After he delivered his memorable speech last week on racism, discrimination and voting rights – which culminated with a call for a “right to vote” amendment to the U.S. Constitution – I asked Rep. Jim Cooper what had gotten into him. After all, Cooper is known foremost as the Blue Dog budget hawk, and his public speeches typically follow that cue. But at the Nashville Bar Association’s “Law Day” luncheon, he showed a new passion. “They asked for a real speech,” Cooper told reporters. “It takes time to do this. Even this slimmed down version has 46 footnotes.” Thanks to his congressional staff, I recently obtained a full transcript of the speech, which he called “The 28th Amendment.” It is worth a read. You can find it here.
The inspector general for the Justice Department, Michael Horowitz, recently issued a report recommending that the Civil Rights Division should no longer favor applicants who have demonstrated an interest in civil rights or “the enforcement of civil rights laws.” This report ignited debate because the Senate is now taking up the nomination of Tom Perez, the division’s current head, to serve as secretary of labor, and the Supreme Court is pondering a challenge to the constitutionality of Section 5, a key part of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). It also comes out as the Republican Party is seeking urgently to rebrand itself to appeal to minority voters.
Before Indiana GOP officials bluster on too long about how dirty the Indiana Democratic Party’s kettle is when it comes to election fraud, they should keep in mind their own record. On Thursday, state GOP Chairman Eric Holcomb sent out a caustic fund- raising email to party faithful saying “Election fraud is alive and well within the Indiana Democratic Party” and suggesting a donation to the Republican Party “will help ensure the integrity of our electoral process.”
Kansas lawmakers are close to giving Secretary of State Kris Kobach new power he’s sought for his office to investigate and prosecute potential election fraud cases. The Republican secretary of state said Friday that he anticipates a bill expanding his office’s authority passing the GOP-dominated Legislature after its members reconvene next week to wrap up their business for the year. Kobach has sought the power since taking office in January 2011 but has met resistance in the past from Democrats and moderate Republicans. The House and Senate have approved different versions of a bill containing Kobach’s proposal, setting up negotiations over the final version. Legislators end their annual spring break Wednesday. “I’m optimistic that it will get done,” Kobach said.
When residents of the Livonia school district vote Tuesday on a $195 million bond proposal, they may notice a slight change on their ballot application. Under Michigan law, by signing the application, the voter certifies that he or she is a U.S. citizen. The revised application forms also remind voters that they must be citizens in order to vote. Secretary of State Ruth Johnson successfully pushed to add new language to the ballot application to make clear that only U.S. citizens may cast ballots. Tuesday’s election will be the first to use the new language approved by the Legislature.
Both House and Senate omnibus elections bills have hit the House and Senate floors and are open for what promises to be some lively debate. House File 894 is authored by Steve Simon, DFL-Hopkins. Senate File 677 is authored by Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport. Sieben is also the assistant majority leader in the Senate. Both Simon and Sieben said bipartisan efforts led to the bills speedily going to their respective floors. They are both very aware that Gov. Mark Dayton has said he will only sign an elections bill that is bipartisan. Both expect their bills to be discussed on the floor late next week or the following week.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted was one of the biggest opponents of early voting in the months leading up to the 2012. He fought hard to have early voting limited, especially the three-day period leading up to election day–a time when Democratic-leaning voters are more likely to head to the polls. Not long after his election, Husted began talking about the importance of election uniformity, a mantra he repeated later as he fought to stop early voting on the Friday before election day. If his management of the coming primary election is any indication, Husted no longer appears to be concerned about election uniformity.
An amendment snuck into the budget bill passed by the Republican-controlled Ohio House on April 18 would force public universities to decide between charging lucrative out-of-state tuition rates or providing out-of-state students with documents required for voting in Ohio, raising concerns from Democrats that Republicans are attempting to limit voting opportunities in the state once again. The measure would force public universities to classify students living on campus as in-state if they receive utility bills or official letters that can be used for identification when voting in Ohio.
Richland County taxpayers are footing the bill for nearly $153,000 in legal fees to investigate what went so wrong in the Nov. 6 election and to fend off protests that threatened to unravel the results. The expenses, detailed in a 46-page packet obtained by The State newspaper under South Carolina’s open-records law, include:
• $72,423.10 for lawyer Steve Hamm, hired at the request of the Richland County Board of Elections & Voter Registration, to uncover the web of mistakes that resulted in waits of up to seven hours for voters and a cache of misplaced ballots.
• $9,461.25 for a lawyer to represent the interests of elections director Lillian McBride, viewed as incompetent by her critics and as a scapegoat by her defenders. She since has been demoted to a deputy director.
Serious human rights violations and denial of fundamental freedoms in Equatorial Guinea are casting a shadow over campaigning ahead of the May 26, 2013 legislative elections, Amnesty International, EG Justice, and Human Rights Watch said in a statement released today. The organizations expressed concern over several incidents of politically motivated arrests in recent months. They also cited ongoing harassment of the country’s political opposition, reports of voter intimidation, and the denial of free speech and other rights in the lead-up to the election. Human Rights Watch and EG Justice also expressed concern about biased electoral processes and restrictive conditions for international observers.
Voters may soon be able to trail their ballot and confirm whether their vote on the Electronic Voting Machine has gone in favour of the candidate they chose. The trail will involve issuance of a printed slip for voter confirmation and will become a reality once the newly proposed Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system is introduced by the Election Commission. The system comes in the wake of apprehensions expressed by political parties especially the BJP in respect of fairness of EVMs. The EC, which told the Supreme Court last week that it had recently approved the VVPAT design and sought its further fine tuning to ensure zero error, has invited the representatives of various political parties on 10 May to discuss the new system.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has urged supporters to stage a protest after Malaysia’s ruling coalition won polls he said were marred by fraud. His call came as PM Najib Razak was sworn into office after his Barisan Nasional (BN, National Front) coalition won 133 of the 222 parliamentary seats. Mr Anwar’s three-party alliance secured 89 seats on Sunday in the country’s closest polls since independence. The BN has been in power in Malaysia for more than half a century. The polls saw an 80% voter turnout, amid strong campaigning from both sides.
Venezuela: Does Capriles Have a Plausible Claim, or Is He “Venezuela’s Sore Loser”? | Venezuelanalysis.com
Reuters reported Sunday that the president of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) Tibisay Lucena has criticized opposition candidate Henrique Capriles for not presenting proof to back up his claims of fraud (also the focus of our post earlier today): “We have always insisted that Capriles had the right to challenge the process,” Tibisay Lucena, president of the electoral council, said in a televised national broadcast. But it is also his obligation to present proof.” She dismissed various opposition submissions alleging voting irregularities as lacking key details, and said Capriles had subsequently tried to present the audit in very different terms than the electoral council had agreed to.