Editorials: Obama Electoral Commission Omission: Our Voting System Needs Real Reform | The Daily Beast

Our democracy is in disrepair. The Supreme Court recently crippled the pre-clearance remedy of the Voting Rights Act. Efforts are underway in a number of states, north and south, to limit voting by imposing stringent identification standards. The 40 percent of Americans who are independents are barred from participating in primary elections in most states, unless one of the major parties invites them. Our rigged system of redistricting is manifestly partisan. There is unprecedented gridlock in Washington and alarming levels of corruption in State legislatures. This sorry state of affairs has not gone entirely unnoticed. Recently, President Obama appointed a Presidential Commission on Election Administration, in response to breakdown and conflict in the electoral arena. Its mandate is to “promote the efficient administration of elections,” an understatement of the problem if there ever was one. Unfortunately, the Commission appears to be the usual status quo defending effort, bipartisan by Washington standards. It’s led by co-chairs Robert F. Bauer, general counsel to the Democratic National Committee, and Benjamin L. Ginsberg, who served as national counsel to the Romney presidential campaign and is now counsel to the Republican Governors Association. The gap between the magnitude of the problem and the narrowness of the Commission’s mandate is ridiculously wide, like opening an umbrella in the middle of a hurricane. This fact has drawn comments by a range of democracy reform advocates in the context of the Commission’s poorly attended hearings.

Editorials: Sensenbrenner an unlikely GOP champion of the Voting Rights Act | The Hill

The big surprise at the Republican National Committee’s lunch celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington was the loud ovation for an elderly white conservative. The tall, 70-year-old Congressman hobbled to the front of the room with a cane. He had to be helped up the stairs to the stage. But once he reached the microphone, his call for Congress to restore the full power of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) had the crowd scrambling to get to their feet and applaud him. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) defied political stereotypes and several other Republicans when he announced an end-of-the-year deadline for reviving the pre-clearance provision of the VRA. “I am committed to restoring the Voting Rights Act as an effective tool to prevent discrimination,” said Sensenbrenner to repeated cheers. He was chairman of the House Judiciary Committee when a bipartisan group approved reauthorization of the VRA in 2006. “This is something that has to be done by the end of the year so that a revised and constitutional Voting Rights Act is in place by the 2014 elections — both the primaries and general election,” Sensenbrenner told his largely black Republican audience.

Editorials: Colorado Secretray of State Gessler repeals controversial email/internet voting rules | Marilyn Marks/Colorado Statesman

On Thursday, Secretary of State Scott Gessler repealed the controversial email/internet voting rules that had been promulgated for the two recall elections for use by absentee voters. The rules were the subject of much controversy and were challenged in the Libertarian Party’s lawsuit concerning a variety of recall election procedures. While the Denver District Court found some of the recall rules in violation of statutes, Judge McGahey seemed willing to allow the use of email ballots, “for this election.” He ordered that absentee ballots must be made available to everyone without requiring an “excuse.” That ruling was anticipated, as Colorado has been a “no-excuse” state for many years. The use of email rather than mail or hand delivery for absentee ballots would proliferate, and the Secretary quickly decided that this was unworkable and repealed the rule. We applaud his quick decision to provide more security to the recall election processes. The Libertarians (and Citizen Center) had fought the introduction of email ballots for any use other than military overseas with no safer option (that is current law), and true medical emergencies. The original SOS rules issued August 16 allowed email transmission and return of all absentee ballots. After considerable public input, revised rules were issued to decrease the return of ballots by email, but still allow the email delivery of ballots to voters to be returned by U.S. Mail.

Florida: Voter fraud investigations come up empty again | Miami Herald

The looming potential for fraud in the 2012 Presidential Election was how Republicans justified strict measures in Florida that made it tougher to register voters. So nine months after the ballots have been counted, where exactly are the culprits of voter registration fraud? Keep looking because the the Florida Department of Law Enforcement hasn’t found them yet. On Friday, the agency released the results of two more cases involving allegations of voter registration fraud. In a probe of the Florida New Majority Education Fund, which aims to increase voter registration among under-represented groups, the FDLE concluded it could make no arrests. In a second probe, involving Strategic Allied Consulting, a vendor for the Republican Party of Florida, an arrest was made of a man who stole the identity of a former girlfriend’s ex-husband. He admitted to fraudulently filling out two voter registration forms. And that was it. Read report here.

Kansas: Would-be voters are exasperated by Kansas’ new registration law | Kansas City Star

Lee Albee never thought signing up to vote would be so cumbersome. Earlier this year, the Overland Park man registered to vote when he renewed his license at the motor vehicle office. It was supposed to be easy. It wasn’t. Weeks later, the Johnson County election office notified Albee he needed to prove citizenship — with a birth certificate or a passport — if he wanted to register. As it turned out, no one had asked him for those documents at the DMV office. Now he doesn’t have the time to follow up. “They’re making it incredibly difficult,” Albee said. “It’s a pain in the tush.” Albee is among 15,622 Kansans who had their voter registrations set aside until they can prove their citizenship under a new Kansas law that started this year. About 30 percent of those suspended registrations were in Johnson, Wyandotte and Leavenworth counties.

Michigan: Appeals court tosses judge’s restraining order on state’s review of Detroit ballots | Detroit Free Press

The Michigan Court of Appeals today tossed out a lower court’s restraining order that could have irreparably delayed the Board of State Canvassers’ review of Detroit’s mayoral election. A three-judge appeals panel ruled that Ingham County Circuit Judge Joyce Draganchuk’s order issued Thursday in a lawsuit brought by Detroit City Clerk candidate D. Etta Wilcoxon was made moot because the canvassers had already completed their review of disputed write-in ballots from the city’s Aug. 6 primary election. The judges — Donald Owens, Michael Kelly and Amy Ronayne Krause — also ruled that the board “must be permitted to fulfill its statutory duty to certify the election results” within a 10-day period, as required by state law, and that the canvassers’ work will not harm a recount of ballots sought by Wilcoxon. PDF: Court of Appeals lifts restraining order

North Carolina: Elections Board to hear cases that touch on student voting rights | News Observer

As college students across the country settle into new routines that the start of a semester typically bring, many in North Carolina are complaining of feeling unsettled about their voting rights. Since mid-August, when Gov. Pat McCrory signed broad revisions to North Carolina’s elections law, local elections boards in several counties – including Pasquotank and Watauga – have initiated changes that college students are fighting as attempts to suppress their votes. Three cases are scheduled to be heard by the state Board of Elections on Tuesday afternoon. Students and civic groups including NCPIRG, Common Cause, Ignite NC, NCSU Student Power Union, Democracy NC and Rock the Vote will gather outside the meeting to urge the board to reverse local county board decisions that protest organizers describe as ones “that make it harder for young people to vote and participate in our democracy.”

North Carolina: Road Worrier: Photo IDs, new for NC voters, are a big business for DMV | News Observer

North Carolina’s strict new voting law, which takes effect starting with elections in 2016, will make the state Division of Motor Vehicles a prime source of photo identification cards for non-drivers who want to vote. It turns out that photo IDs already are a big business for DMV. More than 1.1 million North Carolinians have valid DMV-issued photo IDs (which expire after 5 years), compared to 6.7 million with state driver’s licenses. Last year more than 270,000 people provided the necessary stack of documents, posed for the camera and, in most cases, paid a $10 fee. Why did they want these photo IDs? For any of the reasons anybody might be asked to prove his or her identity, of course: To get a loan or cash a check, to satisfy a curious police officer, to receive some kinds of government services, to get a job. Some of the folks who got DMV IDs are ex-drivers who surrendered their licenses because of age or illness. Many are too young to drive (8,671 of them last year were under 15 years old). And 122 of these were less than 1 year old – too young even to walk. “There are a lot of lap babies in our database,” said Marge Howell, a DMV spokeswoman. “A lot of people come in to get these ID cards for their children. Sometimes, as the child grows, they’ll come back to get progressive photographs to show that growth.”

South Carolina: Judge: Merger of Richland County election offices unconstitutional | The State

A SC circuit court judge issued a blunt ruling that the 2011 merger of Richland County’s elections and voter registration offices violates the state constitution. “The General Assembly has returned to its unconstitutional practice of enacting special and single county legislation,” Judge Thomas Cooper wrote in an order made public Thursday. “The Supreme Court has repeatedly found such actions of the General Assembly unconstitutional.” Observers said his ruling voids the 2011 law that reorganized separate county offices and ramped up spending in the year leading up to the November 2012 election, a presidential vote that turned out to be one of the biggest disasters in state history.

US Virgin Islands: St. Croix Elections Board meets without quorum | Virgin Islands Daily News

At a specially called meeting, the St. Croix Board of Elections discussed a newly released audit report from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission Office of the Inspector General. The meeting on Friday was brief because a quorum was not met, with members Raymond Williams and Lisa Harris Moorehead absent and Rupert Ross and Roland Moolenaar excused. Board Chairman Adelbert Bryan and members Lilliana Belardo O’Neal and Glenn Webster were present, along with newly appointed Elections System Supervisor Caroline Adams Fawkes, and they moved into executive session to discuss the confidential 16-page report. In a letter accompanying the report and addressed to Bryan, Inspector General Curtis Crider said he had sent the proposed report titled Elections System of the Virgin Islands Compliance With the Help America Vote Act of 2002 for Bryan’s review and comment.

Wisconsin: Election bills raise concerns | Wisconsin Radio Network

Legislation proposed by a Republican lawmaker is raising some issues for groups that seek to promote voting rights in Wisconsin. Andrea Kaminski with the League of Women Voters says under terms of one of the bills from state Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berline), if a busy poll worker forgets to ask a voter to sign the poll book, another ballot could be “drawn down” in the case of a recount. “You could sign the poll book, do everything right, but nontheless, if a poll worker forgot to ask someone else to sign the poll book, your ballot could be removed,” Kaminski says. She says if, for example, five people at a given location don’t sign the poll book and five ballots are pulled, “it’s very unlikely that those five ballots will be the those five people who didn’t sign the poll book. The bill from Lazich is SB 266.

Australia: From Antarctica to Outback, Australians must vote | Rappler

From the frozen Antarctic to the dry and remote Outback, millions of Australians will cast their ballots on Saturday in an election that poses logistical challenges in a continent-sized country. Voting is compulsory and a record 14.71 million Australians are registered to make their mark at some 7,500 polling booths set up at schools, surf clubs, church halls and community centers. But finding somewhere to vote for either incumbent Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s Labor party, the conservative opposition of Tony Abbott or more than 50 other minor parties is not always easy. With many people living in far-flung locations, 38 polling teams began criss-crossing the enormous country two weeks ahead of the September 7 polling day to reach more than 400 isolated communities.

Editorials: Election 2013 Essays: The state of Australian democracy | The Conversation

Given that Australian voters will do their democratic duty by heading to the polls this Saturday, now seems a perfect time to pause and ask: what does the 2013 federal election tell us about the health of Australian democracy? With politicians increasingly prone to meddle with laws surrounding the electoral roll and the power of money in our political campaigns, the pulse of Australia’s democracy may not be as strong as we had once thought.

At the beginning of the 20th century there was no doubt about Australia’s democratic leadership. In 1903, through a massive nation-wide effort, Australia enrolled more of its population to vote in the forthcoming election than any country had done before. Commonwealth electoral officials estimated that 96% of the adult population, including both women and men, were now on the roll. The cause was further advanced in 1911 when enrolment was made compulsory, largely at the urging of the Chief Electoral Officer. Australia pioneered the creation of professional electoral administrators with a professional interest in the achievement of an electoral roll that was comprehensive as well as accurate. How does Australia compare in 2013?

Germany: The wildcards of Germany’s general election | The Irish Times

German federal elections are not for the faint-of-heart – or the colour blind. For the first time in decades, when the polls open for 60 million German voters on September 22nd, Europe – and the world – will be watching. The huge level of international attention is down to the cause and effect of the euro crisis. The domino effect in the crisis exposed just how interlinked our European economies and political systems already were. Shifts in Europe’s political tectonic plates are under way, pushing Berlin to the fore and its influence on post-crisis measures that will, in future, bind us even closer together. So what is at stake? At its most basic, Germans will decide whether or not to reward Angela Merkel with a third term for steering a relatively steady economic ship in turbulent waters. The opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) are busily poking holes in the Merkel crisis recipe: it has resulted in an astronomical bill for bank rescues, they say, leaving less money for education and investment and Germany increasingly a country of haves and have-nots.