As Muscovites prepared Saturday to elect a mayor for the first time in a decade, many said they would support a controversial critic of Vladimir Putin who channels public anger against the Kremlin. On Sunday, they will have to choose from six candidates including Kremlin-backed incumbent Sergei Sobyanin and the main opposition candidate Alexei Navalny, who has campaigned under the shadow of a five-year sentence on charges he condemned as politically motivated. The candidacy of the 37-year-old anti-corruption blogger has made the race the first genuinely competitive Russian election since the heady first post-Soviet years, even if many harbour reservations about his tough anti-migrant rhetoric. Kremlin-backed Sobyanin, 55, is expected to win with a majority, while Navalny is set to come second with around 20 percent, according to opinion polls.
Russia: Elections to Elect Governors, Moscow Mayor After 9-year Break in Popular Votes | RIA Novosti
Millions of Russians will take to the polling booths on Sunday to cast their votes in regional and municipal elections. The most important race is happening in Moscow, where Acting Mayor Sergei Sobyanin faces off against Russia’s protest leader Alexei Navalny. Sobyanin, an ally and former administration head of President Vladimir Putin, is uniformly expected to win the mayoral seat by a wide margin. Turnout for Navalny, though, will determine to what extent Moscow residents oppose the Kremlin and its policies, political pundits said. “A sizeable part of the vote against Sobyanin will be against not the Moscow city government or the personality of the Moscow mayor, but against federal politics,” said Boris Makarenko, chairman of the Center for Political Technologies. “The Kremlin is receiving many signals that a sizeable part of the population has problems with how it is governing the county.” Authorities worked intentionally to keep Navalny in the race, in what analysts say was an effort to boost the legitimacy of the crucial vote after tens of thousands of Muscovites took to the streets to protest the 2011 parliamentary and 2012 presidential elections results. The opposition claimed the contests were rigged in favor of the Kremlin.
The Presidential Commission on Election Administration met in Philadelphia yesterday to hear testimony given by experts from up and down the east coast and beyond on how to improve voting in America. The commission was created by President Obama this year to “promote the efficient administration of elections” in response to long lines and other glitches that have threatened the integrity of voting days in years past. The commission solicited input from election officials and academics on how to overcome technical and logistical obstacles that impede voting. Among the topics addressed were analytical methods to better distribute polling resources, the use of electronic signature databases for more streamlined registration, language access issues particularly for Asian and Latino voters, access for people with disabilities and emergency preparedness to salvage elections that are disrupted by major disasters such as Hurricane Sandy.
A recent panel discussion on the Latino vote at the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, moderated by actress Eva Longoria, took a couple of unexpected turns. One was the claim of a Republican strategist who said he was blacklisted on the orders of panelist John Pérez, the state Assembly speaker, a flap that drew the most media attention. The other, and more consequential, takeaway was the content of the session itself. The focus was not on immigration reform, education, high unemployment rates or even the Republican Party’s inability to connect with an emerging demographic force in American politics. The main topic of the day? Vote suppression. “This is the No. 1 issue that Latinos and other communities should be worried about,” Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana, told the gathered journalists. Sanchez knows a little something about vote-chilling tactics. In 2006, a mailer was sent to 14,000 registered voters with Latino surnames and foreign birthplaces telling them it was a crime for immigrants to vote in a federal election. Her Republican opponent was convicted of obstruction of justice in connection with the scheme.
Will digital dollars soon fund U.S. political campaigns? If a conservative political action committee has its way, supporters will be able to donate to federal elections using bitcoins, a relatively new form of virtual currency. The Conservative Action Fund PAC this week asked the Federal Election Commission to approve rules governing the use of this online form of currency. The move seeks to push the technology envelope for federal regulators who just last year endorsed political donations via text message for the first time. The FEC has 60 days to respond to requests such as these but can extend the amount of time it takes to consider the matter. “As bitcoins become a bigger part of the economy, we see a future in this … particularly among libertarian-minded voters,” said Dan Backer, the Conservative Action Fund lawyer who filed the FEC request.
The Miami-Dade elections department is working with its software vendor to make it easier for staff members to flag suspicious requests for absentee ballots. The change will take effect next year. It won’t cost the county any additional money. A grand jury had recommended that the elections department should beef up security on its website by requiring user logins and passwords after the office uncovered thousands of fraudulent requests for absentee ballots in the August 2012 primary election. Elections Supervisor Penelope Townsley said the grand jury’s recommendation would have required an initial investment of $843,000, with possible costs of $743,000 in every major election. And, she told The Miami Herald, legitimate voters may have been dissuaded to request ballots if the system were made more challenging. “It would have also deterred voters,” Townsley said.
Civil liberties groups have renewed their court battle with Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz in their effort to stop him from using a federal immigration database to try to find voters registered in Iowa who might not be citizens. The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa filed documents on Aug. 26 asking a judge to rule on a lawsuit they filed last year or to at least issue a temporary order to keep Schultz from using the data until the lawsuit can be decided. The lawsuit revolves around a voter removal rule Schultz proposed that went into effect March 27. The rule sets up a process to remove voters from registration rolls if Schultz cannot confirm their citizenship by comparing state records with a federal immigration database. After months of negotiations, Schultz obtained permission from the federal government Aug. 14 to get access to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements program, called SAVE. It’s administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a division of the Department of Homeland Security and used to confirm immigrant citizenship status to determine eligibility for certain federal benefits.
Kansas: Lawmakers Do Not Hear Legislation That Could Allow 16,000 To Register To Vote | Huffington Post
Kansas’ fight over showing proof of citizenship in order to register to vote spilled into the state Legislature Tuesday, with Republican leaders denying a vote to ease the process. Republican leaders in the state House of Representatives denied Rep. Jim Ward’s (D-Wichita) amendment to a crime bill that would have allowed residents to sign an affidavit when they register saying they are citizens, a practice allowed nationally. Under current Kansas law, residents have to show proof of citizenship as well as sign an affidavit. The Legislature was in special session this week to vote on legislation changing the state’s mandatory sentences for convicted murderers. Between 15,000 and 16,000 Kansas residents have been placed on a suspended list for failure to produce proof of citizenship when registering to vote. The American Civil Liberties Union is suing Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), the author of the citizenship law, in an effort to overturn it and add the 16,000 people on the voting rolls. “How can you have just over 15,000 being denied the right to vote?” Ward said to HuffPost. “That kind of disregard over the right to vote is wrong.”
Voting rights have a long history in the South, but a Baton Rouge lawsuit regarding the races of city court judges is giving locals and students a new sense of awareness on the issue. Baton Rouge residents Byron Sharper and Kenneth Hall filed suit against the state in October of 2012 for not drawing new district lines for Baton Rouge city court judge elections after the 2000 census indicated the location of the city’s primarily African-American population. Three out of the five judgeships are white, and Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson told The Advocate about 55 percent of the city’s population is African-American. The lawsuit argues against the Baton Rouge City Court that election boundaries weaken African-American votes and is still waiting on a ruling from federal courts.
It may be hard to believe but the primary election in Detroit still is not settled. And today makes exactly one month since voters cast ballots for mayor, city council and city clerk. The Wayne County Board of Canvassers voted Thursday to recount ballots from Detroit’s August primary, based on a petition from former mayoral candidate Tom Barrow, who alleged fraud in the election process. It will be the fourth time ballots from Detroit’s mayoral race will be counted. Detroit elections workers counted the ballots initially, then workers from the Wayne County Elections Division verified the counts to try and certify the results. But the certification came from the Board of State Canvassers after the Wayne County board found issues they said called for state intervention.
Mississippi: Democrats ask Justice Department to observe Hattiesburg mayoral election | The Clarion-Ledger
Saying that “some of the controversy surrounding” Hattiesburg’s special mayoral election has taken on a racial tone it finds “troubling,” the Democratic Party of Mississippi has asked the federal government to send representatives to observe the Sept. 24 election. In a letter dated Aug. 23, 2013, Mississippi Democratic Party Chairman Rickey L. Cole made the request of United States Attorney General Eric Holder. “The more eyes on the process, the better,” Cole said Wednesday. “The more attention and daylight that’s brought into the process, whether there was anything untoward that happened or might have happened or not, it’s much better to have independent observers to make their observations from the standpoint of a disinterested person.” Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree, whose 37-vote victory in June over former City Councilman Dave Ware was challenged in court and eventually led to the second election, said in a statement Wednesday that he had asked Coleman to make the request.
Virginia: Without Warning, 57,000 Virginians Could Have Their Voter Registrations Cancelled | ThinkProgress
With two months until Virginians decide which of two polar opposites — Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli — will be their next governor, tens of thousands of voters could be removed from the rolls in a statewide purge. Approximately 57,000 Virginians have been flagged as being registered in another state, and counties are removing some from the voter rolls without any notice or opportunity to rebut the claim. Before conservatives lose their marbles that this is clear and irrefutable evidence of voter fraud, it’s worthwhile to consider how voter registration works. Each state maintains its own roll rather than a nationwide system. When Joe America, who had been registered in Richmond, moves to Philadelphia and registers there, he’s not required to cancel his Virginia registration before enrolling in Pennsylvania.
The Australian Electoral Commission is trying to determine how many Queensland voters were accidentally given ballot papers for the NSW Senate contest. A voter in the far north Queensland tourist town of Port Douglas says he and other voters were given the wrong ballot papers at a pre-polling booth. The man says he realised the mistake about an hour after he voted, and returned to the booth to alert officials. The AEC says it’s unsure how many Queensland voters were given the wrong ballot papers. An investigation into the incident, which happened in the electorate of Leichhardt, is under way.
The Australian Electoral Commission says we have “a choice of two methods” when voting for Senators on Saturday. We can either vote “above the line'” by putting the number ‘1’ in one box only. That gives the group we are voting for the right to allocate our preferences. It says “the rest of the ballot paper must be left blank.” Or we can vote “below the line” by putting the number ‘1’ in the box of our first choice, then number ‘2’ and so on until all the boxes have been numbered. “If a voter chooses to vote below the line, they must number every box below the line for their vote to count,” the website says. “The top part of the ballot paper must be left blank.” If true, it could leave some of us unable fully exercise our democratic rights.
Just over half of Torontonians polled by Forum Research, a Toronto-based public opinion research company, do not support allowing permanent residents to vote in municipal elections. Toronto City Council voted in June to ask the province to give permanent residents the right to vote and participate in city elections. If approved by the province, the new system could be in effect for the 2018 election and would allow an estimated 250,000 non-citizens to vote in the municipal election. Toronto isn’t the first city to look at offering the vote to permanent residents. Some cities in about 40 countries, including Dublin and Oslo, currently allow non-citizens to cast their ballot municipally.
Voting-rights advocates generally don’t look to Justice Antonin Scalia for comfort. During oral arguments earlier this year in Shelby County v. Holder, the case in which the Supreme Court struck down a central part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Justice Scalia called the act a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.” But a growing circle of legal scholars is focusing on a lower-profile ruling — issued one week before the Shelby County decision and written by Justice Scalia — that may point the way to a new approach to protecting voting rights. The 7-to-2 decision, in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, struck down an Arizona law requiring anyone who wanted to vote to provide proof of citizenship. It said the state could not impose a rule that was more restrictive than the federal “motor voter” law, which requires only a sworn statement of citizenship by the voter.
Critics of a Kansas law requiring new voters to provide proof of their U.S. citizenship when registering urged legislators Tuesday to repeal the policy during their special session, but such an effort immediately stalled. About 100 people gathered at the Statehouse for a rally sponsored by KanVote, a Wichita-based group that opposed the law, which took effect in January. The NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union and Equality Kansas, the state’s leading gay-rights organization, also called publicly for the law’s repeal. The law took effect in January, backed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach and fellow Republicans, who view it as a way to prevent non-citizens from voting improperly. But more than 15,000 legal Kansas residents’ voter registrations are on hold because they have yet to provide proper documents, meaning they can’t legally vote.
Michigan: State elections director: Re-tabulation prevented disenfranchisement of over 24,000 Detroit voters | MLive.com
The state Board of Canvassers voted Tuesday to certify election results from Detroit’s Aug. 6 primary election after staffers reviewed write-in ballots and calculated totals that differed vastly from Wayne County numbers. Michigan Bureau of Elections workers spent days re-tabulating write-in ballots from 385 of Detroit’s 614 precincts after Wayne County’s Board of Canvassers declined to certify results because of questions surrounding the way mayoral write-in votes were initially counted. In some precincts, poll workers did not use hash marks to count write-in votes, leading the County Clerk’s office to seek to disqualify thousands of votes and calling mayoral candidate Mike Duggan’s overwhelming write-in victory into question. The state unsealed ballot containers and reviewed votes from precincts where there were discrepancies between the county’s vote summary and statements of votes prepared by elections inspectors.
Apparently, it wasn’t enough for the state of North Carolina to pass the most far-reaching and extreme voting law in the nation. The radical rollback of voting rights, signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory a few weeks ago, cuts a week from early voting, eliminates same-day voter registration, creates a strict photo ID requirement (which specifically prohibits college IDs from being accepted for voting), bans the pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds, and expands the ability to challenge voters, among other sweeping provisions. Collectively, these changes make it harder to vote for people of color, students, seniors, people with disabilities and low-income North Carolinians. Yet the state did not stop there. Now two county election boards have employed a top-down approach to take over the voting process at the local level. They are specifically taking aim at student voting. Just days after the state’s restrictive voting law took hold, election officials in Watauga and Pasquotank counties announced policies to drastically curb student voting. First, the local elections board of Watauga County, home to Appalachian State University, voted to eliminate an early voting and general election polling place on campus. Now students seeking to cast a ballot will have to travel to an off-campus voting site that is absurdly difficult to reach: inaccessible by public transportation, and over a mile from campus, alongside a 45 mph road with no sidewalk. Worse still, in the Watauga County election board’s decision to condense what used to be three county polling places into one, this single precinct — which was designed for 1,500 voters and only has 35 parking spaces — will have to serve 9,300 voters.