The U.S. Supreme Court may be holding the political future of the United States in its hand as it tries to decide how far the states may go in requiring identification from those who attempt to vote. Last week, the justices heard argument on whether Arizona or any state may require proof of citizenship for voter registration. An eventual decision in the case could shape the national political landscape for some time. Seventeen states have enacted laws requiring the presentation of some type of government-issued photo identification, such as a driver’s license, before voting. The Brennan Center for Justice said those 17 states account for 218 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. The Arizona case pits the state requirement for proof of U.S. citizenship against the federal “Motor Voter” law that requires only filling out a form to register for federal elections.
Republican interests head to federal court today hoping to realign the state’s legislative districts more to their liking. Challengers are pinning their hopes on the fact that 30 districts crafted by the Independent Redistricting Commission are not all equal in population. Attorney David Cantelme contends the differences were done “deliberately, intentionally and in violation of the one-person/one-vote principle.” The goal of the commission, he charges, was to cluster as many Republicans as possible together in districts, leaving the other, underpopulated districts with more Democrats than otherwise would occur, giving Democrats an unfair and illegal advantage in electing their own candidates to the Legislature. Attorneys for the commission do not dispute the population disparities.
Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe on Monday vetoed a bill proposing citizens show photo identification before casting a ballot, citing risks it could disenfranchise voters, the governor’s office said. Supporters of the proposal, who say it would eliminate the possibility of fraud, plan to override the veto by Beebe, a Democrat. That would require a simple majority in a vote in each chamber of the Republican-dominated state legislature. Should the bill become law, Arkansas would join the nearly three dozen U.S. states that have similar voter ID measures, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Governor Mike Beebe vetoed a bill Monday that would require voters to show identification prior to casting their ballot. Beebe, a Democrat, cited cost to taxpayers, growth in bureaucracy, and the risk of disenfranchising voters as the reason for his veto. Text from Governor’s Veto Letter: Senate Bill 2 is, then, an expensive solution in search of a problem. The Bureau of Legislative Research estimates that Senate Bill 2 will cost approximately $300,000 in tax dollars to implement; and that estimate does not take into account the ongoing costs that the taxpayers will continue to bear in future years. At a time when some argue for the reduction of unnecessary bureaucracy and for reduced government spending, I find it ironic to be presented with a bill that increases government bureaucracy and increases government expenditures, all to address a need that has not been demonstrated. I cannot approve such an unnecessary measure that would negatively impact one of our most precious rights as citizens.
Connecticut lawmakers are considering allowing early voting during state elections and eliminating cross endorsements by minor parties. “I strongly support early voting,” said Secretary of State Denise Merrill on Monday.”We need to modernize our voting practices. If a voter has made up their mind, why wait till [Election Day]? More than 30 other states have enacted early voting with great success.” Through testimony and remarks submitted Monday to the government administration and elections committee, early voting garnered considerable support, while eliminating cross endorsements drew sizable opposition.
Charges have been dismissed against three Council Bluffs residents accused of election misconduct for registering to vote without U.S. citizenship, though the charges could be refiled at a later date, prosecutors said Monday. A Canadian couple and a woman originally from Mexico were charged with election misconduct and fraudulent practice in September. Prosecutors alleged they registered to vote without being U.S. citizens, but the three individuals, who were legally living in the U.S., said they were unaware they had done anything wrong. Prosecutors dismissed the charges because a key witness, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agent looking into the cases, has been called to active military duty and unable to testify. Pottawattamie County Attorney Matt Wilber confirmed Monday that the charges could be refiled at a later date.
A bill currently being discussed in the state legislator would require voters to show identification at the polls to be able to cast a ballot.
House Bill 137, introduced on Jan. 17 by a number of delegates, would prevent individuals without a government-issued photo ID, voter notice card or specimen ballot from voting on a regular ballot. Such individuals would then be able to fill out a provisional ballot. Voters currently must state their name upon arriving to vote, at which an election judge checks to confirm if the would-be voter is on the election register or the inactive list. Individuals who are in one of these indexes may then vote on a regular ballot. Delegate Michael Smigiel (R-Cecil), one of the sponsors of the bill, said the proposal is intended to prevent voter fraud from becoming an issue.
A Missouri Senate panel is considering a measure to phase out electronic voting machines. (The voting measure is SB375) The committee heard testimony Monday from some former poll workers who say the machines now used in Missouri malfunction and miscount votes. The legislation would require voters to use either paper ballots or certain ballot-marking devices to help people with disabilities. An electronic machine could still be used if it has an independent paper record of votes cast on the device.
Voting for the May primary begins next Tuesday, which is a little too early for Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. Rather than starting early voting 35 days before an election, it should be less than 30 days, Husted said Monday during a 70-minute meeting with The Vindicator’s editorial board. But Husted, a Republican elected in 2010 to secretary of state, said he doesn’t have a specific plan. Husted wants in-person at county boards of elections early voting to be less than 30 days before an election with some weekend access, extended hours during the final week before an election and no in-person voting on Mondays before Tuesday elections.
A bill guaranteeing access for the disabled at polling places has been delivered to the governor’s desk for signing. The legislation requires all voting locations to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and exempts disabled persons from time limits at voting machines. In addition, disabled voters are guaranteed assistance in casting their ballots, among other provisions. The bipartisan measure passed with nearly unanimous support in the Ohio House and Senate. Sen. Shirley Smith, a Cleveland Democrat, jointly sponsored Senate Bill 10 with Republican Sen. Bill Coley of Liberty Township. Lawmakers have touted the legislation as an example of welcome cooperation between political parties.
Virginia: Equal Protection Challenge to Virginia’s Felony Disenfranchisement Provision Survives Summary Judgment | State of Elections
The US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on Friday granted the State’s summary judgment motion on substantive and procedural due process challenges to Virginia’s voter reinstatement process for convicted felons, as well as an Eighth Amendment challenge to the disenfranchisement of felons as cruel and unusual punishment. The court did, however, deny summary judgment on El-Amin’s Equal Protection challenge of lifetime felon disenfranchisement in Virginia.
Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, a close aide and advisor to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has announced that the government will not allow anything to compromise the health and transparency of the presidential election. In an interview with the state news agency IRNA on Sunday March 24, Mashai said the president has announced that he will be ready to confront even the slightest shadow of doubt about the running of the elections. Iran’s presidential election is set for June 2013. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not eligible to run, having already served two consecutive terms, but he is reportedly intent on promoting his close advisor, Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, to run in the race.
In a landmark ruling Monday, a Hiroshima court ruled the results of the December lower-house election invalid in two districts due to the disproportionate weighting of votes in those districts. It was the first time a Japanese court ruled election results invalid on such grounds. It is seen as a victory for constitutional rights activists, who have long argued disparities in the weighting of votes in different districts violates the constitution. The ruling ups the ante on lawmakers to fix the system. A string of past court rulings has found that the current electoral system doesn’t uphold the principle of “one person, one vote,” as prescribed in the constitution. Still, the rulings acknowledged the validity of the results — until now. Yet neither of the winning candidates in the two districts — including Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida — will need to immediately worry about their jobs.
Kenya’s Supreme Court on Monday ordered a partial recount of ballots from the March 4 presidential election after losing candidate Raila Odinga alleged there were more votes cast at some polling stations than there were registered voters. A swift and transparent resolution of the dispute that has unnerved the stock market is seen as critical to restoring the reputation of Kenya as a stable democracy after violence following the 2007 election left more than 1,200 dead. This year’s election passed peacefully though and went a long way to restoring Kenya’s image. International observers said the voting was broadly credible, but the count then went for five days and monitors did not follow the entire process. Odinga has said there was “rampant illegality” in the first-round victory of his long-term rival Uhuru Kenyatta. The son of Kenya’s founding president, Kenyatta said the voting was “free and fair”. Adjudicating between the two political heavyweights is seen as a major test for the country’s reformed judiciary.
Scotland’s referendum will be held on September 18 next year, First Minister Alex Salmond announced in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, March 21. The date is contained in the Scottish Independence Referendum Bill, introduced to the Parliament and published today, which also confirms that voters will be asked the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?”.