Residents of Virginia and Arkansas may be getting carded at places other than nightclubs come 2014. Both states have passed stricter election laws that require voters to show approved photo ID before they can cast their ballots. On Monday, the Republican-controlled Arkansas legislature overrode a veto from Democratic governor Mike Beebe, who called the law “an expensive solution in search of a problem.” Republican governor Bob McDonnell signed Virginia’s bill into law on March 26. Both laws are part of the “endless partisan cycle of fights over the election rules,” says Rick Hasen, an election law expert and professor at the University of California at Irvine. The classic conservative argument is that such laws are needed to combat voter fraud. The classic liberal retort is that voter fraud is a red herring and such laws are really attempts to suppress voters who lean Democratic—because voting blocs like the young, elderly and minorities disproportionately lack photo ID.
On the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death, Attorney General Eric Holder challenged the Supreme Court to uphold a key section of the Voting Rights Act that requires all or part of 15 states with a history of discrimination to get federal clearance before carrying out changes in elections. Holder made the comments Thursday in a speech to a civil rights group whose founder and president is the Rev. Al Sharpton. Focusing on issues he regards as important during President Barack Obama’s second term in office, Holder vowed to protect the voting rights of all Americans, safeguard young people from gun violence and improve the criminal justice system. Opponents of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 say the pre-clearance requirement has outlived its usefulness. Starting in 2009, the Supreme Court made clear its skepticism about the present-day need for the provision. The court is considering a challenge on the issue from Shelby County, Ala., near Birmingham.
Voting Blogs: Election boards’ impact on administering elections – turnover and inexperience often biggest hurdles | electionlineWeekly
While so much post-November 2012 Election attention has focused on legislation and how “to fix that,” in the months leading up to the election and the months since there has also been a lot of movement on local election boards that no amount of current legislation will address. Elections boards have clashed with each other, state officials and their administrators over everything from early voting to performance to reviewing voter rolls for noncitizens. In Ohio, both before and after the election there have been a lot of changes to local elections boards. Some of those changes proved to be quite contentious. “I would say being a swing state puts the local officials more in the spotlight, so it also puts pressure on board members of the opposite party of the secretary of state to vote against the secretary of state,” said Edward B. Foley, Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer Professor for the Administration of Justice and the Rule of Law at the Moritz College of Law.
While his company came up short on its bid to supply Floyd County with new voting equipment, Jeremy Burton with ES&S — Election System & Software — wanted to at least voice concerns with the Floyd County Commissioners at a special meeting Wednesday night at the Pine View Government Center. Burton and attorney John Kraft, who represents ES&S, told the commissioners and members of the election board that the county overspent when deciding to purchase new machines, along with software and other equipment, from RBM Consulting, for $396,000. Floyd County will move to vote centers in 2014. Burton said his company’s bid was 21 percent less than others, including RBM. Also, ES&S has been supplying voting equipment and services to Floyd County since 1992. Kraft told commissioners they could have stayed with the current voting machines, which would have saved tax dollars. He said ES&S could have continued to service the current machines through 2016, and there was no reason to end the relationship or move to new equipment. However, Commissioner Chuck Freiberger said there were several meetings held on the subject before deciding on vote centers. He said the idea was first discussed five years ago.
The Finney County Clerk’s office is reporting that a computer system malfunction Tuesday night led to an error in the precinct ballot numbers reported by various media outlets covering the local elections. It also led to confusion for people waiting for results to be posted at the clerk’s office Tuesday night. Election workers who posted the results said they were unofficial, but many observers left with the impression that, other than the normal provisional ballots that are counted when all results are canvassed, there weren’t additional regular ballots to be counted. None of the unofficial winners changed as a result of the error. Election results will be canvassed at 9 a.m. Monday in the Finney County Commission chambers at the County administrative Center, 311 N. Ninth St. County Clerk Elsa Ulrich said the computer problem was discovered Tuesday night after polls closed and the results began to be tallied. Ulrich said a card that contains a program reads ballots as they go through the counting machine. The results are saved to a disk. But for an unknown reason, the card would not read in Ulrich’s card reader.
“Until the card was read, I didn’t know how many ballots were counted at each precinct,” she said. “I insert it into one of my card readers and it drops into a software program. The problem was it wouldn’t go into the software program.”
A legislative committee on Wednesday split votes on a bill that would prohibit the secretary of state from running for governor or federal office during his or her term. The State and Local Government Committee voted 5-4 in favor of the amended version of L.D. 947, which is sponsored by Sen. Christopher Johnson, D-Somerville. Johnson’s original bill would have prohibited all three of the state’s constitutional officers — secretary of state, attorney general and treasurer — from running for higher office. While Johnson argued that the attorney general and treasurer face severe time constraints in trying to hold a full-time job and campaign, he said the secretary of state faces the additional burden of the appearance of conflict of interest. “There’s merit in not having someone in office overseeing their own elections,” he said.
North Carolina House Republicans said Thursday their proposal to require voters to show photo identification to cast ballots would be phased in over three years and takes into account the apprehensions of older adults, the disabled and the poor. GOP legislators, holding a news conference to unveil details of a bill introduced later in the day, said the legislation’s details reflected in part what they heard at a public hearing last month and from advocacy groups. But even as the overwhelming number of speakers at the hearing opposed photo ID, and civil rights groups vow to fight any such requirement in court, House Speaker Thom Tillis said his chamber would move ahead with the measure. The House Elections Committee will hold a public hearing on the bill next week, and it could pass the House by April 23, according to one of Tillis’ top lieutenants. “Make no mistake about it — the core principles that went into filling this bill are ones that we’re staying close to,” said Tillis, R-Mecklenburg. “We will respectfully address the concerns of groups on either end of the spectrum, but we’re going to keep this tight and we’re going to live up to what we said.”
The House Elections Committee heard from a Florida official Wednesday who said that curtailing early voting hours during the 2012 election led to long lines on Election Day. “It was a nightmare,” said Ion Sancho, supervisor of elections in Leon County, Fla. Sancho and Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, were invited to speak mainly about how voter identification requirements are handled in their states. Florida cut back early voting from 14 days to eight days in 2012. Lawmakers in the House and Senate have filed bills that would curtail early voting in North Carolina. For example, House Bill 451, filed by Rep. Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell, would cut North Carolina’s early voting period by a week, to roughly 10 days, and outlaw early voting on Sundays. Sancho said that lawmakers in Florida have taken up a bill to both restore the early voting period to a full two weeks and allow for Sunday voting. Florida counties haven’t been able to open enough voting-day locations to keep up with population growth, he said, calling early voting “our safety valve.”
The convenience of straight-ticket voting could one day no longer be an option in Texas. Three Texas politicians are seeking to end or limit straight-ticket voting. Texas is one of only 14 states that still allow it. “There’s two bills out there. One that would completely take away the straight-party voting, the other would take away the straight-party voting in local offices,” Knoxie Mathes, Potter County Election Administrator says. We asked how this would effect voters in our area. The number of panhandle residents who utilize straight-ticket voting is high. More than half of voters in Randall County used this option during November’s election. Even more people voted this way in Potter County. “In the 2012 general election we had maybe about 15 to 16 thousand that vote straight party out of 26 thousand that actually voted,” Mathes says.
As election returns came in Tuesday night, those interested in the outcome — candidates, their supporters and members of the media — were left waiting as the Sheboygan County website failed to update with election returns for hours. Final results weren’t available until around midnight, and even then the website wasn’t fully updated. Blame technology. The county experienced a website crash that County Clerk Jon Dolson said the county’s IT department still has yet to fully understand. He said the third party that operates the new county website was still investigating the issue on Wednesday.
Egyptian secularists and rights groups criticized election laws approved by parliament that allow parties to use religious slogans in campaigns and drops a requirement to put women candidates high on their lists. The Islamist-led Shura Council, the upper house of parliament and the only one functioning after courts shut down the lower chamber, yesterday approved a political rights law that dropped a ban on religious slogans. It was replaced by a clause that prohibits slogans involving “gender and religious discrimination.” The council also gave initial approval for amendments to election laws that could give women lower positions on electoral lists. The assembly’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee agreed that each candidate list should include at least one woman, without stipulating how high she should be placed. The previous version required at least one female candidate in the top half of the list.
Iran’s rulers are nervous as they prepare for elections in June and hope to avoid the massive street protests that followed the disputed presidential ballot in 2009. The reformist opposition is calling for free elections, and other critics are accusing the theocratic regime of planning to steal the vote. For three months, authorities have been cracking down on dissent in anticipation of the June 14 elections. In February, police arrested 19 journalists working for reform-minded media. On March 6, Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi announced that his ministry had identified a group of 600 “seditious” journalists and “dealt them a blow.” About two weeks later, authorities detained reformist politician Hossein Loghmanian and four associates en route to a meeting with former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist. The authorities also have shut down most of the private computer networks that allow Iranians to circumvent Internet censorship.
Venezuela: Interim president claims opposition is sabotaging power grid ahead of election | The Washington Post
Interim President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday charged that allies of Venezuela’s opposition are sabotaging the country’s power grid ahead of this month’s presidential election. Maduro ordered the military to safeguard power stations across the country to prevent sabotage ahead of the April 14 vote pitting him against opposition leader Henrique Capriles. “I have ordered the militarization of all the country’s electricity facilities and elaboration of a special protection plan,” Maduro told supporters at a campaign rally in the city of San Carlos. Maduro said government adversaries have infiltrated Corpoelec, the state-run power company, and he announced that some of its employees would be investigated for allegedly cooperating with opposition groups bent on sabotaging the grid. “Those employees who are conspiring against the people will go to jail,” Maduro said.
President Robert Mugabe’s lawyers dropped the June 29th election date before High Court Judge President George Chiweshe on Wednesday, but will continue challenging the court case on by-elections. This appears to be a development in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s favour, as he was rejecting attempts by Mugabe to call elections by the end of June. The President had gone to the High Court requesting to be excused from a court order to proclaim by-elections by 31st March 2013. That request is being opposed by three former legislators, Abednico Bhebhe, Norman Mpofu and Njabuliso Mguni, who want their vacant constituencies filled through by-elections in their constituencies. The 89 year old leader said it would be expensive to hold by-elections and then harmonized elections a few months later and wanted to proclaim the dates for harmonized elections on or before 29th June. Tsvangirai rejected this and last week filed an application in the High Court as the Fourth Respondent, objecting to the President’s proposed timeline.
The Supreme Court has rejected a conservative challenge to the common practice of counting everyone, not just U.S. citizens, when adjusting the size of voting districts across the nation. Without comment, the justices let stand a redistricting rule that benefits urban areas like Los Angeles and Chicago that have a higher percentage of noncitizens as residents. Since the 1960s, the court has said that election districts should be equal in size under the so-called one person, one vote rule. Under this rule, U.S. representatives, state legislators, city council members and county board members usually represent about the same number of people. But the court had not ruled directly on whether these districts should be counted based on the number of persons who live there or on the number of citizens who are eligible to vote.
A wave of states in recent years have moved to allow residents to register online and the pace is quickening today as many more are debating the issue – a development that is swelling voting rolls, saving taxpayers’ money, and providing a welcome demilitarized zone in the raging partisan wars over ballot access. “It’s red states, blue states, small states, big states,” said Jennie Bowser, an elections expert at the National Conference of State Legislatures. “It’s happening across the board.” Only two states, Arizona and Washington, had online voter registration when Barack Obama won the presidency. Four years later, 13 states had systems up and running by the time Obama won reelection. Now, at least fourteen additional states are considering legislation to enact online registration. (Virginia and New Mexico have already sent bills to the governor.)