Last week, in a first for the state of Colorado, two state legislators were recalled by their constituents. Senator Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) and Senate President John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) were sent packing in large part due to their votes in favor of new gun laws passed and signed into law earlier this year. As I’ve noted elsewhere (here and here), recall elections are a rarity in the United States, but they’re becoming increasingly common. There have only been 38 state legislative recall elections since states first began adopting the procedure in 1908. Seventeen of those—nearly half—have occurred just since 2010. And some of them, particularly the recent Colorado ones, would have to be labeled as political successes for their backers. A vocal and passionate minority (in this case, gun owners) wanted to punish some lawmakers for their votes and send a message of intimidation to others. They did that. My guess is that the recall will only become more popular in the coming years. Now, I remember quite a few people predicting the same thing after the successful 2003 recall of California Governor Gray Davis. In fact, it would be another five years before anyone would attempt to recall a state legislator, and another three years after that until an attempt to unseat another governor. Why would it not catch on then but catch on now?
A national tea party group is asking for permission to keep their donors secret — just like the socialists. Citing a long litany of harassment examples, the Tea Party Leadership Fund is asking the Federal Election Commission for the same right granted to the Socialist Workers Party to shield the names and information of their donors from the public. In a new request to the FEC shared with POLITICO, the group argues that tea party donors and activists are being targeted for harassment by government officials and private groups — and they cite derogatory comments by politicians and overbearing government investigations as evidence. “Nobody likes the communists and really for good reason,” said Dan Backer, the attorney for the group who wrote and filed the complaint. But, Backer said, the same legal principle that grants left-wring groups the right to hide their donors should also cover tea party groups. “As we very thoroughly document at almost three times the length of the socialist request, tea party supporters are subject to an unprecedented level of harassment and abuse,” Backer said. If the tea party request is granted, the decision could open the floodgates to outside groups, candidates and political parties who want to hide their donors with the government’s blessing. “This will be the beginning of a conversation about the burdens and the perils of disclosure,” Backer predicted.
Four times as many prospective Kansas voters have their registrations on hold for failing to meet a proof-of-citizenship requirement than for all other reasons combined, state statistics show. Kansans with registrations on hold can’t legally cast ballots. A law that took effect in January requires new Kansas voters to produce a birth certificate, passport or other papers documenting their U.S. citizenship, but election officials also put registrations on hold for other reasons, such as when people fill out registration forms improperly or register before turning 18. Kansas had about 21,300 voter registrations on hold this week, and more than 17,100 — 80 percent of the total — were for people who hadn’t met the proof-of-citizenship requirement. The secretary of state’s office provided the figures to The Associated Press.
Three men, including a Hamtramck City Council candidate in August’s primary election, are being charged with returning absentee ballots that did not belong to them, state Attorney General Bill Schuette and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s offices announced today. Hamtramck Deputy City Clerk August Gitschlag told authorities that three people had delivered multiple absentee ballots to City Hall in violation of state election law, which says those in possession of ballots must be the voter, a relative, mail carrier or authorized official.
A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Montana’s requirement that political committees disclose their campaign spending is constitutional. U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen sided with the state in a new decision, and dismissed a case brought last year by the National Association for Gun Rights. He wrote that the public’s right to know who is financing political campaigns vastly outweighs the minimal burden imposed on committees required to report the information. The Virginia nonprofit organization originally argued it wanted to send political mailings on gun issues without registering as a political committee. The organization said it advances the “God-given right” to keep and bear arms.
In early May, Gov. Chris Christie arrived at the Liberty National Golf Course in New Jersey for a political fund-raiser. Donors, many of them longtime backers of his, enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and views of the Lower Manhattan skyline while he spoke of the important work to be done on issues like jobs and the economy. Not a single check was written to Mr. Christie’s campaign. Indeed, some of those in attendance were legally prohibited from doing so, because they had sizable contracts with state agencies and were therefore barred by New Jersey law from making large contributions to the governor. Instead, the donors wrote checks for as much as $100,000 to the Republican Governors Association, an organization Mr. Christie helps lead that has collected $1.65 million from New Jersey donors during the first six months of the year. The association has, in turn, poured $1.7 million into Mr. Christie’s re-election effort, with television advertisements attacking State Senator Barbara Buono, his Democratic opponent in the election this year.
After more than three hours of debate and public comment at a special meeting Wednesday night, Columbia City Council voted 4-3 not to put a strong mayor referendum on the November ballot. Instead, they’ll hold a special election Dec. 3 — but only if and when they receive a certified petition from the Richland County Election Commission. Petition gatherers presented a petition calling for a referendum to the election commission last Tuesday, but the commission hasn’t yet certified it. Councilman Sam Davis was the swing vote last week to give initial approval to a November vote, but said he’d only give it final approval if the petition was certified.
Secretary of State Jason Gant will convene a task force this fall to consider possible changes to the state plan under the Help America Vote Act. The decision to name a task force comes after Gant and the Board of Elections deflected a request to establish in-person absentee voting and voter registration stations in three predominantly Native American communities. In his release announcing the task force, Gant said that issue and others could be addressed by the task force. The news release said Gant hoped the group would “strive for uniformity in our election system across all South Dakota counties.” Earlier this summer, voting rights group Four Directions asked the state’s Board of Elections to approve a request to place absentee voting stations in Wanblee, Eagle Butte and Fort Thompson. Four Directions Executive Director OJ Semans noted the state still had about $9 million in HAVA funds, money that Congress appropriated to states to modernize voting equipment and procedures following the controversial presidential election of 2000. Semans estimated the request would cost the state $50,000 per election cycle.
Some 350,000 convicted nonviolent felons became eligible to have their civil rights restored on July 15. Two months later, only a small fraction of those eligible know about the policy. Even fewer have applied. Gov. Bob McDonnell issued an executive order that eliminated a two-year waiting period before an application could be filed to restore rights. Now, a nonviolent felon who has completed all court-ordered conditions can apply and be automatically approved. What this means is that eligible individuals need only register with the Secretary of the Commonwealth via mail, email or phone to have their rights to vote, serve on a jury and work as a notary public restored. Organizations that are spreading the word about the change say that reaching those who are eligible is easier said than done. “Virginia only has the names of people currently incarcerated, but not those who have been released. They don’t know where these people are,” said Ladelle McWhorter of Virginia Organizing, a non-partisan grass-roots group. “The thing that [the governor’s office needs] is for people to come forward.”
With deceptively little fanfare or attention, a federal judge in Wisconsin is poised to preside over the first trial challenging a photo ID law under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. On Nov. 4, 2013, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman will hear a challenge brought by Advancement Project and pro bono counsel Arnold & Porter to the state’s 2011 restrictive law. The lawsuit hinges on Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bars racially discriminatory voting practices. The statute is taking on increased importance in the wake of the Supreme Court’s June 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, in which the court blocked preclearance protections under Section 5 of the law. The Wisconsin trial is noteworthy for several reasons. First, as the leading democracy of the world, the U.S. should work to keep our voting system free, fair, and accessible to all Americans. Yet, Wisconsin is one of dozens of states pursuing restrictive voter laws that block some eligible Americans from voting, denying them the opportunity to participate equally in our democracy. Wisconsin’s photo ID law is one of strictest in the country. If the law is allowed to go back into effect, it stands to turn back the clock on Wisconsin’s historically strong protection of voting rights.
Afghanistan: Gunman kills provincial election official days after start of campaign season | Associated Press
A gunman killed the head of a provincial election commission in northern Afghanistan on Wednesday, officials said. The shooting came as Afghanistan’s campaign season started this week, with authorities accepting candidate nominations for presidential and provincial elections next spring. The man slain in Wednesday’s attack, Amanullah Aman, is believed to be the highest-ranking election official to be killed in Afghanistan since the Taliban government was ousted in 2001. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
Australia: Queensland voter ID plan sparks claims Indigenous electors would be shut out | theguardian.com
More than 40,000 marginalised people in Queensland, particularly Indigenous people, the disabled and elderly, could be shut out of the democratic process due to the state’s planned “onerous” voter ID laws, community groups have warned. In a an open letter to Queensland attorney-general Jarrod Bleijie, the groups warn that the proposal “unnecessarily restricts Queenslanders’ voting rights” and could disenfranchise those who do not have the required identification documents. The Queensland government plans to introduce the law – which applies only to state polls – before the 2015 state election, meaning Queensland would become the first state or territory in Australia to require that voters show identification at the polling booth.
More than two decades after two far-right youths attacked him there and smashed his glasses, Karamba Diaby hopes to represent the economically ailing east German city of Halle as the first black member of Germany’s parliament. Senegal-born Diaby often felt isolated as a student at Halle University in then-communist, and overwhelmingly white East Germany in the 1980s. Nowadays he feels very much at home but says Germany still needs to do better at integrating foreigners. “There is definitely some catching up to do,” Diaby, a candidate for the main center-left opposition Social Democrats (SPD) in Sunday’s national election, told Reuters. Diaby, 52, is clearly frustrated that media attention has focused on his skin color, not his politics. “If it’s so sensational that I am running for the Bundestag (lower house), after living here for 27 years, studying here and being politically active, that’s because it has dawned on people that this hasn’t happened before,” he said.
The fate of the first round of presidential elections in the Maldives, won by former President Mohamed Nasheed, would be decided by a full bench of the Supreme Court which started hearing the matter, media reports said here. A full bench of seven judges has admitted the plea of the Jumhooree Party seeking annulment of presidential elections and conducted its first hearing yesterday. The hearing will continue today, local media said. The Jumhooree Party (JP) whose candidate Gasim Ibrahim missed the second round, scheduled on September 28, by a whisker has alleged irregularities in the voters’ list and requested the apex court to annul first round of elections. Business tycoon Ibrahim’s running mate and former Attorney General Hassan Saeed alleged that voters’ list included bogus voters, repetition of names and inclusion of dead voters in the list.
Rwanda: President Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front party wins majority of seats in parliament | Associated Press
President Paul Kagame’s ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front party has won the majority of seats in parliamentary elections, an election official said. The election was free and fair, the head of the Rwandan Electoral Commission Kalisa Mbanda said late Tuesday, even though human right groups said opposition parties not allied to the Kagame’s RPF did not have fair conditions. The RPF won 40 of the 53 seats open to political parties. Rwanda’s lower house has 80 members but 27 seats are reserved for women, people with disabilities and the youth. Monday’s elections were Rwanda’s third legislative polls since the 1994 genocide that claimed the lives of more than 500, 000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Kagame led the Rwandan Patriotic Front to victory in Rwanda in 1994, ending the genocide and since then the RPF has dominated politics in Rwanda.