National: U.S. Election Assistance Commission and NIST trumpet innovation in voting technology | California Forward

Last week, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission hosted a Future of Voting Systems Symposium. The three-day meeting outside of Washington, DC was designed to look at the latest developments in the field of voting technology and assess how such developments mesh with the current federal structure for testing and certification. The takeaway from the meeting was sobering and exciting; while it is increasingly clear that existing testing and certification requirements aren’t working, there is a burst of creativity underway by election officials, technologists and other stakeholders in the effort to design a different and better approach.

National: New battle over voter ID in the South | Facing South

It’s like 2011 all over again. It was two years ago that, after Republicans claimed big gains in state legislatures across the South and country in the 2010 mid-terms, lawmakers made a national push for changes to voting laws, with one of the most controversial being restrictive bills requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls. Now, with the 2012 elections behind them, state GOP leaders have again pledged to make voter photo ID a priority this year. But has the debate — and public sentiment about voter restrictions — changed this time? States leading the push in 2013 include Arkansas, where Republicans won over the state legislature in 2012 and a House panel advanced a voter ID bill this week, and North Carolina, where a Democratic governor’s veto staved off an ID bill in 2012, but newly elected GOP Gov. Pat McCrory has signaled he’ll support a looming measure.

National: In Supreme Court Debate on Voting Rights Act, a Dubious Use of Statistics | Nate Silver/

In oral arguments before the Supreme Court last week, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. introduced a statistical claim that he took to imply that an important provision of the Voting Rights Act has become outmoded. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which is being challenged by Shelby County, Ala., in the case before the court, requires that certain states, counties and townships with a history of racial discrimination get approval (or “pre-clearance”) from the Department of Justice before making changes to their voting laws. But Chief Justice Roberts said that Mississippi, which is covered by Section 5, has the best ratio of African-American to white turnout, while Massachusetts, which is not covered, has the worst, he said. Chief Justice Roberts’s statistics appear to come from data compiled in 2004 by the Census Bureau, which polls Americans about their voting behavior as part of its Current Population Survey. In 2004, according to the Census Bureau’s survey, the turnout rate among white voting-aged citizens was 60.2 percent in Mississippi, while the turnout rate among African-Americans was higher, 66.8 percent. In Massachusetts, conversely, the Census Bureau reported the white turnout rate at 72.0 percent but the black turnout rate at just 46.5 percent.

Editorials: Supreme Court: Uphold the Voting Rights Act! | Ari Berman/The Nation

On Sunday, March 3, Representative John Lewis locked arms with Luci Baines Johnson and Vice President Joe Biden and marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge here. Forty-eight years earlier, on “Bloody Sunday,” Lewis was badly beaten by Alabama state troopers at the foot of the bridge while attempting to march from Selma to Montgomery in support of voting rights. Eight days later, Luci’s father introduced the Voting Rights Act before a joint session of Congress. “When Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965,” Lewis said, “he helped free and liberate all of us.”  At the time of Bloody Sunday, only 393 of the 15,000 black voting-age residents of Selma’s Dallas County were registered to vote. Today Selma has a black mayor, a black congresswoman and six black city council members. Since 2000, Lewis has led a congressional pilgrimage to Selma for every anniversary of Bloody Sunday, paying homage to how the VRA transformed American democracy. This year’s march had special significance.

Editorials: Scalia scorns vote protections | Verna Williams /

On my constitutional law exam this year, I invited students to comment on a quote from a scholar – Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. What he said is worth considering in light of his gasp-inducing comment during the argument in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 case, Shelby County v. Holder: “Originalism seems to me more compatible with the nature and purpose of a Constitution in a democratic system. A democratic society does not, by and large, need constitutional guarantees to insure that its laws will reflect ‘current values.’ Elections take care of that quite well. The purpose of constitutional guarantees (especially those guaranteeing individual rights) is precisely to prevent the law from reflecting certain changes in original values that the society adopting the Constitution thinks fundamentally undesirable. Or, more precisely, to require the society to devote to the subject the long and hard consideration required for a constitutional amendment before those particular values can be cast aside.” This is Justice Scalia in his element. Originalism as protector of constitutional values against the vagaries of electoral politics. Requiring us to think “long and hard” before casting aside those foundational notions. And yet.

Editorials: The Voting Rights Act Isn’t a Racial Entitlement | Politic365

“Come, listen, all you girls and boys, I’m just from Tuckahoe; I’m going to sing a little song, My name’s Jim Crow.” These are the two opening lines to a song entitled “Jump Jim Crow” made famous by a prominent minstrel actor named Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice in 1828. When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made his derogatory, insensitive comments last Wednesday about Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act from his bench, this was the first thing that popped up in my mind. What Justice Scalia and his fellow justices may need is a history lesson on why Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was put there in the first place and why it must remain there. Scalia is known for hurling verbal bombs from his seat in the chamber, but last Wednesday he crossed the line. Under Section 5, parts of the country with histories of discriminatory election practices have to ask for preclearance from the Justice Department before making any changes to their voting rules. Scalia declared, “I think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement. It’s been written about. Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.”

Editorials: Voting Rights Act still needed | South Florida Sun-Sentinel

A case before the U.S. Supreme Court once again asks the justices to change the Voting Rights Act of 1965, arguably one of the nation’s most effective civil-rights laws. Since its inception, the number of blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans in the political process has grown almost to the point of parity with white voters. Such progress was cited last week when attorneys representing Shelby County, Ala., asked the justices to strike down a key provision in the law because they believe it has served its purpose. Granted, a lot has changed since blacks in the South were denied the right to vote due to rigid laws and societal norms that denied them basic rights because of the color of their skin. The days of Jim Crow have passed. But the need for strong federal oversight to protect against discriminatory voting practices has not. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is still needed, as is Section 5, the key component that requires a select group of states, counties and other jurisdictions with the worst history of racial discrimination to obtain approval from the U.S. Department of Justice before implementing any change to their voting procedures.

Editorials: Bloody Sunday, the Voting Rights Act, and the Movement of History | The New Yorker

Forty-eight years ago Thursday, five hundred or so activists gathered to march from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery to protest the denial of voting rights to blacks in the state. They didn’t make it. The march was attacked by state and local police, who were cheered on by crowds of white onlookers in an assault so brutal that it has come to be known as Bloody Sunday. Seventeen people, including future congressman John Lewis, were hospitalized. Last weekend, an array of activists and elected officials gathered in Selma, as they have for many years, to commemorate that march. But this year, the commemoration had a special significance: it came just days after the Supreme Court heard arguments in Shelby v. Holder, a case that threatens to eviscerate the Voting Rights Act, which might never have passed were it not for the aborted Bloody Sunday march and the chaotic, violent tableau playing out in Alabama. If we take nothing else from this anniversary, it’s a reminder that the history of race in this country resembles a pendulum, not an arrow.

Minnesota: Minnesota woman, 86, charged with voter fraud |

Margaret Schneider will tell you life hasn’t been easy lately. She uses a walker to get around her small St. Peter apartment, can’t stand for long periods of time and readily admits she’s a victim of senior moments. Schneider, 86, has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and dementia is one of her symptoms. She’s also easily stressed, which became apparent while she discussed with The Free Press the letter she received recently from the Nicollet County Attorney’s Office. It told her she’s been charged with a felony for voting twice during the 2012 primary election. Schneider doesn’t deny the allegation. She realizes now, after talking with St. Peter police detective Travis Sandland, that she did vote twice. She voted once with an absentee ballot on July 13 and again at her polling place Aug. 14. “It had been awhile and I didn’t even remember,” Schneider said. “I was shocked to death because I thought my absentee ballot was for the president.” Schneider’s daughter, Eva Moore, signed the absentee ballot as a witness. In most cases, she also would have given her mother a ride to her polling place during the Aug. 14 primary election. The weather was nice that day, however, and the polling place close to Schneider’s apartment, so Schneider walked up to vote on her own.

New York: Bronx Offers Case Study Over Future of Voting Act |

Emerging from the bloody protests in Selma, Ala., the Voting Rights Act was initially heralded as a declaration that the federal government would no longer tolerate the open racism of the segregated South. But this narrow mandate to monitor elections in six Southern states grew quietly over the years, extending to unexpected corners of the country, including the Bronx. Jose Comacho, a Bronx grocer, sued unsuccessfully in 1958 to have the English literacy test removed as a voting requirement. The borough landed on the list of places to be monitored more than four decades ago, along with Brooklyn and Manhattan, when the statewide English-language literacy test required of voters suppressed participation in Hispanic and black neighborhoods around the city to rates low enough to prompt federal intervention. That test, then used by the local political machine to hold on to power as the minority population swelled, is long gone, but the federal oversight has remained. As the Supreme Court reviews a section of this landmark measure that requires federal approval of changes to voting procedures, with members of the court’s conservative majority suggesting last week that it could be time to end it, the Bronx offers a case study into arguments for and against continuing the half-century effort to monitor elections through a racial prism.

New York: Board Of Elections Workers Unearth Hundreds Of Uncounted 2012 Ballots | New York Daily News

The New York City Board of Elections may insist every vote counts — but Tuesday, the oft-criticized agency admitted that not every vote has yet been counted in the 2012 general election. BOE workers recently unearthed more than 400 votes cast — but never tabulated — in the Hurricane Sandy-disrupted November election, Board President Frederic Umane confirmed at the board’s weekly meeting. The revelation means the city will have to update and certify the results of the 2012 vote yet again. “Doesn’t certification of the election ever finally end? Do they ever get to a final total?” Alan Flacks, a BOE gadfly who raised the issue before the commissioners Tuesday, said after the meeting. “They want to assure every voter — because of scandals in the past where ballots were not counted — that your vote is always counted,” Flacks told the Daily News. “I brought it up because I was upset that I found out that they discovered more uncounted ballots.”

Rhode Island: Bill would allow three-week window to cast ballots | Jamestown Press

Saying it would eliminate long lines like those many voters stood in for hours in November, state Rep. Deborah Ruggiero has proposed a bill that would allow Rhode Islanders to cast their votes over the course of about three weeks before Election Day. Ruggiero has introduced legislatio n that would allow early voting in Rhode Island beginning the third Thursday before a primary, general or special election. Registered voters would be able to cast their ballot in person at designated locations from that Thursday until the Friday before the scheduled election. Early voting would take place on weekdays, with hours that begin no later than 9 a.m. and end no earlier than 4:30 p.m. The bill has the backing of Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

Utah: Bill would make same-day registration and vote possible | Standard-Examiner

A bill making it possible to register and vote in Utah on the day of an election has been forwarded to the House for further review. HB 91 changes the way provisional ballots would be handled for those who have never before registered to vote in Utah and opens the door for voters to register and vote on Election Day. Bill sponsor Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, said these provisional ballots would only be counted once the voters were determined to be eligible. Utah has one of the lowest percentages of voter turnouts in the U.S., the representative says.\ “What I am proposing is that we move the line and allow a broader spectrum of individuals to vote,” Chavez-Houck said. Under existing state law, a resident who has not registered to vote is given a provisional ballot, if they show up at the polls on Election Day. The provisional ballot serves as a registration mechanism, but is not counted among final election results.

Washington: State House passes Washington Voting Rights Act | Associated Press

The state House passed a measure Thursday to reform representation of minorities in local elections, over the objections of Republicans who said that the measure was unnecessary and potentially costly. The Washington Voting Rights Act passed on a nearly party-line 53-44 vote. Rep. Chris Hurst, D-Enumclaw, joined Republicans in opposing the measure. The bill now heads to the Senate, where its future is uncertain. The measure allows for minority individuals or groups to seek court-mandated orders to jurisdictions to reform their elections. Those jurisdictions include towns and cities of 1,000 people or more, school districts, fire districts, counties, and ports, among others. Among the remedies is shifting from at-large elections to district-based elections to better represent residents. Rep. Luis Moscoso, D-Mountlake Terrace, said the idea of proportional representation is reflective of American democracy. “When a neighborhood or community cannot elect representation from their locality, then that democracy is not served, and our American dream is diminished,” he said.

Wisconsin: Proposed Bill Would Alter Absentee Voting Hours | WXOW

A bill recently proposed in the Wisconsin state assembly seeks to set a uniform standard for in person, absentee voting across the state. Rep. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) has proposed limiting the hours city clerks can accept absentee ballots in person. The bill calls for in person absentee voting hours at each polling place to not exceed 40 hours each week. It specifies that municipalities would have the authority to decide how those 40 hours would be divided up although all must occur at some point between 7:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Those wishing to vote absentee in person later than 6:00 p.m. or on weekends would need to call and make an appointment.

Egypt: Parliamentary vote dates cancelled after court ruling | Chicago Tribune

Egypt’s election committee has scrapped a timetable under which voting for the lower house of parliament should have begun next month, state media reported on Thursday, following a court ruling that threw the entire polling process into confusion. Egypt now lies in limbo, with no election dates at a time when uncertainty is taking a heavy toll on the economy – the Egyptian pound is falling, foreign currency reserves are sliding and the budget deficit is soaring to an unmanageable level. The political crisis deepened on Wednesday when the Administrative Court canceled a decree issued by President Mohamed Mursi calling the election. It also returned the electoral law, the subject of feuding between the opposition and Mursi’s ruling Islamists, to the Constitutional Court for review.

Editorials: Iran’s Elections to End All Elections | US News & World Report

Iran’s presidential campaign is well under way. The unprecedented public attack by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, in which Ahmadinejad accused Larijani of trying to control Iran through a family-run mafia, attests to a deep divide within the Iranian regime. But unlike in most real democracies, the likely contenders for the presidency are not trying to woo reluctant voters with snazzy TV ads or get-out-the-vote drives. Indeed, many regime officials would prefer that many Iranians—especially liberal urbanites—not vote at all. The June election will not be about mobilizing the Iranian public. It is instead the culmination of a years-long evolution in Iranian politics: the transformation of the Islamic Republic from a mildly representative theocracy into a Revolutionary Guards-controlled kleptocracy. Ultimately, the election is meant to fulfill Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s ambition of wielding absolute authority. But far from strengthening his rule, the election could actually erode the credibility and legitimacy of a fading regime. Elections in Iran have never been a truly democratic affair. Sure, Iranians have had the opportunity to vote for president and parliament every four years. But the elections have always been held within the accepted “framework”of the Islamic Republic. Only candidates who adhere to the Islamic theocracy are allowed to run.

Kenya: Computer bug behind the many spoilt votes |

A bug which multiplied spoilt ballots was responsible for the high number of spoilt votes reported through the electronic tallying system. The chairman of Kenya’s electoral commission, Mr Ahmed Issack Hassan has attributed the reduction of rejected votes in the on-going tallying process to a bug in the commission’s database. Addressing a news conference at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi last evening, Mr Hassan said the software bug in the system developed in-house by the Independent Boundaries and Electoral Commission kept on multiplying the rejected votes by a factor of eight.He said, the error was as a result of a programming conflict between the IEBC server and the database. “There was an error in the way the programme was written… For any rejected vote for any candidate, they were being multiplied by eight,” said the IEBC chairman.

Kenya: Fear stalks Kenya as Odinga partner calls for recount | BDlive

The political temperature rose sharply in Kenya on Thursday after one of the two camps competing for the presidency alleged the race had been rigged and that the laborious counting of votes should start again from zero. Hopes for a punctual outcome from Monday’s poll were dashed as arguments about the reasons for the failure of costly electronic voting intensified. Partial results from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission slowed to a trickle again on Thursday, with votes from little more than a third of the 291 constituencies tallied by nightfall. Even those results are almost certain to face legal challenges, prolonging the tension in Kenya. East Africa’s biggest and most hi-tech economy is barely moving and the country is stuck in a dangerous ethnic gridlock after most voters opted for their tribal choices. Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first president, was still in the lead on Thursday but the electoral commission’s numbers were bluntly rejected by the coalition backing former prime minister Raila Odinga. “We have evidence that the results we have received have been doctored,” Mr Odinga’s running mate, outgoing Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, said.

Kenya: Election Body Rejects Recount as Kenyatta Lead Narrows | Bloomberg

Uhuru Kenyatta, facing charges of crimes against humanity, saw his lead in Kenya’s presidential vote narrow, after the electoral body rejected his opponent’s call for a recount because of flaws and alleged manipulation. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission found no cases where votes cast exceeded the number of registered voters, as Prime Minister Raila Odinga’sCoalition for Reform and Democracy alleged yesterday, Chairman Issack Hassan said. Kenyatta, a deputy prime minister, received 4.42 million votes to Odinga’s 3.94 million out of the ballots declared from 68 percent of constituencies, according to the commission. “With the rigorous verification in place, there is no room to doctor the results whatsoever by any election official,” Hassan told reporters in Nairobi, the capital. “We cannot stop tallying. This is a legal process.”