Can congressional Democrats and Republicans put aside partisan politics to seriously address the major issues facing our country? With the debt crisis ever looming and judicial and executive nominees languishing, there is plenty of opportunity for partisan rancor. But there is one area where politics should be — and, surprisingly, may be able to be — tossed aside: voting. In 2011 and 2012, we saw a wave of states pass restrictive laws that would have made it harder for millions of eligible Americans to vote. Citizens and voting advocates mounted a massive effort to push back and ensure everyone could have their say at the ballot box. In state after state, courtroom after courtroom, the most serious efforts to restrict the vote were rolled back and voters won. Now, there are signs of a sea change: Politicians are pulling back from efforts to rig the system before they even get signed into law.
It is an open scandal in Washington that the Federal Election Commission is completely ossified as the referee and penalizer of abuses in national politics. Karl Rove’s powerful Crossroads GPS money machine cruelly underlined the agency’s impotence last week with a snippy rebuff of a legitimate inquiry from the commission staff about the shadowy sources of the group’s war chest. Crossroads GPS archly replied that continued inquiries on the matter “are unnecessary,” but that if they keep coming, it will offer the same unrevealing response.
Alaska: Some Ballots Thrown Out of Anchorage Election Because of Officials’ Error, New results expected Friday | Alaska Public Media
About 100 ballots from the 2013 Municipal Election were rejected during a public canvas held at city hall last night. The canvas, led by the Anchorage Election Commission, lasted several hours. KSKA’s Daysha Eaton was there and has the story. That’s municipal attorney Dennis Wheeler reading the names of a few of the voters whose ballots were rejected during the Public Canvas Thursday evening. More than 100 questioned ballots were rejected. Ballots were rejected for a variety of reasons — because they were cast in a district in which the voter was not registered … because they were postmarked after election day or because the voter who cast the ballot was not registered at all, among others. The 8-person Election Commission conducted the canvas with help from the clerk’s office and the municipal attorney.
In use for the first time last year, California’s online voter registration system proved so popular that lawmakers want to build on its success this year. Wider promotion of the system and a push toward online voting are among several election-related bills under consideration as the Legislature approaches a midyear bill deadline. Other changes under consideration would shine more light on campaign financing and update how elections are run. About 800,000 Californians used the online registration system to join the state’s voter rolls, according to state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, who authored the original bill. An analysis of turnout figures by Political Data Inc. indicated that those who registered online were significantly more likely than other voters to cast a ballot last November. This year, Yee’s SB44 is proposing that all state websites link to the secretary of state’s voter registration page in an effort to publicize the system. Others want the state to move even further online and are pushing for a pilot program to test the casting of ballots over the Internet. Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, has put forward AB19 to review the security of online voting software and eventually create a pilot program for counties.
Fresh off their 2012 wins at the polls, California Democrats are looking to broaden their reach by advancing a new batch of bills aimed at expanding voter access and increasing turnout. Achieving that result would likely benefit Democrats, who historically fare worse in the lower-turnout nonpresidential elections, as they defend supermajorities in the state Legislature and competitive congressional seats won last year in the 2014 election. “We have work to do,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told delegates at the state party’s convention over the weekend in Sacramento. “We just got started.”
Colorado: Rep. Hullinghorst says elections measure would modernize voter-registration, ballot-casting systems | Longmont Times-Call
House Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, the sponsor of a bill that would move Colorado to a predominantly mail-ballot system, said Thursday that the measure amounts to “a 21st Century approach to voting.” Gunbarrel Democrat Hullinghorst’s House Bill 1303, which was introduced Wednesday, would require Colorado’s county clerks to send mail ballots to all eligible registered voters, including those who under current law are on “inactive” lists because they didn’t participate in a recent general election. People could mail their completed ballots back or drop them off at designated locations. Voters who prefer showing up in person to cast their ballots still could do so, at early-voting centers before Election Day, or at centralized voting locations on Election Day. County clerks would no longer have to provide neighborhood precinct polling places. Hullinghorst said her bill — entitled the “Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act” — would provide “full voting options for all of the voters in the state of Colorado” while simplifying and standardizing voter-registration and ballot-casting systems for would-be voters and for county clerks.
Colorado legislators are contemplating changes to their election laws this week that may result in higher turnout. A report issued by Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler figures prominently in the deliberations, which triumphantly touts “the most successful (election) in Colorado history,” implying that no changes are needed. However, claims in the report that Colorado’s voter turnout increased compared to 2008, while turnout declined elsewhere are not supported by the facts. I reassess the report with the best available data — my United States Elections Project — which the Colorado Secretary of State’s office analyzed selectively. With Colorado considering changes to its election laws, policy makers should make their decisions with the most accurate information.
Changes under Republican Gov. Rick Scott are making it more difficult for Florida’s former felons to get their voting rights restored, which critics say has suppressed the minority vote and hurt Democratic candidates. As one of his first actions after taking office in 2011, Scott, as chairman of the Florida Board of Executive Clemency, undid automatic restoration of voting rights for nonviolent ex-offenders that previous Gov. Charlie Crist helped adopt in 2007. Since then, the number of former felons who have had their voting rights restored has slowed to a trickle, even compared with the year before Crist and the clemency board helped make the process easier. Civil liberties activists say Florida’s rights restoration rules are the most restrictive in the nation and have the effect, if not the intent, of suppressing the minority vote. A disproportionate number of black Floridians are convicted felons – 16.5 percent of Floridians are black, yet black inmates make up 31.5 percent of the state’s prison population – meaning a higher percentage of African-Americans don’t have the right to vote after completing their sentences. And black voters tend to support Democrats. Exit polls show only one in 10 supported Scott in the 2010 election.
Former Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White will get a new judge to hear his complaints about his criminal trial, which ended with a jury convicting him of six felonies.White had petitioned for a new judge in March, claiming that Hamilton Superior Court Judge Steven Nation, who had handled his case since his 2011 indictment, was biased against him because of their dealings when White was chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party. He said Nation’s opinion of him outside the courtroom led him to make several rulings against White throughout proceedings that culminated in White’s 2012 trial and conviction. Nation granted White’s motion for a new judge this week, and his case has been re-assigned to Hamilton Superior Court Judge Daniel Pfleging.
Many North Carolina voters may face a shock when they next go to the polls. Republican state legislators have proposed three bills that restrict access to the voting ballot by adding additional fees on the parents of college students who register to vote in a county that is not where their home address is located and by requiring photo identification to vote. The first bill, SB 667, which affects North Carolina residents and has caused a great deal of controversy. The bill states that “If the voter is a dependent of the voter’s parent or legal guardian, is 18 years of age or older and the voter has registered at an address other than that of the parent or legal guardian, the parent or legal guardian will not be allowed to claim the voter as a dependent for state income tax purposes.” The exemptions given to North Carolina parents is worth anywhere from $2,000 to $2,500, and if the law is passed, these parents would face an increase in their taxes. According to an article published by the Huffington Post April 5, “Republican sponsors have defended their push to reform voting laws as a way to save money.”
The General Assembly is considering a bill to require voters to present photo identification in order to be allowed to vote. Proponents of the bill say the ID requirement is necessary to protect the integrity of elections and stamp out voter fraud. Opponents claim that there is no significant evidence of in-person voter fraud and that the bill is simply an attempt to make it harder to vote for persons without ID who tend to be older, poorer and more minority than those with ID. Putting aside the public policy debates, the voter ID bill has one significant problem: It violates the N.C. Constitution, which deliberately puts the issue of voter qualifications beyond the reach of the General Assembly. To understand how and why requires some knowledge of the history of North Carolina, including the crucial role of voting rights in North Carolina.
North Carolina has a long history of election fraud, although not the kind being debated in the halls of the legislature. The way elections have historically been stolen in North Carolina is through the use of absentee ballots for obvious reasons – not only are there no photographs required but the “voter” doesn’t even have to show up in person. For decades the Democratic organizations that ruled North Carolina would ship thousands of absentee ballots to machine-controlled mountain counties thatwould provide as many votes as were needed. The 1920 governor’s race was almost certainly stolen that way. The machine-backed candidate, Cameron Morrison, finished second when the voting was completed on Election Day. But after 11 days of counting absentee votes trickling in from the mountain counties, he was declared winner of the Democratic nomination by 87 votes. That was at a time when North Carolina was a one-party state and Democratic factions stole elections from each other.
What happens if a ballot box in an Election Commission boat gets swept away by strong currents in crocodile-infested waters? Will campaigning in a constituency continue if one of the candidates dies before polling day? And who wins if two candidates contesting a seat receive the same number of votes? These are just some of the out-of-the-ordinary hypothetical scenarios that the EC has prepared for as part of its overall effort to ensure a smooth 13th general election. EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof said ballot boxes transported by river in the interior of Sabah and Sarawak will be fitted with floats to prevent them from getting lost en route to the counting centre. “This precaution was taken in the Tenang by-election as well as the Sarawak state polls in 2011. “We have tested the float-fitted ballot boxes by throwing them into swimming pools to ascertain that they do not sink,” he added in an interview.
Overseas Pakistanis are planning agitation against the reluctance of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to make speedy arrangements to enable more than eight million overseas Pakistanis to vote on May 11 elections. Despite clear orders by the highest judiciary of the land to make speedy arrangements, the ECP has continued to tell the court about a range of hurdles to giving overseas Pakistanis right to vote in the 2013 general election. Since the start of the case overseas Pakistanis had hoped that they would soon hear good news but that has not happened and various groups are in discussion to start protests against the ECP and other government agencies. Many workers of Pakistan People’s Party, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and especially Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have plans to take part in election campaign in Pakistan but they have stayed back in the UK till now just in case British Pakistanis are allowed to cast vote on May 11 polls.
Voters will choose a president and vice president, 45 senators, 80 deputies and the governors of 17 departments. The vote was precipitated by the impeachment of Fernando Lugo, a former Roman Catholic bishop who was laicized upon his election as Paraguay’s president in 2008 and removed from office by the legislature in Jun 2012. Lugo was voted out by Congress over his handling of a land dispute in which 17 people died. The top two presidential candidates are trading accusations of cozying up to drug traffickers and pilfering public funds.
Denouncing election irregularities, Venezuelan opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski demanded a recount and said early Monday that he will not recognize the country’s presidential results “until every vote is counted.” His comments came less than an hour after officials said the man former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez handpicked to be his successor had won the country’s presidential vote. With 99% of votes counted, Nicolas Maduro won 50.66% of votes, National Electoral Council President Tibisay Lucena said, calling the results “irreversible.” Capriles won 49.07% of votes, she said.
Venezuelans went to hi-tech polling booths on Sunday for the first presidential election of the post-Hugo Chávez era, with surveys indicating that his chosen successor will win a clear mandate to continue his policies of “21st Century Socialism.” … Capriles, a 40-year-old state governor who promised to manage the economy more effectively, wrote on his Twitter feed that this event – widely covered by the government-controlled media – was a “flagrant violation” of electoral rules that forbid campaigning in the two days prior to the vote. It was one of many claims of unfairness leveled by the challenger, who is disadvantaged by Maduro’s extra airtime on state news channels, his use of the presidential jet to fly to rallies, and resources and personnel from massive state-owned companies. In contrast, the vote itself has been lauded by outside observers as among the most advanced in the world.
The Venezuelan opposition has made an official complaint against the government following allegations that it broke the law by continuing its electoral campaign on state television. On the eve of the election, acting President Nicolas Maduro appeared on TV visiting the tomb of Hugo Chavez. The opposition candidate Henrique Capriles said his opponent was “violating all the electoral norms”. On Saturday, he launched an internet channel to broadcast his own campaign. Despite this, he said he had been “respecting the electoral rules, but those in power don’t know anything other than the abuse of power”. Almost 19 million Venezuelans will have the right to vote on Sunday for a successor to Hugo Chavez. Voting will be electronic – one machine will identify voters’ fingerprints, and a second will recognise identity card numbers and register the vote anonymously.