A month or so ago, a new book of mine, called Reflections on Judging, was published by the Harvard University Press. I have been a federal court of appeals judge since 1981, and over this extended period I have become acutely conscious of certain deficiencies of the federal judiciary, and those deficiencies are the principal focus of the book. To my considerable surprise, one sentence—I should have thought it entirely innocuous—in the book has received unusual attention in the media and blogs, much of it critical. The sentence runs from the bottom of page 84 to the top of page 85, in a chapter entitled “The Challenge of Complexity.” The sentence reads in its entirety: “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—a type of law now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention.” (The footnote provides the name and citation of the opinion: Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, 472 F.3d 949 (7th Cir. 2007), affirmed, 553 U.S. 181 (2008).)
A secretive nonprofit group with ties to the billionaire conservative businessmen Charles and David Koch admitted to improperly failing to disclose more than $15 million in contributions it funneled into state referendum battles in California, state officials there announced Thursday. The group, the Arizona-based Center to Protect Patient Rights, is one of the largest political nonprofits in the country, serving as a conduit for tens of millions of dollars in political spending, much of it raised by the Kochs and their political operation and spent by other nonprofits active in the 2010 and 2012 elections. The settlement, announced by Attorney General Kamala D. Harris of California and the Fair Political Practices Commission, which enforce California’s campaign finance laws, includes one of the largest penalties ever assessed on a political group for failing to disclose donations. The center and another Arizona group involved in the transactions, Americans for Responsible Leadership, will pay a $1 million fine, while two California groups must turn over $15 million in contributions they received.
Colorado: No violation: Jefferson County ‘duplicate ballot’ was a Delta County special election ballot | The Colorado Independent
The mystery “duplicate ballot” was photographed, tweeted about and then shredded. In its internet afterlife, it was held up as evidence that recent electoral reforms centered around universal mail ballots were opening the state to fraud. In fact, the mystery ballot demonstrated that the system is working as well as it ever has done, and maybe better. It took a few days and some digging, but now it’s clear that the ballot was a Delta County special election ballot. It was mailed to Republican state House candidate Jon Keyser, an attorney at major Colorado law firm Hogan Lovells and a former Air Force intelligence officer. Keyser lives in Morrison, in Jefferson County, but he owns a Delta County parcel of land. He is eligible to vote in two elections. Keyser received two ballots in the mail because that’s how it works. They’re different ballots. He is being asked to vote in Jefferson County as a resident and on a long-term financing deal for Delta County’s Grand Mesa Water Conservancy District.
After months of increases, Kansas saw a sharp drop over the past week in the number of prospective voters whose registrations were on hold for failing to present proof of their U.S. citizenship to election officials. Registrations on hold peaked at about 18,500 on Monday, according to the secretary of state’s office. After the state Department of Revenue forwarded to election officials information regarding 6,000 people who’d presented one of several required documents when obtaining or renewing a driver’s license, the number had fallen Friday to fewer than 17,200 — a decline of about 7 percent. The department still is combing through its records and expects to provide information about more Kansans to election officials, doing what it can to help without impeding the processing of driver’s licenses, spokeswoman Jeanine Koranda said. People whose registrations are on hold can’t legally cast ballots, and the growing numbers had led to criticism that the proof-of-citizenship law was disenfranchising voters and creating administrative headaches for county election officials. Shrinking the list allows more people to vote.
The next mayor of Minneapolis might be one of two City Council members. It could be one of two former City Council presidents, or a former county commissioner. Or maybe it will be Captain Jack Sparrow. Or the hairy dude who comes striding out of a lake in an online campaign video, points at the camera and promises to stop visiting strip clubs if he’s elected. It’s a weird and wide-open race for mayor this year in Minnesota’s largest city. With no incumbent on the ballot, an exceptionally low candidate filing fee of $20, and the city’s continuing experiment with a novel voting system, the November general election has a whopping 35 contenders on the ballot. “It’s like mayor soup,” said Katherine Milton, a Minneapolis voter and arts consultant who is one of many trying to figure out the city’s “ranked choice” voting system. “It’s like putting together a 5,000-piece puzzle.” The cluttered contest comes at an important moment for this city of 393,000, as its population has begun to shoot up after decades of decline. Popular outgoing Mayor R.T. Rybak made himself a high-profile booster-in-chief by luring young professionals and empty nesters with the city’s dozens of parks and lakes, many miles of bike trails, thriving restaurant and nightlife scene, diverse cultural amenities, pro sports venues and legal gay marriage.
A complaint filed by independent 2nd District Assembly candidate Gary Stein challenging the party placements and layout of ballots was dismissed Friday by a Superior Court judge. Stein had claimed that the straight-line party columns were unfair to independent and third-party candidates and pointed to Salem County’s ballot, in which candidates are all listed separately under each office, as a fairer system. Stein also claimed that both the Republican and Democratic parties did not meet the requirement needed to get a column on the ballot, each having not received 10 percent of the vote total of the previous state general election during the primary election.
While most of the focus on the recently implemented Texas voter ID law has been related to allegations of racial discrimination, some onlinereports have recently raised concerns that the law could disenfranchise a different demographic: people who have legally changed their names, particularly women. But election officials say the concerns are unwarranted. The media reports suggest that voters who lack an ID updated to reflect their legal name could be turned away from the polls. Women, who often change their name after marriage or divorce, are at a higher risk of disenfranchisement under the voter ID law, those reports say. But election officials deny the risk, saying protocols are in place for cases in which the name on a person’s voter ID is not identical to his or her legal name. “We encourage poll workers to look at the entirety of the ID,” said Alicia Pierce, spokeswoman for the Texas secretary of state’s office. “If the names are similar but not identical, you sign an affidavit saying you’re the same person.”
Newly enacted state law requiring voters to show picture identification is causing some hiccups at early-voting locations around Texas, according to a report published Sunday. Rules requiring that a voter’s name on IDs exactly match that listed in voter registration databases are especially problematic for women, The Dallas Morning News reported. The general election is Nov. 5. To lessen the hassle, state officials say that if names are “substantially similar,” a voter can immediately sign an affidavit verifying his or her identity, and then vote. Another option is casting a provisional ballot, then providing supporting information later. Provisional ballots are held until elections officials can verify that they should count. State officials have promised to err on the side of the person trying to vote, rather than the other way around. The voter ID law, championed by conservative activists, was approved in 2011 but didn’t take effect until recently because of legal challenges. It requires voters to produce picture identification, such as a Texas driver’s license, a concealed handgun license or a special election ID certificate issued just for voting.
National: How voter ID laws might suppress the votes of women. Republican women. | Dahlia Lithwick/Slate
Last June the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act, resulting in several states, among them Texas and North Carolina, racing to enact draconian new voter ID laws. While the first wave of attention focused on the ways such laws disproportionately impact minority voters, young voters, and the elderly, a slew of articles this past weekend point out that voter ID laws may also significantly suppress women’s votes. Indeed some have even suggested that this is the next front in the war on women, and suppressing female votes is part of the GOP’s concerted effort to ensure victories in states like Texas, where women like Wendy Davis threaten to topple the GOP with the support of female voters. It’s beyond disputing that women have ensured that Democrats, up to and including President Obama, have achieved major wins in recent elections. Female voters decided 22 of 23 Senate races in the 2012 election. But a closer look at whether voter ID laws will invariably harm liberal women and Democratic candidates at the polls suggests that something more interesting, and more complicated, may be going on here. We don’t actually have very good data to support the claim that voter ID laws will disproportionately disenfranchise progressive women. In fact some election law experts tell me the opposite may be true: These laws may hurt conservative women instead.
We’ve known, thanks to analyses such as this based on Reuters/Ipsos polling data, that voter ID laws will suppress voting by younger folks, those without college education, the poor and Hispanics. But married women? A story out of Corpus Christi should be raising eyebrows about the negative impact the Texas voter ID requirement may have. When 117th District Court Judge Sandra Watts went for early voting, her identity was questioned because she uses her maiden name as her middle name. She uses her real middle name on her voter registration. So she had to sign an affidavit saying she was, indeed, who she said she was. It was the first time in 49 years of voting that her identity has been questioned and she has had trouble voting. “What I have used for voter registration and for identification for the last 52 years was not sufficient yesterday when I went to vote,” Judge Watts said. And this is a judge.
Utah’s Republican Party approved some changes to the state’s system for electing candidates in an effort to stave off an initiative that seeks to replace it. GOP leaders took the action at a special meeting in Fillmore on Saturday, the same day a petition drive began to replace the current caucus and convention nominating system with direct primaries. Republican leaders said the changes will make it easier for more people to participate in neighborhood caucuses to ensure results represent the will of the people. Among other things, they decided to allow absentee voting for people unable to attend evening caucuses and early online registration to speed up the check-in process.
Virginia: Advocates: Court-imposed debt an obstacle for some felons seeking to restore voting rights | Washington Post
Advocates for restoring the voting rights of Virginia felons are praising the steps Gov. Bob McDonnell has taken to streamline the process but say a major impediment remains: insurmountable fines and court costs. McDonnell’s administration has restored the voting rights of more than 6,800 Virginians, more than any previous administration. In July, he announced a new procedure that eliminated a two-year waiting period and made restoration almost automatic for nonviolent felons who have completed their sentences and probation and paid all court-imposed debt. But for disenfranchised Virginians like Clyde Mowyer of Colonial Heights, the financial hurdle means his chance of regaining the right to vote is no greater now than it was before McDonnell reformed the process. Mowyer, who was convicted of credit card theft and multiple driving violations, estimated that he owes nearly $20,000 to multiple jurisdictions — a debt he will never be able to repay on his monthly disability income of $639. “After paying for utilities and a place to stay, I have $59 left to live on,” Mowyer said. “There’s no possible way I can pay anything. I appreciate what the governor did in trying to make an automatic restoration process, but it doesn’t help people that are disabled.”
Ignacio Cura, a floppy-haired high-school student, belongs to a new generation of voters that will cast some of its first ballots tomorrow in Argentina’s mid-term elections. President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s ruling Peronist alliance, the Front for Victory, passed a controversial law last year that lowers the voting age from 18 to 16. More than half a million youngsters in this nation of 40 million people have since opted to join Mr. Cura on the electoral roll. Critics see the law as a blatant attempt by President Kirchner to harness extra votes in uncertain times for her leftist government, which is popularly believed to count young people among its most fervent supporters. But others say it is a tool for widening democracy and a political extension of Kirchner’s liberal social policies. “This started as a government plan to capture a new mass vote,” says Sergio Berensztein, a political analyst at Poliarquía, a Buenos Aires consultancy. “But that vote is not homogenous.”
Elections B.C. will kick the idea around for a bit longer and is open to hearing more, but it looks as if Internet voting isn’t going anywhere. Security isn’t foolproof, as it needs to be. Cost savings are debatable, and it would likely actually wind up costing more. And most critically, there is no conclusive proof it would help increase the turnout rate in elections. That was one of the background motivations for considering the idea in the first place. The participation rate has been declining for a generation now. It ticked upward a couple of points in last May’s election, compared to the 2009 vote. But it is still scarcely more than half, which is abysmal. The idea that Internet voting could fix that is founded on a faulty premise. Experts have been trying to figure out the slumping turnout rate for years. Various authorities have delved deeply into it by all means possible, including polling non-voters on the reasons they opted out.
The Social Democrats have won a narrow victory in early parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic, but the composition of the next government is likely to depend on a billionaire who entered politics only two years ago. The Social Democrats (ČSSD) had enjoyed a commanding, albeit narrowing, lead for most of the two-month election campaign. However, its lead, once over 12 percentage points, shrank rapidly in the final days before yesterday’s and today’s vote, and its final tally, 20.5%, gave it just three more seats than the party of Andrej Babiš, a controversial industrialist and – since this spring – a media magnate. Babiš’s party, ANO 2011-Akce nespokojených občanů (Yes 2011 – Action of Dissatisfied Citizens), won 18.7% of the votes and 47 of the 200 seats in parliament. ANO took votes from all parties and its support was evenly spread across the population. While Babiš succeeded in recruiting a range of celebrities, polls suggest that the party’s late surge dates to a weekend blitz of interviews on television.
The Social Democrats appear to have won elections in the Czech Republic as voters angered by years of right-wing graft and austerity veered left. The CSSD are poised to form a minority government. With nearly 100 percent of votes counted, the CSSD scored 20.5 percent, Action for Alienated Citizens (ANO: Czech for “yes”) won 18.7, and the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) lagged behind with 15. Likely new premier Bohuslav Sobotka had hinted before polls closed that he could form a minority government with the tacit support of the Communists. “The result may not be what we imagined but it’s the highest score of all parties,” 42-year-old Social Democrat leader Sobotka told reporters in Prague after the election, declaring himself “ready to start talks” on a coalition with all parties in parliament. The election ends seven years of scandal-tainted right-wing rule. Former Finance Minister Sobotka plans to introduce new taxes on banks, utilities and wealth to pay for social programs.
Georgia (Sakartvelo): Ruling coalition candidate Margvelashvili leads in Georgia’s presidential election | RT News
Georgian Dream party’s Georgy Margvelashvili from ruling coalition is leading in the presidential election in Georgia with 62.07 percent of the vote, the central election commission announced with around 95 percent of the vote counted. David Bakradze, who is supported by outgoing president Mikhail Saakashvili, is second with 21.76 percent, and former parliament speaker, Nino Burdzhanadze, is third with 10.2 per cent. Earlier Imedi TV’s exit polls suggested that Margvelashvili was leading in the presidential election in Georgia with about 68 per cent of the vote. Bakradze was placed second with 17.11 per cent and Burdzhanadze third with 9.33 per cent. An exit poll, performed by German GFK Company for Rustavi 2 channel, also gave a landslide victory to Margvelashvili on 66.7 percent, with his rivals Bakradze and Burdzhanadze having 20.1 and 7.5 per cent respectively.
Madagascar’s first presidential election since a military-backed coup was free and fair, European Union (EU) and Southern African observers said on Sunday, as early results trickled out two days after the poll. The announcements were a boost for the Indian Ocean island which needs a credible vote to rebuild investors’ confidence and win back aid suspended after dissident troops propelled Andry Rajoelina into power in 2009. But foreign envoys warned there was still time for an upset. Full results cold take as long as a week to emerge and the two front-runners both anticipate a second-round runoff, prolonging the uncertainty. “This election has been free, transparent and credible,” the head of the EU observer mission, Maria Muniz de Urquiza, said. The Southern African Development Community (SADC), which suspended Madagascar as a member after Rajoelina’s power grab, said the vote had “reflected the will of Malagasy people”.