A federal judge extended a 2010 court decree that governs Ohio’s provisional ballots and voter identification requirements, which voter advocates say has kept elections from becoming the “Wild West.” The agreement ensures that election officials count votes cast provisionally when voters use the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley today. He extended the order until the end of 2016, after the next presidential election in the battleground state. Marbley said that without the decree, “there is nothing to prevent boards of election from returning to those haphazard and, in some cases, illegal practices, which previously resulted in the invalidation of validly cast ballots from registered voters.”
An organization that asked Secretary of State Jason Gant and the state Board of Elections to approve three early voting satellite offices in Indian Country filed a complaint Tuesday with the civil rights division of the Justice Department. Four Directions, an advocacy group for Native American voting rights, filed the complaint almost a week after Gant and the Board of Elections declined to establish early voting offices in Fort Thompson, Eagle Butte and Wanblee. The group contends that residents in the predominantly Native American communities don’t have an equal opportunity to vote or register to vote before an election when compared to residents in other parts of the state.
Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting Recommendations to the Presidential Commission on Election Administration
On Election Day, long lines were produced in many cases due to voting systems that malfunctioned in multiple locations across the country. As stated in a joint letter we signed sent to President Obama last November, “While insufficient voting equipment was not the only cause for long wait times, it no doubt contributed to the problems we saw on Election Day. The need to improve our voting systems is urgent. Much of the voting equipment in use today is nearing the end of its life cycle, making equipment attrition and obsolescence a serious and growing threat.”[1. http://www.calvoter.org/issues/votingtech/pub/Election_verification_letter_to_Obama_11-20-]
In our “Counting Votes 2012: A State By State Look At Election Preparedness” report[2. http://countingvotes.org], about the 50 states’ preparedness for this major election cycle, we identified key areas of concern. We predicted many states could have problems due to:
• aging voting systems,
• dependence on machine interface for voting for the majority of voters, and
• thoroughness of policies and regulations for emergency back-up provisions in case polling place problems occur and lines start to form.
There were few surprises. As one of our technology expert recruits for the OurVoteLive (OVL) Election Protection hotline indicated:
What’s most interesting is that if you divide things into “easy to solve” and “hard to solve”, the “easy to solve” ones tend to be in places using optical scan [ballots], and the “hard to solve” in places using machines [DREs].
Voting Blogs: Texas Ups the Ante in Fight Over Voting Rights Act, Betting on An Emboldened Conservative Supreme Court | Election Law Blog
I recently wrote in NLJ about AG Holder’s Texas-sized gambit: to get Texas covered again under a preclearance regime using section 3 of the Voting Rights Act. It’s a move that is risky both legally and politically, for reasons I explain in the earlier piece and do not repeat here. Still, I was struck by the boldness of the State of Texas filing opposing bail in. Texas made the arguments I expected it to make: about the burden on those seeking preclearance to prove intentional discrimination being high, the inappropriateness of relying upon findings of intentional discrimination in a different court opinion—especially one that has been vacated, etc. (See Lyle Denniston’s summary of Texas’s filing.) But Texas made a bigger argument too, and it one that may make it back to the Supreme Court where, for reasons I will explain, the Court may accept it.
Media outlets recently dubbed North Carolina’s sweeping new voter restriction legislation the “worst in the nation.” But Arizona’s new roadblocks to get tough on voters — House Bill 2305 — is in many ways worse than North Carolina because it was approved on top of some of the nation’s most restrictive voting laws already in place, said Julie Erfle, Chairwoman of the Protect Your Right To Vote Arizona Committee. Erfle is leading a broad and diverse coalition working together to overturn HB2305 through a voter referendum. HB 2305 helps career politicians rig the system by preventing tens of thousands of eligible voters from casting their ballots. The bill will kick people off the early voter rolls and make it a felony for volunteer groups to help elderly, homebound and economically disadvantaged voters get their early voting ballots to the polls. It also helps politicians hold onto power by keeping third parties off the ballot and making it extremely difficult for Arizonans to overturn the Legislature’s decisions through citizen initiatives.
Mississippi: State says Hinds County must fund elections, but panel takes no action | The Clarion-Ledger
Despite an Attorney General’s opinion that makes it clear counties must pay for special elections despite their ability to pay for it, three Hinds County supervisors today would not vote to do that, furthering a three-day impasse and all but guaranteeing legal action from political parties. District 1 Supervisor and board president Robert Graham, District 5 Supervisor Kenneth Stokes and interim District 2 Supervisor Al Hunter didn’t ask board attorney Tony Gaylor to read the opinion delivered by fax at mid-morning today, instead voting to adjourn the meeting and abruptly walking out after Election Commission chair Connie Cochran told them there are plenty of public funds in the commission’s budget to cover the costs. That left District 3 Supervisor Peggy Hobson Calhoun and interim District 4 Supervisor Robert Walker sitting by themselves, with Calhoun offering her comments after being cut off by Graham when the vote to adjourn was taken.
Whether Gov. Pat McCrory will sign the controversial elections bill should be known within a week or so. That news came out of the governor’s meeting with his council of state on Tuesday. It was the group’s first meeting since McCrory signed several bills into law. While he did mention specific bills he is reviewing, he did not address a bill that has garnered national attention and opposition within the state from democrats and the NAACP.
Tribal-voting advocates are pressuring South Dakota Secretary of State Jason Gant to approve the release of federal funds for satellite voting centers to serve Native American voters in 2014. Four Directions Inc., a Native American voting rights group based on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, asked the U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday to investigate Gant’s refusal to release Help America Vote Act funds for voting centers at Wanblee, Eagle Butte and Fort Thompson. Four Directions also wants DOJ to investigate the recent refusal to support the satellite requests by the state Board of Elections on a 4-3 vote with Gant leading and voting with the opposition. Four Directions Executive Director O.J. Semans attacked those decisions in his letter to the DOJ, saying they reflected ongoing inequality in voting access for tribal people. Semans wrote “it should cause you and everyone who cares about equal access to the ballot box for Native Americans grave concern that this denial is steeped in an intent to discriminate.”
Mounting a strong counter-attack to attempts by the Obama administration and others to give federal courts new powers of supervision over Texas voting laws, officials of the Lone Star State have told a three-judge district court in San Antonio that it cannot impose that regime at this stage, or at any point unless there is new proof of “rampant” racial bias in election procedures in the state. In a fifty-four-page filing Monday evening, state officials cited the Supreme Court’s June 25 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, and told the District Court that it “cannot impose preclearance on Texas while remaining faithful to Shelby County and the constitutional principles on which it relies.” Preclearance obligations under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the state contended, can now only be ordered if racial bias in voting in a state rises to the level of the “ever-changing discriminatory machinations that gave rise to the preclearance regime in the first place….Nothing remotely like that has occurred in modern-day Texas.”
North Carolina’s omnibus bill to change election law has drawn a fair share of criticism from voting rights supporters, but Republicans in Wisconsin appear eager to give their North Carolina colleagues a run for their money when it comes to new restrictions on voting. The latest legislation comes from state Sen. Glenn Grothman, who’s pushing two bills to restrict early voting and a third that would reduce requirements on donor disclosures. One proposal would create new limits to the amount of early voting that can be offered by local elections officials, shrinking the number of hours, ending all weekend voting and allowing ballots to be cast only during regular business hours. Wisconsin enjoys some of the highest rates of voter participation in the country year after year, which has been attributed to its ample early voting period; the new proposal could significantly reduce that. The state’s chapter of the League of Women Voters is concerned that the legislation would “reduce the opportunities for voters across the state who have daytime jobs or family commitments.”
Australia: WikiLeaks founder, Senate candidate Assange says he’s proud of support in homeland | Washington Post
WikiLeaks founder and Australian Senate candidate Julian Assange says he is proud of the level of support he enjoys in his home country and has pledged to enforce transparency in Parliament if he wins a seat in elections in September. “When you turn a bright light on, the cockroaches scuttle away, and that’s what we need to do to Canberra,” the Australian capital, Assange told Nine Network television in an interview filmed in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London and broadcast in Australia on Sunday. In a separate interview at the embassy, where he has taken refuge for more than a year, the 42-year-old fugitive told Ten Network that his popularity demonstrated by a recent opinion poll reflected poorly on the ruling Labor Party. The center-left government staunchly supports the U.S. condemnation of WikiLeaks’ disclosure of hundreds of thousands of classified documents.
Angela Merkel, arguably the most powerful politician in the EU stands for re-election for a third term on September 22. She hopes to continue the current coalition of her conservative Christian Democrat Union (CDU) with the pro-business liberal democrats (FDP). Competing with her is Peer Steinbrück of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), who was also finance minister in Merkel’s government. His preferred coalition partner are the Greens. “Angie,” as Merkel is affectionately known, is hugely popular, but her party less so. Opinion polls now see a neck-and-neck race between Merkel’s coalition and the combined opposition, with recent momentum in favor of the Chancellor. The most likely election day scenarios are (1) the continuation of the current government (we think 50% chance), (2) a grand coalition of the CDU and the SPD with Merkel as Chancellor, as in 2005-2009 (30%) and (3) the scare scenario of SPD and Greens teaming up with the former communist Left Party (10%. The remaining 10% probability we attach collectively to various other coalition scenarios involving the mainstream parties).
The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a series of legal challenges to the narrow election victory of President Nicolás Maduro, closing a chapter in what has been a bitter aftermath of the vote to replace the country’s popular longtime leader, Hugo Chávez. The court also ordered the opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles, who lost to Mr. Maduro by one and a half percentage points, to pay a fine of $1,698 for insulting government authority by challenging the election results and accusing the judicial system of bias in favor of the government. It said that was the maximum fine allowed. The court also asked the national prosecutor to open a criminal investigation of Mr. Capriles on charges of offending the authority of government institutions.
Human rightts organizations in Zimbabwe were hit by cyber attacks during and after the African country’s election last Thursday, leading to suspicions of government suppression of election monitoring. Techweek Europe reported the attacks on Tuesday, saying that some were obviously targeted while other disruptions might have been merely collateral damage. Following the election, hosting providers in the country were hit by two sophisticated distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks over the weekend that took many websites that had been reporting voting results offline. Apparently the organisations hit included Fair Trade Africa, Privacy International and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum, which also told Techweek Europe that it suspected it had been targeted by a hacking attack earlier last week.
The nominations process to select candidates for the forthcoming parliamentary election in Swaziland descended into chaos in parts of the kingdom. Some people boycotted the process in protest that venues selected for the nominations were unsuitable. Elsewhere equipment failures delayed the start of nomination. About 400 residents of Ebutfongweni in the Manzini region under Kukhanyeni Inkhundla said they would not participate in the nominations process because it was being conducted at Nkiliji under Chief Mkhumbi Dlamini. They said they did not pay allegiance to Chief Mkhumbi as their area was at Mbekelweni, under Chief Nkhosini. Local media reported that the residents, all of whom are registered voters, insisted that they would not participate in the process under Nkiliji after Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) officials did not show up at Ebutfongweni. They expected officers from the commission to conduct the nominations in the area as they had done so in the past.