Genevieve Winslow of Milwaukee belongs is a member of the Greatest Generation. In 1948, at age 20, she married Alex Winslow, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Beginning a year later, at 21, she’s voted in nearly every election since. Now, she worries she might get turned away at the polls in the future. It is a common concern among older Americans living in states that have enacted photo ID requirements for voting. Passed by Republican state legislatures as a hedge against voter fraud, the laws have been assailed by critics who say they discriminate against the elderly and minorities. As Wisconsin implements its law, it is opening a window into why a photo ID can be so difficult for the elderly to obtain. But it is also highlighting what some activists are calling a “war against the Greatest Generation” as federal and state budget cuts fall disproportionately on the elderly. Whether it is the government shutdown making it harder to obtain veteran’s benefits or cuts to food stamps or state welfare programs, many in the Greatest Generation feel that they are now being left in the cold. During the latest partial government shutdown, “I don’t know that people didn’t get their benefits, but does that mean that things did not get processed while the government was shut down? Yes,” says David Hobson, executive director of the National Organization of Veterans Advocates. ” That does mean that claims did not get processed, so that was being held up.” Yet voter ID laws, which have been adopted in at least 34 states, feel to many seniors like the most direct attack.
A state court judge accepted Alaska’s latest redistricting plan Monday, saying the newly redrawn political boundaries meet constitutional standards. Superior Court Judge Michael McConahy also found the Alaska Redistricting Board’s decisions regarding truncation of certain Senate seats due to changes in the makeup of those districts pass constitutional muster. He said the record does not support any inference that the standard adopted by the board for what constitutes a substantial change in a district was chosen to protect Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, a concern that had been raised among the plaintiffs. Senators generally stand for re-election every four years, but terms for some members can be truncated if a new redistricting plan results in substantially different districts for them.
The dust has settled from local elections in North Carolina, but the opposition to the state’s new Voter Law – taking effect in 2016 – continues. The law requires citizens to produce a state-issued photo ID at the polls. In a recent analysis, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice found that women make up 64 percent of the people who may be unable to vote as a result. Holly Ewell Lewis of Raleigh votes regularly, and after state lawmakers passed the law, she traveled to her home state of Pennsylvania to resolve an issue with her photo ID. “I just felt that the summer was when I had the most availability to take care of it,” she explains. “So, even without the details, I just felt that I better be proactive and go as soon as I was able to.”
Proposals to require voters to show a photo ID before they can cast their ballots generally prompt protests of voter suppression from opponents, but a pair of Democrats have raised another reason for opposition: the cost to the state. One study found that implementing a photo ID law for voting could cost the state an average of $7 million a year, said Rep. Kathleen Clyde of Kent. Another study she cited set the price even higher — as much as $43 million over four years. Clyde and Rep. Mike Curtain of suburban Columbus conducted what they described as a preemptive strike on the issue Thursday, laying out their opposition to requiring voters show a form of photo identification. Ohio law requires that voters produce some form of identification when they go to the polls, but it does not require that ID have a photo of the voter. A utility bill addressed to the voter at the address at which they are registered, for example, currently suffices.
A federal judge has set a September 2014 trial date for a lawsuit seeking to overturn Texas’ Voter ID — just ahead of a pivotal general election. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos said Friday the trial will start September 2 in Corpus Christi. Opponents hope to halt the law before next year’s much-watched election. Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running to replace Governor Rick Perry in 2014, is defending the 2011 law. His office declined to comment Friday. The law requires Texans to show one of six forms of identification at the polls.
State Sen. Mark Herring launched something of a pre-emptive strike Monday, ahead of next week’s certification of the election results in the attorney general’s race. The Democrat currently leads by a scant 164 votes over Republican state Sen. Mark Obenshain. In a conference call with reporters, an election lawyer working for Herring said the small margin is deceptive, arguing Virginia’s rules governing recounts make it all but impossible for Obenshain to turn the tide. The lawyer, Marc Elias, said it’s similarly unlikely that the vote total will budge much between now and the Nov. 25 vote certification. Elias, who lives in Northern Virginia and works at a Washington, D.C., firm, represented U.S. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota in a 2008 recount that changed the outcome of a close election there. Elias said Virginia election law provides less possibility for votes to change in a recount than Minnesota’s law. Specifically, he said results from touchscreen voting machines, which are used in much of the state, typically don’t change during a recount.
With Mark Herring considered Virginia’s attorney general-elect, pending a recount, Democrats in Loudoun and Fairfax counties have announced they will hold a Firehouse Primary Saturday to choose the party’s nominee to fill the 33rd District Senate seat. Two candidates have filed to run for the nomination, Leesburg attorney Jennifer T. Wexton and Herndon Town Councilmember Sheila A. Olem. With all the votes reported from the local registrar’s offices throughout the state, Herring, a Loudoun Democrat, pulled ahead of Republican Mark Obenshain last week in the attorney general’s race by a narrow margin of 164 votes out of the more than 2.2 million cast.
The minuscule margin of votes between Virginia’s two attorney general candidates has brought renewed attention to a relatively new aspect of voting in Virginia: the provisional ballot. There were about 3,170 provisional votes cast in the attorney general’s race on Election Day, out of 2.2 million total votes. The difference between the two candidates is currently 164 votes. Before 2012, voters that poll workers could not find on poll books could vote if they signed an affidavit that they were who they said they were and were registered to vote. But lawmakers felt that wasn’t secure enough. The provisional ballot, created by state law in 2012, is how people vote if they show up at the polls and have no identification, or if there is some doubt about whether they are registered to vote or registered at the precinct where they have come to vote.
Ontario’s Liberal government made it clear Monday it was not open to a request from embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford for a snap municipal election so voters can decide if he should be booted out of office after admitting he smoked crack cocaine. “It’s not something we’re considering at the moment,” Municipal Affairs Minister Linda Jeffrey told reporters. “We’re not considering changing the electoral period that members sit. It’s not something we’re contemplating.” The province probably wouldn’t be open to changing the election date even if the request comes from the entire Toronto city council, added Jeffrey. Mayor Ford himself has spoken out against the cost of special elections, noted Finance Minister Charles Sousa. “The antics that are occurring in Toronto are distressing and concerning, but the last thing we want is for more disruption,” said Sousa. “Council has a job to do, let them do it, and we’ll wait to see when the next general election occurs in October.” Premier Kathleen Wynne has repeatedly said she wants city council to deal with Ford, and would step in only if there is a specific request from the city, and only if all three parties in the legislature approved any provincial action.
Madagascar’s Special Electoral Court (CES) has rejected a demand for the cancellation of election results, the CES said on Monday. Five of 33 candidates in the first round of presidential election held in Madagascar on Oct. 25 had demanded the revocation of election results under the pretext of “fraud, use of public prerogatives by certain candidates and bad organization of the election.” The candidates making the demand include Voninahitsy Jean Eugene, who won 2.13 percent, and Lahiniriko Jean, who scored 0.87 percent. Some candidates had also asked for postponing the election or re-organizing the first round of election. “The CES declares admissible applications … asking cancellation of the vote nationally, but rejects as unfounded,” the CES said in its website.
Mauritanian police on Monday crushed a protest by hundreds of youths demanding a boycott of upcoming elections, wounding several. An AFP reporter saw police beat the activists and spray them with tear gas as they waved placards and chanted slogans outside the offices of the election commission in the capital Nouakchott, calling for a boycott of Saturday’s parliamentary and local elections. “The police violently attacked the demonstrators despite the peaceful nature of their movement, using tear gas and batons,” said Idoumou Ould Mohamed Lemine, spokesman for the Coordination of Democratic Opposition (COD) that organised the protest.
Polling stations in Nepal opened early Tuesday for elections that will be crucial in completing a peace process stalled for several years since the end of a decade-long civil war. “Voting has begun all over the country,” Bir Bahadur Rai, a spokesman for the election commission, told AFP. The vote is only the second since a civil war launched by Maoist rebels concluded in 2006, ending royal rule and transforming the Himalayan nation into a secular republic. Voters lined up outside polling stations nearly an hour before the polls opened on a foggy day in the capital, AFP reporters said, despite fears that many might stay home after recent violence by anti-election hardliners. Nepalis flocked to the ballot box in the first constituent assembly elections in 2008 and delivered an overwhelming victory to the Maoist party, but have since grown frustrated following years of political infighting.
Editorials: Scotland’s referendum is not democratic if prisoners are excluded | Tony Kelly/theguardian.com
In September 2014, some of the people of Scotland will participate in a referendum on Scottish independence. This is not the first time the issue has arisen, but it is the first time the country has embarked upon this process with the express aim of being open, transparent, inclusive and democratic. However, a question mark remains over the description of the referendum process as truly democratic, because of the unjustified exclusion of a group of Scotland’s citizens from the most important political choice made by us in more than 300 years– the 6,500 men and women who are currently in a Scottish prison. Their exclusion from this profoundly important choice has no remedy, no repeat opportunity. Unlike general elections, which are held every five years, this referendum is, as political leaders repeatedly tell us, a historic “once in a lifetime” event. It is justified on the basis that prisoners have in some way excluded themselves by their conduct – from society, from the franchise, from this choice. They have not.