After a political group in Texas asked the IRS for a tax exemption last year, it got a lengthy, time-consuming list of questions — like a request for the minutes of all the board meetings since the group got started. And a California-based group got turned down completely in 2011, because the IRS concluded that it was set up “primarily for the benefit of a political party.” These two stories sound like they’d fit right into the raging IRS scandal over its treatment of conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status. The only difference: these two groups — Progress Texas and Emerge America — were unabashedly liberal. POLITICO surveyed the liberal groups from an IRS list of advocacy organizations that were approved after the tougher examinations started. The review found some examples of liberal groups facing scrutiny similar to their conservative counterparts — they were asked for copies of web pages, actions alerts, and written materials from all of their events.
Maryland’s second-highest court has affirmed the verdict in the election fraud trial of a campaign consultant involving Election Day automated calls that prosecutors said were aimed at keeping Black voters from the polls. Julius Henson worked for former Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s campaign during his 2010 rematch with Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley. Last year, a Baltimore jury convicted him of conspiring to send robocalls without an authority line that explained who sent the message. He appealed, arguing that the verdict was inconsistent and the application of the election law was constitutionally vague. The Court of Special Appeals disagreed with both questions in a ruling filed last week. It also found that the jury instruction was not erroneous and a sentence barring participation in politics during probation was legal. “This case presents us with a sad tale,” wrote Judge Albert J. Matricciani, for a three-judge panel that ruled on the case.
The borough’s South Asian community last week cautiously celebrated the news that the city Board of Elections will provide Bengali-language ballots for this year’s city elections. “By providing translated ballots and language assistance in Bengali, we are ensuring that all voters in Queens have the resources they need to fully exercise their right to vote in the upcoming elections,” said state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck), whose district stretching from Bellerose to Richmond Hill was redrawn after the 2010 census in a deliberate move to consolidate the electoral power of Queens’ fractured South Asian community. “This is one critical step towards improving voter access and increasing voter participation for all New Yorkers.”
The state NAACP, a group of Democratic voters and other voter-rights organizations are taking their fight against the legislative and congressional boundaries drawn by Republicans to the state’s highest court. “We know, without a doubt, that the battle for voting rights is one that must be won,” the Rev. William Barber, head of the state NAACP, said on the Wake County courthouse steps on Monday. “We know we’re in a battle for the ballot.” Their notice of appeal comes two weeks after a panel of three Superior Court judges validated the legislative and congressional districts intended to be used through the 2020 elections. They had 30 days to decide whether to appeal to the N.C. Supreme Court. The NAACP, Democrats and voter-rights organizations challenging the maps argue that they are racial gerrymanders designed to weaken the influence of black voters. “They were a cynical use of race,” said Anita Earls, executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and one of the attorneys representing some of the plaintiffs.
One of the most frustrating discussions of 2012 was about voter identification laws. Voter ID laws seemed like they would disproportionately impact non-white, student, and elderly voters, who were widely assumed to tilt Democratic. There were big, flashy numbers about the number of registered voters without photo identification. Pennsylvania, for instance, famously announced that 759,000 registered voters didn’t have photo identification, causing a hyperventilating Dave Weigel to depict the law as “an apocalypse waiting to happen.” But voter ID laws had been implemented across the country over the last decade, and there just wasn’t solid evidence that voter ID laws meaningfully reduced turnout, let alone hurt the performance of Democratic candidates. Even the best studies were very weak, and there were states like Georgia and Indiana, where Obama excelled after voter ID laws were enacted. The consequences of voter ID laws were imperceptible. But finally, there are better numbers on how voter ID laws might influence one critical battleground state. North Carolina is considering a strict new voter ID law, so North Carolina’s Secretary of State has conducted an analysis estimating how many voters have a state-issued photo ID.
We’ve said all along that GOP lawmakers’ push for voter ID in North Carolina was more about suppressing the votes of Democrats than tackling fraud. The restrictive N.C. Senate bill unveiled last week that some legislators are trying to ram through in the waning days of the legislative session this week proves the point. The bill reduces by half the types of photo identification that were allowed under the House version, and makes it particularly onerous for college students to vote. Under the Senate bill, no college ID card would be acceptable. The House bill does allow student IDs, but only from N.C. schools. The Senate limits acceptable IDs to those issued by the government – driver’s license, passports, non-driver IDs and military or veteran cards. The bill also eliminates measures designed to educate voters about vote law changes.
The national spotlight shone on Clackamas County during the last general election, and for a few days, state and local officials questioned the integrity of the election. It was more than enough for Clackamas County Clerk Sherry Hall. “There must never be another incident that might compromise an election,” Hall said. Two ballots were disqualified in the November 2012 election, after a temporary elections worker filled in races left blank on two ballots for Republican candidates. Deanna Swenson, 55, received 90 days in jail and three years’ probation for her actions. She also had to pay $500 in fines and to repay the Oregon Secretary of State’s $12,997 bill for investigating and prosecuting the case. In response, a nonpartisan committee discussed how to ensure election integrity in the future, and came up with these steps. The county released the report Thursday.
Testimony in the second week of a trial of Pennsylvania’s voter identification law is digging into the documentation of how the language of the law was finalized. Two state agencies suggested in 2011 that the voter ID legislation then making its way through the Legislature should make it easier for elderly and disabled voters to cast absentee ballots. A memo from the Department of Aging and the Department of State points out the change would provide a way for such people to vote even if they had trouble getting photo ID because of illness or limited mobility. Pennsylvania requires absentee voters to swear that they are unable to vote at their polling place. Agency secretaries, writing to Gov. Corbett’s top aides, wrote that such an oath may not be possible for voters who can make it to their polling places, but have difficulty getting to a PennDOT licensing center “because of illness or physical disability.” The memo suggests loosening the restrictions around the state’s absentee ballot as part of the voter ID legislation would be a “good solution to ensure that no qualified elector is disenfranchised because illness or disability prevented him/her from obtaining necessary proof of ID – no matter the specific circumstances involved.”
A former policy director for Pennsylvania’s Department of State defended the state’s tough voter identification law Monday as a reasonable compromise that followed intense negotiations, even though it omits changes that the department proposed to ease some of the requirements. Lawyers for plaintiffs seeking to overturn the mandatory photo ID requirement Monday questioned the official, Rebecca Oyler about memos and emails describing negotiations over the legislation in late 2011. Oyler cited examples of her department’s suggestions that were rejected. One called for excusing residents of long-term care facilities from the photo requirement and allowing them to vote through the simpler process of absentee voting. Instead, the law allows the facilities to issue photo IDs. When asked if the department could do anything more to improve it, Oyler replied, “I think we’ve done everything that we see as being reasonable.”
Japanese politicians across the political spectrum jumped at the opportunity to use the Internet in campaigning for Sunday’s election, the first to be held after the lifting of a ban on using the Web in the run-up to a national vote. But while a media survey shows that the vast majority of candidates used the Net as a campaigning tool to garner votes from younger and tech-savvy voters, another poll indicates there is still a long way to go before all voters embrace the Internet as a primary source of information for deciding who they will support. Analysis of the media survey also shows that although the victorious Liberal Democratic Party boasted the ability to reach the largest number of people with its messages on social media, it ranked only fifth in terms of the quantity of tweets posted on microblogging site Twitter. Leading the way on planet Twitter was the Japanese Communist Party, arguably the most enthusiastic convert to the ways of Internet campaigning since the law changed. The survey by national broadcaster NHK showed that 91% of candidates for the upper house election used social media services such as Twitter and Facebook to post information about their campaign platforms, rally schedules, and videos of previous speeches and messages from supporters. According to analysis of the survey conducted with assistance from NTT Data, election tweets from candidates of all major political parties during the campaign period totaled 53,000, with almost 20% of those postings coming from the JCP.
Oumou Sangare is used to getting what she wants. Unlike most of the people lined up outside the election office here, the wife of Mali’s former ambassador to the United Nations is not accustomed to hearing the word ‘no.’ Yet that’s exactly what the elegant, middle-aged woman heard earlier this week after making her way to the front of the line of would-be voters who, due to a technical glitch, don’t appear on the voter list for the upcoming presidential election. Clutching her designer handbag, she stood on tiptoes in her petite heels, straining to peer through the open window of the election headquarters, where a clerk typed her name into a database. “I’m the wife of the ambassador,” she pleaded after the screen came back blank. “I’ve been voting for years,” she said. “Am I not going to be able to vote?”
Pierre Warga is among the majority of Togo’s 6 million citizens who have spent their entire lives ruled by the Gnassingbe family. Eyadema Gnassingbe was in power for 38 years before dying of a heart attack in 2005. His son Faure Gnassingbe was then installed by the military before winning a highly flawed and violent election later that year, and a re-election in 2010. The small West African country goes to the polls Thursday for legislative elections that will test whether recent signs of discontent might legitimately threaten Gnassingbe’s hold on power. Some experts say there may be, for the first time, vulnerabilities in a country that has seen an increasingly daring public outcry against entrenched poverty, high youth unemployment and controversial crackdowns by the security forces.
A bill was introduced by Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh in the Commons last Wednesday which has received surprisingly little attention. In an attempt to boost the number of registered voters, McDonagh’s idea is to make voter registration a requirement for anyone trying to claim benefits. She describes her scheme as a kind of trade-off: “[You get] the rewards of living in a democracy in return for signing up to a democracy.” There’s a smattering of detail in McDonagh’s speech about how the electoral register helps fight crime and is a symbol of our democracy. But the key message to take away from the bill is that benefits are a public service reserved only for those who engage in national politics (ie voting). And voting is “a civic duty”. Unfortunately, she’s wrong on both counts. Benefits are just another public service the state provides, within its capacity to help and provide for all citizens wherever there is such a need. There’s no political reason or agenda behind it: the idea is simply to help people who are struggling to get by. (Of course, whether or not it’s effective, and how it should be distributed, are separate issues.)
Security forces and civil servants who failed to vote under the special vote dispensation will now cast their ballots with the rest of the electorate next Wednesday. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission yesterday summoned political parties to deliberate on the fate of those who failed to vote where it was resolved that all registered citizens must be allowed to vote. It was resolved that the commission would address legal issues to facilitate the votes. Sources close to developments said MDC-T, which had been quoting Section 81B:2 of the Electoral Act that says: “A voter who has been authorised to cast a special vote shall not be entitled to vote in any other manner than by casting a special vote in terms of this Part,” concurred with others after it was pointed out to them that the Constitution guarantees everyone the right to vote. Those who applied to cast their ballots under the special vote were drawn from the uniformed forces, election officials and civil servants who will be deployed far from their wards on July 31.