Saying he is not willing to maintain a dual registration system, Secretary of State Ken Bennett is asking the court to order the federal Election Assistance Commission to modify its voter registration forms to demand proof of citizenship. In legal filings Wednesday, Bennett said he needs an immediate order to ensure that Arizona and Kansas — which is seeking the same relief — are not denied “their sovereign and constitutional right to establish and enforce voter qualifications.” Without the order, Bennett said the state will forced to register unqualified voters. The U.S. Supreme Court in June ruled that Arizona is required to accept the federally designed form, even though it does not require the proof of citizenship that Arizona voters mandated in 2004. The justices, in a 7-2 ruling, said Congress was legally entitled to impose that mandate when it comes to federal elections.
A stunning reversal by the judge who wrote the key opinion upholding voter ID laws has given new ammunition to opponents of the laws passed or strengthened by Republican governors and legislatures in more than a dozen states, including Texas. Judge Richard Posner, a veteran member of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, made the reversal in a single sentence of his new book, Reflections on Judging, declaring such laws are “now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression, rather than fraud protection. I plead guilty to having written the majority opinion, (affirmed by the Supreme Court) upholding Indiana’s requirement that prospective voters prove their identity with a photo ID,” wrote Posner, a Reagan appointee on the Chicago-based appeals court, who said last year, “I’ve become less conservative since the Republican Party started becoming goofy.” Subsequently, in a video interview with the Huffington Post, he said his majority opinion in the court’s 2-1 decision was “absolutely” wrong. Seemingly blaming lawyers opposing the law, he said, in 2007, “we weren’t really given strong indications that requiring additional voter identification would actually disenfranchise people entitled to vote.”
Election Day is less than a week away and city leaders in New Haven have concerns over a suspicious amount of absentee ballots submitted for the race. “I’ve gotten a complaint from an individual that the person has been receiving these ballots in their hands and taking them to the mailbox, to the post office, you can’t do that. That’s against the law,” said Ron Smith, City Clerk, New Haven. New Haven’s City Clerk Ron Smith says there’s been a drastic increase in the number of absentee ballot requests and returns for Ward 8, more than ever before. He says that number is alarming and the common denominators are the ballots were mailed out the same day in blocks from the same address. “We know ballots when they come in, and sometimes they come in a little late but they don’t come in all at one time from one street,” said Smith.
Minneapolis’ crowded mayoral race has turned into the Battle to Be Nice, and just about everybody credits the use of ranked-choice voting for the absence of anything resembling negative campaigning. The reason: If you call your opponent a dummy, there is a very good chance the dummy’s supporters will scratch you off their list as a possible second or third choice. And the key to winning appears certain to depend on those second and third choices. “We don’t have the negative ads to say, ‘This person is horrible, so vote for my guy,’ ” said Lynne Bolton, campaign manager for Jackie Cherryhomes. “We’re used to the system where you have two choices, and one is bad and the other is good.”
Editorials: North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper must declare election law unconstitutional | Bob Geary/Indy Week
Richard Hasen is the nation’s leading scholar on elections law as political weapons and constitutional fights. A University of California-Irvine political scientist and law professor, Hasen was in Raleigh last week speaking at N.C. State University. His topic: “Race, Party and Politics: North Carolina’s New Front in the Voting Wars.” Naturally, I thought of our Attorney General Roy Cooper, who wants to be governor. Cooper has a constitutional problem. I’ll get to it shortly. But first, as Hasen did, consider the case of a political party that—under the guise of “reform”—passes election laws designed to cripple the rival party by disenfranchising African-American voters. North Carolina, 2013? Not yet: Hasen started with North Carolina in 1898, when the all-white Democratic Party ousted the fusionist Republicans (blacks and some whites) who’d governed after the Civil War. “Reforms” then prevented most blacks from voting, and the Republican Party ceased to be a force. In 2013, the parties have flipped, but the situation is familiar. The Republican Party, virtually all-white, is in charge. This year’s Republican “reforms”—the infamous House Bill 589, which critics term a voter-suppression law and which, Hasen said, is the most restrictive set of voting requirements passed by any state since the civil rights era—will hurt the Democrats, now the party supported by almost every African-American voter. So, Hasen asked: Was 1898 about race? Or party? And is 2013 about party? Or race?
Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Shelby County v. Holder, 40 counties in North Carolina were covered by Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. A new report from the UNC Center for Civil Rights that looks at representation of people of color on county boards of commissioners shows that the act was working to increase political engagement in North Carolina and demonstrates the continuing need for legislation that protects and enhances equitable political representation. The State of Exclusion report covers all North Carolina communities where over 75 percent of the residents are people of color and examines a variety of factors affecting the quality of life for residents of those communities, including housing, the location of unwanted land uses, access to infrastructure and educational opportunities. As to political representation, the results were stark albeit unsurprising and serve as a reminder of the need for enhancing, not withdrawing, measures designed to minimize the continuing legacy of discrimination in elections.
Efforts to fast-track controversial legislation that would change ballot-access rules for the state’s minor political parties were derailed Wednesday evening thanks to an apparent mistake in the bill’s wording. The Ohio Senate held off on approving Senate Bill 193 after language about petition requirements for parties such as the Libertarians and Greens was somehow omitted from the version passed by the Ohio House of Representatives earlier in the day. The House narrowly passed the measure after lengthy negotiations resulted in softened requirements for parties such as the Libertarians and the Greens to win and keep official recognition.
Wendy Davis could have been barred from voting by Texas’ strict voter ID law—along with her likely Republican opponent in next year’s governor’s race, too. That both will be able to cast ballots is thanks to a change in the law that Davis herself pushed. Davis, the Democratic candidate for governor next year, showed up Monday to vote early in her hometown of Fort Worth. Several constitutional amendments and other proposals are on the ballot in Texas this year. It’s the first election to be held under the state’s controversial voter ID law, which the U.S. Justice Department has challenged as racially discriminatory. But when the state senator got to her polling place, poll workers noted that the name on her driver’s license, Wendy Russell Davis, didn’t match that on her voter rolls, Wendy Davis. That meant that under the law, she was required to sign an affidavit swearing that she was who she said she was. “It was a simple procedure,” Davis told reporters afterward. “I signed the affidavit and was able to vote with no problem.” But it was thanks to Davis’ own efforts that she even had that option.
Australia: Western Australia Senate recount in turmoil as 1375 votes go missing | Sydney Morning Herald
An inquiry has been called and a byelection for the entire state of Western Australia could be on the cards after the Australian Electoral Commission revealed 1375 ballot papers are missing from the WA Senate recount. Electoral Commissioner Ed Killesteyn has apologised for the missing papers, which he said could not be found despite “exhaustive efforts” to locate them. Former Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty has been called in to conduct an independent inquiry. Special Minister of State Michael Ronaldson has moved quickly to criticise the AEC for the missing papers. “I have personally expressed to the Electoral Commissioner my strong view that this situation is totally unsatisfactory and that I, as the responsible Minister, view this matter very dimly,” Senator Ronaldson said.
The constitution of the Falkland Islands requires that a general election be held every four years to choose the eleven members of the Islands’ Legislative Assembly or lower house of government. The next General Election is due to be held on November 7th this year. Once elected, members will choose three of their number to become members of the Executive Council, which is the upper house of the Falkland Islands. While the Executive Council is presided over by a Governor appointed by the British Government and includes a small number of other members such as the Attorney General of the Falkland Islands, the three elected members of the Executive Council drawn from among the elected members of the Legislative Assembly are the only members to have voting rights. Out of a resident population estimated at 2,931 on the occasion of the last census in April of 2012, there are nearly 2,000 people eligible to vote by reason of their being over the age of 18 and possessing the necessary status.
The chief executive of Kenya’s electoral commission was charged on Wednesday over a $15 million tender for equipment that was meant to prevent vote fraud during March’s presidential election but broke down during the count. The new technology was aimed at avoiding the violent disputes that led to 1,200 deaths after the election five years ago. Previous votes in Kenya have also been dogged by “ghost” voters, stuffed ballot boxes and rigging at the final tally. As well as biometrically testing voter identity, it was meant to transmit the number of votes cast to a central tallying center – unlike in the past when votes were ferried manually from polling stations, increasing the chances of tampering.
United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay accused the Maldives Supreme Court on Wednesday of undermining democracy in the Indian Ocean republic by interfering in its presidential elections. The former South African judge also argued that the court was lining up with Maldivian government efforts to cripple the opposition whose candidate led in a first round of voting on September 7. The court nullified the outcome. In a statement from her Geneva office, Pillay said she was alarmed that the court was “interfering excessively in the presidential elections and in so doing is subverting the democratic process” on the island chain. Pillay, officially U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, spoke as the Maldives waited to see if the first round of a new election set by the country’s independent electoral commission for November 9 would be allowed to go ahead.
Long-awaited Constituent Assembly (CA) elections will take place in Nepal on 19 November, more than a year after the dissolution of the previous one in May 2012. Given the great hope of the people of Nepal that the newly-elected assembly will succeed in drafting the country’s first constitution in the post-monarchical era, Nepalese authorities should ensure credible and violence-free elections. However, the nomination of candidates involved in serious human rights violations, and threats of boycott, may jeopardize the process. Several candidates, who are suspects in high-profile cases of murder, have been nominated despite repeated calls from national and international organizations and the Supreme Court of Nepal to put vetting measures in place. While the electoral campaign is being marked by a plethora of candidates – approximately 6,000 -, and political parties (122  against 54 in the first CA elections in 2008), some parties, including fringe parties led by the UCPN (Maoist) splinter group, the CPN-Maoist, decided to boycott, and at some point threatened to disrupt the elections.
As the fall campaigns wind down, a battle is just beginning to brew over the state’s voting rules. A pair of suits filed locally in the wake of the General Assembly’s passage of the Voter Information Verification Act are now making their way through federal court. One lawsuit filed by a group of individual and political advocacy groups in August has a hearing scheduled for Dec. 12 in U.S. District Court. The other suit was filed by the U.S. Department of Justice in September. Defense attorneys have until Dec. 2 to file an official response to the latter suit. No hearings have been scheduled. The law, which Gov. Pat McCrory signed in August, will require voters to produce a photo ID to vote in 2016. Beginning next year, it will also shorten early voting from 17 days to 10 days and eliminate same-day registration during early voting. It also does away with counting provisional ballots cast by those who vote in the wrong precinct. A provision of the law that prohibits 16- and 17-year-olds from pre-registering to vote began this year.
A Green Township Republican’s proposal for regulating minority political parties’ attempts to get on the ballot passed the Ohio Senate on Tuesday, over the complaints of members of the Libertarian and Green parties. Ohio’s rules for letting minority parties on the ballot were struck down by a 2006 court ruling that said the state made it too hard for the parties to get on the ballot. Directives from the Ohio secretary of state have governed ballot access since then. State Sen. Bill Seitz says it’s time to have a new, constitutional law. He sponsored the bill that passed the Senate on Tuesday, 22-11, after being rushed through a Senate committee in just two weeks. The Senate Oversight Committee passed the bill just 20 minutes before the full Senate was scheduled to take up the bill.
In its relentless effort to justify the boondoggle that is Pennsylvania’s voter-ID law, the Corbett administration is wasting $1 million in taxpayer funds on a media blitz that at best will annoy voters and at worst will disenfranchise them. This is happening even though Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley, who is considering a challenge to the voter-ID law, ruled in August that it would not apply to the Nov. 5 election. Nonetheless, the voter-ID ideologues have produced a 30-second television commercial that’s confusing enough to create the mistaken impression that official photo identification will be required to vote next week. At one point in the ad, an announcer says voters won’t need an ID but then abruptly goes on to explain how to get one. Proponents of the law, enacted in March 2012, say they want to wipe out voter fraud. But the voter impersonation the law would prevent is so uncommon that the state was unable to produce a single verified case of it. That doesn’t mean it never happens, but it does mean that this approach to preventing it is like using a wrecking ball to kill a gnat. Democrats have criticized the law as an unnecessary obstacle designed to hamper their likely supporters, including the elderly, minorities, students, and people with disabilities. About 500,000 Pennsylvanians could be denied the right to vote if the law goes into effect.
If not for Wendy Davis, Greg Abbott might not be able to vote. When Abbott, the Texas Attorney General running for governor as a Republican next year, goes to vote in state constitutional elections this year, he will have to sign an affidavit affirming his identity. That’s because Abbott’s driver’s license identifies him as Gregory Wayne Abbott, but on the voter rolls, he’s just Greg Abbott, a spokesman told the San Antonio Express-News. The discrepancy will mean Abbott has to sign the affidavit in order to get a ballot under a new law requiring voters in Texas to show an identification at the polling place. That part of the law, requiring a signature if there’s a discrepancy between names, was sponsored by state Sen. Wendy Davis (D), the opponent Abbott is likely to face in next year’s general election. Davis voted against the voter identification bill, even though she offered the amendment to allow for minor discrepancies. It’s a provision that many Texans are having to take advantage of this year — including Davis herself. When Davis showed up to vote Monday in Fort Worth, it turned out her driver’s license identified her as Wendy Russell Davis, while the voter rolls omitted her middle name.
Voter ID laws are back in the news. Curiously, the most recent action concerns one of the oldest cases. Judge Richard Posner wrote the 2007 appellate opinion upholding Indiana’s strict photo ID law — the first legal one in the country — against a challenge. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the 2008 opinion for the Supreme Court upholding that upholding. Both have recently publicly mused about the merits of arguments by the judges that disagreed. That sort of reflective appreciation for the opposing view is sufficiently unusual that it has provoked a flood of commentary. And that flood of commentary has largely lost sight of two very important distinctions. First: ID laws are not all the same. Every state makes sure, when people come to the polls, that they are who they say they are. It’s the details of how they do this that matter. Some states compare signatures. Many see whether they can match up Social Security digits, or ask for a document like a utility bill or paycheck, off a long list. Some have a shorter list of approved documents. Some ask for a government-issued photo ID card from those who have one, and demand a special affidavit from those who do not.
Voting Blogs: Judge Posner Recants Own Recantation of His Own Polling Place Photo ID Ruling. (Seriously.) | BradBlog
Okay. Now this is beginning to get completely absurd. In an article at New Republic headlined “I Did Not ‘Recant’ on Voter ID Laws’,” published Monday, 7th Circuit Appellate Court Judge Richard Posner now claims he hasn’t actually disavowed his landmark majority opinion in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board after all! The record will show, however, the Reagan-appointed judge may have a bit of a faulty — or, at least, selective — memory. The Crawford case is the now-infamous 2007 challenge to Indiana’s then new polling place Photo ID restriction law which Posner voted to uphold in a 2 to 1 decision. The law was subsequently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008. It is the only high-profile case to uphold such laws as Constitutional, even though Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote the controlling opinion at SCOTUS, now believes dissenting Justice David Souter “got the thing correct.”
Backers of a referendum on a controversial state elections law gathered more than enough signatures to put the issue before voters next year, the Arizona secretary of state announced Tuesday. It is the first citizen-driven effort to qualify for the ballot since 1998. The legislation being referred to voters next year, among other things, would allow elections officials to drop people from the permanent early-voting list if they have not voted in two previous federal election cycles, limit who can return a voter’s ballot to the polls, and hike the number of petition signatures that minor-party candidates and Democrats need to run for statewide office. It also would make it more difficult for citizen-driven initiative efforts to qualify for the ballot.
The Bottom Line is back on the ballot. Superior Court Judge John D. Boland approved a stipulation negotiated between The Bottom Line party, Town Clerk Patricia Spruance and the State Attorney General’s office that allows the third party’s eight candidates to be placed back on the ballot.
“The nightmare is over,” said Mark Doyle, chairman of The Bottom Line. The party, which formed about six years ago, had its nominees removed from the ballot on Oct. 21 by order of the secretary of the state, even though Town Clerk Patricia Spruance went to bat for them. At issue is a 2011 regulation requiring third party candidates to sign the nomination form. The Bottom Line candidates all signed their campaign finance form and until she was ordered to remove them from the ballot, Spruance believed the law had been satisfied.
Section 1 of the Kansas Bill of Rights states that we are all equal. But when it comes to voting and filing taxes, some Kansans are less equal than others. Secretary of State Kris Kobach is pushing a bizarre plan to create two categories of voters: those who can vote in all elections and those who can vote only in federal races. Kobach’s scheme is his response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June barring states from having more voter-registration requirements than those established by Congress. Kansas’ law requires new voters to provide proof of their U.S. citizenship, while federal law requires only that they pledge they are citizens under penalty of perjury.
On Sept. 26, the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State launched an online voter registration tool that was developed and driven by the goal to deliver a safe, secure and less expensive method for voters to register to vote. I am proud of the positive response the system has generated, underscored by more than 1,500 applications submitted since the roll-out — demonstrating the enthusiasm and action of Minnesotans when it comes to participating in our democracy. Every election year, Minnesota leads the nation in voter turnout. This is something we can take great pride in. Our voters deserve to have the tools to make the registration and Election Day process more efficient, and I strive to support the citizens by providing secure online tools that Minnesotans expect and appreciate in today’s technology-driven age.
Ohio: Efforts to clean up statewide voter database lead to just four duplicates on the books for 2013 election cycle | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Efforts to clean up Ohio’s database of 7.7 million registered voters succeeded in eliminating all but four duplicate entries for this election cycle, the secretary of state’s office said Tuesday. Secretary of State Jon Husted has touted his office’s efforts to improve the voter database since he took office. The database, which was established in 2004, contained more than 340,000 duplicate records in January 2011. “Maintaining accurate and up-to-date voter rolls is an ongoing process that is important in helping to ensure greater security and more efficiency in the administration of elections in Ohio,” Husted said.
The division in the Ohio Republican Party, exacerbated by Gov. John Kasich’s move to expand Medicaid, is threatening passage of a controversial bill that would set new guidelines for minor political parties seeking to field candidates in the 2014 election. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Green Township, includes a provision to give parties more time to submit initial organizing petitions and makes it easier for them to qualify for the ballot in future elections. The bill would provide the first changes to Ohio law since a a 2006 court ruling said the state made it too hard for parties to get on the ballot. Ohio has operated under directives from the secretary of state since then. The parties affected by the bill, especially the Libertarian, Green and Constitution parties, oppose the Seitz bill. They say it’s too close to the 2014 election and other requirements are still too hard for them to meet and could limit their ability to raise money. Libertarians call it the “John Kasich Re-election Protection Act,” saying Republicans are trying to keep them from winning the votes of conservatives who are disillusioned with Kasich.
With elections only one week away, many Pennsylvania residents are still unsure of what is and what isn’t required of them when they head to the polls. On Tuesday, NBC10 spoke with several registered voters who believed that they needed their ID in order to vote next week. This isn’t true however. While you may be asked to show your ID at a voting place, it’s not required. “You will be allowed to vote without ID,” said Leslie Richards of the Montgomery County Elections Chair. “Nobody is required to bring ID to vote.”
A recent case out of South Carolina is drawing attention to the potential impact of open primaries on election results. South Carolina law does not require voters to formally register with a particular political party in order to cast a vote in a primary. A system in which voters can select the primary they wish to vote in regardless of party affiliation is called an open primary system. Open primary systems sometimes draw criticism because they can allow voters to engage in so-called crossover voting. Crossover voting occurs when members of one political party deliberately vote for a candidate they perceive to be weaker in an opposing party’s primary in order to give their candidate an advantage. It is important to note that voters in an open primary system do have to select only one primary in which to vote, so crossover voting naturally removes a voter’s opportunity to cast a ballot for the actual candidate of her choice in her own party’s primary. Exit polls provide evidence that voters have crossed party lines during primaries in South Carolina. For example, despite South Carolina’s traditionally conservative electorate, nearly 30% of the voters in the Republican presidential primary in 2012 were either Democrats or Independents. Further, nearly a quarter of the independents chose Ron Paul as their candidate of choice, rather than the eventual winner in the primary, Newt Gingrich.
Texas: Early Voting in the 2013 Texas Constitutional Amendment Election: Two Views | Texas Election Law Blog
In the election news cycle yesterday and today, one of the stories has been about how smoothly picture I.D. voting has been going in the first statewide election since the law went into effect. On the one hand, state and county election officials report that there have been almost no problems at all. Married and divorced women have not been disproportionately turned away at the polls due to identification issues resulting from name changes, and there are no reports of widespread provisional voting or unprepared voters. The media take on this is that the Texas Democratic Party has lost traction and credibility on the issue of picture I.D. voting, arguably because the party oversold the potential that voters would be turned away at the polling places. The State of Texas and the U.S. Department of Justice might both cite improvements in the adminstration of picture I.D. requirements in Texas for this election – among other things, the State broadly expanded the number of entities authorized to issue photo i.d.s, and the Department of Justice might regard these improvements as attempts by the State to mitigate liabilities for civil rights violations in direct response to DOJ’s civil rights lawsuit over picture I.D.
Some Democrats in Texas are claiming that the state’s controversial new voter identification law could make it harder for women to cast their ballots. Texans will go to the polls on November 5 to vote on nine proposed amendments to the state constitution, and some areas are also holding local government elections. It is the first statewide vote since it became mandatory in Texas to show a government-issued photo ID at polling places. Some critics of the new law believe that women who have changed their name, for example after marriage or divorce, may be discouraged from voting or run into difficulties while trying. If a prospective voter’s name does not exactly match a name on the list of registered voters, it is up to the election officer at the polling station to determine whether the name is “substantially similar”. If so, the person will be allowed to cast a ballot after signing an affidavit attesting to his or her identity. Those without approved photo ID can vote “provisionally” and then have six days after election day to present acceptable proof to a county registrar.
Czech party politics used to be boring. The 2013 parliamentary election, however, highlights the transformation of the party system, the arrival of new entrants and the woes faced by the long-established parties. The Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD) won the election, but the margin of victory was slender. When the centre-right government under Prime Minister Petr Necas collapsed in a scandal involving sex, lies and spies in June, CSSD looked on course to win 30 percent of the vote. The only question seemed to be whether they would strike a deal with the Communists or not. The party, however, managed just 20.45 percent in October’s election, throwing the party into turmoil. Tensions between the different wings of the party re-emerged and within hours the knives were out for party leader Bohuslav Sobotka. The explanation for the failure of CSSD may lie with Sobotka’s lack of charisma and a lackluster campaign full of rather bland promises such a “well-functioning state”, but it is worth recalling that the party garnered almost the same level of support it got in the previous election in 2010. The key to CSSD’s weakness lies in the inability to integrate the forces of the left in the way that Robert Fico has managed in Slovakia.