It may be a while before Americans can tweet their ballot or text their vote, but states are making strides to move elections from the voting booth into the hands — and even mobile devices — of voters. Across the country, states are gearing up to implement new voter technologies for 2014, as they attempt to advance the ballot-casting experience to catch up with the Facebook generation. The efforts range from bringing tablets to disabled voters to providing ballots through email and secure online systems to allowing voters to register online. One of the most significant recent leaps forward came in Pima County, Ariz., where voters for the first time used tablets (the Sony Tap 20 Windows 8), to mark their ballots at polling locations last November. … Although voters in places like Oregon and Pima County are using tablets, it’s not considered “online voting,” because the ballot is still printed out on paper to be counted just like those cast in machines. Online voting would mean the ballot is cast and counted solely online without a physical ballot ever being recorded. No state has yet gone as far as full online voting.
National: New IRS rules add both clarity and confusion about the role of advocacy groups in politics | The Washington Post
For the first time since 1959, nonprofit advocacy groups face new Internal Revenue Service rules governing their political activities, an area of the tax code that has been crying out for greater clarity. A proposed regulation unveiled Tuesday by the Treasury Department draws the boundaries more clearly — but instantly kicked off intense debate about whether the lines are in the right place. One phrase in the official notice summed up the imperfect nature of the exercise. The new rules, the department said, “may be both more restrictive and more permissive than the current approach.” That seemingly contradictory statement reflects the muddy zone now occupied by “social welfare” organizations set up under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code. Originally a designation used by civic leagues and homeowner associations, social welfare groups emerged in the past decade as the go-to vehicles for political operatives seeking to influence campaigns without revealing their donors.
As candidates for legislative and statewide elected offices in Arizona are gearing up for the 2014 elections, a crucial yet unanswered question looms over the proceedings: how much money are candidates allowed to accept from campaign donors? In attempting to clarify the answer, the Arizona Court of Appeals held last month that House Bill 2593 was ineffective because it had not been passed with a supermajority as required by the Arizona Constitution.1 In doing so, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Clean Elections Commission and against the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate. House Bill 2593, signed into law last spring, overrode existing campaign contribution limits by increasing the maximum contribution that political campaigns could accept from individual supporters. With the enjoinment of the new law, the previous, stricter, campaign contribution requirements are once again the law of Arizona—unless the Arizona Supreme Court steps in. The underlying dispute traces its genesis to the 1998 state general election.2 In that election, the voters of Arizona passed two ballot measures by popular referendum: Proposition 200, known as the Clean Elections Act;3 and Proposition 105, commonly referred to as the Voter Protection Act.4.
California: Lack of Justice Department action in Los Angeles County voting rights dispute rankles Latinos | Associated Press
The Obama administration is aggressively pursuing lawsuits over minority voting rights in Texas and North Carolina, but the Justice Department has not moved on evidence that the latest round of redistricting in Los Angeles County unfairly reduces the influence of Latino voters. Nearly half the 10 million people in the nation’s largest county are Latino. But political boundaries redrawn in 2011 make it possible for Latino voters to elect just one of the five supervisors. The administration has resisted calls to sue the county, despite the county’s history of discrimination against Latino voters in earlier redistricting efforts. The inaction rankles some Latino activists who count themselves as strong backers of President Barack Obama.
Kentucky: Decades of poverty and vote-buying led to widespread corruption in Clay County | Lexington Herald-Leader
There was a time when vote fraud was so pervasive in Clay County that a lot of honest people saw no reason to vote, said Ken Bolin, pastor of Manchester Baptist Church. “They knew it was already bought and paid for,” Bolin said of local races. Vote-buying is deeply rooted in Eastern Kentucky’s political culture, helping to make the region a hot spot for federal public-corruption cases. From 2002 through 2011, there were 237 public-corruption convictions in the federal Eastern District of Kentucky, compared to 65 in the western district, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. It wasn’t the first decade in which the eastern half of the state had one of the highest rates of corruption convictions per capita in the United States.
Legislatures in Missouri and other states have spent a lot of time in recent years discussing voter ID laws and other ways to make sure ineligible citizens don’t cast ballots. Much less energy has gone into making sure that the electoral process works well for citizens who are eligible. But that’s where the emphasis should be. Incidents of non-U.S. citizens voting, or people voting under the wrong identities, are far fewer than the glitches and barriers that prevent or discourage citizens from exercising their right to vote. A project begun by Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander should bring the picture into sharper relief. Kander has created an elections integrity unit to assess potential voting improprieties. A website connected to the secretary of state’s office — www.sos.mo.gov/elections/elections_integrity — encourages citizens who believe they have witnessed a violation of Missouri election law to file an online report. The office has pledged to evaluate every complaint and provide the source with a written response. The office’s reviews are posted on the website. So far there are nine, all of them suspected problems the office has looked into this year.
Both sides have made their case to state officials in the dispute over whether a local elections board member should be removed. The North Carolina State Board of Elections has received a completed formal complaint asking for the removal of Wilson Board of Elections Secretary Joel Killion. Asa Gregory and Barbara Dantonio alleged in their complaint that Killion violated state statues that limit election board members’ political activities. As exhibits to prove their complaint, Gregory and Dantonio sent information from the Tea Party website, information from Killion’s Twitter account, pictures of Killion in a Tea Party tent and newspaper articles. Gregory is former chairman of the Wilson County Democratic Party. Dantonio is former treasurer of the Wilson Democrats. But Killion has sent a response to the state elections board asking that the complaint be dismissed. Killion’s position is that he is not in violation of any statutes with his Tea Party activities. He even said Gregory’s statements were “libelous.”
Puerto Rico: U.S.-Based Puerto Ricans Want Equality, Right To Vote, Statehood Back Home | Fox News Latino
Puerto Rican attorney Iara Rodriguez waved campaign signs and cheered at the 2012 Democratic Convention as President Barack Obama was nominated. But the delegate’s euphoria faded when she returned home and, like everyone else living in Puerto Rico, could only watch as the rest of the country voted for its commander in chief. By January, she had moved to Orlando, joining a record number of Puerto Ricans who have left the island in recent years — more than 60,000 in 2012 — the majority landing in Florida. Most are fleeing Puerto Rico’s economic crisis, yet their presence on the mainland is drawing newfound attention to an age-old question back home of whether Puerto Rico should become the 51st state, remain a territory or become independent. A loose coalition of civic leaders in Florida and on the island is seeking to leverage the state’s growing Puerto Rican presence to turn this issue into something the rest of Americans can easily understand: a fight for equality and the right to vote. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens by birth, but because the island is only a territory, its residents can vote for president only if they move to a state.
Absentee voting proved so cumbersome for Maj. Anthony Deiss when the Army National Guardsman was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 that he admits he “didn’t take advantage of it.” But that was then. Now thanks to technological advancements that will be unveiled Monday by Secretary of State Jason Gant, South Dakota service members stationed overseas are going to have a new online option for absentee voting. And Deiss, for one, is all for it. “The right to vote is a fundamental principle of freedom, the freedoms our people are fighting for,” the Rapid City guardsman said Friday. “What better way to show that and exercise that right by giving them another option for voting in a war zone? I think that is very symbolic.”
A federal trial in Milwaukee on Wisconsin’s 2011 voter ID law concluded recently, and the verdict, when it comes, will help define the future of the Voting Rights Act, which has been in question since the Supreme Court gutted a core provision, Section 5, in June. This case could also set an important precedent for lawsuits recently filed against similar laws in Texas and North Carolina. The Wisconsin law, which is now on hold, is among the strictest in the country. It requires a voter to show poll workers government-issued photo identification, like a driver’s license or passport. The law’s challengers, which include the A.C.L.U., the League of United Latin American Citizens, the League of Young Voters and several private citizens, sued under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. That section, which survived the Supreme Court’s ruling, prohibits state and local governments from imposing any “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting” that has a racially discriminatory effect. The test is whether a law causes minority voters to have “less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process.” The plaintiffs presented substantial evidence that the Wisconsin statute had precisely that effect.
Voting results at more than 200 newly established polling stations were “heavily skewed” towards the ruling party at the July election, while seven communes recorded voter turnouts in excess of 110 per cent of eligible voters, a new report from an umbrella group of election monitors has found. Sixty-nine per cent of the 209 new polling stations established for this election were won by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, “well above the nationwide average where the ruling party won 53% of the time”, the Electoral Reform Alliance (ERA) says in the report officially slated for release on December 13 but posted online by the opposition party on Thursday. Of the 902 polling stations created for the election, 691 of them were formed from the splitting of existing stations, 209 were newly established, and two relocated, says the report, prepared by groups including Transparency International, the National Democratic Institute, Comfrel, NICFEC and Licadho.
A strong majority in staunchly Catholic Croatia has voted to outlaw same-sex marriage in a referendum sought by a Church-backed group but strongly opposed by rights groups. A total of 64.84 per cent of voters said ‘yes’ to the question of whether they wanted to amend the constitution to include a definition of marriage as a ‘union between a woman and a man’, according to partial results from around one-third of polling stations released by the electoral commission on Sunday. Croatia’s current constitution does not define marriage. A total of 34.56 per cent of voters said ‘no’, the results showed.
The Fiji regime says everything is on track for elections by the end of September next year and an independent Electoral Commission will be in place in a matter of weeks. But its critics say the Bainimarama government is stalling on crucial elections’ machinery and jeapardising the chance of free and fair polls. Commonwealth Heads of Government have urged Fiji to rapidly set up an independent electoral commission to oversee the elections due by the end of September next year. The leader of the Fiji Labour Party and a former Prime Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, says he’s never seen Fiji so ill-prepared for an election. “We don’t have an Electoral Commission. We don’t have a supervisor of elections. So much more could be done. We don’t even have electoral legislation in place at the moment. So all this lack of preparation points to doubts in the minds of the people whether we are going to have elections as scheduled for September next year.”
A majority of Social Democrat (SPD) supporters back the deal agreed last week with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, polls showed on Sunday, signalling grassroots members may vote for the “grand coalition” in a ballot. Two months after Merkel emerged victorious from an election but fell just short of a parliamentary majority, the two sides agreed a 185-page blueprint for a right-left government that still has to be approved by SPD members. The result of the ballot of some 474,000 members is due by December 15 and party leaders hope this will mean a government in Europe’s biggest economy can start work before Christmas. However, an element of doubt hangs over the outcome thanks to deep scepticism among SPD ranks about going into government with Merkel. The SPD is scarred by its worst post-war election result in 2009 after sharing power with Merkel for four years.