A Republican-backed plan to change the way certain states allocate electoral votes has fizzled as quickly as it sprung onto the national consciousness. The slate of upcoming 2014 governor’s races is a major reason why that happened. Last month, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus voiced some support for the effort to award electoral votes in a handful of battleground states by congressional district. Since many of those congressional districts lean Republican, the plan, if passed in several swing states, would give future GOP presidential nominees a leg up. But for the Republican governors in these states, endorsing the idea — which Democrats can easily cast as a partisan power grab — would carry immense political risk on the eve of reelection campaigns that already promise to be challenging. So, the governors have mostly distanced themselves from such proposals.
Editorials: If the court strikes Section 5 of Voting Rights Act | Richard Hasen/The Great Debate (Reuters)
We celebrated Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday last week in the shadow of a fight over the constitutionality of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court will soon hear arguments in Shelby County v. Holder, raising the question whether Section 5 of the act, which requires that states and localities with a history of racial discrimination in voting get permission from the federal government before making any changes in election procedures, is now unconstitutional. The smart money is on the court striking down the law as an improper exercise of congressional power, although Justice Anthony Kennedy or another justice could still surprise. If the court strikes Section 5, the big question is: What comes next? Reuters has invited a number of leading academics, who focus on voting rights and election law, to contribute to a forum on this question. In this introductory piece, I sketch out what may happen and what’s at stake. One possibility is that nothing happens after Section 5 falls and minority voters in covered jurisdictions lose their important bargaining chip. Then, expect to see more brazen partisan gerrymanders, cutbacks in early voting and imposition of tougher voting and registration rules in the formerly covered jurisdictions.
Requiring Arizonans to have their signatures notarized to get on the permanent early ballot list or to receive early ballots would help prevent voter fraud, a state lawmaker contends. “When you go into the polls, you show your ID,” said Rep. Carl Seel, R-Phoenix. “Every time you go into the polls, you show your ID. Well, if you’re going to vote by mail you’re not walking into the poll, so shouldn’t you have the same safeguards in place?” Seel said that the increase in people voting by mail prompted him to introduce HB 2350. “My bill is really almost a clean-up; that is, it stays consistent with that belief that anyone who votes truly should be authorized to vote,” he said.
Someone altered Fulton County voter records after last year’s presidential election, using a red pen to add names to tally sheets of voters using paper ballots and marking that their votes all counted. Who is responsible remains a mystery, but it happened after managers from at least two precincts had signed off on the documents and submitted them to the main county elections office. “I know for certain that these additional names were added after,” Rosalyn Murphy, who served in November as an assistant poll manager at Church of the Redeemer in Sandy Springs, told the State Election Board during a hearing Thursday focusing on the performance of the county’s elections office. “That doesn’t even look like our handwriting.”
Michigan: Clerk: No-reason absentee voting to become reality with governor’s support | Source Newspapers
After hearing Gov. Rick Snyder call on the Michigan Legislature to address the issue during his State of the State Address, Shelby Township Clerk Stanley Grot says he remains confident that it is “just a matter of time” until no-reason absentee voting becomes a reality. “Approximately two months ago, I called on Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and the Michigan Legislature to implement no-reason absentee voting in the state of Michigan,” Grot said in a statement. “Since then, I have spoken with Johnson, Macomb County Clerk Carmella Sabaugh, State Rep. Peter Lund and the office of Gov. Snyder. I have found that to some degree, everyone I spoke to believes no-reason absentee voting is common-sense government reform and should be implemented promptly.”
A Minnesota House committee is considering a bill that would allow significantly more people to vote by absentee ballot beginning in 2014. Under the measure, eligible voters could get an absentee ballot without stating a reason why they can’t vote in person at their neighborhood polling place on Election Day. Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, told members of the House Election Committee today that his no-excuse absentee voting bill would put Minnesota in line with 27 other states. Simon said the current absentee system is unenforceable.
Pennsylvania: Lawmakers Hear Stories of Philadelphia Election Day Chaos Caused by Voter ID Law | CBS Philly
A group of Pennsylvania legislators today heard testimony from watchdog groups and voters on the state’s new voter ID law and problems it may have caused at the polls on Election Day 2012. The Pennsylvania House Democratic Policy Committee heard testimony from a half-dozen voters and community groups, including the NAACP and the League of Women Voters. All who testified gave accounts of confusion at the polls about voter ID and the identification requirements for first-time voters. “For election administrators, the voter ID law pretty much was a nightmare,” Philadelphia city commissioner Stephanie Singer told the committee. “It was an unfunded mandate with extremely short deadlines.”
A measure aimed at providing consistency and fairness in election policy received a favorable recommendation Thursday from the House Government Operations Committee. HB85 would amend the state election code by changing the formula for determining when a voting recount may be requested by a losing candidate. Currently, a recount can be called for if a candidate loses by less than one vote per precinct. The proposed legislation, sponsored Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City, would change the recount criteria to 0.25 percent of total number of votes cast.
Arlington County police have decided not to charge Patrick Moran in connection with possible voter fraud, authorities announced Thursday. Arlington police and prosecutors initiated an investigation following an undercover video that was released in October showing Moran discussing possible voter fraud with an activist posing as a campaign worker. Authorities have closed their investigation, saying the person responsible for making the video was uncooperative. They also noted that Moran and the Jim Moran for Congress campaign provided “full cooperation.”
For the second General Assembly session in a row, the fight over voter identification is creating tension in Richmond. Though Democrats say ID’s caused few problems in the 2012 elections, Republicans say changes must still be made to protect voter integrity in the commonwealth. Two bills, on their way to the floors of the House and Senate, take last year’s approved list of ID and whittle it down. House Bill 1337 and Senate Bill 719 would remove “a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, or paycheck that shows the name and address of the voter” from the list of acceptable polling place identification.
GOP leaders in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — all blue states with Republican governors — have expressed interest in the electoral changes. But as Bloomberg columnist Albert Hunt writes, “If this sort of political coup had been pulled off earlier, instead of celebrations on the streets of Washington during last week’s presidential inauguration, there would have been violent protests.” Indeed. And African Americans may well have led the fight. This kind of disenfranchisement isn’t new to the black community, and its long, dark history has left too many scars to go unnoticed. Republicans were equally bold in their attempts to undermine minority votes ahead of the 2012 elections. Pennsylvania’s House Republican leader Mike Turzai declared that a voter-ID law would “help Mitt Romney win” — ostensibly by disenfranchising African Americans, college students and the elderly. In Ohio, a senior Republican official fought against extensions to voting hours, writing in an email that such a move would only serve the “urban — read African-American — voter turnout machine.”
The shooting of a presidential candidate threw Armenia’s election into disarray Friday, with the wounded victim saying he will call for a delay of the vote. Paruir Airikian, 63, was shot and wounded by an unidentified assailant outside his home in Yerevan, the Armenian capital, on Thursday just before midnight. Airikian said from the hospital after surgery Friday that he would initiate proceedings as allowed by the constitution to delay the vote for 15 days due to his condition, but not longer. He is one of eight candidates in the Feb. 18 race in this landlocked former Soviet republic and wasn’t expected to get more than 1 percent of the vote. But postponing the election could help opponents of President Serge Sarkisian, who was expected to easily win a second five-year term. Sarkisian said after visiting Airikian in the hospital that the perpetrators of the attack ‘‘obviously had an intention to influence the normal election process.’’
The two main political parties here have nominated candidates to contest the 30 seats in the February 21 general elections ahead of the official Nomination day on February 6. In the unprecedented move, not witnessed before in Caribbean politics, the main opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) led by former prime minister Owen Arthur marched to the Treasury Building on Thursday to pay the required US$125 per candidate. “This is a party that knows how to plan and to take charge of its affairs. And today, you have seen for the first time in the history of Barbados, a group of candidates constituting themselves as team which can become the next government of Barbados coming together in unison.
Iran: Make no mistake: This time Ali Khamenei is determined to put one of his own in charge | The Economist
The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is sure that the approaching election to replace President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose second term ends in June, will be free and fair. So sure, in fact, that he has forbidden discussion of it. This was the import of a speech he gave last month in the holy city of Qom. In the way of such speeches, it had the opposite effect to the one he wanted. There had been grumbles before Mr Khamenei’s intervention, mostly recalling the country’s last presidential poll, in 2009, which returned Mr Ahmadinejad in dubious circumstances at the expense of his reformist rivals. The supreme leader’s words were uttered on the same day that one of his clerical representatives, Ali Saeedi, bluntly called on the Revolutionary Guard to “engineer” the elections. The result, even in an increasingly authoritarian Iran, was uproar.
Pakistan: Counting continues: Army enters neighbourhoods, doesn’t make it to the door | The Express Tribune
After the opposition parties raised hue and cry over what they called was a botched verification of electoral rolls, the army was seen on Tuesday standing guard in some neighbourhoods. The election commission workers are completing the second phase of the voter verification process that began on January 10. Several political parties expressed, however, their reservations that the process was being carried out without the help of the army and Frontier Constabulary, which was against the Supreme Court orders. On Monday, the chief election commissioner, Fakhruddin G Ebrahim had assured the protesting parties that the army would be called in, but the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) – the media wing of the army – gave no confirmation.