The Office of the Secretary of State and Washington’s 39 County Auditors are breaking new ground in the coming days as they begin updating over 53,000 voter registration records and mail voter registration information to more than 140,000 potentially eligible, but unregistered residents. Updating such a large number of records and conducting focused registration education recently has become possible, thanks to the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC). ERIC is a non-profit organization that assists states with improving the accuracy of America’s voter rolls and increasing access to voter registration for all eligible citizens. It is governed and managed by states that choose to join, and was formed by seven states in 2012 with assistance from The Pew Charitable Trusts. The seven participating states include Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, Utah, Virginia and Washington. More states are expected to join. “ERIC provides states with a powerful new set of tools that improve the accuracy of voter rolls and expand access to voter registration, achieving both goals more efficiently,” Secretary of State Kim Wyman said.
Republicans in the state Senate are looking to overhaul numerous election laws this fall, including one measure that would allow poll workers to serve in communities other than where they live. Critics contended at a public hearing Wednesday that the change could lead to out-of-town partisans replacing poll workers who have long worked on election day in the community where they live. Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin), the author of the bills, said she does not intend to replace local poll workers with people from other communities and would consider changes to her proposals. Lazich is the chairwoman of the Senate Elections and Urban Affairs Committee, and she presided over a hearing on her bills Wednesday. Other bills she drafted would give governors more leeway in whom they appoint to the state’s elections and ethics board; require poll workers to record what type of document voters show to prove residency; and change how ballot containers are sealed. Under current law, poll workers generally must come from the municipality in which they work, and often must live in the voting ward.
Some Australians are refusing to use the Australian Electoral Commission’s postal voting forms because they require personal details to be printed on the back of the returning envelope. Voters must provide their name, address and signature, together with the signature of a witness on the envelope which contains their completed ballot papers. If the person has changed their name or address since they last voted, those details must also be added to the form together with a phone number and the town or city in which they were born. One Sydney voter, who asked for his name to be withheld, told ninemsn he was shocked such details would be visible and feared the system made it too easy to facilitate identity theft. He believes the practice goes against the widely held belief that your personal details should be guarded closely to avoid them being used for other purposes.
The Indian Ocean archipelago of the Maldives goes to the polls on Saturday for a presidential election that will test its young democracy 18 months after a violent change in leadership. The outcome and conduct of the election also has regional repercussions, with the sea-faring nation becoming a new area of competition between India and China. Recently, a high-level team of Indian observers left for Maldives to monitor the poll process and meet representatives of political parties. The team, which includes former chief election commissioners JM Lyngdoh, BB Tandon and N Gopalaswami and former Indian High Commissioner to Maldives SM Gavai, will visit polling stations spread across different islands. “India is committed to strengthening the institutions of democracy in the Maldives. In this context, the Election Commission of India is working closely with the Elections Commission of Maldives to further strengthen its capacity,” said a statement from the Indian High Commission here. “India is also arranging for the training of Maldivian Judges in India and working closely with the Majlis (parliament),” it said.
Online voting is set to be trialled at the 2016 local elections in a bid to boost turnouts. Porirua and Manawatu are likely to be the first areas where people can cast votes electronically, Local Government Minister Chris Tremain said today. The trial would be made possible by the passing of the Electoral Amendment Bill, introduced last week. That would allow voters to enrol online using the government’s RealMe online identity verification service. … Mr Tremain said robust regulations needed to be in place so voters had trust and confidence in the system.
The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) party has rejected the final report of Southern African Development Community (SADC)’s Election Observer Mission (SEOM) validating Zimbabwe’s July 31 polls as free, fair and credible. SEOM leader Tanzanian Foreign Minister Bernard Membe on Monday delivered the final report which stated the Zimbabwean election had been held in a credible manner, Zimnbabwean news agency New Ziana reported. But former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s party said the mission had failed to take note of various irregularities which it deemed were too many for the election to be given credence.
Talk about admitting defeat before the race is over. Instead of trying to inspire voters to get out and do their democratic duty in a few weeks, Local Government Minister Chris Tremain has as good as conceded turn-out is going to be poor. This week, he’s announced a trial of online voting in the 2016 local authority elections as a way “to encourage people to become involved in the democratic process.” Voting via the internet, he says, “will be more convenient and appeal to young voters. It will also make it easier for people with disabilities to vote”. Local Government New Zealand president Lawrence Yule echoed these wishful hopes. But overseas trials don’t appear to back their optimism. In a 2009 poll for the Honolulu Neighbourhood Board, for example, there was an 83 per cent drop in voter participation when Oahu voters had to vote by telephone or internet, rather than cast a paper ballot. But even if internet voting was served up as another option, alongside postal and polling booth voting, and did prove to be a hit with the young, there’s no evidence to suggest your e-vote will be safe and secure as it wings its way from your laptop to Election Central, or that when it arrives, it won’t be prey to malware, or direct external interference.
About 2,800 voters in Pueblo have already cast ballots in the recall election over three days of early voting, but in Colorado Springs polls have yet to open. It’s a contrast that has raised eyebrows at more than one advocacy group for public engagement and voting rights. “It’s a huge concern for us,” said Elena Nunez, executive director of Colorado Common Cause. “It’s the first time in many, many years voters won’t be able to get mail ballots and that’s created a lot of confusion and uncertainty about where people can vote.” Nunez said giving voters more chances to access the ballot is particularly important given the uncertainty leading up to the recall elections. Several court rulings have changed how the election would be handled – causing several iterations of election rules. Voters in Pueblo and Colorado Springs will decide on Sept. 10 whether to recall their state senators for gun legislation passed during the 2013 legislative session. Only residents within the districts of Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs and Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo get to vote.
Colorado: District Attorney Bruce Brown: Non-citizen voter fraud suspicions unfounded | Summit Daily
Suspicions of voter fraud in the 5th Judicial District of Colorado are unfounded, according to a news release issued last week by the district attorney’s office. In July, at the request of Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, 5th Judicial District Attorney Bruce Brown and his staff launched an investigation into three people suspected of being non-citizens who may have illegally cast an electoral ballot as far back as the year 2000. Statewide, the Secretary of State’s Office identified 157 voters as being potential non-citizens. By law, when the secretary of state requests a district attorney to investigate voter fraud, the office has a duty to comply and then prosecute persons who have committed a crime, the release stated. On Aug. 30, the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office announced it had concluded its investigation and determined the three voters in question were either United States citizens — legally eligible to participate in the electoral process — or their alleged ineligibility took place outside of the statute of limitations. Local findings are consistent with those statewide, the release stated. Few if any of the 157 suspected non-citizens could have been accused of voter fraud in recent elections.
Voting Blogs: A. Lawyers, Guns and Money — Q. What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Recall | The Recall Elections Blog
On September 10th, Colorado will be holding its first ever state-level recalls against two Democratic state Senators, Senate President John Morse and Angela Giron, for their support for gun control legislation. Petitioners actually went after two other legislators and discussed recalling the Governor, but they failed to turn in petitions for those officials. In many ways, these recalls are different than most famous recalls of recent years against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and California Governor Gray Davis in that the primary goal here is symbolic. These recalls will not result in Republicans gaining control of the Senate (absent a Democratic Senator flipping parties). Morse is term-limited and out of office in 2014. Democrats are not actively looking to draft new gun control laws, and since the Democrats control the House and the Governor’s office, the laws will likely not be revoked until a new full election.
Kansas: Legislature unlikely to change proof-of-citizenship requirement for voter registration | Lawrence Journal World
A proposal to change the new state law that has put at risk 15,000 Kansans’ ability to vote was rejected in the state House of Representatives on Tuesday and probably will not be revived during the special session. Crowd gathered for rally on Tuesday urging the Kansas Legislature to repeal a proof of citizenship requirement to register to vote. As the Legislature started a special session to fix a constitutionally flawed murder statute, state Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, tried to pass a provision to eliminate the new state requirement that Kansans must show proof of U.S. citizenship with a document such as a birth certificate or passport when they register to vote. Since the proof of citizenship requirement took effect Jan. 1, the voter registration applications of approximately 15,000 Kansans, including 600 in Douglas County, have been placed in “suspense,” which means they aren’t completed.
Michigan: Detroit’s mayoral primary certified; decertification, recount efforts begin | The Detroit News
The Board of State Canvassers unanimously voted Tuesday to certify Detroit’s primary election results and declare former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan the top vote-getter in the Aug. 6 contest. The results were certified by the two Democrats and two Republicans, but an attorney indicated there will be an effort next week to decertify the mayoral primary election results. The state’s tally shows Duggan with 48,716 votes or 51.7 percent of the vote to Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon’s 28,391 votes or 30.1 percent. The state stepped into the primary vote-counting controversy when the Wayne County Board of Canvassers didn’t certify the vote counts of the county clerk or Detroit clerk. But Tuesday’s certification of the primary vote will start recount efforts filed to Wayne County, which could take weeks to complete. Absentee ballots for the general election are set to be sent to voters on Sept. 21. Officials expressed concern a recount could delay absentee ballots being mailed.
North Carolina: Elections board reverses decision, allows dorm-living student to run for office | McClatchy
Under the glare of a national media spotlight, the North Carolina Board of Elections ruled on two cases Tuesday that offered a glimpse of where the five members appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory stand on the changed electoral landscape. The board members unanimously agreed that an Elizabeth City State University student can run for local office, reversing a decision by the Republican-controlled Pasquotank County elections board. But in a 4-1 vote, the state board brushed aside an attempt to overturn a Watauga County elections board decision to close an early-voting site on the Appalachian State University campus for the coming municipal election. The decisions came amid extensive state and national attention to rulings and proposals by new Republican-controlled county boards that critics describe as attempts to squelch the under-30 vote.
Editorials: In a victory for voting rights, NC elections board OKs student bid for local office | Facing South
The Republican-controlled North Carolina State Board of Elections voted unanimously Tuesday to overturn a county election board’s ruling barring a student at a historically black college from running for local office because he’s registered to vote on campus. “Justice has prevailed,” Montravias King said after the board’s vote. Back in July, the senior at Elizabeth City State University filed to run for a local council seat. Local Republican Party official Richard “Pete” Gilbert challenged King’s candidacy last month, arguing that because his dorm address was only temporary he did not meet the residency requirements to run for city office. Voting rights advocates pointed out that North Carolina’s residency requirements for running for office and voting are the same. “This is a case about whether college students across the state can be denied the right to vote,” said King’s attorney, Clare Barnett with the Durham, N.C.-based Southern Coalition for Social Justice.
In early June the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, the longtime progressive advocacy group, released the results of a landmark studyon “the effect of campaign contributions on judicial behavior.” The statistics confirmed what former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and countless other observers of our legal systems have long contended: Judicial elections impair the fair administration of justice by fostering impermissible appearances of impartiality by judicial candidates and judges. In seeking votes, in acting like politicians, judges invariably lose what they ought to prize most: their perceived credibility as neutral arbiters of cases and controversies. When I read the study, the first person I thought of was Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, a popular and successfully reelected jurist whose campaign-style website I wrote about last year for The Atlantic. Justice Willett, it seems to me, is the poster-child for the results of the ACS study. Indeed, he should have been on its cover. So I reached out to him, asked him to read the ACS study, and to then answer for me a few questions about his perceptions about judicial elections and the role campaign contributions play in them. About a month ago, he graciously complied in a way that was both candid and frightening.
Fiji: Elections will go ahead despite political opposition, voter registration to start in NZ | Islands Business magazine
Despite acceptance from neighbours Australia and New Zealand, two of the four registered political parties in Fiji remain adamant they will not support the Constitution. Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) Senior Executive Tupeni Baba says the two countries have no say in domestic politics. In no way will Australia and New Zealand push us to elections. If we do get to elections when we decide, that the provisions are sufficiently flexible sufficiently fair and transparent then we will urge the people in Fiji to come with us. Question: What I can make out is you do not want elections to happen next year? Well not under the current provisions until the elections can be shown to be independently managed,” said Baba. The National Federation Party’s Raman Pratap Singh says Australia and New Zealand’s acceptance of the Constitution doesn’t matter.
It’s election season in Germany, and Italian candy brand Ferrero decided to celebrate with an election-themed TV ad that inadvertently made its candy and the citizens of Germany sound like white supremacists. In the ads, a talking chocolate box speaks at a political rally before supporters who carry signs that read, “Yes White Can!” Everyone shouts triumphantly when a poster unfurls on the stage reading, “Germany Votes White!” According to the Telegraph, Ferrero was trying to promote its white chocolate Küsschen, or little kisses, which had previously been a limited-edition candy. But somehow the advertising team at Ferrero and M&C Saatchi managed to create a cartoon version of the propaganda for Germany’s far-right NPD party. When the ads aired, they were met with shock and outrage.
United Kingdom: Lobbying bill poses threat to blogs and political rallies, says elections watchdog | theguardian.com
Officials may have the power to ask people to take down blogs or stop political rallies under the new lobbying bill, the head of the Electoral Commission has warned. The regulator said there are “real questions around freedom of speech” as MPs prepared to debate the controversial new laws in the House of Commons. Charities have protested that the bill will limit their ability to talk about policy issues, because it puts new spending restrictions on political campaigning in the runup to an election. Jenny Watson, the chair of the Electoral Commission, said it needed more guidance from parliament as it will be asked to adjudicate on what constitutes campaigning for a political purpose, setting it up for legal challenges by charities, faith groups or trade bodies. She said would be a significant intervention if the regulator was to “ask someone from taking down a blog or a website or to prevent a rally from happening”.
Southern African countries said Monday they found it “very difficult” to declare Zimbabwe’s elections fair, thanks to Robert Mugabe’s monopoly on state media and problems with the electoral roll. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) mission which observed the July 31 election declared the poll “credible” but stopped short of calling it fair. “On the question of fairness, it’s very difficult to say everything was fair,” SADC election observer Bernard Membe said in the capital Harare as he summarised his report. The 15-member regional body reiterated its call for sanctions imposed by the European Union and the United States against Zimbabwe to be lifted, saying they actually helped Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party. “Sanctions cannot be used as a tool for winning elections. As long as sanctions are there, this ZANU-PF will prevail for another 100 years,” he said.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.