The five commissioners of the Federal Election Commission are finding it almost impossible to reach agreement on almost anything these days. New commissioners may soon help. The Senate Rules Committee may have an early September vote on two new presidential nominees. The most recent example of inaction was a compliance case (MUR 6540) that reached an impasse in July with three Republicans voted to go against the recommendation of the Office of the General Counsel to find reason to believe the respondents violated (1) the prohibitions on corporate contributions in staging a rally supporting Senator Rick Santorum’s 2012 presidential campaign, and (2) made other prohibited contributions in the form of coordinated expenditures. Republican Commissioners McGahn, Hunter and Petersen voted against the recommendation. Democratic Commissioners Weintraub and Walther voted for it. With the impasse the Commission voted in July to close the case without taking any action.
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) said Monday that he will attempt to replace, by the end of the year, the portion of the Voting Rights Act that was struck down by the Supreme Court. Sensenbrenner’s comments came Monday at an event hosted by the Republican National Committee, commemorating the March on Washington. Sensenbrenner said he wants to fix the law so that it is immune to court challenges.
Editorials: U.S. v. Texas and the Strident Language of the Voting Rights Fight | Andrew Cohen/The Atlantic
Ballot integrity measure. That’s what Republican officials in Texas call SB 14, the voter identification measure designed to make it measurably harder for people there to vote. Not all people, mind you. Just people who don’t own or drive cars, and people who can’t afford to take time off from work to travel long distances to state offices that are not open at convenient times for working people, and elderly people who are ill and young people who cannot afford to pay the cost of new IDs they have never before needed. People, everyone acknowledges, who are more likely to vote Democratic than Republican even in the still Red State of Texas. So the headline alone — United States v. Texas — tells you a great deal about what you need to know about the new civil rights lawsuit filed by the Justice Department last Thursday in federal court in Corpus Christi. It tells you that the battle over voting rights in the wake of Shelby County v. Holder, the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in late June that struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, has become the latest keynote in the nasty national debate between the Obama Administration and its most ardent conservative critics. And it suggests that things are likely going to get worse before they get better.
Reading Robert Penn Warren’s 1964 interview with Martin Luther King Jr. along with Beth Reinhard’s piece on how African-Americans still lack clout in Congress makes clear a conundrum at the heart of the unfinished revolution King helped lead. Namely, the minority-vote protections locked in by Section 2 the Voting Rights Act of 1965 worked best to ensure minorities had a voice in their own self-government at the federal level in an environment in which the party that elected African-Americans also controlled the House of Representatives, as Democrats did from 1955 to 1995 and again from 2007 to 2011. King spoke about how inequality is fostered by physical segregation, which leads to segregated conversational communities. “Our society must come to see that this whole question of, of integration is not merely a matter of quantity — having the same this and that in terms of a building or a desk or this — but it’s a matter of quality. It’s, if I can’t communicate with a man, I’m not equal to him. It’s not only a matter of mathematics; it’s a matter of psychology and philosophy,” he told Penn Warren. It’s an important point, and one we consider too infrequently these days, in which a more numbers-based approach to questions of equality often reigns supreme.
National Democrats will support the fight to overturn a controversial election-law overhaul signed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Friday. Wasserman Schultz called the Arizona legislation, House Bill 2305, an attempt at intimidation and an example of “Republican efforts to do everything they can to throw obstacles in the path of voters who simply want an opportunity to cast their ballot and exercise their right to vote.” An effort to refer the state law to the ballot is under way. “We’re organizing here and across the country to fight voter-suppression efforts at every turn,” Wasserman Schultz told The Arizona Republic. “Where lawsuits are necessary, we’ll engage in them. We are providing staff and resources on the ground and working with allied groups to fight these voter-suppression efforts.”
Gov. John Hickenlooper wants guidance from the Colorado Supreme Court on how to count votes in two legislative recall elections, asking whether people have to answer “yes” or “no” first on whether they support the recalls to have their votes for a successor validated. The question is important because if it’s not resolved a legal challenge could then require a recount or even invalidate the entire election, according to a filing late Friday from Attorney General John Suthers on behalf of the Democratic governor. “A successful challenge would, at a minimum, require a recount, although a direr outcome — such as the invalidation of the entire election based on the distribution of faulty ballots — cannot be ruled out,” the court filing said.
Michigan: Election officials expected to ‘re-tabulate’ 18,000 votes in Detroit primary election | MLive.com
Michigan election officials are likely to review some 18,000 write-in votes from Detroit’s mayoral primary, and Gov. Rick Snyder is hoping for a swift resolution to the dispute. “There’s good people potentially involved in this process, so I hope it gets resolved,” Snyder said this morning during an interview on WJR-AM 760. “We don’t need more issues on things like this, but it’s important we do democracy the right way. Let’s get it looked at by the appropriate people, let’s get decisions made and let’s move forward.” The Wayne County Board of Canvassers on Tuesday considered throwing out 18,000 votes that would have swung the August 6 primary in favor of Sheriff Benny Napoleon weeks after unofficial results suggested that write-in candidate Mike Duggan had bested him by roughly 16,000 votes.
Jason Thigpen, a political newcomer looking to unseat Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., has parted company with his fellow Tar Heel State Republicans over a voter ID change he insists just plain stinks. “You can paint a turd and sell it as art, but it’s still a turd,” Thigpen asserted in a Facebook postdenouncing the election tweaks that state lawmakers approved in late July. North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed the new restrictions — which mandate voters to show a government-issued ID, trims the early voting window by a week and abolishes same-day registration — into law on Aug. 12. “This is 2013 and any legislator that puts forth such a discriminatory bill should be laughed out of office. This is America, not Russia,” Thigpen argued. His opposition, however, appears to be more technical than purely ideological.
Poll workers in the upcoming November election will not be permitted to tell voters that a photo ID will be required in future elections. As in the last two elections, voters may still be asked to show photo identification, but will not be required to produce it in order to vote. The slight change to the preliminary injunction that has put the Voter ID law on hold since it was passed in March 2012 was made by Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley Aug. 16 following a trial on the merits of the controversial law. Montgomery County Director of Communications Frank Custer said Aug. 23 that poll workers would be informed of the change prior to the November election. “We hold, before every election, several poll worker training [sessions] throughout the county,” Custer said, adding that the new ruling would be covered in the upcoming sessions.
The Green Party of Tennessee has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to throw out Tennessee’s voter ID law, calling it unconstitutional and unfair to minority voters. Alan Woodruff, an attorney in Gray, Tenn., who has represented the Green Party in previous lawsuits, said he filed the complaint Monday morning in the Eastern District of Tennessee. It names Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins as defendants. “There is no justification for having the photo ID requirement, as there is no such thing as voter fraud,” said Woodruff, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress last year as the Democratic nominee in the 1st Congressional District and might run again in 2014. “It’s overly burdensome. It affects minorities and the progressive-leaning voter more than the typical Republican conservative, and it was intended to.”
Is compulsory voting in a democracy a contradiction in terms? That is the question some Australians have been asking since voting became required by law here nearly a century ago. The right to vote is a freedom fiercely sought by people all over the world, but Australians do not have a choice. The continent is part of a small minority of just 23 countries with mandatory voting laws. Only 10 of those enforce them. Registering to vote and going to the polls are legal duties in Australia for citizens aged 18 and over, and failing to do so can result in a fine and potentially a day in court. Opponents of the system like Libertarian columnist Jason Kent say this stifles political freedom and threatens the basic principles of democracy. “People have been sentenced to jail terms for not voting. It’s disgusting. It’s far from being democratic. We are not a democracy if we can’t vote democratically.” But Dr Peter Chen, who teaches politics at the University of Sydney, warns that this type of heated rhetoric blows things out of proportion. He says showing up to the polls every so often is not a huge burden. “The system demonstrates a social expectation that at a minimum everyone needs to participate every few years and that’s a good thing.”
Officials knowingly transported hundreds of Cambodians to polling stations where they were not qualified to vote, a human rights group charges. A report released by the group Licadho said the voters were “intentionally manipulated” into casting the fraudulent ballots, The Phnom Penh Post reported Monday. In one alleged incident, Licadho said professors at a Phnom Penh university bussed hundreds of their students to a district some miles outside of the city. Other violations occurred, the group alleged, when more than 100 workers at a rock quarry in central Cambodia were taken to a newly created polling station near the national capital to vote.
China: Entrepreneur sells electronic voting machines to dispel distrust in politics | The Asahi Shimbun
Although he brought success to his once-dying business, money is not the only thing driving Gao Haiyan. The young Chinese entrepreneur was moved by the sight of day laborers drawing rickshaws and being turned away at a local government office. Gao, 35, is now attempting to spread electronic voting systems to a populace long distrustful of politics. China remains governed under the one-party rule of the Communist Party and always ranks low on the Democracy Index, which measures the state of democracy in 167 countries. The Chinese government has not moved forward with political reform to realize free, democratic elections. But Gao, founder of a Shanghai-based company that develops and sells electronic voting systems using mark sense cards under the Quan Hui Tong brand, noted that many elections are held in China. “More than 100 million people are estimated to vote in residents’ committee elections each year across China,” he told a planning meeting of a major appliance maker.
Backers of the deposed president of Madagascar said on Monday they would name a new candidate to run in a delayed presidential election after his wife was barred from the race. Supporters of former President Marc Ravalomanana earlier this month threatened to take to the streets after Madagascar’s Special Electoral Court (CES) blocked his wife, Lalao Ravalomanana, as well as President Andry Rajaoelina, from running. Monday’s announcement could help defuse tensions on the Indian Ocean island that has been blighted by political turmoil since Rajaoelina toppled Ravalomanana in 2009 with the help of the military after opposition protests. But it was not immediately clear if a new candidate would be accepted as the deadline for submitting names has past.
Thankfully, the New Zealand government appears not to be pressing ahead with online voting — at least, for now. An Electoral Amendment Bill was released yesterday, which improves online registration through its RealMe identification service, but nothing appears to have been said about actual online voting itself. Voting online was always seen as one of those inevitable things as part of an e-transition, as it were, to an online world; something that we all saw as “a good thing”. But recent events have made me turn against such “progress”. Having free and fair elections are fundamental to the democratic process, but can we trust such e-ballots?