Democrats are expected to introduce a sweeping elections bill Wednesday that would allow residents to register to vote through Election Day, and send mail ballots to every voter, according to a draft of the bill obtained by The Denver Post. The measure is expected to launch another partisan battle under the gold dome, as Republican leaders, including Secretary of State Scott Gessler, say the legislation would lead to voter fraud. The bill, prompted by the state’s county clerks, will put real-time technology to work on elections, save voters time and ultimately save taxpayers money, said Rep. Dan Pabon of Denver, the House assistant majority leader. “We’re not voting the way we did in the 19th century,” he said. “We’re not still voting the way we did in much of the 20th century. It’s time to bring our elections into the 21st century.” Those who still want to vote in person will be able to go to an election service center open at least 15 days before the election, The Colorado County Clerks Association, which asked for many of the provisions in a letter to lawmakers last November, said 74 percent of the state’s residents already voted by mail.
Racial minorities waited a lot longer than whites to vote last November. Lines weren’t a big issue for most voters, according to a new study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Charles Stewart III, but they were a huge issue for some – and those people tended to be African-American or Hispanic and live in urban areas. African Americans waited an average of 23 minutes to vote while Hispanics waited 19 minutes and whites just 12 minutes. Those numbers are startling when you factor in that about two-thirds of all voters waited less than 10 minutes to cast their ballots. That means some people, albeit a small percentage, waited a very long time. Stewart found that just three percent of voters waited more than an hour, with the average wait time at about 110 minutes. The author of the post you’re reading waited nearly three hours in the Columbia Heights neighborhood in Washington, D.C.
On Election Day 2012, black voters waited on average nearly twice as long to vote as did white voters, while the wait time for Hispanic voters fell in between those two groups. So say the available data, according to Massachusetts Institute of Technology political scientist Charles Stewart III. He decided to see what he could learn by examining statistics on Election Day waits and sums up his findings in a research paper titled “Waiting to Vote in 2012.” Stewart says the national average wait for white voters was 12 minutes, while that same metric for African-Americans was 23 minutes. For Hispanics, it was 19 minutes. Although it would be easy to jump to the conclusion that some form of discrimination might have been at work, Stewart suggests that other factors could be at play, such as geography.
Voters in a West Anchorage assembly race might be facing some bubble trouble. Starting Saturday, city officials will begin hand counting more than 7,000 votes cast in last Tuesday’s municipal election after concerns that some ovals marked correctly, according to municipal code, might not have been counted. At least that’s what the campaign of Nick Moe, the 26-year-old write-in candidate, is saying. Moe challenged incumbent Anchorage Assembly chairman Ernie Hall after Hall cut off testimony on a controversial ordinance designed to limit the power labor unions that do work for the city. On Monday, Moe’s campaign requested that Anchorage conduct a hand count of ballots in Assembly District 3, Seat D. That came after the city released a statement saying it would not perform a hand count unless the total number of write-in votes cast were equal to or more than the amount of votes for the leading candidate. The same release noted that there may be “other circumstances” where the votes would be hand-counted.
Coloradans would vote primarily by mail, and they could register to vote on Election Day under a bill Democrats are proposing at the state Capitol. Neighborhood polling places at schools and churches would be a thing of the past, and in-person voting would happen at a few centralized voting centers in each county, if the bill passes. Even before it has been introduced, the bill has touched off a partisan fight. But La Plata County Clerk Tiffany Lee Parker, a Republican, supports the bill and says it’s not a partisan issue. “To me, this is really bipartisan. This makes sense. This is not Republican versus Democrat,” Parker said.
Florida: Senate holds firm on witnessing absentee ballots; Pasco elections chief calls it ‘a recipe for disaster’ | Tampa Bay Times
The Senate Rules Committee approved an elections bill Tuesday on a 10-5 party-line vote, setting the stage for floor action on one of the major pieces of legislation in the 2013 session. The bill (SB 600), sponsored by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, expands early voting sites and gives election supervisors the discretion to offer 14 days of early voting, including the Sunday before the election. The minimum amount of early voting is eight hours over eight days, including the Sunday nine days before Election Day. Latvala’s bill drew a rating of “B” from the League of Women Voters of Florida, whose president, Deirdre MacNab, called the bill “strong.” The league said the bill would be better if it repealed the 2011 requirement that voters who move from one county to another cast provisional ballots.
Gov. Rick Scott’s opposition to raising the $500 cap on political contributions to candidates will probably sink campaign-finance reform for the 2013 session, the Senate sponsor of a new elections package said Tuesday. The Senate Rules Committee cleared the two biggest political bills of the year for floor action, voting along party lines for a bill intended to fix the long lines and balloting problems that haunted Florida’s elections in November and approving a plan to abolish the shadowy “committees of continuous existence” that candidates can use as political slush funds. But each bill picked up potentially troublesome provisions that will be hard to work out in the final three weeks of the session. Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, sponsored both bills. In March, the House OK’d a finance package raising the $500 cap on contributions to $5,000 per donor in statewide races and Supreme Court retention votes, and $3,000 for district and county races. The Senate bill initially proposed a $3,000 cap but the Rules Committee adopted an amendment lowering the maximum to $500 in all races — the same as it is now. The governor said recently he opposes raising the limit, which was set in 1992.
Saline County Clerk Kim Buchanan was proud of the voter turnout in Tuesday’s Consolidated Election. She anticipated 25 percent and the turnout was 26.63 percent. For Buchanan it was a day that began before dawn with an issue not so uncommon for Mountain Township voters: A snake was believed to be in the township hall and polling place — the building that formerly was the Somerset school. Election judge Lisa Wallace said someone had been in the township hall the night before to accommodate plumber Dwight Howton who was doing some work and one spotted a dark 3-foot long snake. “It was underneath the sink, stretched out,” Wallace said.
For several months, Montana counties have been shelling out taxpayer dollars to fight a Native voting-rights lawsuit – Wandering Medicine v. McCulloch – and William Main wants to know why. A taxpayer himself and former chairman of Fort Belknap Indian Community, he thinks other Montanans will also want to learn how come they’re fighting a suit that may end up costing hundreds of thousands, or even a million dollars. To that end, Main has submitted advertisements to local newspapers in Blaine County, Rosebud and Big Horn counties. The three jurisdictions ended up in court after they refused prior to the 2012 election to set up one satellite early-voting station each on the Fort Belknap, Northern Cheyenne and Crow reservations, respectively. Main has also demanded related financial records from local Blaine County. “There was no public hearing on whether this legal battle was advisable,” said Main, who listed the numerous taxes he pays—including property, income, gas, tobacco and more. He called the counties’ decision to fight the lawsuit “damn foolish,” especially since the cost of the voting stations was minimal. In Blaine County, he said, Fort Belknap offered space in a newly renovated, internet-ready courthouse, and a voting-rights group, Four Directions, agreed to pay other costs.
Massachusetts: Former Everett state representative sent to prison for election fraud | The Boston Globe
A former state representative from Everett was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Boston to four months in prison for cheating the absentee ballot process in two elections in which he won. Stephen Smith, 57, a married father of four, will also serve a year of probation and must pay a $20,000 fine. He was ordered to report to a prison, to be designated by the US Bureau of Prisons, by May 21. US Magistrate Judge Leo T. Sorokin said in handing out the sentence that Smith had betrayed the trust of his constituents in Everett. “Fair and honest elections are really the foundation of our society,” Sorokin said.
With the next Minnesota gubernatorial election still more than a year away, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is traveling the state to talk about proposed election law changes, backing several that he says will lower costs and increase turnout. On Monday, he stopped by the St. Peter Herald to talk about several pieces of proposed legislation and which ones he is supporting. Part of large omnibus bills passing through the Legislature, the proposed changes are intended to make things easier on county auditors and officials who currently find themselves struggling to hold efficient elections. “I went around the state, Mankato, Duluth, everywhere and met with election judges, county auditors, city clerks, all the people who run our elections to get their ideas, get their feedback, find out how did it go and what can we do better,” Ritchie said. “I heard the same themes, more or less, in all different parts of the state.”
Election officials want to ensure Brookhaven voters know where to cast a ballot during upcoming municipal elections in the hope of reducing confusion at the polls, but those officials have already encountered a few headaches themselves. In a mass mailing of voter registration cards sent during the last week of March, several Brookhaven areas did not receive the cards. These areas included the Deer Run and Moreton Estates neighborhoods, but City Clerk Mike Jinks has asked other residents to inform him if they did not receive a copy of their voter registration card by mail. The voter registration cards indicate the city ward and county district a given voter lives in. Mailing cards to each registered voter in the city is intended to help inform those voters if they have been moved into a new ward due to redistricting.
Montana state Democratic Senator Sharon Peregoy appears to have been ejected from the Senate’s ethics committee—for pounding on her desk during a rowdy protest of all Democratic senators in that legislative body on Friday, April 5, said Peregoy, who is Crow. The Democrats, who are in the minority, had attempted to block majority Republicans from passing two bills seeking to restrict voting rights, according to Peregoy. When the Senate’s Republican president Jeff Essman ignored a Democratic motion, the minority members stood, shouted and banged on their desks for 15 minutes, as observers in the 2nd-floor gallery surrounding the chamber stamped, screamed and whistled. With Essman bellowing over the ruckus, Republicans passed the measures and sent them to the House. “The voting measures were among numerous anti-Indian bills the Senate has taken up,” Peregoy said. “I’ve never seen so many in one session—including water compacts, the size and range of bison herds and more.” Peregoy is one of three Native members of the 50-member Montana senate; the 100-member house has an additional five Natives.
Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown is on a mission to make voter registration easier in her state than anywhere else in the country. So easy, in fact, it’s automatic. Brown, now in her second term, is pushing for legislation that would instantly register voters based on information gleaned from their DMV records. The plan would make Oregon the only state in the country to automatically register voters. “I’m really passionate about this issue,” says Brown, who added that registration should not keep people from participating in their “fundamental right” to vote. Brown said her interest in the topic began last fall when she worked extensively with Rock the Vote. “As a result of a lot of work and a lot of time and energy we registered about 2,000 students on National Voter Registration Day,” Brown says. “I kept pushing my folks, saying ‘there’s got to be a better way.’” Brown’s plan, introduced in the state House last month, would allow Oregon to automatically register new voters at the time they apply for a driver’s license. Those new voters would initially be registered as unaffiliated with any political party. At a later date, they’d receive a postcard by mail allowing them to choose a party affiliation or opt out of voter registration altogether, should they desire. The state’s House Rules Committee held a hearing on the legislation last month, and Brown expects another one in the coming weeks.
The reform movement that took to the streets to protest alleged vote-rigging in Iran’s last presidential election has been crushed. The supreme leader has made it clear that such behavior will not be tolerated this time. But that doesn’t mean the maneuvering to replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in an election set for June 14 has been without intrigue. Ahmadinejad, who was reelected in the disputed 2009 balloting, is barred by law from seeking a third term and is publicly promoting a trusted aide to replace him. It is far from clear, however, whether the president’s preferred successor will even be allowed to run. For much of the outside world, the incumbent remains the defiant face of the Iranian theocracy. At home, however, the clerical establishment that backed him four years ago has tired of what hard-liners regard as his divisiveness and lack of deference to the religious leadership. The election comes at a difficult moment for the Islamic Republic, which is facing the prospect of increased international isolation.
Malaysians will go to the polls on May 5, a Sunday, while nominations will be held on April 20, the Election Commission announced Wednesday. The 15-day campaign period is the longest since 1982, when a similar length of time was also permitted. EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof asked Malaysians to ensure that the electoral process is smooth and peaceful.
Russian election monitoring group Golos (Voice) on Wednesday slammed the authorities for trying to halt its work after the justice ministry launched a court case accusing it of failing to declare itself as a “foreign agent” with international funding. “This is total lawlessness. They have given an instruction not to let us cover elections,” the group’s executive director Lilia Shibanova told AFP, vowing to fight back and possibly even countersue the ministry. The group, which has claimed mass falsifications in parliamentary and presidential polls won by Vladimir Putin, is accused of “carrying out the functions of a foreign agent” and failing to register. The case is seen as the first test of a law passed by parliament last year obliging foreign-funded NGOs to register as a “foreign agent” and widely criticised as a throwback to the Soviet past.
Venezuela: Interim president Nicolas Maduro claims “US wants to kill me because | will win” | Latin America News
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said that US officials Roger Noriega and Otto Reich were behind the plan, together with right-wing sectors from El Salvador and Venezuela, and had paid the “mercenaries” to kill him. Venezuelan government officials released a recorded conversation on Saturday that allegedly reveals the use of “mercenaries” by the Venezuelan opposition to create chaos in the lead up to elections next Sunday. Interim President Nicolas Maduro made the announcement at a campaign event on Saturday, assuring that the group of “mercenaries” were already in Venezuela, and are seeking to carry out three objectives before next week’s elections: sabotage the electrical grid, increase the number of murders in the country, and assassinate Maduro.