A federal judge has set an expedited schedule in a lawsuit filed by Kansas and Arizona against a federal agency in hopes of bolstering their states’ enforcement of proof-of-citizenship requirements for new voters. A hearing was scheduled for Dec. 13 on the states’ request for a preliminary injunction forcing the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to modify a national voter registration form to help the states administer their requirements. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren, based in Wichita, also told the commission and its top administrator Thursday that they had until Nov. 27, the day before Thanksgiving, to file a written response to the request for such an order. A preliminary injunction would impose the change even before the lawsuit is heard.
National: Few Tricks, Some Treats as Two New FEC Commissioners Start Work on Halloween | In the Arena
For the first time since January, the Federal Election Commission held a meeting at which a majority of six Commissioners agreed on an advisory opinion. At its public meeting today, the Commission welcomed Lee Goodman and Ann Ravel to its ranks. Commissioner Goodman came from a private practice in which he represented Republican candidates and officeholders, among other clients. As the chair of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, Commissioner Ravel made waves last week with the announcement of a million-dollar settlement with two conservative nonprofits that failed to disclose the sources of funds spent on state ballot initiative campaigns. In opening statements, the two new Commissioners found common ground on two subjects: they both expressed appreciation of the FEC’s staff, and a desire to achieve consensus on issues facing the agency. Commissioner Goodman added, though, that the FEC is a “complicated agency” where First Amendment and regulatory concerns must be carefully balanced.
Voting Blogs: New Study: Seven Early Voting Ideas to Improve Outdated Election Process | Brennan Center for Justice
As voters across the country head to the polls next week and election officials review their voting protocols, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law today released a new report detailing the benefits of early voting programs and offering recommendations to substantially improve our outdated election process. Based on extensive interviews with election officials and an analysis of state early voting laws,Early Voting: What Works proposes seven early voting recommendations that would improve the process for both voters and election officials, and provide more opportunities for citizens to cast a ballot. “Given the increasing demands on many Americans’ schedules, early in person voting adds important flexibility and convenience to modernize the voting process, while keeping elections safe and secure,” said the Brennan Center’s Diana Kasdan, author of the report. “It reduces the administrative burdens of the Election Day rush and helps bring our antiquated voting system into the 21st century.”
It’s voting 2.0. This Election Day, Maine will roll out 428 new voting machines with digital scanners and stepped-up tech in 228 municipalities. Most voters will still exit their polling booths and head toward the ballot clerks, but now they’ll insert their paper ballot into a slot below a digital screen, pause, then get the machine’s OK to walk away. The devices are smart enough to detect too many votes — such as voting yes and no on Question 1 — as well as detecting questions with no responses. The machines will offer to kick those ballots back for do-overs. Seventeen new machines arrived in Lewiston in August inside locked, black cases that looked like something out of James Bond. Staff joked about needing launch codes. They’ve been tested and retested with dummy ballots. City Clerk Kathy Montejo anticipates a smooth day Tuesday. Lewiston is using machines to tally both state and local results. “The beauty of the machine is that it can be programmed to ignore other write-ins (that aren’t for pre-approved candidates),” she said. “Sometimes that would add an hour or two at the end of election night. The workers are extremely happy.”
Secretary of State William Galvin won’t say if he is ordering changes at the city’s 24 polling places on Tuesday to prevent a repeat of the “overall chaos” witnessed by an observer he sent to the Sept. 17 preliminary election. Among them, observer Ramon Trinidad reported seeing city poll workers pencil in the names of unregistered people to the voting list and then hand them ballots. Trinidad also said poll workers examined completed ballots and allowed candidates to walk around freely inside polling places. He said poll workers were sometimes hard to find while campaign workers were prolific, polling places were organized in a way that confused voters, machines that assist disabled voters were shut down and documents describing voters’ rights were not posted as required. “I believe that when a poll worker looks at a voter’s ballot for any reason, the voter loses trust in their expectation of the right to a secret ballot,” Trinidad said in his report, describing how poll workers took ballots from voters and examined them if scanners spit them back. “It can be considered a type of voter intimidation.”
A voting rights lawsuit involving three American Indian tribes will go back to a federal court in Montana after an appellate panel declined to intervene. The plaintiffs from the Crow, Northern Cheyenne and Fort Belknap tribes say three counties should set up satellite voting offices to make up for the long distances they must drive to reach courthouses for early voting or late registration. After a now-retired judge declined to intervene before the 2012 election, the 16 Indian plaintiffs appealed. But a three-judge appeals panel wrote in a Wednesday opinion that the emergency injunction request by the Indians is now moot. They sent the case back to U.S. District Court in Montana for a decision on future elections.
Texas: 1 of 7 early voters in Dallas County being forced to sign affidavit to verify ID | Dallas Morning News
At least one out of every seven early voters in Dallas County has had to sign an affidavit verifying his or her identity as part of Texas’ new voter ID law. Though no one in Dallas County has been prevented from voting — or even forced to cast a provisional ballot — because a name discrepancy, officials said women are being especially impacted by the requirements. And Toni Pippins-Poole, the county’s elections administrator, said the totals through the first five days of early voting for the Nov. 5 election are a conservative estimate of the potential inconvenience. “I know it’s more,” she said, adding that the totals don’t cover all polling locations. “Not all the reports have come through.” Most of the talk about the new voter identification law, which went into effect this summer, has focused on the requirement that voters present a government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot.
The latest proposal to require Wisconsin voters to show photo identification at the polls appears to be dead on arrival. The Republican Legislature passed a photo ID requirement in 2011, but courts blocked it soon after, and it is not in effect. A pair of Republican state Assembly members circulated a new bill Thursday, with the hope of holding a hearing next week and taking a vote later in November. But Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told The Associated Press he does not plan to take the bill up in the Senate. Fitzgerald said it makes more sense to see what happens with lawsuits currently pending in both state appeals and federal court, including one that’s headed to trial starting Monday. “We should sit tight right now,” Fitzgerald said. The bill would have to pass the Senate and Assembly in identical form, and be signed by Gov. Scott Walker, before taking effect. Fitzgerald said even if that were to happen, a new law would just trigger another round of lawsuits. Enacting a photo ID requirement has been a top priority of Republicans for years. They were stymied by Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, who vetoed such a requirement three times between 2002 and 2005. Republicans took full control of the Legislature in 2011 and quickly passed the bill.
The electoral commission has been forced to call in the services of respected former federal police commissioner Mick Keelty for an investigation after 1375 Senate ballots vanished during a critical Western Australian recount. The missing ballots are a substantial reputational embarrassment for the Australian Electoral Commission, raise serious questions over the integrity of the electoral system, and could ultimately trigger a re-run of the WA Senate election. The special minister of state, Michael Ronaldson, has issued a strong public rebuke to the AEC.
Voting on the Internet might be the wave of the future, but it’s too soon for B.C. to catch that wave. Elections B.C. looked into the question of whether the province should move to Internet voting, and released a report last week that found the technology presents too many problems and won’t do what its advocates hope. Those who want us to vote on the Internet tout its obvious convenience as an answer to declining voter turnout. We bank, shop, book vacations and manage much of our lives on the Internet, so adding voting to the suite looks like a no-brainer. The most optimistic of its supporters hoped it could be in place in time for the municipal elections in 2014. But slow down, says Elections B.C.’s panel on Internet voting. It won’t be possible to answer all the questions before next year. It gives four recommendations in its report: Don’t bring in universal Internet voting, although limited use for people with accessibility issues could work; have a provincewide policy; set up a technical committee for evaluation and support; evaluate any system on nine essential principles. The report’s nine principles are: accessibility, ballot anonymity, individual and independent verifiability, non-reliance on the trustworthiness of the voter’s device(s), one vote per voter, only count votes from eligible voters, process validation and transparency, service availability, voter authentication and authorization. As the nine principles show, Internet voting has a lot of hurdles to clear.
Maldives: Ambassadors warned of international restrictions if no president by November 11: Nasheed | Minivan News
Foreign ambassadors have warned of international restrictions on trade and financial transactions if there is no president-elect by the end of the current presidential term on November 11, former President Mohamed Nasheed said at a press briefing yesterday (October 30). To avert such a scenario, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate suggested two solutions: the Supreme Court should review its judgment to annul the September 7 presidential election, or one of the two rival candidates should withdraw his candidacy “for the sake of the nation and Islam” ahead of the fresh polls scheduled for November 9. “Ambassadors of foreign nations that I meet are now saying very openly that if there is no president-elect by November 11 they would have to take action under their normal rules or procedures,” Nasheed said. A nation without an elected president is considered a dictatorship and prone to instability and unrest by the international community, he added. Nasheed referred to financial sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe on troubled states such as Sudan and Myanmar.
The number of polls related violence has increased in different parts of the country as the date of the Constituent Assembly election draws near. In eastern Nepal, a group of around three dozen CPN-Maoist cadres attacked UCPN (Maoist) candidate and activists in constituency-2 of Dailekh on Wednesday while the latter were organizing an election campaign at Hulakdanda of Singaudi. The assaulters returned after looting the publicity materials, though UCPN (Maoist) candidate Thira Bahadur Karki was taken to a safe place by the police and the supporters.
Some states that have tightened their voter identification laws are using workarounds to avoid voting problems for women whose names have changed because of marriage or divorce – even as opponents of the laws warn there is still potential to disqualify female voters. Voter ID laws are intensely controversial: the Justice Department is currently suing Texas and North Carolina to block their new, stricter laws, and lawsuits in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have also prevented voter ID laws from being implemented. Legislators supporting voter ID laws say they are necessary to prevent voter fraud; opponents say laws requiring certain types of identification disproportionately affect minorities and the poor. They may also create problems for women who have changed their names after marriage or divorce, advocates say.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that the Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which eviscerated the Voting Rights Act, is leading to a new era of voter suppression that parallels the pre-1960s era—this time affecting not just African-Americans but also Hispanic-Americans, women, and students, among others. The reasoning employed by Chief Justice John Roberts in Shelby County—that Section 5 of the act was such a spectacular success that it is no longer necessary—was the equivalent of taking down speed cameras and traffic lights and removing speed limits from a dangerous intersection because they had combined to reduce accidents and traffic deaths. In North Carolina, a post-Shelby County law not only includes one of the most restrictive and punitive vote-ID laws anywhere but also restricts early voting, eliminates same-day voting registration, ends pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, and bans many provisional ballots. Whatever flimsy voter-fraud excuse exists for requiring voter ID disappears when it comes to these other obstacles to voting. In Texas, the law could require voters to travel as much as 250 miles to obtain an acceptable voter ID—and it allows a concealed-weapon permit, but not a student ID, as proof of identity for voting. Moreover, the law and the regulations to implement it, we are now learning, will create huge impediments for women who have married or divorced and have voter IDs and driver’s licenses that reflect maiden or married names that do not exactly match. It raises similar problems for Mexican-Americans who use combinations of mothers’ and fathers’ names.