As the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court prepares to hear another challenge to the state’s voter ID requirement, a new study reveals that across the country, voter ID laws disproportionately affected young minority voters in the 2012 elections. While just over half of white youth were asked for identification, election officials asked 60.8 percent of Latino and 72.9 percent of black youth voters for ID in November. Similar disparities existed for photo ID, which is required by law to vote in many states, and in states with no voter ID law. “Race should never play a role in who gets to vote, or who is asked for ID in order to vote,” said American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania associate director Sara Mullen in an email. The study, conducted by Cathy Cohen of the University of Chicago and Jon Rogowski of Washington University in St. Louis, also revealed that 17.3 percent of non-voting blacks cited lack of proper identification as their reason for not voting, over three times the 4.7 percent of whites who had the same explanation.
President Obama and leaders in both parties, in calling for improving American elections, point to long lines at the polls last year as a significant problem that needs to be solved. And with good reason: Longer wait times can discourage people from voting and fuel the perception that their right to vote is in jeopardy. A post-election poll by the Pew Research Center found that only 55 percent of voters who waited 30 minutes or more to cast a ballot thought that the election was managed “very well,” compared with 79 percent for voters who waited less than a half-hour and 83 percent for voters who had no wait. Long lines, however, are just the tip of iceberg; much more needs to be done. To achieve an election system that is convenient, accurate and fair, state and local leaders need data to review and track their voting processes–from registration to ballot-counting.
A state lawmaker wants voters to decide whether to strip the Citizens Clean Elections Commission of its funding and give that money to the Arizona Department of Education. Rep. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, said he authored HCR 2026 because that money would be better spent on students than on what he considers a failed system for publicly funding political campaigns. “I think if we really want to direct that money towards a public good, I believe that public education through charters and also through the district schools are the best use of that money,” Boyer said. “I’m always looking for ongoing funding for education, and I view this as an ongoing funding stream.”
A Republican Party consultant testified at a trial over Arizona’s election redistricting that the state’s redrawn maps were the result of a “deliberate policy of underpopulating some districts” to benefit Democrats. Republican voters, in the federal court trial in Phoenix, accuse the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission of “a pattern of discriminatory intent” by concentrating Republicans in districts that exceed the average population while leaving Democrats with pluralities in a disproportionately large number of underpopulated districts. “What you saw manifested is that all of the potential voters in districts overpopulated have had their votes diluted and potential voters in underpopulated districts have had their votes enhanced,” Thomas Hofeller, testifying for opponents of the plan, said yesterday. Hofeller, a redistricting consultant for the Republican National Committee, said that the five most underpopulated districts were what he called Hispanic districts. That would be consistent with an attempt to under-populate Hispanic districts, and it wouldn’t be a logical outcome if it hadn’t been a goal to under-populate them, he said.
The Arkansas Senate voted Wednesday to override Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto of legislation that would require voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot. The Republican-led Senate voted 21-12, along party lines, to override the veto. There was no debate beforehand. The bill’s sponsor, Republican state Sen. Bryan King, said he expects the GOP-controlled House to vote to override the veto on Thursday. Each chamber needs only a simple majority to override a veto in Arkansas. Beebe vetoed the bill Monday, saying it amounts to “an expensive solution in search of a problem” and would unnecessarily infringe on voters’ rights. Critics say in-person voter fraud is extremely rare and that voter ID laws, which Republicans have pushed for in many states, are really meant to disenfranchise groups that tend to favor Democrats. King dismissed Beebe’s concerns after Wednesday’s vote.
According to many pundits and scholars, closed primary elections are a major contributor to the ideological polarization in Congress and state legislatures. By partitioning voters into two ideologically-sorted electorates, they argue, closed primaries incentivize candidates to adopt the positions of voters in their party rather than of their constituency as a whole. As a result, they elect representatives who consistently toe the party line and resist compromise. Advocates of reform, from academics like Morris Fiorina to practitioners like Arnold Schwarzenegger, therefore argue that replacing closed party primaries with a more open nominating process will reduce polarization and its offspring—gridlock and a noxious political atmosphere—by helping moderate candidates. Are these claims about the consequences of reform valid?
District of Columbia: Elections Board says it lacks funds to improve on questionable track record | Washington Examiner
The District Board of Elections Chairwoman Deborah Nichols accused the mayor’s office Tuesday of “nickel-and-diming the electorate” by underfunding next month’s special election by more than $200,000 of its requested budget. The city has allocated $832,788 for the April 23 special election, which features a seven-person contest for an at-large D.C. Council seat and referendum that would give the city budget autonomy. The Board of Elections said it requested $1,046,800. Election officials said they needed money to ensure that election facilities and other expenses get paid. Additionally, further funding could be used to publicize the special election to improve voter turnout or to improve pay for election workers.
A new rule that allows election officials to remove people from voter registration lists if their citizenship is questioned took effect Wednesday. The rule was backed by Secretary of State Matt Schultz, a Republican. He says the change is needed to reduce voter fraud, which he’s made his key issue since taking office in 2011. But critics have challenged him calling the rule a witch hunt, voter suppression, and a solution in search of a problem. The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa has been fighting Schultz in court to stop the rule and plans to launch a new legal challenge now that the rule has taken effect. The group says Schultz does not have the authority under Iowa law to enact the rule and that it will erroneously deprive qualified citizens of Iowa their right to vote.
Recently, the Pew Center on the States gave New Mexico a composite (2008/2010) rating of 19th in the nation for election administration. While this is much higher than most state-by-state comparisons featuring the Land of Enchantment, we still clearly have more work to do to improve our election processes. Correspondingly, the 2013 New Mexico Legislature provided a wonderful opportunity for our state to move forward and modernize the election process. Several pieces of legislation progressed with the intent of improving how we conduct elections in New Mexico. A few of them are even now awaiting the governor’s signature. In 2012, many counties in our state became national models for how to efficiently and effectively run elections, while at the same time streamlining processes and saving money, by conducting Election Day vote centers. While these counties are to be praised for their successes, other counties struggled with the new system and many voters had bad experiences at the polls.
South Carolina’s electronic voting machines do not produce hard copies of votes, and it would cost taxpayers $17.3 million to add that capability to the state’s existing machines, according to a report by the Legislative Audit Council. “The audit process in South Carolina is limited by the absence of a voter verifiable paper audit trail,” the report said. The report notes that “without paper ballots, the reconstruction of the votes cast is not possible.” But the report does not give a recommendation on whether the state should update its electronic voting machines to produce a hard copy of votes. The report notes the paper ballots “undermines the voting access of people with disabilities” and that hand counting ballots always introduces the possibility of “human error.”
South Carolina: Review: South Carolina voting machines not certified by federal EAC | MidlandsConnect.com
A review released by the South Carolina General Assembly Legislative Audit Council says voting machines used in South Carolina are not certified by a federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC). The 62-page report breaks down where the state stands with current voting machines, evaluates training requirements and looks at alternatives to the current voting machines. The review, which was requested by the former President Pro Tempore of the South Carolina Senate, Glenn McConnell, goes on to say the machines South Carolina uses are not certified by the EAC and do not produce paper audit trails. However, South Carolina’s requirements meet the minimum requirements in the Help America Vote Act. The EAC was established in 2002 after Congress passed the Help America Vote Act. According to the review, the EAC is without its four commissioners and has not revised the 2005 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines. The report also says an EAC official claims the lack of commissioners does not affect the testing and certification of voting systems except in accrediting new test laboratories or if a voting system manufactureer wants to appeal a decertification deicision.
In with the old out with the new in Pittsylvania County. Paper ballots are coming back after voters complained about touch screen voting booths. Voters now color in an oval beside the name of a candidate instead of touching their choice on a screen. The ballot is fed into a machine that stores it and calculates the votes. It tells operators if the person voted correctly. The county voter registrar predicts it will cause less confusion.
Michael Edwards, a community leader in southern Virginia, spent eight years in prison for a marijuana-trafficking conviction in the 1970s. But he said he feels like he was punished for more than 30 years — the time it took for him to regain his voting rights in Virginia. That won’t happen to any other ex-felons in Virginia if a group of civil rights organizations are successful in their campaign to push Gov. Robert McDonnell to provide an easier path to voting for ex-felons who have served their time. “These people live and work and pay taxes but don’t have a voice on this issue,” said Edgardo Cortes of the Advancement Project, a voting rights group based in Washington, D.C., during a national telephone press conference Wednesday. “The governor has shown leadership on this issue but now is the time for him to take additional action.”
A Washington state Senate committee heard testimony Tuesday on legislation to make it easier for minorities to get elected to local government posts. The Washington Voting Rights Act, as supporters call it, would encourage court challenges to cities, counties, school districts and others to push them to switch from at-large to district elections in areas where large minority groups are present. Sen. Pam Roach, chairwoman of the Senate Governmental Operations Committee, said it was not likely the bill would advance from her panel. “It’s a long reach,” she said, noting that her committee consists of four Republicans and three Democrats. “These haven’t traditionally been Republican issues.”
Wasaga Beach is considering a switch to internet and telephone voting for the next municipal election. Council has given town clerk Twyla Nicholson the green light to explore the voting methods and provide additional information to council members. The next municipal election is not until October 2014. If approved, telephone and online voting would replace the touch screen voting terminals used in the last two elections.
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi today said he expected parliamentary elections to be held in October after delays caused by a court decision. The delay could lead to heightened tensions over the summer between Mr Morsi’s supporters and a broad opposition movement that wants him out of power. There have been regular protests against his government since November, many of them violent. Mr Morsi had tried to fast-track new parliamentary elections last month, ordering them to begin at the end of April and continue over two months. But an administrative court ruled that the Shura Council, the upper house of parliament that is the only legislative body at the moment because the lower house was dissolved last year, did not properly consult the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) on revisions made to an elections law.
Ahead of the 2015 general election, the United Progressive Party (UPP) has stressed the need for legislative action that would empower the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to apply the electronic voting system for the election. This was even as it inaugurated a 19-man Board of Trustees (BoT) led by the former member of the House of Representatives, George Ozodinobi who represented Aniocha/Njikoka/Dunukofia Federal constituency. Speaking at the end of the second National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party, the national chairman of the UPP, Chief Chekwas Okorie advocated a system that would enable a voter to vote from the comfort of the home, especially in view of the current wave of insecurity in the country and which he observed created apathy among voters.
In the Caracas barrio of 23 de Enero, a coalition of armed vigilante groups serves as the de facto security force. It also helps run social welfare programs for a neighborhood overrun by drug dealing. The vigilante groups, known as colectivos, have a great deal at stake in the upcoming presidential election, which will pit opposition candidate Henrique Capriles against Hugo Chávez’s handpicked successor, acting President Nicolas Maduro. “If [Capriles] wins, he will go after all of the colectivos and cut the social programs. That would be terrible,” said William Ortega, a member of the colectivo Monteraz. “We will not let the police come into 23 de Enero and we will risk our lives to defend this area.” There are more than 20 autonomous colectivos in Caracas, and they’re mostly centered in 23 de Enero, a community of makeshift shacks and public housing projects that is home to about 100,000 people. Their arsenal of weapons includes AK-47s, handguns and homemade grenades.
Kentucky military personnel serving overseas will be able to get ballots electronically under legislation approved late Tuesday in the Kentucky General Assembly. How they send them back is still to be determined. Working until the last minute of the 2013 session, legislators went back to the original Senate version of the military voting bill that allowed for electronic sending of ballots to overseas military, but snail mail return of the ballot. The legislation also establishes a task force to study electronic returns—the preferred method of Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. The task force will address safety concerns with that option.
If you want to vote in the 2014 mid-term elections, you’ll have to bring a form of photo identification along with you. Governor Bob McDonnell officially signed a measure into law this week requiring photo identification to vote – and local registrars have mixed feelings. The state started requiring some form of identification during the 2012 elections, like a bank statement or pay stub – but now, the rules are changing again. Starting in July 2014, all voters will be required to present a valid photo ID to cast a ballot in Virginia. That includes driver’s licenses, passports or any state-issued photo ID. Voter registrars in Virginia will provide a free ID to anyone who lacks a valid photo ID. “It’s a way to get a free ID, I mean that’s basically what it is,” said Sheri Iachetta, Charlottesville general registrar.