Is it time, at long last, for the citizens of the United States to enjoy the constitutional right to vote for the people who govern them? Phrased in that way, the question may come as a shock. The U.S. has waged wars in Iraq and Afghanistan justified, at least in rhetoric, by the claim that people deserve the right to vote for their leaders. Most of us assume that the right to vote has long been enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Not according to the Supreme Court. In Bush v. Gore (2000), the Court ruled that “[t]he individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States.” That’s right. Under federal law, according to the Supreme Court, if you are a citizen of the United States, you have a right to own a firearm that might conceivably be used in overthrowing the government. But you have no right to wield a vote that might be used to change the government by peaceful means.
National: Official at Heart of IRS Tea Party Scandal Spiked Audits of Big Dark-Money Donors | Mother Jones
You’d have to search long and hard to find a member of Congress not outraged that politics and partisanship crept into the work of the IRS, leading to the wrongful targeting of tea partiers and other conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. “The American people have a right to expect that the IRS will exercise its authority in a neutral, non-biased way,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said on Tuesday. “Sadly, there appears to have been more than a hint of political bias” by the IRS staffers vetting nonprofit applications. Hatch’s Republican colleagues in the House and Senate could hardly contain their anger. “Do either of you feel any responsibility or remorse for treating the American people this way?” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asked the former IRS chiefs Douglas Shulman and Steven Miller on Tuesday. Yet lawmakers have no qualms with using politics to bend the IRS to its will. In 2011, under pressure from House and Senate Republicans, Miller, then the IRS’ deputy commissioner, spiked audits investigating whether five big donors to 501(c)(4) groups—the type of nonprofit that can get involved in campaigns and elections but can’t make politics its “primary activity”—avoided paying taxes on their donations. Miller’s decision erased any worry that wealthy donors might have had about giving millions to nonprofits during the 2012 campaign season.
Lois Lerner, the head of the Internal Revenue Service’s division on tax-exempt organizations, was put on administrative leave Thursday, a day after she invoked the Fifth Amendment and declined to testify before a House committee investigating her division’s targeting of conservative groups. Lawmakers from both parties said Thursday that senior I.R.S. officials had requested Ms. Lerner’s resignation but that she refused, forcing them to put her on leave instead. Whether her suspension will lead to dismissal was unclear, given Civil Service rules that govern federal employment. “The I.R.S. owes it to taxpayers to resolve her situation quickly,” said Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa. “She shouldn’t be in limbo indefinitely on the taxpayers’ dime.”
Three graduate students from Harvard University have set out to study how election officials deal with information requests from voters. The result: E-mails sent from Latino-sounding names were less likely to receive any response from local officials than non-Latinos and received less informative responses. Julie K. Faller, Noah L. Nathan and Ariel R. White contacted close to 7,000 local election administrations in 46 states to observe how they provided information to different ethnicities on the basis that voter identification requirements raised concerns over minority voter turnout. “We show that emailers with Latino names were roughly five percentage points less likely to receive a reply to a question about voter ID requirements than non-Latino whites,” states the study. The authors explained their experiment was done via e-mail to mimic reality, since Americans are increasingly likely to contact government officials via e-mail.
IRS employees who review applications for exemption have a duty to ask follow-up questions of applicants, including groups affiliated with the tea party. In the current controversy, IRS reviewers wrongly singled out conservative groups for unusually exacting follow-up. In a number of these cases, they also asked inappropriate questions, such as the identity of donors. Some media reports, however, imply that the IRS cannot and should not ask any questions of applicants for exemption, that any inquiry invades privacy and violates the First Amendment. That implication is wrong. An organization that seeks an IRS acknowledgment of its exempt status subjects itself to scrutiny — scrutiny designed to ensure that the group in fact qualifies for the benefit of tax exemption. Twenty-nine categories of organization are exempt from income tax under section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code. A few of these categories require an application for recognition of exemption. For example, section 501(c)(3) exempts charities and entitles organizations satisfying its requirements to receive tax-deductible contributions. Most entities seeking to qualify as 501(c)(3) exempt charities must file an application. (Churches and very small organizations are not subject to the application requirement.)
Maricopa County officials say that about 20,000 registered voters would be removed from the permanent early voting list under proposed legislation aimed at reducing the number of provisional ballots. No particular demographic group would be hit harder than another, according to an analysis by the Maricopa County Elections Department. Sen. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale, developed SB 1261 with input from county election officials. As approved by the Senate, it would remove people from permanent early voting lists if they fail to vote in four consecutive federal elections and fail to respond to notice from the county elections office. “No other other state that I found who has a permanent early voting list has no ability to clean up their list,” Reagan said.
Secretary of State Gessler reimbursed the state nearly $1,300 for a political trip to Florida last year, renewing speculation he plans to run for governor in 2014. His political director, Rory McShane, said Gessler’s decision to reimburse the money — which led to an ethics complaint against the Republican office-holder — has nothing do with his election plans. Gessler on Thursday also filed a candidate affidavit for governor, which his office said was a campaign finance requirement after he publicly revealed last week he was thinking of taking on Gov. John Hickenlooper. Affidavits must be filed with 10 days of making a formal announcement or even signifying a possible run.
Gov. Rick Scott has finished the fix of the flawed election law that relegated Florida to a late-night joke in 2012 by signing an elections clean-up bill passed on the final day of the legislative session. The measure, signed by Scott late Monday before he left for a trade mission to Chile, reverses several provisions implemented in 2011 by GOP lawmakers in anticipation of the 2012 presidential election. Those changes, criticized by Democrats as an attempt to suppress votes for President Barack Obama, limited the early voting that the president’s campaign capitalized on in 2008. The 2011 law also prevented early voting on the Sunday before Election Day and prohibited voters, particularly students, from changing their voting address at the polls. Scott, who had previously signed the 2011 bill into law and refused to use his executive powers to extend early voting in 2012 despite numerous requests, acknowledged the system needed a fix.
Florida: Appeals court shields lawmakers from testifying, showing draft maps in redistricting lawsuit | OrlandoSentinel.com
A divided appeals court ruled Wednesday that Florida legislators should not be questioned under oath about whether they “intended” to gain partisan advantage when they re-drew congressional maps last year. Two sets of groups have challenged the lines for Florida’s 27 U.S. House seats, including some voting-rights groups such as the Florida League of Women Voters, the National Council of La Raza, Common Cause and others. The legal fight is one front of multi-pronged litigation against both the congressonal and state Senate maps lawmakers re-drew following the 2010 U.S. Census.
More than 10,000 Georgia voters in the last presidential election were forced to vote on paper instead of electronically. A Channel 2 Action News investigation found that thousands of votes didn’t count, though many should have. State investigators still don’t even know how many people actually voted. “Having looked forward to voting for a long time and following the election, I was very excited to go there and to cast my vote,” said 18-year-old Bailey Sumner. But when she arrived at her Sandy Springs precinct, the poll workers refused to give her a ballot. “They told me that I wasn’t on the list, and that I couldn’t vote,” Sumner told Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer.
Restoring the voting rights to felons ranked among the reforms some Northern Kentuckians would like to see Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes advocate for. Dozens of Northern Kentuckians Wednesday night at Dixie Heights High School told Grimes what they like and dislike about Kentucky’s voting laws. Grimes vistied Northern Kentucky as part of five town halls she will conduct around the state this year to get input on voting laws. Many wore stickers made by advocacy organization Kentuckians for the Commonwealth that read “I voted but 243,842 Kentuckians could not. Restore voting rights to former felons.” A majority of the the 121 people polled online by the Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement at Northern Kentucky University–56 percent–”strongly” agreed with restoring voting rights to felons, while another 24 percent “somewhat” agreed. But Kentucky remains one of four states that requires a gubernatorial pardon to restore voting rights.
The state Senate Thursday passed with strict party line votes legislation that changes the current state voter identification law by removing its clear statutory reference to student IDs as an acceptable form of voter ID. The Senate, also along party lines, changed the House-passed voter registration bill by restoring reference to motor vehicle laws that had been removed by the House. The current voter ID law allowed for the 2012 election a list of seven forms of identification acceptable at a polling place, including a student ID, and absent any of those, verification of the person’s identity by a local election official. If a voter was challenged, the voter would fill out a “challenged voter affidavit.”
A first-of-its-kind statewide review found instances of voter fraud in Ohio during last year’s presidential election but not rampant abuses, the elections chief in the battleground state said Thursday. Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted said the investigation he ordered in January by Ohio’s 88 county election boards resulted in 135 substantiated cases being referred to law enforcement for further investigation out of 625 reported cases of voting irregularities. That included 20 individuals Husted was referring to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Thursday who appear to have registered and cast ballots in both Ohio and another state. They included a man who voted in person in both Ohio and Kentucky on Election Day and a woman who cast an absentee ballot in Virginia then voted in person in Ohio. “Voter fraud does exist, but it’s not an epidemic,” Husted said.
Canada: Robocalls: Widespread but ‘thinly scattered’ vote suppression didn’t affect election, judge rules | Toronto Star
There was a widespread but “thinly scattered” vote suppression effort across Canada during the 2011 federal election that ultimately did not affect the outcome nor warrant annulling results, a federal court judge has ruled. Justice Richard Mosely, in a 100-page ruling released Thursday, found that “misleading calls about the locations of polling stations were made to electors in ridings across the country” including six ridings at the heart of a lawsuit brought by the Council of Canadians against the Conservative Party of Canada. He said the purpose of the calls “was to suppress the votes of electors who had indicated their voting preference in response to earlier voter identification calls.” But Mosely said he was unable to conclude the vote suppression efforts had a major impact on the credibility of the vote.
The Electoral Commission’s recommended changes to MMP must be put to voters in a binding referendum. That’s the only step left now the government has decided they can’t be implemented because there isn’t a consensus among the parties represented in parliament. It’s blatant self-interest on National’s part and there’s no assurance the situation would be any different if Labour and the Greens were running the show. The commission, after a lengthy review and thousands of public submissions, recommended abolishing the single seat “coat tails” rule and lowering the threshold for list seats from five per cent of the party vote to four per cent.
They spent so much but showed very little for it. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) are being asked to explain where the P148.4 million they allegedly spent for the overseas absentee voting went with only 15 percent of voters abroad actually casting their ballots in the May 13 elections. Sen. Franklin Drilon, chairman of the Senate committee on finance, on Thursday said he would file the appropriate resolution for a review of the Overseas Absentee Voting Act (OAV) when the 16th Congress convenes in July. Drilon said in the weekly Senate news forum the turnout among the 737,759 registered Filipino voters abroad was “dismal to say the least.”