In Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council, the Supreme Court held that Arizona’s Proposition 200, which required proof of citizenship in order to register to vote in federal elections, was preempted by the National Voter Registration Act (“NVRA”) because the NVRA did not require such proof from voters. Shortly after the oral argument in the case, I noted that “the practical reality of compliance with the NVRA may very well mean that a state has to maintain two separate voter registration rolls” for state and federal elections. It appears that Arizona has taken this observation to heart, joining Kansas in setting up a voter registration system for state and local elections that is separate from its system governing federal elections. Under the dual system, voters who provide proof of citizenship will be able to vote in all elections, but those who do not will only be able to vote in federal elections. In adopting this approach, neither Kansas nor Arizona heeded my warning after Inter Tribal was decided about the significant risk of liability that comes with operating separate voter registration regimes.
Editorials: Philanthropy Must Help Heal the Breakdown in Democracy | Robert L. Gallucci/The Chronicle of Philanthropy
America’s democracy is in trouble. Given the current government shutdown, the rancor of our political process, the likelihood that we will go on lurching from crisis to crisis, and the low level of confidence Americans have in their government, that observation probably won’t stir much controversy. But it ought to be a call to action. As citizens, we should be deeply concerned that our political system is failing. As donors, we should be equally engaged. Philanthropic foundations pride themselves on taking on urgent and significant challenges. They don’t come more urgent or significant than the future of our republic. The malaise of representative democracy in this country is not only a betrayal of American ideals and principles. It has real and negative effects on our economy, the health of our institutions, and our standing in the world. Why should we in philanthropy get involved? Because it is in our interest.
Arizona: Redistricting Commission asks court to dismiss challenge to Congressional lines | Arizona Daily Star
Attorneys for the Independent Redistricting Commission are asking a federal court to dismiss what they contend is a power grab by state lawmakers. Legal papers filed late Friday in federal court acknowledge there was a loss of power by the Legislature in 2000 when voters approved creating the commission and gave it the power to draw the lines for congressional and legislative districts. But Mary O’Grady said that does not make the system illegal. “That was the intent,’’ she wrote. O’Grady said the leaders of the Legislature, who are trying overturn at least part of the 2000 initiative, are “concerned more with the loss of power than the will of the people who elect its members.’’ The filing comes as Ray Bladine, the commission’s executive director, said lawmakers need to allocate at least another $1.25 million for the balance of this budget year which runs through June 30. And the big cost is defending three lawsuits against the commission, including this one filed by the Legislature.
California: County leaders settle dispute over charges for recounting ballots of Riverbank election | Modesto Bee
Stanislaus County leaders have dismissed the balance owed for the recount of the Riverbank mayoral election of 2012. County officials entered an agreement last month with former mayor Virginia Madueño to dismiss a remaining balance of $3,250, with neither side admitting fault. After Madueño lost by 53 votes to Richard O’Brien last year, one of her supporters asked for the Dec. 10 recount, which was stopped after five hours because the results were not changing. Madueño was stunned when county elections sent her campaign an invoice six weeks later showing a $7,817 balance owed in addition to the $2,400 deposit paid the day of the recount. The Registrar of Voters’ total charges for counting about 500 ballots was $10,217, or $20 per ballot. The person who requests a recount is expected to pay for it, but the invoiced costs tend to vary from county to county in California. And critics have suggested that county registrars arbitrarily impose recount charges.
Secretary of State Ken Detzner’s attempt to establish confidence in Florida’s upcoming purge of voters has raised more questions than it answers. Rather than providing information on how this round of purges protects the integrity of the voter rolls, his so-called Project Integrity tour has proved that this voter-list-maintenance process lacks transparency, support and validity. Throughout his meetings with supervisors of elections and the public, Detzner and his staff did not answer many important questions on how the state plans to remove suspected noncitizens from the voter rolls while not repeating the same mistakes of the past. Despite Project Integrity’s façade of explaining the purge process and touting its validity, several supervisors of elections expressed concern with the use of the Department of Homeland Security’s SAVE database and the process of carrying out this purge. Many questions remained unanswered, such as what the potential cost will be and what the procedure will be to correct wrongly targeted voters.
Nothing frightens today’s Republican Party quite like the voters. Before the 2012 elections, GOP lawmakers in statehouses across the country tightened voter identification laws with one goal in common: to suppress turnout on Election Day among likely Democratic voters, especially minorities and the poor. It didn’t work. Now, harking back to the days of Jim Crow, they are at it again. In Arizona and Kansas, GOP officials are moving to adopt a two-tiered voting system, the effect of which would be to disenfranchise thousands of voters. The ploy relies on requiring birth certificates, passports and other documents that establish proof of citizenship in order to register to vote in state and local elections. Such documents are not necessary to register for federal elections. Many voters cannot easily produce such documents; fewer than half of Kansans and Arizonans possess a passport, and it’s a safe bet that many of them don’t have a birth certificate readily at hand either. That means that voter registration drives in gubernatorial, legislative and local county races, which, in the case of Democratic candidates, often target minority and poor neighborhoods, are likely to yield fewer new voters. The results are whiter and richer voters. That’s electoral gold for Republicans.
There are a number of ways Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach could improve the accuracy and integrity of the state’s election system. Creating a two-tiered voter registration system whereby some voters would be qualified to cast ballots only in federal races is not one of them. A recent Associated Press story focused on the efforts of a consortium of 22 states that are working to update their voter rolls. An effort to identify voters who are registered in more than one state is known as the “Kansas project” in recognition of the leadership of Kansas and Kobach. A second project, the Electronic Registration Information Center is working to identify registered voters who have died. The goal of the projects seems to be simply to improve the accuracy of voter registration rolls, which is a concept most people should support. Cleaning up their records to prevent abuses should be a top priority for both local and state election officials.
“May it please the court, Erin Flynn on behalf of the United States.” So began the Justice Department’s presentation in a landmark Native voting-rights lawsuit. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting in Portland, Oregon, heard oral arguments in the suit,Wandering Medicine v. McCulloch,on October 10. The appeals court’s decision, upcoming in the next few months, will turn on whether a Montana district judge misread Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act when he denied requests for satellite registration and early-voting offices on isolated Montana reservations. The local magistrate reasoned that Indians have been elected to office in the state, so Indian voters’ lack of equal rights—which he readily acknowledged—was immaterial. “The district judge held that as long as Indians get to vote at all, what’s the problem,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Steven Sandven, of Sioux Falls. “The law needs to be clarified.”
Democrat Barbara Buono’s campaign claimed the morning after Wednesday’s special election that thousands of voters in the governor’s race are being disenfranchised by confusion over mail-in ballots. At issue are mail-in ballots for both Wednesday’s special U.S. Senate election, in which Newark Mayor Cory Booker defeated Republican Steve Lonegan, and the general election, which is headlined by Buono’s challenge to Governor Christie, a Republican. Some voters erroneously submitted their general election ballots in the same return envelope as the one used for their special election ballot.
Roy Cooper is in a very lonely place. He’s a Democratic state attorney general surrounded by conservative Republicans who control North Carolina state government. Now those Republicans have put Cooper in an awkward spot. He has publicly condemned GOP-sponsored laws on voter identification and gay marriage, yet must defend those same laws in court. Further complicating matters, Cooper plans to run for governor in 2016. That has prompted Republican charges that he’s more interested in being governor than upholding North Carolina’s laws.
North Carolina’s new restrictions on voting may favor the Republican Party, but Democrats must prove more than that to beat them in court. GOP legislators who passed the rules last summer say they are designed to streamline and modernize the state’s voting while also blocking election fraud, a problem they describe as rampant and undetected. Opponents – including U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder – say the claims of fraud are a ruse and that the laws are part of a national campaign by conservatives to suppress voting by minorities, the poor and the young. Those groups are part of an emerging Democratic coalition that swung North Carolina to President Barack Obama in 2008 and came close again four years later. Who wins in court may hinge on whether judges believe Republicans were motivated by politics or race. In other words, have black voters been discriminated against? Or were they legal targets of hard-ball GOP politics? For now, what Republicans describe as reforms, critics call “the Monster Law.”
Last November, Richland County residents seeking to participate in local elections encountered an unanticipated hindrance at polling stations: stagnant lines of voters unable to cast their ballots because of malfunctioning voting machines. The lines reportedly were so outrageous that some residents had to wait upwards of seven hours to vote. Many voters grew impatient and left polling stations without submitting a ballot. Moreover, the disarray was hardly confined to election day. In the week after polls closed, a court-ordered recount of the election results sparked a back-and-forth legal battle between Democrats and Republicans over whether a local or statewide election agency should be tasked with tallying the votes in the recount. The dispute was not settled until the South Carolina Supreme Court intervened, and nearly two weeks elapsed before the election results were finalized. In 2004, the South Carolina State Election Commission (SEC) purchased roughly twelve thousand iVotronic voting machines for around $34 million. At the time of their purchase, the iVotronic systems were considered ultramodern direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting technology. Like most DRE models, the iVotronic enables voters to cast their vote via an electronic touch-screen without handling a paper ballot. Once a voter has electronically submitted his choice, the machine stores the selection in an internal memory device. Upon an election’s conclusion, the iVotronic machine prints a tape displaying the total number of votes cast for each office as well as the total number of votes cast for each candidate. In theory, DRE systems such as iVotronic provide a modern solution to antiquated election problems. In practice, however, DRE systems do not always function so smoothly.
The Tennessee Supreme Court upheld a 2011 law requiring photo identification at the polls, ruling that lawmakers had the authority to take steps to guard against fraud. The court ruled unanimously Thursday against the City of Memphis and two voters in Shelby County who had argued the ID requirement placed an unfair burden on the poor, elderly and others who lack driver’s licenses. Chief Justice Gary R. Wade wrote that the U.S. Supreme Court and many other state courts have upheld similar voter ID requirements. He also said that, while instances of people impersonating voters at the polls have not been documented in Tennessee, such cases have occurred elsewhere. “Protection of the integrity of the election process empowers the state to enact laws to prevent voter fraud before it occurs,” Wade said. “It is within the authority of the General Assembly to guard against the risk of such fraud in this state, so long as it does not do so in an impermissibly intrusive fashion.”
An unusual admission of regret by of one of America’s top judges throws new light on Queensland’s misguided attempts to tackle the non-existent problem of voter fraud. In a rare turnaround, Judge Posner of the United States Court of Appeals recently admitted that he was wrong in a landmark case he decided 7 years ago. Crawford v Marion County allowed the state of Indiana to require voters to show photo identification at the ballot box and was later upheld by the US Supreme Court. … Judge Posner’s turnaround should be on the mind of Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie this week. Bleijie has announced plans to introduce laws requiring voters to produce identification in order to cast their vote at Queensland elections, making Queensland the only state or territory to have a voter ID requirement.
President Alpha Conde’s ruling party won 53 seats in Guinea’s September 28 legislative election, falling short of securing an outright majority in the West African nation’s 114-seat parliament, the electoral commission said on Friday. Provisional results published by the commission showed that the main opposition UFDG party, led by Conde’s rival, Cellou Dalein Diallo, won 37 seats while former Prime Minister Sidya Toure’s UFR secured 10 seats. Other smaller parties grabbed the remaining seats. No party was expected to win an outright majority and parties are expected to try to form coalitions following the long-delayed and tense election in the world’s top bauxite producer. Conde’s RPG has been in power since 2010.
Voters in Luxembourg are going to the polls as Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, Europe’s longest-serving leader, faces his toughest election yet after 18 years at the helm. The snap legislative elections in the European Union’s wealthiest nation per capita follow a scandal over misconduct by the secret service that fractured the coalition government headed by Juncker’s Christian Social People’s Party (CSV). Its junior Socialist Party (LSAP) partners withheld support when opponents accused the prime minister of having been too busy steering the euro currency through crisis – in his capacity as head of the Eurogroup – to get his dysfunctional intelligence service back on track. Misdemeanours by the SREL secret service, which the Juncker is supposed to oversee, included illegal phone taps, corruption and even dodgy dealings in luxury cars.
The leading candidate in the Maldives’ troubled presidential election demanded Sunday that the president resign and allow the parliamentary speaker to take over the government and oversee a fresh poll. Speaking to reporters a day after police stopped officials from holding a scheduled revote of last month’s election, Mohamed Nasheed accused President Mohamed Waheed Hassan of working with the country’s defense minister and police chief to obstruct the vote. The move by the police to stop Saturday’s revote came as the latest blow to this Indian Ocean island nation, which has seen much upheaval in its first five years as a democracy. Failing to elect a president by Nov. 11, when Hassan’s term ends, could bring about a constitutional crisis in the country. The Supreme Court earlier this month annulled the results of the Sept. 7 election, agreeing with a losing candidate that the voters’ list had made-up names and names of dead people. Nasheed led that election with more than 45 percent of the vote, but failed to secure a majority for an outright win.