. Democrats have criticized Gessler for getting reimbursed $1,570 for travel to the Republican National Convention and a GOP election law training event in Florida, saying it was improper use of public funds. But they failed to get Republican support for a legislative investigation to advance, and their request failed on a 4-4 vote in the legislative audit committee. Democrats wanted state auditor to look at all expenses from Gessler’s discretionary fund since he took office in January 2011. It was a matter of maintaining the public trust, Democrats said. “It lowers the public trust of public elected officials when discretionary funds are used for political purposes,” said Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Thornton, one of the lawmakers requesting an audit.
County elections supervisors may have to wait another week before they find out how the state’s top election official viewed their handling of the 2012 election. The anticipated findings and recommendations that will be the product of a review by officials from the Division of Elections, including a tour by Secretary of State Ken Detzner of the county supervisor offices deemed the most troubled, may not be ready until after Detzner’s Feb. 1 deadline, a spokesman for Detzner stated. “It is not completed yet, but I think it’s likely to be finished by sometime next week,” Detzner’s spokesman, Chris Cate, replied in an email on Monday. Detzner’s report, called for by Gov. Rick Scott, is also expected to focus on changes that need to be made, particularly at the Central and South Florida counties, where much of the media attention was focused on long, slow lines and delayed results.
The state Elections Commission announced Friday that Chief Election Officer Scott Nago will keep his job and face no discipline after ballot shortages that affected 17 percent of Oahu’s polling places during the Nov. 6 election. Commissioners emerged from an hour and a half closed-door executive session at midday Friday and said would retain his job, in spite of calls by some people for him to be fired. “We felt there was a series of mistakes certainly, but none of them rose to the level where he would be dismissed because of those. And there’s some things that have to be fixed. And they will be,” said William Marston, chairman of the commission.
Minnesota lawmakers are weighing election reforms that would make it easier for people to cast a ballot before Election Day arrives. Minnesota in 2012 once again topped the nation with the highest voter turnout percentage, but in some precincts long lines stretched throughout the day because poll workers and equipment were overwhelmed. “One certain way of dealing with the line issue is to have either early voting or no-excuse absentee voting,” Joe Mansky, the longtime Ramsey County elections director told KARE.
Senate Bill 357 would get rid of electronic voting machines by the end of 2015, and its proposal caught Tippecanoe County Clerk Christa Coffey’s eye and her ire. All of those relatively new and expensive electronic voting machines Tippecanoe County taxpayers bought to avoid an incident similar to Florida’s 2000 presidential election would have to be scrapped under the bill, Coffey said. “I have concerns to the cost to change all our equipment to comply with that legislation,” Coffey said. … The bill’s author, state Sen. Mike Delph, said the bill isn’t going anywhere. Its sole purpose was to stir up a debate about electronic voting machines and election integrity. “I’m concerned that election outcomes could be manipulated,” Delph said Thursday afternoon during a telephone interview.
Mississippi’s top elections official said Tuesday that he has given the federal government proposed rules for how the state intends to carry out a voter identification law that is in limbo. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s submission to the U.S. Justice Department is part of the state’s process of seeking federal approval of the law that would require every voter to show a driver’s license or other photo ID at the polls. The law can’t take effect without clearance from the Justice Department or a federal court. It’s unclear when, or how, the department will respond. Hosemann started seeking approval several months ago.
Missouri: Photo ID Bill in Missouri? Controversial Proposal Sparks Voter Suppression Criticism | Riverfront Times
Should Missouri residents be required to show photo identification if they want to vote in elections? Yes indeed, says Representative Tony Dugger, a Republican from Hartville, who is pushing not one, but two different measures to try and create stricter requirements for voters in Missouri. The effort requires two bills, because Dugger would need to change the state constitution. And next general election, voters might have that opportunity. The proposals, on full view below and set for a hearing tomorrow, are already sparking controversy with opponents slamming the bills as clear conservative tactics to suppress legitimate voters.
Secretary of State Ross Miller said Tuesday the cost of his proposal to include photos of voters in election poll books used at polling places to prevent fraud is $787,200, far less than originally estimated. The original estimate was between $5 million and $10 million, but that was based only on a similar proposal discussed in Minnesota. “Less than $800,000 is a small price to pay to enhance and modernize our existing system,” Miller said. “When we have the opportunity to increase access to our polling locations and further strengthen the security of our system, without disenfranchising any voters, we should do so. With 1.3 million active registered voters in Nevada, upgrading the system would only cost 60 cents per voter.”
Ohio: Secretary of State Jon Husted and other Republicans say Electoral College changes not in store for Ohio | cleveland.com
Count Ohio’s Republican leaders out of a GOP-backed effort to end the Electoral College’s winner-take-all format in the Buckeye State and other presidential battlegrounds. Spokesmen for Gov. John Kasich, State Senate President Keith Faber and House Speaker William G. Batchelder told The Plain Dealer this week that they are not pursuing plans to award electoral votes proportionally by congressional district. Batchelder went a step further, saying through his communications director that he “is not supportive of such a move.” And Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, the state’s chief elections administrator, emphasized that he does not favor the plan either, despite Democratic suspicions based on reported comments that he said were taken out of context. “Nobody in Ohio is advocating this,” Husted said in a telephone interview.
The Virginia Senate moved Monday to ease restrictions for presidential candidates to get on the ballot after a handful of Republican hopefuls failed to qualify for the state’s GOP primary last year. Presidential candidates need 10,000 petition signatures, including 400 from each congressional district, to make Virginia’s presidential primary ballot, some of the toughest standards in the country. Under a bill now headed to the House, candidates would need only 5,000 signatures. The bill, which passed 23-17, was backed by Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who criticized the current system after former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas were the only two candidates to qualify for Virginia’s Republican primary last year. Texas Gov. Rick Perry handed in only about 6,000 signatures, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich fell shy of 10,000. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann didn’t hand in any petitions.
Over half a million ballot papers for next month’s presidential elections will have to be reprinted after the existing ones were ruled invalid as they feature the unauthorised logo of Guinness World Records. Some 575,000 ballots will now have to be binned, with the cost of a printing new ones estimated at €40,000. According to sources at the ministry, an anonymous call was made asking whether candidate Andreas Efstratiou’s use of the Guinness logo on the presidential election ballot papers was legal. The ministry emailed the company early yesterday morning to ask for clearance to use the logo on ballot papers but was informed that Efstratiou had been told in 2011 not to use the logo again after using it in the 2008 presidential elections. As a Guinness World Record holder, Efstratiou can use the logo in certain circumstances but not on ballot papers, according to the company. However Efstratiou has refuted this.
This Saturday’s election saw the victory of former PM Milos Zeman over current Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. The duel between a decried populist and an old-school aristocrat revealed a division previously unseen in modern Czech society. A few days before the first round of the presidential election, Charles University sociologist Martin C. Putna described the vote as an historic event in which the Czechs are “subconsciously electing their king”. Putna claimed that this inadvertent royal tradition rests on two factors. The first is the presidential residence – Prague Castle located in the heart of the capital and situated on a minor hill overlooking the city – which has been the seat of Czech monarchs since the ninth century. The second factor is the Czech Crown Jewels, stored in the St. Vitus Cathedral inside the Prague Castle complex, the fourth oldest coronation vestments in Europe. Both the Prague Castle and the Crown Jewels are among the major symbols of contemporary Czech sovereignty, nationalism and statehood even though they are intrinsically linked to a regal tradition.
Three main opposition parties in Djibouti — the Republican Alliance for Development, the Djibouti Party for Development and the National Democratic Party — are preparing to take part in next month’s legislative elections under the banner of a new political bloc known as the Holy Union for Change (USC). “After intensive discussions, the opposition bloc, which has been joined by movements and independent figures, has formed a coalition to bring a 10-year political boycott to an end,” a USC statement said last month. The ruling coalition, Union for a Presidential Majority (UMP), which has been in power for a decade, included the People’s Rally for Progress, the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy, the Union of Reform Partisans and the Social Democratic Party.
The election watchdog is delivering its finding on the Scottish government’s independence referendum question. The Electoral Commission has spent the last few months assessing the SNP government’s preferred wording on the ballot paper in autumn 2014. It wants to ask voters the yes/no question: “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?” Final approval of the referendum arrangements rests with the Scottish Parliament. Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond previously described his government’s question as “short, straightforward and clear”, but critics say the wording is biased. There has been speculation the Electoral Commission may reword the ballot paper, inviting voters to record “I agree” or “I disagree” to a general statement about independence.
An Armenian presidential candidate from the Union for National Self-Determination party has been shot and wounded in the center of Yerevan, the country’s capital. The attempt on Paruyr Hayrikyan’s life may delay the election. Following the incident, the 64 year-old Hayrikyan was rushed to the Saint Gregory the Illuminator medical center with two gunshot wounds, in the shoulder and in the chest. The chest wound is considered serious, but not immediately life-threatening, medics said. Hayrikyan is conscious but has not yet been operated on. A number of high-profile figures visited the politician in his ward, including Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan, Yerevan Police Chief Vladimir Gasparyan and Speaker of Parliament Hovik Abrahamyan. Abrahamyan told the press that the presidential elections may be delayed because of the attempted assassination.