In the 2012 elections, we saw a glimpse of a more robust and inclusive democracy. Hispanic and youth voters turned out in record numbers, and African Americans may have voted at a higher rate than whites for the first time in U.S. history. But this turnout happened in spite of the most widespread assault on voting rights that we’ve seen since the Reconstruction era. Thankfully, courts blocked many of the recent state laws that make it harder to vote. Nonetheless, hundreds of thousands of citizens — disproportionately African Americans and Latinos — had to wait in outrageously long lines and many were improperly forced to cast provisional ballots. While the resolve of voters who stood in line for up to eight hours was inspiring, it showed that election reform is needed. As President Obama said on election night, “We have to fix that.”
Black lawmakers in the House of Representatives today vowed to fight a bill that would move the deadline to register to vote in Alabama from 10 days before an election to 17 days. County registrars are seeking the change for more time to process voter rolls before elections. But African-American legislators called the bill an effort to disenfranchise and discourage voters. “This is a bill made just for suppressing the vote,” Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, said.
Arizona Republican lawmakers are poised to wildly increase the state’s campaign finance limits in an effort that would allow an unprecedented flood of private dollars into local elections and undermine the state’s public campaign financing system. Republicans said current limits are unconstitutionally low, especially given the growing influence of outside political advertisements in national and state campaigns made possible by a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that erased years of campaign finance law. But Democrats argued the measure would give wealthy donors and political groups more influence in campaigns while effectively dismantling the state’s public financing options approved by voters. The bill would not increase funding for candidates running under the state’s public campaign financing option.
More Glendale voters used the postal service to cast their votes than a polling center ballot box for the election on Tuesday, a trend that’s been on the rise in the city — and across the state — now for years. The shift, candidates and elections experts say, has meant harder and longer campaigns that must capture voters over a much longer period of time. “You have to make sure you get your message out there in time for the earlier voters,” said Lori Cox Han, professor of political science at Chapman University. City Council incumbent Laura Friedman’s campaign was a case in point. She timed her television ads, which ran on both cable and broadcast channels, to air around the time the sample ballots arrived. “The polls were open as soon as those absentee ballot were in their hands,” said Friedman, who, according to unofficial results released this week, recaptured her seat. About 62% of voters in Tuesday’s municipal election voted by mail, roughly the same as 2011, but up 5% since 2007.
A school district in southeastern Los Angeles County is illegally diluting the voting clout of Latinos and barring them from elective office by using an at-large electoral system for school board races, according to a lawsuit filed this week. No Latino has been elected to the seven-member board in the ABC Unified School District since 1997, although the ethnic group makes up nearly one-fourth of adults of voting age, according to the lawsuit filed by MALDEF, a leading Latino legal civil rights organization, and the Los Angeles law firm of Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho. The district encompasses 30 schools in Artesia, Cerritos, Hawaiian Gardens and portions of Lakewood, Long Beach and Norwalk. Its students are 42% Latino, 26% Asian, 11% Filipino, 10% African American, 7% white and 1% native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.
Heading into the final month of a highly partisan and controversial legislative session in which they’ve already passed civil unions, in-state tuition and gun control legislation, Democrats aren’t letting up. On Wednesday, Democratic lawmakers will introduce another bill guaranteed to spark yet another political battle royale: an omnibus elections bill that will allow residents to register to vote as late as Election Day and direct county clerks to mail ballots to every voter. “This is a partisan power play,” said Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, a Republican, who says the bill’s backers didn’t include his office or any GOP lawmakers in drafting the legislation. “It is not a bipartisan effort to have all voices at the table.” Last November, nearly three of every four Colorado voters cast their ballots by mail.
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 the Colorado County Clerks Association supports the bill. Many clerks, like Montezuma County’s Carol Tullis, are Republicans and still support the bill. “It sounds good on the surface,” Tullis said.
Republican-led legislation could prompt major changes for elections in North Carolina, including shorter early voting periods, elimination of same-day registration and ID requirements at the polls. While bill sponsors believe the changes will save money and prevent voter fraud, elections officials across the state say the measures could lead to longer lines and wait times at the polls. Most discussion has surrounded a proposed voter ID law, introduced by House Republicans last week. The law, which would take effect in 2016, would require voters to show one of eight state-issued forms of photo identification or a tribal ID card. Provisional ballots for those without photo ID on Election Day are allowed but would only be counted if the voter returns to a local election board before results are official, according to the bill. The legislation also includes a provision waiving fees for state-issued IDs for those who sign a statement swearing they don’t have a birth certificate or the means to pay.
State Sen. Dan Soucek of Boone said he supports fairness and equity in voting when asked about his co-sponsorship of bills that would impact college students and where they vote. Soucek responded to several questions about Senate bills 666 and 667, which would bar parents from listing their children as dependents on state tax forms if the children register to vote at a different address. The state typically grants tax deductions ranging from $2,000 to $2,500 per child dependent. Soucek said that his co-sponsorship of the bills means he wants to be in on the discussion of a proposal that interests his district — “but this isn’t my bill,” he said. The senator said his support for the bill is motivated by basic principle and by a specific event. “(It’s about the) basic fairness and equity of voting, and what standards does a voter need to have to vote in a community?” he said.
Canada: Online voting pilot squashed by Strathcona council after warning from Province | Sherwood Park News
After what seemed like a possible second chance for an Internet voting pilot project in Strathcona County, council squashed the plan for the upcoming general election, following a warning from the province. On Tuesday, April 9, council approved three recommendations that would effectively send the Internet Voting Pilot project back to the drawing board until the province and the municipality had conducted further research into the plan. According to Jacqueline Roblin from Legislative and Legal Services, the pilot project was first considered by council to be used during the upcoming 2013 general election. “The initial Internet voting pilot that council authorized Strathcona County to participate in was a collaborative effort between Municipal Affairs, Edmonton, St. Albert and Strathcona County to pilot Internet voting in conjunction and forming part of the 2013 general election,” she clarified. After Edmonton and St. Albert dropped out of the pilot project, Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths advised the county that the department would not be supporting the initiative and withdrew the promised funding.
Fiji’s Electoral Commission will be set up once the new Constitution is in place. Once established, it will be responsible for registering voters and conducting free and fair elections. The Commission consists of a chairperson and four others – appointed by the President – on the advice of the Prime Minister. Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says their appointment will be made once the constitution has been adopted. “Because the Electoral Commission needs to be appointed under the Constitution and I would suspect that would be the first thing that needs to be done.”
Venezuela’s first post-Chavez presidential election, taking place on April 14, has the unfortunate likelihood of suffering from the same shortcomings of the contest that occurred when Chavez was re-elected this past October: the vote was neither free nor fair but extraordinarily distorted by incumbent advantages and political intimidation. On October 7, Hugo Chavez was re-elected to a fourth term by a decisive margin, with 55 percent of the vote. In power since 1999, and emboldened with six-year terms and the right to indefinite reelection as a result of constitutional changes they forced through, the chavistas, now represented by Chavez’s anointed successor, Nicolas Maduro, appear as firmly entrenched as ever. Last October, the opposition candidate in next month’s contest, Henrique Capriles, mounted the most serious electoral challenge to Chavez since he assumed power, uniting disparate opposition forces, attracting many disillusioned former backers of Chavez, and giving hope to Venezuela’s youth in particular. If there had been a reasonably level playing field or an electoral climate free of the pervasive fear that Chavez’s forces provoked, Capriles might well have won the presidency. The April contest will be a rematch on the same unlevel playing field. Thus, it is unlikely that Capriles will secure the presidency.
As crucial presidential and parliamentary elections loom in Zimbabwe, a secretive Israeli-based company – accused of manipulating past elections in the region – is alleged to be involved in managing the Zimbabwean voters’ roll. Eddie Cross, a Zimbabwean opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) MP who has proved to be well informed on security matters in the past, told the Mail & Guardian that he had been informed by security sources that the company, Nikuv International Projects, is working on the roll at Defence House, the headquarters of the Zimbabwe Defence Force. The MDC also alleged that Nikuv was a front for the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, although it offered no evidence to support the claim. It is unclear what Nikuv’s involvement in this coming election is but it specialises in population registration and election systems. Cross said the source told him that the company is working under the direction of Daniel Tonde Nhepera, the deputy head of the Zimbabwe’s dreaded internal security arm, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO). Another Zimbabwean intelligence source confirmed to the M&G the allegation that Nikuv is working on the voters’ roll “with the CIO”.