Federal Election Commissioner Caroline Hunter’s term expired on April 30. This wouldn’t be newsworthy except for one thing: It means that as of now, all the members of the agency that enforces the nation’s campaign laws—and is supposed to oversee the flood of money candidates and their allies spend—are working on borrowed time. President Obama hasn’t nominated anyone to succeed them. So the current commissioners are simply lingering in their expired seats. To say the FEC is broken is a parody of understatement. The agency’s structure—three Democratic commissioners and three Republicans, serving single six-year terms—means it often deadlocks along party lines. That’s what happened when it tried to update its own regulations in the aftermath of the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, the case that helped open the door to unlimited political spending. The commission’s three Democrats wanted to consider tightening disclosure requirements; the Republicans insisted on reviewing only those rules that conflicted with the court’s ruling. That put the commissioners on the sidelines when spending by independent groups tripled to $1 billion in 2012, up from $300 million in 2008, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a research group that tracks campaign spending.
A sensible, election administration reform is quietly sweeping the nation. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 18 states have implemented or recently adopted online voter registration, either initiating a new registration or updating an old one. Twelve other states have legislation winding its way through the legislative process. The reform is bipartisan in that both Democratic- and Republican-controlled state governments have adopted it, from Arizona to Maryland. Legislators are attracted to online voter registration because it offers substantial election administration savings. Arizona, the first state to adopt online voter registration in 2002, reports that over 70 percent of registrations are now conducted online. The old paper system cost 83 cents to process each registration form, compared to 3 cents for the online system.
Early last month, state lawyers and election officials around the country dialed into a conference call to talk about how to deal with the flood of secret money that played an unprecedented role in the 2012 election. The discussion, which included officials from California, New York, Alaska and Maine, was a first step toward a collaborative effort to force tax-exempt advocacy organizations and trade associations out of the shadows. The unusual initiative was driven by the lack of progress at the federal level in pushing those groups to disclose their contributors if they engage in campaigns, as candidates and political action committees are required to do.
California: San Francisco goes for the Guinness — 500-page ballot book blockbuster | San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco voters this fall will be treated to some extra reading in the form of a 400- to 500-page ballot guide, thanks mostly to a referendum on the height of the 8 Washington waterfront luxury condo development. “It’s going to look like a phone book,” said Department of Elections head John Arntz. That’s because under city law, the Nov. 5 ballot book, which is mailed to 500,000 voters, must include the “full text” of the referendum as it was presented during the signature drive that put it on the ballot. In this case, that means the city must include more than 500 pages of documents, including those from the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors’ hearings and even copies of studies on shadows that the condos may cast. And it is not going to come cheap.
Verified Voting in the News: California Assembly committee passes Internet voting bill with secret amendments | Kim Alexander’s Weblog
Last Tuesday at the California Assembly Elections committee hearing,AB 19 by Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) was heard and passed on a 4-3 vote. If enacted, the bill would create a California online voting pilot program. Over the weekend, while cleaning out some old papers, I had deja vu moment when I came across a December 4, 2000 news release issued by then-Assembly Majority Leader Kevin Shelley announcing the introduction of AB 55, which among other things, as originally introduced would have established an online voting pilot program under the direction of the Secretary of State. That provision was ultimately amended out, and Mr. Shelley would go on to become the Secretary of State of California and one of the nation’s first political leaders to support a voter verified paper audit trail and mandatory election recounts.
The Colorado Senate passed a bill Thursday that would provide a ballot by mail to every state voter, allow vote centers for those who choose not to use the mail ballot and — controversially — allow people to register and vote on Election Day. The bill passed 20-15 with the full support of Democrats and no Republican votes. The bill passed the House on a party-line vote last month. Before it can go to Gov. John Hickenlooper for a signature to become the new way elections are held in Colorado, the bill must return to the House for approval because of “technical” amendments added in the Senate. While legislators in both parties liked the convenience of more by-mail voting, Election Day registration was the grist for the oratory mill.
Colorado: Colorado bill raises the possibility of voter fraud and intimidation, critics say | Washington Free Beacon
Colorado’s Democratic-controlled state legislature is ramming through an election bill that critics say will open the door to voter fraud and intimidation. The “Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act” is expected to pass the legislature this week. Democrats control both chambers of the legislature, as well as the governor’s mansion, meaning the bill could pass without a single Republican vote. The bill is under consideration amid accusations that Republicans in other states have tried to suppress the vote by passing laws that require some form of identification in order to vote.
Florida: Elections bill to fix long voter lines stalls over Miami-Dade elections office | Miami Herald
Embarrassed by an elections meltdown, lawmakers headed to the Florida Capitol this year with a pledge to undo a law that helped lead to long lines, angry voters and jeers about “Flori-duh.” But the elections clean-up bill that the House passed on the very first day of the legislative session has yet to pass the Legislature as the last day dawns. Lawmakers overwhelmingly support the plan to reverse a 2011 election law by expanding the number of early voting sites and days. The bill also gives people a chance to correct an absentee ballot they forgot to sign and would make it easier to prosecute people caught with multiple absentee ballots. But there’s a major hang-up between the House and Senate: a plan to punish election supervisors deemed ineffective and “noncompliant” with the state’s election code.
Several Florida organizations that watchdog voting rights issues are giving a thumbs down to the elections bill currently awaiting a vote in the Florida legislature. In a letter delivered to House Speaker Will Weatherford, the organizations argue that the bill has a disproportionately harmful impact on minorities and they offer several recommendations for strengthening the measure. HB 7013 gives supervisors of elections discretion to decide if their county should have early voting between eight and 14 days. Before the GOP-controlled legislature rewrote elections law in 2011, 14 days of early voting was mandatory. The change contributed to long lines in the 2012 election, the groups say in their letter, and they ask that those 14 days be restored.
Voting Blogs: Maine towns continue to count ballots by hand – State offer of free vote-counting equipment rejected by some | electionlineWeekly
When you think of Maine you think of lobsters and blueberries and quaint, picturesque towns. For years, ballot clerks in hundreds of these small towns have spent election night painstakingly hand-counting ballots. Depending on the size of the town and the size of the election, this process could last well into the morning hours. In early 2012, there were approximately 500 towns throughout Maine still hand-counting ballots. The Secretary of State’s Office, in an effort to speed up the process and get results to Augusta more quickly, offered the towns with more than 1,100 registered voters access to 225 vote tabulators (ES&S DS 200) free of charge under the state’s contract with the vendor. “We are providing 225 tabulators free of charge,” explained Julie Flynn, deputy secretary of state. “The majority of the municipalities with more than 1,100 registered voters accepted the tabulators.” Only Greenville, Litchfield and Winterport declined two offers from the state and continue to count their ballots by hand.
The Republican-controlled State Board of Elections Wednesday chose Kim Westbrook Strach, a veteran campaign investigator, to be the elections board director. She will replace Gary Bartlett who had been elections director under the past three Democratic governors. The elections board vote was 3-2 along party lines, with Democrats voting in opposition saying they had not time to examine Strach’s credentials and thought there should be a longer transition for Bartlett. The move came just several days after Republican Gov. Pat McCrory named a new elections board, a move that typically occurs when there is a change in political parties.
South Carolinians on both sides of the voter-identification battle claimed victory in a federal court ruling in 2012. The statute requiring voters to present state-approved photo identification in order to cast ballots in elections and primaries was upheld by a panel of three federal judges. Enforcement was delayed until after the 2012 election. Republicans were happy because the GOP-dominated Legislature had its efforts vindicated, with the judges finding no discriminatory intent behind the law. Democrats were happy because the law challenged by the U.S. Justice Department as discriminatory to minorities and the elderly did not impact Election Day 2012. Important now is how the new law is being applied in the state. No one is screaming because the court diluted the ID requirement. In virtually any instance, a voter is able to cast a ballot. Judges made clear that ensuring just that was integral to their decision.
Voters may no longer use photo identification issued by other states as acceptable forms of identification when voting in person. This change mirrors similar laws in other states, including Indiana. Indiana’s photo ID law has been upheld by the United States Supreme Court. The General Assembly amended Tennessee’s voter photo ID law during its recently concluded legislative session.
Failure by Guinea’s politicians to reach agreement for a long-delayed legislative poll is stirring up tribal violence, jeopardizing economic gains and raising fears that the military could once again step in. The election, first scheduled for 2011, is meant to complete a transition to civilian rule after a military coup in 2008, but has been postponed several times as government and opposition parties remain at loggerheads over the organization of the vote. At least 12 people have been killed and over 300 wounded between February and April during several days of violent clashes between opposition supporters, government loyalists and security forces in the seaside capital Conakry, Reuters reports.
In totalitarian dictatorships diversity of opinion doesn’t exist. And so is the case in the Islamic Republic of Iran where all secular organizations and parties were eliminated at the beginning of the Islamic revolution of 1979. Nevertheless, in keeping up appearances, presidential elections are to be held in that country on June 14th. There is an ‘inter-Islamist’ discussion about which Islamist candidate could serve the ruling leader Ali Khamenei in the best way. And that’s the gist of it; the candidates will not deviate from the ruling Islamic doctrine.
Malaysia’s Election Commission (EC) held a public demonstration here on Thursday to prove that the ink could last despite washing the finger several times, following an uproar over the incident. EC secretary Kamaruddin Mohamed Baria invited a member of the press, who did advance voting, to participate in the demonstration, Free Malaysia Today reports. This time, the EC staff shook the indelible ink bottle for about 30 seconds before applying on the Sinar Harian reporter, Muhammad Shamsul Abd Ghani’s index finger. Later, Shamsul attempted to wash away the ink several times using disinfectant, spirit, vinegar and water but failed. The attempts only turned the ink colour from dark purple to dark red.
Malaysia’s opposition leaders are beginning to sound the alarm over what they say could be widespread voter fraud in order to keep the ruling government in power. On-the-ground activists have told Bikyanews.com that they fear the election, expected to be the closest in the country’s history, will not be fair. “I have seen government officials come into polling stations and bark out orders to people and this is not what they are supposed to be doing in order to make things move smoothly and fairly,” said one activist, who told Bikyanews.com that he has been tasked to be an election monitor.
Florida election supervisors will be allowed to restore early voting up to 14 days — including the last Sunday before Election Day — and increase the kinds of locations sanctioned for early-voting, under a bill passed by the Legislature in its final hours of session Friday. HB 7013 reverses much of the changes by the Republican-led Legislature in 2011 that limited early voting down to eight days. At the time, proponents said the move was intended to reduce voter fraud, but later was acknowledged by some party leaders as a way to dampen Democratic turnout in the wake of President Barack Obama’s victory.