Editorials: Say no to e-voting: defending the pencils of democracy | Crikey

Another election is winding up, so it’s time for the compulsory round of people complaining that the system is flawed and that technology would magically fix some of the problems. Quite a few are troubled by the pencils, including Clive Palmer, who listed pencils as part of his comprehensive spray against Australia’s “corrupt system”. He told AAP:

“There’s absolutely no way I will win based [on] voting irregularities and the security of the ballots. We think it’s a corrupt system. Until that’s sorted out Abbott won’t be getting any legislation through the Senate with our support.”

But the Australian Electoral Commission has good reasons for using pencils.

“The AEC has found from experience that pencils are the most reliable implements for marking ballot papers. Pencils are practical because they don’t run out and the polling staff check and sharpen pencils as necessary throughout election day. Pencils can be stored between elections, and they work better in tropical areas.”

Besides, if someone intent on defrauding the election broke into the room where the ballots were stored overnight, do you think the best mode of attack would be to erase votes one by one, in a way that couldn’t be detected?

Alabama: $300K Madison County special election price tag included manpower, equipment costs | WAFF

After Madison county voters took to the polls in a special election, two county jobs will not be merging into one job. County commissioners said the election cost taxpayers more than $300,000. “Special elections are always a big production,” said Probate Judge Tommy Ragland. On the ballot for the special election held Tuesday was a proposal to combine the county tax assessor and tax collector jobs into one.  Voters ultimately decided to keep the two jobs separate. “Everybody is needed in both offices,” said tax collector Lynda Hall. “There are over 175,000 parcels in this county that are supposed to be appraised annually, mapped and valued – and this is just in the assessor office.” After county commissioners said the election would cost taxpayers around $300,000, we started asking questions.

Arizona: Petition drive seeks to block ‘bad’ election laws | Camp Verde Bugle

Voters apparently are going to get the last word on controversial changes in state election laws pushed through by Republicans at the end of last session. Backers of a referendum drive turned in 146,028 signatures on petitions to block the changes from being implemented as scheduled on Friday. If the Secretary of State determines there are at least 86,405 valid signatures — and a likely legal challenge falters — the law will remain on hold until voters can ratify or reject it at the 2014 election. “It’s not every day that voters get the opportunity to refer a bad piece of legislation to the ballot,’ said Julie Erfle who chairs the campaign. The last successful referendum drive was in 1998.

Colorado: Lawmakers Ousted in Recall Vote Over Gun Law | New York Times

Two Colorado Democrats who provided crucial support for a package of state gun laws were voted out of office on Tuesday in special elections seen as a test of whether swing-state voters would accept gun restrictions after mass shootings at a Colorado movie theater and a Connecticut elementary school. The vote, which came five months after the United States Senate defeated several gun restrictions, handed another loss to gun-control supporters and gave moderate lawmakers across the country a warning about the political risks of voting for tougher gun laws. The immediate effect of the recalls — the first of their kind in Colorado — was to remove two state senators, Angela Giron of Pueblo and John Morse of Colorado Springs, and replace them with Republicans. Although the election was confined to two small districts in Southern Colorado and does not repeal Colorado’s gun laws or change partisan control of the General Assembly, both sides spent heavily and campaigned fiercely, fighting to prevail in what analysts called a proxy battle between gun-control advocates and the National Rifle Association.

Florida: Election chief wants support for voter purge | Associated Press

Florida’s top election official, stung by criticism that the state previously relied on flawed data, wants to win support from skeptical election supervisors about a coming effort to remove non-U.S. citizens from the state’s voter rolls. Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced Wednesday that he will hold five meetings with county election officials in October on what he’s calling a “Project Integrity Tour.” Some critics have charged that Florida’s voter purge is an effort by Republicans to intimidate naturalized citizens who are likely minorities. But Detzner made it clear in a statement that Florida has no plans to back away from its already announced plans to identify potential non-U.S. citizens and remove them. This time around, though, state officials want to discuss the process they will use prior to distributing any lists of potentially ineligible voters to county officials. County election supervisors are the only ones with power to remove a voter. “We can ensure the continued integrity of our voter rolls while protecting the voting rights of eligible voters from those who may cast an illegal vote,” Detzner said. “Our elections process must uphold the integrity of local voter rolls.”

Editorials: Latest Florida voter purge scheme threatens immigrants’ voting rights | Facing South

It seems Florida just can’t resist the urge to purge. Last year, Gov. Rick Scott (R) went toe to toe with the federal government and civil rights groups for the power to needle thousands of Floridians — mostly Latinos — about their citizenship under the threat of voter roll expulsion. Scott lost that battle thanks in part to the Voting Rights Act. But not long after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Shelby v. Holder that the VRA coverage formula was unconstitutional, Scott began planning how to reinstate his purge program. This week, Floridians of color are speaking out against those purge plans as a class of people who are most likely to be challenged by the Florida government about their citizenship. The Florida organizations LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Florida New Majority and the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition, along with the national civil rights organization Advancement Project*, are speaking out against Scott’s plans and calling for county elections supervisors to reject the call to interrogate those the state has determined as possible “non-citizens.” The groups fear that Scott’s revived list maintenance scheme may unduly burden new naturalized citizens, most of whom are Latino and Haitians.

New Mexico: 10-year sentence in tax case, overbilling | Albuquerque Journal

Neither his good works with Boy Scouts and other charities nor his status as a first-time offender offset the seriousness of Joseph C. Kupfer’s crimes – stealing hundreds of thousands in federal Help America Vote Act money – and he was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in prison. That was the recommended time under U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, and U.S. District Judge William “Chip” Johnson found the term to be reasonable, based on the goals of punishment and deterrence. Kupfer, 50, a onetime union official and lobbyist, is the last of three individuals to be sentenced in two separate but related criminal cases. One was tax evasion, for which he was tried with his wife, Elizabeth “Daisy” Kupfer. The other involved overbilling on contracts under the federal law enacted to help bring secretaries of state up to speed in voting technology and procedures.

New York: The Mystery of the 1,001 Mayoral Votes for a Comedian in the Bronx | The Atlantic

We know that New York Public Advocate Bill de Blasio came from behind (way behind) to garner the most votes in yesterday’s Democratic primary for mayor, and with 98 percent of precincts reporting, we know he captured roughly 40 percent of the vote to Bill Thompson’s 26 percent. Randy Credico, a longtime comedian-turned-longshot mayoral candidate, barely registered: he got just about 2 percent of the vote, or 13,666 votes throughout the city. So why is a tiny district of the Bronx showing a drastically different story? And could it matter? Here, take a look at Election District 80-079 for yourself, via The New York Times’ interactive voting map. That’s up in Norwood by the Bronx River Parkway, encompassing East 206th and 207th Streets. It’s pink, which means it went for Credico, which means it’s easy to spot. See it? As the map would have you believe, Credico captured 1,001 votes in the district ahead of second-place de Blasio’s 36. That’s 90.8 percent of District 80-079, which is astounding, but also a staggering turnout for one tiny district in the Bronx. In bordering district 80-083, just 126 votes were recorded; in neighboring 80-080, a meager 72. Credico received no votes in either district. Hmm. … So: does it matter? That depends, of course, on whether or not de Blasio tops the 40 percent he needs to steer clear of a runoff election with Thompson.

New York: NYC mayoral primary may go to Round Two | USAToday

The Democratic mayoral primary is still too close to call even though Bill de Blasio leads by more than 90,000 votes. That’s because de Blasio, the city’s public advocate, must clear 40% of the vote to avoid a primary runoff with Bill Thompson, former city comptroller and second-place finisher. De Blasio’s vote totals are hovering around the 40% mark, but Thompson declined to concede, and the city’s Board of Elections has yet to count more than 19,000 absentee ballots. If de Blasio dips below 40%, he and Thompson will compete in a runoff election Oct. 1. Nearly 650,000 votes were cast in the race Tuesday.

New York: Democrats Press Thompson to Forsake a Runoff | New York Times

New York City’s Democratic power brokers moved swiftly on Wednesday to prevent a combative sequel to the party’s primary for mayor, as union officials and party leaders rallied around the front-runner, Bill de Blasio, and urged the second-place finisher, William C. Thompson Jr., to end his quest for a runoff election. On a day of back-room maneuvering and deal-making, Mr. Thompson’s own inner circle appeared divided over how, or even whether, to proceed, with his campaign. Mr. Thompson vowed to press on, but the chairwoman of his campaign said Mr. de Blasio had won a “clear victory” and suggested the race was over. “I don’t think there’s much appetite within the Democratic Party to have a fight here,” Merryl H. Tisch, the campaign chairwoman, said in a telephone interview.

Texas: Legislative Redistricting Proceeds Under a Cloud: 2014 primaries will use 2013 maps | Austin Chronicle

In what looks increasingly like a split legal decision, a federal court in San Antonio has ruled that the 2014 party primaries will use the maps adopted by the Texas legislature during the 2013 session. However, the court’s ruling also ensures that the lawsuits against those same maps will continue. In a Sept. 6 ruling, U.S. District Circuit Judges Jerry Smith, Orlando Garcia, and Xavier Rodriguez cited prior case precedent that they must defer to the Legislature on maps until there has been a ruling of racially motivated gerrymandering. Simultaneously, however, the judges allowed the plaintiffs – who originally filed suit against the 2011 redistricting – to modify their suits to include the 2013 maps. They also denied a request from the state to dismiss any claims relating to the 2011 maps as moot, noting that “the 2013 plans are heavily derived from the 2011 plans.”

Editorials: How to reform Australian Senate voting in one easy step | The Age

The grabbing of Senate seats by micro-party candidates with a handful of primary votes and a manipulated preference flow, while other party candidates with hundreds of thousands of votes are bypassed, is a matter demanding reform. The problem is that neither Labor nor the Coalition want to give up their own potential to manipulate the system by hijacking preference flows. Maybe now they will. As leader of the Greens, after the 2010 election I took a simple reform to the Gillard government. It was rejected. Perhaps the Abbott government will take it up. As everyone will remember from voting last Saturday, in the Senate we are required to either put ”1” in the box of the party of our choice above the line, or number all the candidates in the order of our own preference below the line. Fewer than one in 10 voters bother with the second choice. As the number of Senate candidates has grown, the second choice has become less and less attractive. The problem with the easier option of just voting ”1” for a party above the line is that the voter cedes control of her or his flow of preferences to the backroom operators of that party. Across Australia millions of votes cascade to other parties in an order the voters would not select themselves. The law requiring parties to lodge, pre-election, their choice of preference flow has led to the dark art of manipulation of preferences for unwarranted electoral advantage.

Germany: Europe ‘on hold’ over key German election | BBC

For months now Europe has been on hold. Time and again it has been said that the big challenges must await the outcome of the German election. Germany is Europe’s indispensable power and no major decision can be taken without it. Yet the election campaign does not reflect that: the politicians seem curiously reluctant to debate Europe’s future and Germany’s role in it. There has been more passion spent in debating whether public canteens should once a week have a non-meat day than in discussing future eurozone bailouts. The opposition has been keener to focus on portraying Germany as a low-wage economy and arguing over the shortage of skilled labour than discussing Europe. On Angela Merkel’s part this is quite deliberate. She is by far the most popular politician in Germany. Her approval ratings at 60% – after eight years in power – are the envy of every other politician in Europe. She is – as her posters remind voters – a safe pair of hands. Her deliberate, cautious, step-by-step style suits the German mood.

Maldives: Gasim seeks recount of presidential poll votes | Haveeru

Jumhoory Party (JP) presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim who narrowly missed out a place in the second round of the presidential elections held Saturday said that he has asked elections commission for a vote recount. Speaking during a rally on Wednesday, Gasim reiterated that there were major doubts surrounding the results of the first round. According to Gasim, issues such as ballots being cast in the names of deceased people and vote rigging had been noted during the first round. In light of such issues, JP had requested for a recount in the presence of relevant interlocutors, he added.

Russia: Putin foe Navalny to challenge Moscow election defeat in court | Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent opponent, Alexei Navalny, said on Wednesday he would file hundreds of legal challenges to Moscow mayoral election results he says were rigged to give a Kremlin ally victory. Sergei Sobyanin, who was appointed mayor by the Kremlin in 2010 but called an early election to increase his legitimacy, won the vote on Sunday with 51.3 percent – enough to avoid a second-round run-off against Navalny, who had 27.3 percent. Navalny, an anti-corruption blogger who helped lead street protests against Putin in the past two years, has refused to accept the results and has cited election observers whose count put Sobyanin below the 50 percent threshold. “Everybody’s asking: Where are the lawsuits? If you’re unhappy with the results and believe there was fraud, why aren’t you complaining?” Navalny wrote on his blog. “I answer: We are preparing well-grounded legal complaints. It takes time.”