The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has for the first time admitted that elections held last week were tainted with massive irregularities which saw 511 791 voters disenfranchised either through assisted voting or being turned away. The MDC-T led by Morgan Tsvangirai issued a statement saying the admission by the nine-member electoral commission vindicated their position that the elections were a monumental farce as “Zanu PF assisted by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the State machinery stole the people’s victory. In the figures released by ZEC today at the request of the MDC-T, a total of 206 901 voters were assisted to vote while 304 890 people were turned away with Harare province recording the highest number of 64 483 such people,” the MDC-T said. A total of 3.4 million people voted in the disputed election.
It was 48 years ago today when the nation saw a landmark piece of civil rights legislation go into effect with the enacting of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Enacted in the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson, it was an act that sought to address and curtail discrimination that had existed in the United States, particularly in many of the states in the South, including many provisions to make voting more accessible for African-American citizens. The Voting Rights Act became most notable for establishing federal oversight of elections administration. It carried a key provision that prohibited various states from enacting any changes in voting laws without first obtaining approval from the Department of Justice, a process known as pre-clearance. It is that pre-clearance provision, known as Section 5 of the Act, that has long been the most controversial component of the act. The opposition to the measure grew steadily over the years, namely from Republican members of Congress who complained that it carried an unfair burden on election laws in their areas.
In 2006, John Seles and Gregory Miller hatched a plan to rescue democracy. At the time, the United States was pumping nearly $4 billion into new voting machines, spurred on by Florida’s 2000 presidential election fiasco. But the shift to machines built by companies such as Election Systems & Software and Sequoia Voting Systems (now called Dominion Voting Systems) had introduced all sorts of new problems. Academics were finding deep flaws in the systems, and during every election, they seemed to fail somewhere. Earlier in 2006, voting machine problems marred primary elections in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, where officials scrambled to hire temp workers to reprocess thousands of unreadable optical-scan ballots. For Seles and Miller, the answer was open source software. As employees at Netscape in the late 1990s, they had helped usher in the internet age, and now they were eying another tech revolution. Voting machines seemed to be a perfect place for open source software to do what it does best: create standard pieces of technology everyone can freely share, review, and improve.
Editorials: The Voting Rights Act Is in Peril on Its Forty-Eighth Anniversary | Ari Berman/The Nation
“Today is a triumph for freedom as huge as any victory that has ever been won on any battlefield,” President Lyndon Johnson said on August 6, 1965, when he signed the Voting Rights Act into law. The VRA quickly became known as the most important piece of modern civil rights legislation and one of the most consequential laws ever passed by Congress. It led to the abolition of literacy tests and poll taxes; made possible the registration of millions of minority voters; forced states with a history of voting discrimination to clear electoral changes with the federal government to prevent future discrimination; and laid the foundation for generations of minority elected officials.
In his State of the Union address in February, President Barack Obama introduced Desiline Victor, who, at 102 years old, had waited in line three hours to vote in North Miami, Fla. The president lauded Ms. Victor’s commitment to democracy, but he left out a key fact about her hardship: Compared to some voters, she hadn’t stood in line all that long. In 2008, for example, students at Ohio’s Kenyon College waited as long as 10 hours to vote, with some casting ballots at 4 a.m. The 2000 election meltdown in Florida pulled the curtain back on our dysfunctional system of voting, offering a primer on just about everything wrong with American elections, from burdensome voter registration to faulty vote tabulation. The crisis inspired repeated efforts at reform. A few, such as the Help America Vote Act of 2002 — which, among other things, provided funds for better voting machines — even made a modest difference. Yet three presidential elections after the 2000 fiasco, the basic mechanics of our democracy remain deeply flawed. One reason so little has changed, clearly, is that plenty of powerful people prefer a system that makes it hard to vote. But there have been some real reforms in the states, many won with bipartisan support, and there is room for well-crafted compromises. Improving elections may not be easy, but it is possible.
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Florida Governor Rick Scott is planning a new effort to purge non-U.S. citizens from the state’s voter rolls, a move that last year prompted a series of legal challenges and claims from critics his administration was trying to intimidate minority voters. Voter protection groups identified a number of errors in the state’s attempt to identify people who are not American citizens on Florida’s voter lists months ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November 2012. The search also sparked several lawsuits, including one by the U.S. Justice Department, which claimed the effort violated federal law since it was conducted less than 90 days before the election. “We were recently informed that the State plans to continue their efforts to remove non-citizens from Florida’s voter rolls,” Miami-Dade Elections Supervisor Penelope Townsley said in a statement.
Mississippi: Stokes: Hinds County shouldn’t pay legally mandated election costs | The Clarion-Ledger
The law says the state’s boards of supervisors must pay for all county elections. But that goes out the window, Hinds County District 5 Supervisor Kenneth Stokes says, if the election costs exceed what he believes the county can afford. He and two other board members voted to ask the Mississippi Attorney General’s office to rule on whether Hinds County has to pay, with Hinds County Election Commission members warning him that ballots by law must be printed out by Friday. Stokes’ train of thought prompted an immediate threat of a lawsuit by Hinds County Republican Executive Committee chair Pete Perry. Stokes got into a shouting match today with Perry, Hinds County Democratic Executive Committee head Jackie Norris, and the Hinds County Election Commission when he said the county doesn’t have the money to pay for primary elections in September to fill supervisor seats in Districts 2 and 4. It’s estimated that costs to run the primary will be about $67,000, and that’s after both Democratic and Republican parties sat at the table together and honed costs down from about $200,000.
When Hinds County supervisors met Tuesday afternoon to again try to decide if they’ll pay for the county’s Sept. 24 special primary elections, the person adamantly opposed to writing the check wasn’t around for a vote. District 5 Supervisor Kenneth Stokes, who Monday said the county can’t afford to pay about $67,000 for the primaries and questioned state law that requires it, didn’t return after lunch Tuesday to the Board of Supervisors’ budget hearings, which were to be interrupted at 4 p.m. so that the panel could take up the matter of the elections. He will get another chance to have his say when the board meets at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday to delve back into the matter.
Absentee ballots often generate intrigue, suspicion and allegations across party lines. It is easy to see why. “Other ballots are filed at the polling place — where presumably people keep an eye on what goes on,” explained a New York elections expert. “Absentee ballots go wherever they go and then come back with somebody delivering them.” How they’re handled, and by whom, opens chances for irregularities. Last week, Frances Knapp, the Dutchess County election board’s Democratic commissioner, was accused on 94 criminal counts of misconduct and false-instrument filing. Under the law, an absentee voter may designate an agent to handle his or her ballot. Two years ago, says the indictment announced by Dutchess District Attorney William Grady, Knapp permitted the names of such designated agents “to be fraudulently changed” in the county’s computer system.
In recent weeks, civil-rights advocates and legal experts in North Carolina have contemplated a provocative question: Are the state’s Republican lawmakers racist? The answer could determine the future of North Carolina’s voting laws. If a court finds that the state’s lawmakers have engaged in a deliberate attempt to discriminate against minority voters, the federal government could require the state to clear all future election policies with the U.S. Department of Justice or a federal court. That would renew the federal oversight that ended with the Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn a key provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act. In June, a 5-4 United States Supreme Court majority struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, a provision that required jurisdictions with extensive histories of discriminating against minorities — including eight states in the South and parts of other states — to get “preclearance” from the DOJ before making changes to their voting policies.
County elections officials say they think a clerical error is to blame for 19 Columbus police officers having their voting addresses listed as the Downtown police headquarters. Workers at the Franklin County Board of Elections earlier this year discovered voters who had registered their voting address as the police building on Marconi Boulevard. The registrations were caught as workers scoured the voting rolls for nonresidential addresses at the direction of Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. Husted isn’t particularly concerned about police officers registering their work addresses, spokesman Matt McClelland said. Instead, he wants local election officials to find out if people are registering the addresses of Federal Express or United Parcel Service offices where they might keep a mailbox, or other means of masking their home address.
Both sides in the trial over Pennsylvania’s voter-identification law agree that it should not be enforced in the Nov. 5 general election, but the judge will have to settle a dispute over the details, according to court papers filed this week. Plaintiffs seeking to overturn the 17-month-old law argue that any new court order barring enforcement of the photo ID requirement should remain in effect until the state Supreme Court resolves questions about its constitutionality. “Nothing has changed since last fall, or is likely to change in the future, that would justify lifting the preliminary injunction before the end of this case,” the plaintiffs’ legal team argued in a brief filed Monday in state Commonwealth Court.
Pennsylvania taxpayers still haven’t seen a final tab on what the state is being charged by a private firm to defend the voter identification law in court. In fact, a contract was not publicly available until the day after closing arguments were delivered in the case. Philadelphia firm Drinker, Biddle and Reath hasn’t yet sent an invoice to the state for services rendered in 2013. The hourly rate ranges from $325 to $495. Last year, the firm was paid more than $204,000 for defense of voter ID as judges considered temporarily blocking the law.
Civil rights and other groups seeking to overturn the state’s controversial voter ID law are asking a Commonwealth Court judge to block the law from taking effect until all appeals have been exhausted. The ACLU of Pennsylvania and other public interest groups are also asking Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley to prevent poll workers, come the November election, from asking voters to show ID – or even informing them that it will be required in future elections – while the case is being decided. Whatever the outcome in Commonwealth Court, the case is widely expected to be appealed to the state Supreme Court. “The uncontroverted evidence illustrates that this practice has only confused poll workers and voters, with no benefit to anyone,” the petitioners’ brief, filed Monday, reads. The state said during the trial, which concluded last week, that it had no problem extending the injunction on the law through this November’s election.
Early Tuesday morning the twitter account of the Australian election commission was hacked and users started to get messages from the hacked account. The hacker launched a phishing attack from the hacked account aimed at getting the login details of the users. Australian voters have been asked to ignore direct messages purportedly sent from the Australian Electoral Commission, after the commission’s Twitter account was hacked. Unsuspecting users got messages for the Election commission’s hacked twitter account with a clickable link with some messages reading “I found a funny pic of you!” by clicking this link the victims would be taken to a fake twitter page for “authentication” if the user fills in the login details the account details reach the hacker and the newly hacked account can be used to further spread the phishing scam and obtain more login details.
Germany cancelled Tuesday a treaty that commits it to hand over surveillance data to France as Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s government seeks to insulate itself from the Edward Snowden disclosures rankling Germans seven weeks before elections. The cancellation is the third in five days. On Friday, similar agreements with the United States and Britain were scrapped in Berlin Foreign Ministry meetings with diplomats from those nations. The agreement related to untakings by West Germany in 1968-69 to provide telecommunications intercepts in cases where the safety of US, British and French troops based on its territory was at risk. Merkel‘s government says it is reviewing the scale of intelligence cooperation with the US National Security Agency after Snowden, who has won temporary asylum in Russia, began revelations two months ago of the PRISM programme to harvest global phone and email metadata. The Foreign Ministry, describing the old West German treaties as administrative agreements, said they were cancelled in exchanges of notes with each of the other three nations. US, British and French troops occupied Germany in 1945, and remain there as allies.
Last week, we reported claims by Global Witness, a London-based NGO that tracks mining and resource industries, that money from a diamond field seized by Zimbabwe’s military was funding election activities for incumbent leader Robert Mugabe. The organization claimed the money had flowed from the diamond business to higher-ups in the Zimbabwe military, and from there to Mugabe’s political party, as patronage. They didn’t give many specifics, however, on how this worked, or any evidence that they had found diamond money in the election coffers. Zimbabwe’s diamond industry operates under several sanctions for violations of the Kimberley Process, an international convention designed to prevent diamonds mined in conflict areas or under inhumane conditions—so called “blood diamonds”—from entering the market. Global Witness’ case was circumstantial. A few days later, we know that Mugabe’s party won the election, and by a large margin, though pre-election polls had shown a tight race.
A senior Zimbabwean election official said Tuesday he has resigned, just days after a colleague quit over the conduct of the vote that extended President Robert Mugabe’s 33-year rule. “Yes, I have resigned (from the Zimbabwe Election Commission),” law professor Geoff Feltoe told AFP. “I am going back to the university. I have always intended to do so and I am going there,” he said, referring to the University of Zimbabwe. Feltoe refused to say if his decision was related to the conduct of the hotly disputed presidential and parliamentary elections last Wednesday that gave Mugabe another five-year term.