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).
How does one get revenge on a trendy Web site that ferreted out and made public a bit of foul play, namely, rigged voting from Lithuania, which gave the charming Russian crooner at the Eurovision 2013 song contest a few extra votes? This is what happened to Delfi.lt, the trendiest Lithuanian Web site, after it broke the vote-rigging scandal. The site had already dealt with a hacker e-ambush a few years ago, when, having announced the news about two Russian bombers at the Latvian border, e-intruders in revenge hacked the portal and put atop the news desk a piece on… a bunny, the main hero of the popular Soviet-era cartoon ‘Na, Palauk’ (Just watch Out!), that has been busted for drug use. This is not an April Fool’s Day prank. In fact, the whole thing is a lot more serious than that: it is a problem of malignant hackers, possibly from the East, and certainly grudge-filled. Ahead of the scandalous story on the rigged Eurovision votes, Delfi editors had received an e-mail in Russian promising “radical actions” if the story reached daylight.
Old-style voting machines might have confused some voters who cast their ballots for the recent school board election in the North Rockland school district. Board member Robert Masiello, who narrowly won re-election, said many supporters told him that after they cast ballots, they realized they mistakenly had voted for Masiello’s opponent, Dian Cifuni, because of the way the ballot was laid out in the machine. In the North Rockland school district, candidates run for a specific seat. Each seat is specified on the ballot with the current officeholder’s name. For example, on the recent ballot, Masiello’s seat was identified as “Office held by Trustee Robert Masiello” on top of the column. Under the name of the seat, there was a lever, and Cifuni’s name followed. Another lever was below Cifuni’s name, and Masiello’s name followed. Cifuni’s name was listed above Masiello’s because she had picked the first in the ballot-placement drawing.