Just when it seemed that the democratic process had reached its apotheosis with the election of America’s first black president, a political earthquake occurred in 2010 that threatened all that had been accomplished since 1965. Two years after Obama’s election, the midterm elections saw a conservative backlash that swept Republicans back into office in droves. As the media focused on the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives and increases in the Senate, more important developments were occurring closer to home. Republicans now controlled both legislative bodies in 26 states, and 23 won the trifecta, controlling the governorships as well as both statehouses. What happened next was so swift that it caught most observers off guard — and began surreptitiously to reverse the last half-century of voting rights reforms.
Opponents of two controversial Arizona elections bills made another appeal Monday to kill the legislation, threatening legal action if the measures become law. Latino advocacy groups released the results of an automated telephone survey that said 59 percent of surveyed voters opposed the concept of removing names from the state’s permanent early-voting list. Senate Bill 1261 would take a voter off the list if he or she fails to cast an early ballot for two consecutive federal election cycles and fail to respond to notification of their removal from the list. The bill also would forbid anyone from altering a voter’s registration form.
Following a 15-6 vote in the Delaware Senate, it looks like the state will amend its constitution and restore voting rights to non-violent offenders who have completed their sentences. The governor is expected to sign the Hazel D. Plant Voter Restoration Act into law, culminating a two-year legislative process requiring passage in two consecutive General Assemblies for any type of constitutional change.
With a 15-6 vote, Delaware’s Senate passed landmark legislation that would restore voting rights to certain non-violent felons who have completed their sentences. House Bill 10, sponsored by Rep. Helene M. Keeley, D-Wilmington South, a two-year constitutional amendment, would amend the state constitution by eliminating the standard five-year waiting period before felons are restored voting rights. The bill would not apply to individuals who have been convicted of crimes such as murder, felony sex offenses or felony crimes against public administration, such as bribery.
Desiline Victor, the 102-year-old North Miami voter who became a symbol of Florida’s elections woes, could again find it tough to cast a ballot now that the Republican-controlled state Senate voted Tuesday to keep a crack down on foreign-language interpreters at the polls. The Senate maintained the last-minute measure on what appeared to be a party-line voice vote while debating a bill designed to reverse the effects of an election law that helped create long lines and suppress the vote in 2012. On Election Day at Victor’s polling station, there weren’t enough interpreters for the Creole-speaking native of Haiti and hundreds like her. Turnout was heavy. And lines lasted for hours — partly due to a slew of proposed state Constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by the Florida Legislature.
After three years of delay, Maryland elections officials are finally replacing the state’s aging touch-screen voting machines with ones that can optically scan paper ballots in time for the 2016 presidential election. However, an April 12 story in the Maryland Reporter noted that they are planning to spend virtually all of the $1.2 million budgeted for the transition on just five outside contractors. Election Board Administrator Linda Lamone, who previously stated that the switch would occur “over my dead body,” has recommended paying the yet-to-be-hired senior project manager $350,000, the deputy project manager $300,000, two business analysts $210,000 each, and a technical writer $170,000 for just nine months of work.
Engineering Change in Elections, sponsored by the Brandeis College Democrats and the Brandeis University chapter of No Labels, was a discussion focusing on the problems with the Massachusetts voting systems and possible solutions for these problems. Tyler Creighton, Assistant Director of Common Cause Massachusetts; Pamela Wilmot, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts; and Sara Brady, Policy Director of MassVote were the featured speakers at the event. Common Cause Massachusetts and MassVote are both nonprofit organizations that focus on upholding the accountability of government and advocate for citizen participation in the political process.
North Carolina: Board of Elections data shows fewer voters lack photo ID than first thought | Associated Press
New data from the State Board of Elections show far fewer voters lack photo identification than critics of a voter ID bill suggest. The new information roughly halves the potential number of registered voters without photo ID from the 612,000 in a January report to about 318,000. The detailed figures were provided Tuesday to The Associated Press by North Carolina House Republicans and later confirmed in a draft report from the State Board of Elections. The voter ID bill comes up for debate in the state House this week.
Texas: Online voter registration bills see support from House, Senate committees | Houston Chronicle
Texas could become the seventeenth state to allow online voter registration if two bills advancing out of committees receive final approval. House Bill 313, which received praise from committee members in a Monday hearing, and Senate Bill 315, which was voted out of committee Thursday, propose allowing voters to register online and have that application automatically authenticated rather than having to wait on local election officials to reenter the data in their systems and confirm it.
The Guinean opposition has decided to recall its members from the National Independent Electoral Commission in escalated tensions with the government over the date of the West African country’s legislative election and related issues. The opposition has also put on halt all activities in the election process, according to a statement released on Monday night. The statement announced the decision citing the serious violation by the government of the legal provisions regulating the functioning of this institution.
Russia’s lower house has approved the first reading of a bill returning independent constituencies to the federal parliamentary polls. The bill drafted by the presidential administration in line with Vladimir Putin’s 2012 address to the parliament in which the Russian leader pledged personal support to the move suggested by politicians and political experts . It was passed in the first reading by 296 against 148 with one abstention.
It may seem like a drop in the ocean considering the vast amount of waste in Britain’s public sector, but the Electoral Commission, tasked primarly with regulating political parties and their financing, has revealed that it has spent almost £55,000 on a new website encouraging people to register to vote. The initiative, known as ItsYourVote.org.uk went live earlier this year and uses some bizarre methods to seek to convince people to register to vote. The site asks you for your postcode, upon which a selection screen launches, asking you to choose between an ice cream scoop, a cat and a fairground game. Once you’ve chosen, disaster is brought forth upon your neighbourhood, as the ice cream scoop digs you away, the cat burns you to cinders or the winch from a fairground game lifts you into the air.
Angry supporters of Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles are planning a second day of demonstrations Tuesday to protest his narrow defeat in this week’s presidential election. Capriles’ supporters banged pots and pans and burned trash bags as they marched through the streets of Caracas Monday, demanding a recount. They were confronted by police, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. Opposition protests were also reported in several provincial cities.
Against the backdrop of demands for a recount, election authorities in Venezuela yesterday proclaimed Hugo Chavez’s chosen successor Nicolas Maduro as the country’s president-elect. “It was a result that was truly fair, constitutional and popular,” Maduro declared, while criticizing opposition leader Henrique Capriles’ refusal to concede. According to Venezuela’s National Electoral Council, Maduro secured 50.8% of votes in Sunday’s election, while opposition candidate Capriles won 49.0%. The results were certified at a ceremony in Caracas by the country’s top election official who said Venezuela’s voting system had worked perfectly.