Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said a member of his party has admitted to manipulating e-votes in the Reform Party’s leadership election last week and in another election in 2011. “The party secretary has a specific individual’s explanation in written form in which the individual admits to having committed the acts at hand. And the individual has suggested that he or she did this at the request and knowing of someone else,” Ansip told ERR radio, without revealing any names as the investigation is still in progress.
As the report of the IRS Inspector General shows, the agency’s scrutiny of conservative groups applying for non-profit status was, more than anything, a clumsy response to a task the IRS is ill-equipped to carry out – monitoring an accidental corner of campaign finance law, a corner that was relatively quiet until about 2010. That corner is the 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization, belonging to what are sometimes called “social welfare” groups, which enjoy the triple privilege of tax exemption (though not for their donors), freedom to engage in some limited election activity, and, unlike other political committees (PACs, SuperPACs, parties, etc.), freedom from any requirement to disclose information about donors or spending. The use of (c)(4)s as campaign vehicles didn’t originate with the Citizens United decision in 2010 (Citizens United, the organization that brought the case, was already a (c)(4)), but the decision seems to have created a sense that the rules had changed, and even small groups – especially, apparently, local Tea Party organizations — rushed to create (c)(4)s.
Online voter registration is a concept that has only recently been made available to U.S. citizens. At the moment, most states don’t have a system set up for it. However, that could change in the near future, if current trends are any indication. Unfortunately, there are a few issues that currently keep it from being used nationwide.For starters, when President Obama was first elected in 2008, only two states — Washington and Arizona — had online voter registration systems. In 2012, when he was reelected, 13 states had these systems. Now, a total of 23 states have or are about to have what is called “voter registration modernization.” Many believe that most states will enact online voter registration — sooner rather than later — now that word of the many advantages is spreading.
Before the current U.S. Supreme Court term ends in late June, the justices will decide the fate of the most potent part of a law widely considered the most important piece of civil rights legislation ever passed by Congress ― the Voting Rights Act of 1965. If the court were to strike down part of the law, which it has signaled a willingness to do in the past, it would dramatically reduce the federal government’s role in overseeing voter discrimination in a wide swath of the nation. The U.S. Supreme Court prepares to enter June with the term’s biggest cases yet to be decided. NBC’s Pete Williams looks at what’s left on the docket. Signed by President Lyndon Johnson and renewed by Congress four times since then, most recently in 2006, a key provision requires states with a history of discrimination at the polls to get federal permission before making adjustments to their election procedures.
Outrage first, facts later. That’s often the way American political “scandals” unfold, and it seems to be the case with the news that the IRS targeted conservative political groups for extra scrutiny before granting them tax-exempt status as social-welfare organizations. We knew from the beginning of the IRS mess that the only group actually denied tax-exempt status was the Maine chapter of a Democratic women’s group, Emerge America. Now we’re learning about some of the right-wing organizations that came in for extra scrutiny, as reported by the New York Times Monday: a conservative veterans’ group that only backed one candidate, a Republican, for Congress; an Alabama Tea Party group that took part in a “defeat Barack Obama” voter-turnout drive, and the “Ohio Liberty Coalition” led by a Republican activist who sent his members information on Mitt Romney campaign events and recruited them to volunteer for the GOP nominee.
Voting Blogs: Vote centers turn 10 – a decade later, jurisdictions slowly joining movement | electionlineWeekly
A decade ago, Larimer County, Colo. Clerk Scott Doyle was looking for a way to deal with many of the changes mandated by the Help America Vote Act. Working with the county’s elections department and practices already in place for early voting, Doyle and company created the concept of vote centers to use in all elections. Now, although Doyle has recently retired, his idea of consolidating voting precincts into a small number of come-one, come-all polling places is spreading to more and more counties across the country. “The success of vote centers is largely due to their attractiveness to voters who might not otherwise vote,” said Robert Stein, political science professor at Rice University who has studied vote centers. “They afford inexperienced votes many of the benefits in-person early voting offers, in those states that allow voters to ballot before Election Day. “ Counties making the move to vote centers cite a variety of reasons for making the switch, but the biggest factor of all seems to be cost savings.
As the Alaska Redistricting Board sits mostly idle despite a December 2012 state Supreme Court decision that ordered all 40 voting districts to be redrawn, a Fairbanks Superior Court judge Thursday offered up a verbal smackdown to the board, chastising the inaction and ordering public hearings related to the next redrawing process. “Alaskans are no closer to having constitutional voting districts today” than they were in December, said Superior Court judge Michael McConahy. Every 10 years, Alaska’s voting lines are ordered to be redrawn according to the latest U.S. Census data. In Alaska, not only are there state requirements to be met, but any redistricting plan must also appease the federal Voting Rights Act. Alaska is among several states requiring Department of Justice confirmation that minority groups aren’t subject to discrimination by proposed voting changes.
At a time when 500,000 eligible Illinoisans aren’t registered to vote, and voter turnout is at staggeringly low levels, the Illinois Senate approved legislation Wednesday that would make online voter registration an option in the state. The bill, HB 2418, would make it possible by July 1, 2014 for residents to register to vote through the Illinois State Board of Elections’ website. After entering drivers’ license information and the last four digits of a Social Security number, potential voters would be mailed a voter registration card. The card would need to be presented at a polling place during voting. “We’re taking a bold step into the electronic world,” State Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), the bill’s primary sponsor in the Senate, said during the legislation’s debate. “This really is a key to getting young people involved in the process.”
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) nudged Virginia into the 21st century Wednesday by decreeing a new system to restore voting rights automatically to nonviolent felons who have paid their debt to society. The governor’s move is courageous and consequential: In time — more time than many would like — it should enfranchise tens of thousands of ex-convicts, most of whom would otherwise be frozen out of elections indefinitely. Mr. McDonnell’s move does not solve the entire problem. It excludes those convicted of violent felonies, including some drug crimes. At least 40 percent of the estimated 300,000 to 400,000 felons, plus several thousand released from prison each year, will remain ineligible to vote unless they undergo a lengthy waiting period and submit a complex application. In practice, few do so.
West Virginia: Funding an issue for Supreme Court candidate public financing; program to have $1.5M balance | Associated Press
Pleased that a public financing experiment for Supreme Court candidates is now a permanent program, West Virginia’s State Election Commission also noted Thursday that it will only have an estimated $1.5 million to offer when a court seat is next on the ballot in 2016. The commission voted to approve proposed revisions to the program’s rules, following passage of legislation expanding what had been a one-election pilot. But commission members were also mindful that the recently concluded session did not include additional funding or revenue sources for the program. Lawmakers instead took $1.5 million from the program’s balance, after Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin requested it for other budgetary needs. That leaves $1.1 million, while the state treasurer is scheduled to provide an additional $400,000 by July 2015, Timothy Leach, a lawyer for Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, said during Thursday’s meeting.
A Wisconsin appeals court on Thursday ruled the state’s controversial voter ID law is constitutional, a victory for supporters who say the measure limits fraud at the ballot box. The Fourth District Court of Appeals overturned a March 2012 decision by Dane County judge Richard Niess, who ruled in favor of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, which claimed that the law is too burdensome, denying potential voters the right to vote. The organization “makes no effective argument that, on its face, the requirement makes voting so difficult and inconvenient as to amount to a denial of the right to vote,” the appeals court wrote in its decision.
Guinea: President decrees start of campaign for contested legislative election | The Washington Post
Guinea’s president unilaterally decreed Wednesday the start of campaigning for a contested legislative election, which has been repeatedly delayed due to opposition complaints. The surprise move is bound to further heighten tensions between the ruling party and the country’s increasingly united opposition. In the decree read on national television on the evening news, President Alpha Conde announced that campaigning will begin at midnight and would end at the same time on June 28. The move hass taken the nation by surprise, and comes as the country’s opposition leaders on Wednesday led a motorized funeral procession to put to rest six of the 12 opposition members who were killed during last week’s protest against the planned poll.
The main function of elections in democracies is to enable the exercise of the people’s authority over the power of the state by establishing a government to implement policies which the public has voted for. Iran’s government, however, is bound by a constitution which states that a “supreme leader” has ultimate power over all branches of state and government. Elections of such a government, in effect, legitimize a regime which deprives people of their right to determine the state in which they live. In fact, what appears to be the “election” in Iran is only the shell of a political form; a remnant of the early years of the revolution and the first draft of the country’s constitution in which the sole source of legitimacy for any government was to be the people’s vote. But due to a power struggle between democratic and dictatorial interests, the constitution was rewritten to enshrine two competing sources of legitimacy: the people’s vote and the Velayat-e Faqih (the rule of the jurist or supreme leader). At the time, the position of supreme leader was filled by the undisputed leadership of Ayatollah Rohollah Khomeini. Eventually, this constant tension between the two sources of legitimacy led Khomeini, at the end of his life, to tilt the balance of power further towards the supreme leader, thereby increasing his role in the constitution from a mainly observatory status to one of absolute power. The preservation of the regime became an ultimate and absolute duty, thus justifying virtually any act towards this end.
All the printers used to produce voter cards in Mozambique’s current voter registration are being replaced, after massive problems with the existing printers, says Mozambican news agency, AIM. Citing reports on Thursday’s issue of the “Mozambique Political Process Bulletin”, produced by AWEPA (Association of European Parliamentarians for Africa) and CIP (Centre for Public Integrity), AIM said across the country there have been problems with the computers and printers used in registration and, perhaps most embarrassing of all, some of the registration brigades have not even had toner for their printers. These problems meant that, in the largest province, Nampula, half the registration posts were not open on Wednesday.
President Benigno Aquino III has signed into law a consolidated bill amending the Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003, allowing more overseas Filipinos worldwide to cast their votes in Philippine elections. The Chief Executive signed last May 27 the Republic Act 10590 (An Act Amending Republic Act 9189, Entitled “An Act Providing for a System of Overseas Absentee Voting by Qualified Citizens of the Philippines Abroad, Appropriating Funds Therefor and for Other Purposes.”) The Act otherwise known as “The Overseas Voting Act of 2013” is a consolidation of Senate Bill 3312 and House Bill 6542. The Senate and the House of Representatives passed the consolidated measure on February 5, 2013 and February 6, 2013, respectively.
Voteer registration, now a standing cabinet agenda item, once again dominated the government policy-making body meeting this week, resulting in Justice Minister Patrick Chinamsa, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson Rita Makarau, and Registrar General (RG) Tobaiwa Mudede being instructed to meet to deal with the issue threatening to throw the electoral process into chaos. Chinamasa, Mudede and Makarau were expected to meet yesterday to find ways of smoothening voter registration which is increasingly becoming a contentious issue ahead of crucial general elections. The meeting was expected to take stock of all the problems which affected the mobile voter registration exercise, discuss ways of how “aliens” will get documents to enable them to register as voters as provided for by the new constitution and look at plans to establish schools as registration centres where headmasters will become commissioners of oath to allow all Zimbabweans to be able to register.
U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, aimed high with his first bill as a member of Congress: a constitutional amendment establishing the right to vote. As I explained in a recent post, the amendment may sound superfluous but legal scholars acknowledge that the right to vote is not currently guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, and adding language to that effect could impact laws that affect voting, such as voter ID. The bill may have little chance of advancing in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives, but it is getting attention — for all it’s worth — from progressives across the country.
California: Bill to Modernize California’s Election System Approved by State Senate | California Newswire
The California State Senate today approved SB 361 by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) on a bipartisan vote of 29 to 9. The bill would modernize California’s voter registration system and increase online access to elections information. The bill now goes to the Assembly for consideration. “While many states provide online tools that allow citizens to register to vote, verify their registration, determine their polling place location and even determine the status of their ballot, California has fallen behind,” said Padilla. A report released earlier this year by the Pew Center on the States, ranked California 48th out of 50 states in election administration. The report utilizes 17 indicators that include the adoption of voting technology, the accuracy of voter rolls, reported problems with registration and absentee ballots, the voter registration rate and election turnout.
Connecticut: GOP Concerned About Potential Removal Of Independent Party of Connecticut | Hartford Courant
Republicans were outraged Wednesday by a Democratic-written bill that would effectively eliminate the Independent Party of Connecticut. The bill, which is a working draft, says that the word “independent” would be removed from any political party in Connecticut. The reason given is that “independent” is often mistaken with the word “unaffiliated,” which is how hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents are registered. But the potential switch has huge political overtones in Connecticut because the Independent Party has most recently cross-endorsed Republican candidates, including Linda McMahon in her run for the U.S. Senate and conservative Republican Michael McLachlan in his three successful races for state Senate in Danbury and surrounding towns.
Illinoisans could someday register to vote via the internet under legislation endorsed Wednesday by the Illinois Senate. The measure, which is just one piece of a package of proposed state election law changes being considered by state lawmakers, is designed to make the voting process more appealing to a bloc of potential voters who rarely come out in force. “We’re taking a bold step into the electronic world,” said state Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park. “This really is a key to getting young people involved in the process.”
New York City has spent $95 million over the past few years to bring its election process into the 21st century, replacing its hulking lever voting machines with electronic scanners. But now, less than three years after the new machines were deployed, election officials say the counting process with the machines is too cumbersome to use them for the mayoral primary this year, and then for the runoff that seems increasingly likely to follow as soon as two weeks later. In a last-ditch effort to avoid an electoral embarrassment, the city is poised to go back in time: it is seeking to redeploy lever machines, a technology first put in place in the 1890s, for use this September at polling places across the five boroughs. The city’s fleet of lever machines was acquired in 1962 and has been preserved in two warehouses in Brooklyn, shielded from dust by plastic covers.
Ohio has a voter fraud problem, but the problem apparently isn’t nearly as bad as some suspected. That seems to be the conclusion of a report released by Secretary of State Jon Husted. Husted, as part of an effort to separate fact from fiction on voter fraud, had ordered all 88 of the state’s county boards of elections to hold public hearings if they were aware of any credible voter fraud allegations or claims of voter disenfranchisement during the 2012 election. The statewide review resulted in 135 cases being referred for prosecution out of 625 red-flagged for voting irregularities. Most of the cases, Husted noted, were caught before fraudulent votes were counted. The report also showed no findings of suppression, actual in-person ballot denials or intimidation at the polls. While one case of fraud is too many, the 135 cases represent a fraction of the 5.6 million votes cast in November. That’s 0.002397 percent.
Melowese Richardson, the Madisonville poll worker accused for voting illegally for herself and others over three elections, entered no contest pleas in court this morning to four of the eight charges against her. Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Ruehlman accepted the plea bargain reached between Richardson’s attorney and assistant county prosecutor William Anderson and found Richardson guilty of four counts of illegal voting. The other four counts were dismissed. The 58-year-old Richardson, a long-time poll worker at the Madisonville Recreation Center, will undergo a pre-sentence investigation and be sentenced by Ruehlman on July 9. She faces the possibility of up to 18 months in jail on each of the charges, which are fourth degree felonies.
Texas: Court’s briefing schedule on demographic and election data, admissibility of D.C. record | Texas Redistricting
A good part of today’s redistricting hearing in San Antonio centered around the admissibility of three key pieces of evidence that African-American and Hispanic plaintiff groups would like the court to consider – namely, updated ethnicity estimates from the Census Bureau, the results of the 2012 election, and record excerpts from the preclearance case before the D.C. court. The State of Texas said it did not object to consideration of updated demographic and election data as long as use of the data was limited to the drawing of remedial maps.
Gov. Bob McDonnell today will announce that he is automatically restoring the voting rights of nonviolent felons on an individual basis. The sweeping administrative action – while not an instantaneous blanket restoration – is as far as the governor can go within current Virginia law, administration officials said. The change, effective July 15, removes the application process for nonviolent felons. Once the administration verifies a nonviolent felon has paid his debt to society, the governor will send the individual a letter restoring his rights.
One of the chief authors of Wisconsin’s voter photo identification plan is shopping around a new bill designed to allay legal concerns that the requirements are too burdensome by letting poor people opt out. Republican lawmakers passed voter photo ID requirements two years ago, saying the move was needed to combat election fraud. But a pair of Dane County judges struck the requirements down in separate lawsuits last year. One ruled the requirements were unconstitutional because some people entitled to vote might lack the resources to obtain an ID. The other said the law substantially impairs the right to vote for poor people, noting birth certificates are required to obtain the IDs and voters who lack them must pay for them. The state Justice Department has appealed both decisions. Two federal lawsuits challenging the requirements are still pending.
Wisconsin: Bill Would Enact Voter ID, End Disclosure, Limit Early Voting, Expand Lobbyist Influence | PR Watch
A Wisconsin legislator has managed to bundle nearly all of the excesses associated with dirty elections into a single bill that good government advocates are describing as a “sweeping assault on democracy:” the legislation would try reinstating restrictive voter ID requirements, make it easier for donors to secretly influence elections, expand lobbyist influence, restrict early voting, and make it harder to register, among other measures. The legislation is “so huge, covers so much ground, and has so many independently controversial parts of it,” that it appears “intended to cut-out any public input or to render [that input] meaningless,” says Andrea Kaminski, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin. Announced on the Friday afternoon before Memorial Day weekend, and in the midst of the budget-writing process that consumes most state news coverage, the bill from Rep. Jeff Stone (R) seems designed to be rushed-through before the public has a chance to respond.
A group of lawmakers tasked with studying and potentially proposing a bill to require Wyoming voters to show identification at polling places decided not to pursue the matter Tuesday. A trio of county clerks told members of the Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Interim Committee that they didn’t believe a lot of people purposely voted fraudulently in Wyoming. The clerks believed a bigger problem was people voting in the wrong precinct — some purposely and some inadvertently.
Guinea’s main opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo on Wednesday told AFP that he would be ready to take part in parliamentary elections if the date would be pushed back several months and the government guarantees a fair vote. Discontent is simmering in the west African country, triggering violent clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters in recent months. The opposition has accused President Alpha Conde of seeking to rig the elections planned for June 30. Over the last week alone, at least 12 people have been killed and 89 have been wounded in the stepped-up violence and the government on Tuesday called for an inquiry into the deaths.
Ghana’s Supreme Court must decide in the coming months whether or not to overturn December elections that handed the presidency to John Mahama, in a rare case of African judicial vigour that has transfixed the country. Proceedings in a packed courtroom, where opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo is challenging the outcome of the 2012 poll, are broadcast live on the radio and blare from cars and buses as the population of 25 million tunes in for the latest developments. Legal experts say the verdict, expected some time between late June and August, is too close to call, and several believe there is a genuine chance the court could invalidate the victory of Mahama’s ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC).