A federal appeals court judge said Friday that he erred when writing a decision which served as a key precursor to the Supreme Court’s 2008 ruling upholding the constitutionality of Indiana’s voter ID law. In an interview Friday on HuffPostLive, Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner said his opinion finding the Indiana law constitutional was mistaken, due to the court not having sufficient information about how the law could be used to prevent or discourage people from voting. “Do you think that the court got this one wrong?” HuffPo’s Mike Sacks asked. “Yes. Absolutely. And the problem is that there hadn’t been that much activity with voter identification,” Posner said. “Maybe we should have been more imaginative….We weren’t really given strong indications that requiring additional voter identification would actually disfranchise people entitled to vote.”
Editorials: The Supreme Court needs to get smarter about politics | Trevor Potter/The Washington Post
At one point during the oral argument Tuesday in the case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, Justice Antonin Scalia remarked that he didn’t understand the legislation in question. “This campaign finance law is so intricate that I can’t figure it out,” he said. “It might have been nice to have the, you know, the lower court tell me what the law is.” Scalia meant to be playful. But as the argument progressed, it became clear that the justices really don’t know enough about money in politics. They expressed skepticism about “wild hypotheticals that are not obviously plausible” — when in fact we’ve already seen those scenarios play out. They talked a lot about the FEC’s “earmarking” and “coordination” rules, but they didn’t seem to recognize that those rules are impossible to police and that a dysfunctional FEC isn’t doing much policing anyway. And the conservatives on the court seemed to fail to understand what leads to corruption or the appearance of corruption — with Justice Samuel Alito going so far as to suggest that giving a very large check to a political fundraising committee isn’t inherently a problem, because the committee could take the money and burn it. “Well, they’re not,” replied Solicitor General Donald Verrilli. “They are not going to burn it.”
Barred by the Supreme Court from requiring proof of citizenship for federal elections, Arizona is complying — but setting up a separate registration system for local and state elections that will demand such proof. The state this week joined Kansas in planning for such a two-tiered voting system, which could keep thousands of people from participating in state and local elections, including next year’s critical cycle, when top posts in both states will be on the ballot. The states are using an opening left in June by the United States Supreme Court when it said that the power of Congress over federal elections was paramount but did not rule on proof of citizenship in state elections. Such proof was required under Arizona’s Proposition 200, which passed in 2004 and is one of the weapons in the border state’s arsenal of laws enacted in its battle against illegal immigration. The two states are also jointly suing the federal Election Assistance Commission, arguing that it should change the federal voter registration form for their states to include state citizenship requirements. While the agency has previously denied such requests, the justices said the states could try again and seek judicial review of those decisions. “If you require evidence of citizenship, it helps prevent people who are not citizens from voting, and I simply don’t see a problem with that,” said Tom Horne, the Arizona attorney general.
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has vetoed a measure that would have severely limited the ability of wealthy activists and corporations to use paid signature gatherers to get initiatives on the ballot. The measure, Assembly Bill 857, would have required 10 percent of signatures for any given ballot initiative to be collected by volunteers, rather than by paid signature gatherers. The number of signatures supporters need to turn in is based on the number of votes in the last gubernatorial election; that means groups would have to rely on volunteers to gather a little more than 50,000 of the 504,760 valid signatures required to get an initiative on the ballot. “The initiative process is far from perfect and monied interests have historically manipulated it at will,” Brown wrote [pdf] in a veto message. “Requiring a specific threshold of signatures to be gathered by volunteers will not stop abuses by narrow special interests — particularly if ‘volunteer’ is defined with broad exemptions as in this bill.”
In mayoral contests, as in many human endeavors, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. That’s the problem vexing Minneapolis voters this fall. Political choice is good, but settling on first, second and third choices from a list of 35 candidates for mayor is daunting for even the most politically attuned voter. And the mayoral race is only the beginning. Voters also must study and sort 10 candidates for three at-large seats on the Parks and Recreation Board, four for two seats on the Board of Estimate and Taxation, and in most wards, between three and six contenders for City Council. Many factors contributed to this year’s unprecedented wave of candidacies. It’s the first Minneapolis election in 20 years without an incumbent mayor on the ballot. The dominant DFL Party is divided in some wards and did not endorse a candidate for mayor, prolonging some candidacies past what would have been their usual expiration point. The willingness of so many nominal DFLers to run for the same office might fairly be seen as a reflection of the latter-day DFL’s undisciplined condition.
The Department of State has relaunched its controversial advertising campaign to educate voters about the yet-to-be-implemented voter ID law. Only this time, Pennsylvania taxpayers are footing the bill and some lawmakers are not happy about it. The $1 million “Show it” ad campaign is airing statewide on TV, radio and Internet with some targeted ads to Hispanic TV and radio and black radio and some print ads in Spanish language, and other non-English newspapers, said Department of State spokesman Ron Ruman. The funding was part of the 2013-2014 state budget, he said. Some opponents of the law called on Secretary of State Carol Aichele to pull the “misleading” ads. “If one individual is under the impression that they will not be permitted to vote without a photo ID and stays home on November 5, that is one person too many,” said Sen. Matt Smith (D., Allegheny). In a letter to Aichele, Smith called the department’s action “troubling” and “confusing” and suggested that the money instead go toward advertisements that detail where and how voters can obtain free photo identification — without mentioning identification requirements.
Pennsylvania has joined a multi-state alliance that aims to clean up voter rolls by identifying people registered in more than one state and dead people who remain on registration lists. A mobile society makes it “important that election officials use available tools to make sure only legally registered individuals vote,” Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele said in August when Pennsylvania joined. About half of all states, led by Kansas, belong to the coalition, which cross-checks voters’ names. States compile registration lists at the end of each year to check for duplicates.
Election officials across Virginia are grappling with how to follow through with a directive from the State Board of Elections to purge up to 57,000 registered voters from the state rolls — a move that has prompted a lawsuit from the Democratic Party of Virginia and outright defiance by at least one registrar. The state, working this year for the first time as part of a multistate program intended to validate voters, says it is required by law to conduct maintenance on voter lists and is not canceling voters but directing local registrars to review registrants carefully. The program provides information to election boards about voters who are registered in more than one state. But the timing of the move — weeks before the state’s gubernatorial election — has raised eyebrows. The state Democratic Party filed a lawsuit this month and asked a federal court for an injunction. A high number of registered voters and a large turnout generally are considered to be advantages for Democrats. A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 18 — three days after the voter registration deadline passes in Virginia.
Washington: Voters will weigh in on measure that would expand rights of initiative signature gathers | Associated Press
Washington state residents have plenty of experience voting on new law proposals, but next month they’ll decide on an “initiative on initiatives” that would make it easier to get such measures on the ballot. The proposal, Initiative 517, was sparked in part by a series of legal battles over local measures seeking to block red light cameras, including one case last year that went to the state Supreme Court. By requiring that voters be allowed to have their say on any proposal that qualifies for the ballot, even if a lawsuit has been filed against it, the initiative pushes back at cities that have sued — some successfully — to block local challenges to the cameras. “Initiative power is not subject to pre-election challenges,” said Mark Baerwaldt, a spokesman for the campaign. “It’s the way the will of the people is expressed.” The initiative also would give supporters a year, instead of the current six months, to collect signatures, and it would make it a misdemeanor to interfere with the signature-gathering process.
The head of Myanmar’s election body asked parliament Friday to decide by the end of the year whether the country’s electoral system should be changed to one of proportional representation as proposed by some groups, saying an early decision would enable authorities to prepare ahead of the 2015 polls. Election Commission Chairman Tin Aye said basic rules for the upcoming general elections would be written by December, assuring that the polls would be “free and fair” unlike the 2010 elections held under military rule and which had been criticized by various groups. “I don’t want to have the bitter experience like that of the 2010 elections. I will make my commission members skillful and will educate the people ahead of the 2015 elections,” he said at a meeting with leaders of 36 political parties in Myanmar’s commercial capital Yangon.
Only a few months ago, no one would have expected that 2013 would turn out to be an election “super-year” for the Czech Republic. The first-ever presidential elections took place in January, while legislative elections were originally scheduled for the spring of 2014. But then the political scandal broke involving Prime Minister Petr Necas. The whole cabinet was forced to resign, and as it was replaced by the technocratic government of Jiri Rusnok (a man loyal to president Milos Zeman), it started to become clear that the country was heading towards a period of unusual political instability. The new cabinet failed to win a confidence vote and MPs eventually voted to dissolve the parliament, triggering early elections. Two main issues stand out in the forthcoming elections – the emergence of three to four new parties likely to win seats in the parliament, and the ambiguous role of President Milos Zeman.
The United Nations and the international community on Sunday called upon Guinea’s electoral commission to publish results of a September 28 election aimed at completing a transition to democracy, saying it was concerned over the delay. Disputes over a published partial count have held up the final result and raised fears of a resurgence of violence that killed about 50 people before the vote. The opposition is calling for the election to be annulled, dampening hopes for an end to years of instability since a 2008 military coup that deterred investment in the world’s largest bauxite exporter. The United Nations and representatives of the international community including the West African regional bloc ECOWAS, the European Union and the International Organisation of the Francophonie, which brokered a deal with the opposition to end protests and allow the legislative vote, said they were concerned by delays in the publication of the results.
With the approach of every Iraqi election season, the country plunges into widespread controversy about the election law and about how it should be amended. The threats between the various political blocs escalate, with some hinting that they will boycott the election. These debates have typically ended by either returning to the previous law or by a political settlement that guarantees the interests of all the parties. That scene happened during the past few weeks as Iraqi political forces tried to amend the law that would govern the 2014 parliamentary elections because there was not a fixed electoral law in Iraq, allowing parliament the right to change the law each electoral season or to amend earlier laws. President of the Iraqi Kurdistan region Massoud Barzani said that the Kurdish parties might boycott the elections if their suggestions about the law were ignored. The Kurds have proposed to distribute the “compensatory seats” according to the voters’ proportions and to make Iraq a single voting district. The Kurds believe this will give them additional seats because of the increase in percentage of votes in Kurdish governorates compared to Arab ones.
Poland’s ruling party may have avoided the ouster of Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz after polls showed yesterday’s recall vote fell short of the minimum turnout required. About 26.8 percent of Warsaw’s 1.33 million registered voters cast ballots in the recall referendum, less than the minimum 389,430, or 29 percent, required to validate the measure, according to a late exit poll by Warsaw-based researcher TNS for broadcaster TVN24. Official results will be released by the State Election Commission later today. Prime Minister Donald Tusk and his ruling Civic Platform party called on supporters to block the recall by boycotting the referendum. Of those who voted, 95 percent favored recalling Gronkiewicz-Waltz, a deputy chairman of the ruling party who had angered Varsovians with utility-price increases and delays in public works. Her support is dropping as backing for the party, the first to win back-to-back elections since the fall of communism in 1989, dropped below the opposition Law and Justice for the first time in six years.