The Massachusetts House passed legislation Wednesday making it easier for residents to register to vote and cast ballots. The House bill would let Massachusetts citizens register to vote online and to vote early in presidential election years. Under the proposal, voters would be able to cast ballots up to 10 days before election day. State Rep. Linda Campbell of Methuen says the measure would shorten lines at polling places. “This legislation will be very much appreciated by senior citizens and the disabled population in the commonwealth, who, because of disabilities and age, sometimes face real challenges with parking and standing in line to vote,” Campbell said. “It will be greatly appreciated by the many in the commonwealth who travel all over the world in conjunction with their employment.”
Long voting lines were at the top of voters’ complaints in 2012 – and young voters got hit hard by wait times. A study released Monday from Advancement Project and OurTime.org turned the spotlight on Florida and Virginia, two states that experienced the longest wait times in 2012, and found that young voters turned out “in spite of numerous ballot barriers, not because the system worked efficiently.” How’s that for an apathetic youth? The study states: “Florida voters experience some of the longest voting lines in the country, with an average wait time of 39 minutes to cast a ballot. That was three times the national average in 2012, of 13.3 minutes.” Matthew Segal, co-founder of OurTime, calls those extra minutes a tax. Not in a monetary sense, but if time is money (as we’ve heard it is) then young voters are feeling the pinch more than others. “The Time Tax doesn’t cost literal dollars and cents, but it’s certainly costing time,” Segal explained to msnbc.com. Those minutes and hours spent on a voting line means less time for jobs, classes, and homework and more hoops to jump through to obtain proper identification and necessary voting qualifications means more people may give up on voting because it’s too time-consuming.
A powerful House Republican said this week that he’s preparing to throw his full weight behind the effort to reinstall the voting protections shot down by the Supreme Court in June. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, former head of the House Judiciary Committee, has been focused on a new surveillance bill in recent weeks. But speaking Tuesday at the Georgetown University Law Center, the 18-term Wisconsin Republican said he intends to shift gears to address the provisions of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) deemed by the high court to be unconstitutional. “Once I am done with this issue, my next project is to try to constitutionalize those parts of the Voting Rights Act that were struck down,” Sensenbrenner said. While noting that he no longer heads the Judiciary panel, Sensenbrenner vowed he’s “keeping my hands in the pie and attempting to deal with issues that I think are important … to improving the quality of life for all of the people in the United States of America.”
The conservative-driven movement to expand voter restrictions in the name of reducing polling booth fraud has often been described as a solution in search of a problem. Despite evidence suggesting voter fraud is rare, it’s a crusade that has proved so durable in GOP-dominated states like Arizona and Kansas that its leading proponents are undeterred — even by the U.S. Supreme Court. Get a high court decision that bars you from requiring residents to produce documentary proof of citizenship like a passport or birth certificate when registering to vote? Find a way around the decision, at least for your state, and at least for now. In Arizona and Kansas, that has meant plans to create expensive two-track voter registration systems: one for federal elections that would not require paper proof of citizenship; the other, for state and local elections that would. And the two states are making a parallel effort in U.S. District Court. They have filed a lawsuit challenging a directive in the 1993 National Voter Registration Act that requires states to “accept and use” the federal voter registration form.
Local election officials are already expressing uncertainty about what could go wrong when the state switches from an electronic voting system to using paper ballots in the next two years. By the 2016 presidential elections the state will replace touch-screen machines and make a fundamental shift to the way voters cast ballots. “This is a big transition for us,” said Montgomery County Board of Elections Deputy Director Alysoun McLaughlin. “Everything from set up, to warehouses, to the voting experience is based around touch screen [voting] machines.” McLaughlin attended a demonstration last week in Baltimore where Dominion Voting Systems showcased a paper ballot scanning unit to local elections officials that the state will consider purchasing for use in 2016. … State election officials would not provide an estimate of the cost to transition the state to the new paper voting system. Instead, the state board referred to a 2010 study conducted for the state by RTI International which estimated that initial implementation would cost approximately $37 million. The initial implementation costs would include optical scan voting units, ballot marking devices for the disabled, ballot on demand printers and booths and carts.
The court-ordered recount of Nov. 5 election results in Comal County, set for Thursday, might not resolve concerns about balloting irregularities in the four affected entities. Accurate results could be impossible if the electronic voting machines were encoded with the wrong ballots, as suspected in one Schertz contest, said County Clerk Joy Streater, the recount supervisor. “It seems that people were given ballots who were not eligible to vote in that particular race,” said Streater, who was appointed Tuesday by state District Judge Gary Steel to oversee the recount prompted by a county petition. She’s unsure if technicians from Electronic Systems & Software, the vendor of the “direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines,” can weed out the improper ballots. Despite discussions about hand-tabulating individual “vote image logs” of each ballot recorded by the machines, Streater instead plans to print out vote tallies from each of the 179 machines. “If we hand count 16,000 ballots, we’ll be here ’til Christmas and we’ll just get the same results that are now in the machines,” she said, noting the recount may not conclude until Friday.
The House could take up a series of election law reforms this week before the close-out of formal sessions for the year. An aide to Speaker Robert DeLeo said the House is tentatively planning to take up a bill (H 3647) drafted by the Election Laws Committee, which calls for an “online portal” where citizens can register to vote, and allows early voting from 11 business days to two business days before a presidential primary or presidential election. Activists decrying long lines at polling stations and other hindrances to voting have called for reforms to ease access to ballots. A member of the committee staff said the bill was designed to address long lines, and voters would be able to cast ballots early for all races during a presidential year during the presidential primary or general election. Senate President Therese Murray has backed legislation (S 12) to amend the state constitution, allowing for state laws providing for early voting. Lawmakers meeting in a brief Constitutional Convention in October gave initial approval to the constitutional amendment.
Back in 2004, some Ohioans waited in line for 10 hours to vote as President George W. Bush carried the state, and with it, the election. After reforms were put in place, voting went much more smoothly in 2008 and ’12, when Ohio twice went for Barack Obama. So naturally, Republicans are now looking to turn the clock back a decade. Tuesday, the state legislature will hold hearings on four new GOP-backed measures that, taken as a whole, could make voting much harder in the Buckeye State, especially for racial minorities, students, and the poor:
• One bill would reduce the number of voting machines that counties must have on hand, almost inevitably leading to longer wait times at the polls.
• A second would attack the state’s successful absentee ballot program. Last year, Secretary of State Jon Husted mailed absentee ballots to every registered voter, and nearly 1.3 million Ohioans cast one. But the new bill would dramatically limit the period when absentee ballots can be sent, and bar counties from sending them, instead allowing only the secretary of state, with approval from lawmakers, to do so.
• A third measure would cut early voting by six days and end same-day registration, when voters can register and vote on the same day. Voting rights advocates say they expect additional drastic cuts to the early voting period.
• And a fourth would reduce from 10 to three the number of days given to voters casting a provisional ballot to return with the information needed to make their vote count.
An attorney for Democrat Mark Herring said Monday he expects Herring to retain his slim lead over Republican Mark Obenshain in the race for Virginia attorney general. “I don’t expect a significant change,” said Washington attorney Marc Elias, a veteran of election recounts, during a teleconference with reporters. “I expect the attorney general-elect (Herring) — whether there is a recount or not — will prevail.” The final certification by the State Board of Elections is set for Monday. As of now, Herring has a 164-vote lead over Obenshain. That lead comes after more than 2.2 million Virginia voters cast their ballots in the attorney general’s race on Nov. 5. Elias said there have been only three recent statewide recounts that have changed the result “against the backdrop of hundreds and hundreds.” The attorney describes the recent canvass of votes in Virginia cities and counties as one that “is painstaking to make sure all votes are counted.”
Three unnamed people have asked the Wisconsin Court of Appeals to temporarily halt a secret investigation of campaign fundraising and spending during Wisconsin’s recent recall elections. Madison attorney Dean Strang filed the five motions Thursday, according to online court records. The filings name special prosecutor Francis Schmitz and initially named retired Kenosha County Circuit Judge Barbara Kluka, who was originally in charge of the investigation. The filings were amended this week to reflect that the investigation is now being overseen by retired Appeals Court Judge Gregory Peterson. Kluka has not said why she recused herself. Copies of the court records were not available because Strang has filed motions to seal the petitions and related records. The filings, called petitions for supervisory writs, are requests that higher courts review how the investigation is being conducted.
Wisconsin: The Voting Rights Case African Americans Must Watch | Judith Browne Dianis/Huffington Post
From courtrooms to the streets, civil rights advocates and grassroots organizations nationwide are doubling down to protect voters. Over the past few years, we witnessed an aggressive assault on voting rights, with a wave of policies making it harder to vote either passed or proposed in a majority of states. These measures included laws requiring current state-issued photo ID to vote, cuts to early voting and same-day registration and “show me your papers” proof-of-citizenship practices. The unprecedented attacks on democracy disproportionately affect voters of color. They are widespread, targeted and coordinated. This week, Wisconsin is on trial for limiting the voices of voters. Advancement Project is challenging Wisconsin’s law requiring voters to present limited forms of government-issued photo ID in order to vote. We plan to show that Wisconsin’s law discriminates against voters on the basis of race. This is the nation’s first Voting Rights Act trial challenging a photo ID law since the Supreme Court’s June 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, which blocked the federal government from stopping discriminatory laws and practices by several states and counties, mostly in the South, before they are implemented.
An international network of human rights organizations will be sending 180 official election observers to Honduras from November 17-27 to observe the upcoming general election, which will be taking place on November 24. Common Frontiers Canada is coordinating the Canadian based portion of the delegation which will be composed of representatives from various labour organizations, community groups, academics and a former chief of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nations. The mission will travel to various parts of the country to meet with communities and groups impacted by Canadian investment in mining, maquiladoras and the mega tourism sector. Honduras is widely viewed as the murder capital of the world, reaching a record high of 7,172 homicides in 2012 (source: United Nations).
Mauritania’s ruling party and Islamist opposition group traded accusations of foul play on Tuesday as the campaign for the west African nation’s legislative and local polls drew towards its conclusion. The governing Union for the Republic (UPR) — overwhelming favourites to win Saturday’s elections — cast doubts over the funding of Tewassoul, a relatively new party fighting its first election. “This party has much larger resources than my party. We want to know where these means are coming from,” UPR national campaign director Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Jaavar said during a meeting in the capital Nouakchott. He demanded that Tewassoul leaders “set themselves apart from the Islamists who have committed a lot of damage in the Arab and Muslim world”. “No party has the right to appropriate Islam, which is the religion of all of us, for itself,” he added. Meanwhile Tewassoul, a self-styled moderate party legalised in 2007 that professes to hold different beliefs and goals from Mauritania’s jihadist fringe, hit back by accusing the UPR of illegally using public money to fund its electioneering.
Violence broke out between protesters against the upcoming parliamentary and local elections and the police in the capital city leaving many injured as tensions continue to rise. The protesters were chanting anti-election slogans and calling for the boycott of the elections by the 3,4million registered voters. The elections were to be held in October but later postponed to November after the opposition parties threatened to boycott it. The protesters were at the office of the election commission when the police tried to disperse them. They claim that the electoral process is not transparent. The elections are scheduled for November 23rd and the buildup to the event has heavily been criticized by the opposition. 10 of the 11 opposition parties forming the Coordination of Democratic Opposition (COD) have decided to boycott the elections.
Millions of Nepalis have defied low expectations and threats of violence to vote in elections seen as crucial in breaking its political deadlock seven years after a civil war ended. A bombing in the capital Kathmandu early on Tuesday injured three children, but the explosion and a campaign of intimidation by a hardline Maoist splinter group did not prevent turnout reaching at least 65 per cent. At this level it would be higher than the 63.29 per cent turnout recorded during the country’s first post-war elections in 2008, when it voted for a constituent assembly tasked with writing a new constitution. Since then, five prime ministers have served brief terms, the country had no leader for long periods, and the 601-member assembly collapsed in May 2012 after failing to complete the peace process. ‘My vote is for the future of youngsters and the new generations,’ 101-year-old voter Lal Bahadur Rai said in a phone interview from a polling station in northeastern Sankhuwasabha district. Hopes of political unity to complete the peace process were dashed when a 33-party alliance, led by the splinter Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M), announced that it would boycott polls and intimidate voters.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to take up two separate cases over the state’s voter ID law, which has been blocked since shortly after it took effect in 2012. The move by the high court cancels oral arguments that were to be held next month before the District 2 Court of Appeals in Waukesha in one case. In the second case, the Supreme Court is agreeing to review a decision by the Madison-based District 4 Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court’s action comes six days after the Republican-run state Assembly voted to soften the voter ID law in hopes of overcoming four legal challenges. The state Senate is also controlled by Republicans, but leaders in that house have said they want to see how courts react to the cases before deciding whether to tweak the voter ID requirement. The short orders issued Wednesday by the Supreme Court put the two state cases before it and clear a path for decisions to be rendered by June. No one dissented in the decisions to take the cases. Meanwhile, two other challenges are being considered in federal court in Milwaukee. A two-week trial in those cases wrapped up last week, and U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman is expected to issue a written ruling early next year on whether the law is constitutional and in keeping with the federal Voting Rights Act.
For the last few weeks [leading up to] the Honduran election, no surveys of the electorate can be published. But really, the only poll that matters will take place this coming Sunday, Nov. 24. According to the Tribunal Supremo Electoral (TSE), 5.3 million Hondurans are eligible to vote. Throughout the country, people in five thousand election centers will place their ballots for president, congress, and municipal mayor in three separate ballot boxes. What happens then? What ensures that the ballot cast is counted and reported accurately? How reliable should we expect the numbers to be? In part, what you think the answer is depends on how you assess the procedures set in place by the TSE.
Nepal: Maoist party demands stop in vote counting after trailing behind rival parties | The Washington Post
The leader of Nepal’s Maoist party, who appears to have lost in this week’s national election, demanded Thursday that the vote counting be stopped because of what he called massive irregularities. The irregularities occurred during transporting of ballot boxes and also during the counting, said Pushpa Kamal Dahal, leader of the United Communist Party of Nepal Maoists. “We are demanding an immediate stop to the vote counting and an independent probe into the allegations,” Dahal said, adding his party could boycott the Constituent Assembly if its demands are not addressed. He said the party has reports of ballots boxes being hidden for hours, and of ballot boxes being switched while being transported to counting centers, and that several boxes had gone missing.