Estonia, which created the world’s first nationwide Internet-based voting system, has finally released its source code to the public in an attempt to assuage a longstanding concern by critics. “This is the next step toward a transparent system,” said Tarvi Martens, chairman of Estonia’s Electronic Voting Committee, in an interview Friday with ERR, Estonia’s national broadcaster. “The idea, which was the result of joint discussion between numerous Estonian IT experts and the Electronic Voting Committee, was implemented today. We welcome the fact that experts representing civil society want to contribute to the development and security of the e-elections.” Martens and his colleagues have now put the entire source code on GitHub—previously it was only made available after signing a confidentiality agreement.
Black lawmakers pressed President Obama on Tuesday to ensure that immigration reform doesn’t shortchange African immigrants, and they strategized about ways to protect minority voting rights in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling that struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. The Congressional Black Caucus met with Mr. Obama at the White House for about 90 minutes, their first gathering with the president in more than two years. Although some caucus members have been critical of Mr. Obama for not doing enough to lower black unemployment and appointing too few blacks to his Cabinet, they emerged from the meeting with words of praise for the president. “We are on the same page,” said Rep. Marcia L. Fudge, Ohio Democrat and CBC chairwoman.
Voting rights activists have seized upon a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in an effort to mitigate the damage done by the Supreme Court earlier this month in the case of Shelby County, Alabama v. Attorney General Eric Holder. According to Adam Serwer at MSNBC.com, the state of Texas may still be subject to the federal government’s approval before it can rearrange voting districts or make changes to election law. In its June 25 decision in the case, Chief Justice John Roberts neutered the historic 1965 Voting Rights Act by deeming that the criteria established in the Act for determining racist states was no longer valid. Section 4 of the Act set forth the requirements to establish that a state has a history of racial discrimination in voting. Section 5 mandated that all the states meeting Section 4′s requirements must get clearance from the federal government (known as “preclearance”) before changing election rules. By invalidating Section 4, Roberts and the Court made Section 5 all but unenforceable.
In the old days, the U.S. Supreme Court took strong steps to protect the right of ordinary citizens to vote. But culminating in the recent Shelby County, Ala. v. Holder decision that struck down the preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act, the Supreme Court in the past decade has turned its back on protecting the franchise, especially for the poor and minority groups. In 1915, the court struck down the notorious grandfather clause established in many Southern states, which allowed persons to vote only if their grandfathers could. That was a crude device to disenfranchise the descendants of black slaves, who, of course, could never vote. In the 1940s and 1950s, the court held that the Democratic Party in the Southern states could not treat its primaries as a private affair, open only to white voters. In 1964, the court established the one-person, one-vote rule, so that states could not apportion districts in a manner that allowed rural voters to have 50 times the voting strength of their urban counterparts. In 1966, the court first upheld the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act, which established federal control over states and other political entities that had used one or another blatantly discriminatory devices to prevent African-Americans and other minority voters from casting ballots. In the same year, it struck down a Virginia poll tax law that required state residents to pay $1.50 a year for the right to vote in state elections. (The 24th Amendment, adopted in 1964, prohibited poll taxes for federal elections.)
Voters may get the last word on a package of controversial changes to election laws — changes foes say are designed to depress turnout and throw roadblocks in the path of those who want to propose their own laws. A coalition of Democrats and minor parties hopes to gather 86,405 signatures before Sept. 13 to force an election on the provisions of HB 2305.
A frequently made argument by GOP apologists, like Robert Robb of the Arizona Republic, is that Arizona should not be a covered jurisdiction under the Voting Rights Act.
Arizona failed to meet certain criteria in 1972 to get federal approval for any state legislation or procedural changes that could impact voting, which included having low voter turnout and not offering election materials in other languages. Arizona in 1974 implemented bilingual voting, but Congress never removed Arizona from the Section 4 covered jurisdiction formula in subsequent renewals of the Act. “We’re being punished for the past!”
This argument requires one to ignore the fact that Arizona has always had the opportunity to “opt out” of the covered jurisdiction formula if it could adequately demonstrate a clean bill of health for a period of 10 years without any violations for discrimination against voters. A number of jurisdictions have successfully “opted out’ over the years.
The state Senate on Monday approved legislation that would allow immigrants who are not U.S. citizens to assist voters casting a ballot. The measure from Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, would allow for up to five non-citizens to serve at a particular polling site. Those poll workers must be permanent U.S. residents who legally entered the country. Those residents could provide much-needed help to voters with limited English skills, said Sen. Norma Torres, D-Pomona, who presented Bonta’s bill. There are 2.6 million eligible California voters who are not fully proficient in English, she said. “These individuals have the absolute right to make fully informed voting decisions on Election Day,” Torres said.
Iowa: State will rewrite new voter registration form after complaint from ACLU | Des Moines Register Staff Blogs
A new voter registration form will be thrown out and rewritten after the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa warned it could confuse and potentially disenfranchise eligible voters. Iowa Secretary of State’s Office Legal Counsel Charlie Smithson said Tuesday his office had reviewed the ACLU’s arguments and agreed with its concerns. The Voter Registration Commission will rescind the rules enacting the new form, which is set to become the state’s official voter registration document on Aug. 1. In a petition presented to the Iowa Legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee, the ACLU said the new form gives the mistaken impression that registrants must provide a state driver’s license or ID card number and their social security number in order to register. The law actually requires would-be voters to provide their social security number only if the registrant doesn’t have a state-issued ID.
A photo identification requirement to vote in Minnesota is a contentious issue that could again surface as a newly-formed state task force launches a study of electronic poll book technology. Part of the research will look at the use of photographs as a way to verify voter eligibility. Last fall, Minnesota voters turned down a Republican-backed proposed constitutional amendment to require photo identification at election polls. The task force meets for the first time Tuesday. Electronic poll books are a computer-based alternative to the paper rosters that voters currently sign their name to at polling places on Election Day. Instead of signing in, a voter’s driver’s license or some other identification is swiped by a card reader, and their pre-loaded information is displayed on a computer monitor. The city of Minnetonka tested such technology in recent elections and City Clerk David Maeda said he was pleased with the results.
There were so many recent revisions to New Hampshire’s voter ID law, even state officials couldn’t keep up with the changes. As a legislative conference committee considered potential changes before passing a final version of the law three weeks ago, many people who weren’t sure what happened to the controversial measure. So they called The League of Women Voters of New Hampshire to find out the latest changes, according to league election law specialist Joan Flood Ashwell. The league is well known for its efforts to educate the public about voting.
In the past 48 hours, Eliot Spitzer has appeared on just about every local television and radio show to promote his eleventh-hour bid for New York City comptroller, but the comeback candidate may have a problem that publicity alone can’t fix: getting on the ballot. After Spitzer appeared Monday afternoon at his petition drive with no staffers in tow — and few volunteers canvassing the area — questions remain about whether his hurried campaign will be able to collect the 3,750 signatures from registered Democrats required to qualify for the ballot by the midnight deadline this Thursday. Although Spitzer’s first public appearance Monday was billed as a signature drive, that was not at all the focus of the hour-long event: Only two volunteers appeared to be collecting signatures near the candidate’s press gaggle, though a campaign spokesperson later called BuzzFeed to say that eight had in fact been at the event. Spitzer himself spent the afternoon talking to reporters, speaking individually to only seven or so voters — and leaving in a taxi with about that many signatures on his own petition sheet.
South Carolina: Nikki Haley Takes Heat After Report Blows Up ‘Bogus’ Voter Fraud Claims | Huffington Post
For years, South Carolina Republicans have complained about the names of dead voters being used to cast ballots in a broad voter fraud scheme. Now that a recent report by the State Law Enforcement Division has blown up those claims, unable to find a single example of a “zombie voter” committing fraud, one Democrat is demanding that Gov. Nikki Haley (R) apologize for her party’s “bogus” crusade. In a statement released Monday, House Democratic Leader Todd Rutherford accused Haley and other Republicans of deliberately and deceptively pushing false claims for political gain. “Now we have the proof that shows that the accusations of voter fraud were completely without merit,” said Rutherford. “And once again, South Carolina’s taxpayers have to foot the bill for the millions of dollars unnecessarily spent as a result of Governor Haley and her colleagues’ incompetence and blind-ideology.”
Think the Texas redistricting fight is over? Think again. Last week, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the federal Voting Rights Act, State Attorney General Greg Abbott said the voter ID law and the redistricting plan the Texas Legislature approved were good to go. “With today’s decision, the state’s voter ID law will take effect immediately,” Abbott said in a statement. “Redistricting maps passed by the Legislature may also take effect without approval from the federal government.” But — as opponents of the voter ID law and the redistricting plan predicted after the high court ruled that Texas and other (mostly Southern) states no longer require federal approval of voting laws or redrawn maps — on Monday a federal court in San Antonio basically told Abbott: “Not so fast.”
A certain intrigue has appeared ahead of the presidential elections in Azerbaijan. A major part of the Azeri opposition, which includes the key opposition parties Musavat and People’s Front, overcame their traditional differences and united into the National Council of Democratic Forces. Moreover, the new entity managed to present a united candidate, despite the pessimistic predictions of analysts. The candidate is screenwriter and film director Rustam Ibragimbekov, who turned from a silent supporter of the current authorities into their radical opponent. The Azerbaijani opposition needed a neutral figure they could unite behind. At the same time, neither Ali Kerimli (People’s Front) nor Isa Gambar (Musavat) nor Eldar Namazov (EL Movement) who deal with politics for decades would bet on a powerful leader with his own political weight and electorate. From this point of view, a respected artist, but inexperienced politician Rustam Ibragimbekov was perfect for the role of the common candidate.
Egypt’s interim rulers issued a elections timetable in efforts to drag the country out of crisis that has claimed 51 lives in protest action. The streets of Cairo were quiet on Tuesday, but Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement called for more protests later in the day, raising the risk of further violence. Under pressure to restore democracy quickly, Adli Mansour, the judge named head of state by the army when it brought down Morsi last week, decreed overnight that a parliamentary vote would be held in about six months. That would be followed by a presidential election.
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has rejected a timetable for new elections laid out by interim president Adly Mansour, saying it is illegitimate. The Tamarod protest movement has said it was not consulted on the election plan and has asked to see Mr Mansour. Meanwhile, ex-finance minister Hazem el-Beblawi has been named interim prime minister, and opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei vice president. It follows the ousting of President Mohammed Morsi by the army last week.
The election for the prized post of governor of Baja California was thrown into disarray Monday, with both major candidates claiming victory and a preliminary vote count abruptly halted because of what authorities called a math error. The National Action Party, which has held the job since 1989, when it became the first party to defeat the Institutional Revolutionary Party in an election, was ahead by a few percentage points after polls closed Sunday night, officials said. But then, with about 97% of preliminary results tallied in a quick count by a private contractor, officials suddenly halted the count and said results would not be available until Wednesday. The officials cited a problem with algorithms. Some Mexicans smelled a rat. They recalled the notorious presidential election of 1988, when leftist candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas appeared to be defeating Carlos Salinas de Gortari of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. At a certain point, the system conducting the ballot count had what authorities at the time claimed to be a mechanical failure. When the computers came back up, Salinas was declared the victor.
There was outrage across the country on Tuesday when the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s chairperson Justice Rita Makarau announced that there is not going to be any extension for the voter registration exercise, a development which yesterday saw the Faceless Gladiator Baba Jukwa calling on other political parties to tighten their screws on the ZEC. Makarau yesterday said the exercise would end on Tuesday midnight and there will not be any extension. This came at a time when when many citizens were upon arriving at their usual polling station, told that they should present themselves at a different station previously unknown to them. One man who declined being named told ZimEye he arrived at the Showgrounds polling station in Kadoma only to be told that he should present himself at Mazowe at Mukosa polling station, Ward 2. The ZEC yesterday admitted these problems but chose only to extend the period by a paltry 7 hours to midnight on the same day.