In light of the recent failure of gun control legislation despite widespread public support for change, most Americans would be hard-pressed to name a government entity more dysfunctional than Congress. But that is only because most people have never heard of the Federal Election Commission, which is more out of touch with common sentiment than the House and Senate combined. Voters have become cynical about elected leaders, believing many are bought and paid for. While decrying this public perception, politicians on both sides of the aisle have little interest in taking any concrete action to improve the situation.
Caroline Hunter’s six-year term on the Federal Election Commission expires today. If recent history is any guide, what will happen next is … nothing. Of the six seats on the FEC, which interprets and administers the nation’s election laws, one is vacant and the others are occupied by commissioners with expired terms. It’s tempting to conclude from this that inertia dominates the FEC but that would be mistaken: The commission is more destructive than mere inertia could possibly allow. The most recent effort to instill even rudimentary accountability at the agency took place four years ago, in May 2009, when President Barack Obama nominated labor lawyer John Sullivan to a seat. Sullivan’s nomination sank in senatorial quicksand, and he never made it to the FEC. His nomination represents the bulk of the Obama administration’s work in the field of campaign finance reform.
As campaign finance reform groups complain that President Obama hasn’t done enough to limit the flow of big money into politics, it’s worth asking, are Americans riled up about the issue? The answer: not really, even though they back strict limits on campaign contributions in overwhelming numbers. Here’s a look at the numbers. On the question of whether super political action committees (Super PACs) should be able to raise and spend unlimited amounts on federal campaigns, the vast majority of Americans say they should be banned. When given arguments for and against their existence, nearly seven in 10 Americans–69 percent–said in a March 2012 Washington Post-ABC News poll Super PACs should be illegal, including majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents.
For some time now, we have known that presidential candidates focus their attention and energy on swing states. They do this because under the winner-take-all method of allocating Electoral College votes, the only states that matter are the ones that could go for either the Democrat or the Republican, while the ones that are squarely for one party or the other do not matter. For example, in 2012, the presidential candidates focused on only ten states. Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire were the only states in which Barack Obama and Mitt Romney held public campaign events after the Democratic National Convention, and those same ten states received 99.6% of all the Obama and Romney campaigns’ television advertising money spent nationwide between April 11 and Election Day. But where within the swing states did the candidates travel? Did they travel everywhere within these swing states, or just to the largest cities? How did geography and demography within swing states affect their campaign strategy? Now, we have the answers.
The House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday pushing back the voter registration period from 10 days prior to an election to 17. It now goes to the Senate. But even if the bill passes the Senate and is signed into law, opponents say they will file a complaint with the Justice Department in an attempt to block it. The measure was pushed by voter registrars around the state who said they need the additional time to finalize voter lists, but it drew strong criticism from Democrats saying it was an attempt to block minority voting. “We are not helping Alabamians when we start closing doors and put obstacles in their way to vote,” said Rep. James Buskey, D-Mobile.
The Alaska Redistricting Board will have to draw a map in line with the state constitution, but its final plan doesn’t necessarily have to be dramatically different from the one that ended up in court, the Alaska Supreme Court has affirmed.
The court issued an order on April 24 in response to questions posed by the board regarding the process it was expected to use in the latest court-mandated revision of the redistricting map. The order requires the board to first draw a map that complies with the Alaska Constitution before making changes to meet the federal Voting Rights Act that requires protection of Alaska Native voters. It’s a process that was set out by an earlier lawsuit and is known as the Hickel process. The court had already found the board failed to comply with the Hickel process in rulings last year.
Furious about Democratic-proposed election changes, Colorado Senate Republicans pushed debate past midnight Wednesday arguing against same-day registration and sending ballots by mail to all registered voters before the bill received initial approval. Republicans set a partisan tone as debate got underway Tuesday evening, blasting Democrats for considering such a massive proposal with a week left in the legislative session. A GOP lawmaker asked that the entire 128-page bill be read to drive the point, and argued many lawmakers and stakeholders had not had enough time to digest the legislation. “We are rushing this through and cramming this through the Legislature in the last eight days of the legislative process. I believe that this is an abuse of process,” said Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch.
Gov. Jack A. Markell and leadership in the state’s House of Representatives introduced measures to increase voter registration in Delaware Tuesday. House Majority Whip, Rep. John J. Viola, D-Newark, introduced legislation that would allow Election Day voting registration. Same-day voting registration has existed in Maine, Minnesota and Wisconsin since the 1970s, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. States that have mandated same-day registration have a voter turnout that is on average 10 percent higher than states that do not. “The goal is to try and get as many people as you can possibly get to do their duty, their civic duty and to vote,” Rep. Viola said. “Any barriers we can take down against that we can make easier, let’s do it.”
Delaware Representative Helene Keeley (D-3) traveled to Iraq in 2009 to oversee elections there. The joy she saw in the people with purple ink dotted on their thumbs and the violent lengths people went to in order to intimidate would-be voters were enough to show her that voting should be a universal right, she said. The next year, Delaware state representative and longtime proponent of voters’ rights Hazel Plant fell ill. Knowing she had little time left, Keeley said Plant asked her to take up the cause of her and her late husband, Rep. Al Plant, to secure immediate suffrage for felons who served their time.
Newly appointed members of the State Board of Elections say they will start their tenure Wednesday with no marching orders as to who should serve as their most senior staff member or how to pursue a high-profile campaign finance investigation. Gov. Pat McCrory appointed five new members to the board Friday, sweeping out incumbents with decades of experience. Each governor makes his or her own appointments to the board, based on recommendations from the chairman of the Republican and Democratic parties. But a 20-year run of Democratic governors – Jim Hunt, Mike Easley and Bev Perdue – has led to stability among the boards’ membership.
The judge hearing a challenge to Pennsylvania’s voter ID law has ordered the state to turn over information from its databases of voters and drivers. The number of Pennsylvania voters without acceptable identification was a central question last year in a hearing on whether the law would remain in effect for the November 2012 elections. That proceeding resulted in the extension — now through the May primary elections — of a phase-in period in which voters were asked, but not required, to show photo identification.
Elections Canada has abandoned plans to experiment with an online voting pilot project before the 2015 general election due to budget cuts. Elections Canada also has concerns about the security of online voting, but a new report indicates that voting irregularities happen frequently at polling stations on voting day even when paper ballots are used. A spokesperson for Elections Canada said Tuesday that experiments with online voting are postponed “for the long term,” and the reasons for the delay are due to an eight per cent budget cut that took effect this year, translating into a loss of $7.5 million per year. A plan to try out online voting in a federal byelection sometime before 2015 has been quashed.
More than 165,000 people seem to have voted improperly in the last election, a new Elections Canada report has found, and the system for voting needs to be overhauled, although there isn’t enough time to do that before the next election. Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand commissioned the report after irregularities in the Toronto riding of Etobicoke Centre led to a court challenge that went to the Supreme Court of Canada. Former Elections Canada executive Harry Neufeld audited 1,000 polls from the last election as well as three recent byelections, and discovered systematic errors in the processing of the 15 per cent of voters who show up on election day without having been registered.
Everyone can sigh with relief. Georgia’s justice officials say they are not in league with the devil and have no plans to assist the Antichrist to take over the world. In a bizarre public-service announcement, Georgia’s Justice Ministry on April 20 announced that new, biometric ID cards for Georgian citizens are not a satanic creation. “The assumption that the new ID card is the seal of the Antichrist and that it contains the sign of the beast is not correct,” explained an earnest young man in a video produced by the ministry.
The Public Relations Center of the Administration of the President of Iran published a press release rejecting information with reference to some president’s allies about existence of a record showing a fraud that happened during the presidential elections in 2009. On Monday, some media outlets in Iran released news about a record of Ahmadinjad’s conversation with some officials after the presidential elections. According to them, the alleged record shows that some Iranian authorities forced Ahmadinejad to announce that he canvassed 24 million votes, while his real votes were only 16 million. According to the claims, Ahmadinejad first disagreed, but they insisted upon their plan to show a large difference between the votes canvassed by Ahmadinejad and his major rival Mir Hossein Mousavi.
While the Election Commission (EC) has rubbished claims that motor oil or other substances could be used to remove the ink stain marking voters who have cast their ballots, it has already sparked off a storm of protests that the ink may not be as indelible as said. Reports of the oil-based lubricant as well as other substances such as egg yolk wash or merely scrubbing with water and soap could remove the indelible ink stain surfaced earlier today, hours after policemen and military personnel cast their ballots in advanced voting. “Impossible, I do not believe the indelible ink can be removed by any oil-based lubricant… the ink is made from silver nitrate. “When the ink is put on the fingernail, it will seep into the skin,” EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof told The Malaysian Insider when contacted. He said that even if the stain on the fingernail could be rubbed off, the stain would stay visible on the skin surrounding the nail for seven days.
Barely hours after ‘indelible’ ink was used for the first time in Malaysia, complaints have emerged that the ink is in fact removable. This is contrary to the Election Commission’s (EC) assurance that traces of the ink would last at least seven days on the finger after being painted on with a brush. One soldier, who had marked his ballot in advance voting on Tuesday morning, said he had removed most of the ink with water alone – just six hours later, Malaysiakini reported.
The Election Commission in Nepal has started registering political parties for the upcoming Constituent Assembly elections. On the first day of registration, seven political parties including CPN-UML, Unified CPN-Maoist, Nepali Congress, Sadvana Party and Terai Madhes Democratic Party have submitted applications for party registration for election purposes. The political parties in Nepal have tentatively agreed to conduct new elections, though the exact date for the elections is yet to be announced. The Election Commission has given one month’s time for registering political parties for the upcoming elections, according to sources at the Commission.
The petition website designed to give citizens “a direct line to the White House on the issues and concerns that matter most” is proving popular outside the U.S. as well. An April 15 We the People petition asking the Obama administration to urge a recount in the Venezuelan presidential election skyrocketed to nearly 100,000 signatures in just two days online, making it one of the fastest growing petitions ever posted to the 19-month-old White House website. The petition has now received 124,000 signatures and is the second most popular unanswered petition on We the People. It was filed the day after Nicolas Maduro, the handpicked successor of Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chavez, narrowly defeated challenger Henrique Capriles Radonski to win the South American nation’s top office. Capriles has challenged the result, citing voting irregularities.