In Florida, more than one in five black adults can’t vote. Not because they lack citizenship or haven’t registered, but because they have, at some point, been convicted of a felony. The Sunshine State’s not alone. As in Florida, more than 20 percent of black adults have lost their right to vote in Kentucky and Virginia, too, according to the Sentencing Project, a group that advocates for reforms to sentencing policy that reduces racial disparities. Three states — Florida, Iowa and Kentucky — ban anyone who has ever received a felony conviction from voting. But many other states have weaker disenfranchisement laws—ones that ban those currently serving sentences or those on parole or probation. And Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday called on them to rethink the “unnecessary and unjust” policies.
Billionaire venture capitalist Tom Perkins raised the Internet’s collective eyebrows last week when he said Americans who don’t pay taxes – he likely meant income taxes – shouldn’t get to vote. (It didn’t help that Perkins had recently compared efforts to fight inequality to Kristallnacht). “The Tom Perkins System is: You don’t get to vote unless you pay a dollar of taxes,” Perkins said during a speech in San Francisco. “What I really think is, it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars in taxes, you get a million votes. How’s that?” The audience laughed, and Perkins later implied he was being deliberately provocative. But the “Tom Perkins System” has its roots in some long-standing conservative thinking about the purpose of voting. And versions of that thinking continue to play a role in today’s heated debates over voter ID and other restrictive laws.
Last week, Tom Perkins, who’s becoming America’s most controversial venture capitalist, suggested the very rich should get more votes than everyone else. In his ideal system, he said, “it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars in taxes, you get a million votes. How’s that?” Well, un-American, for starters. But more on that in a minute. Perkins quickly indicated he wasn’t being entirely serious, just as he’d backtracked after saying on another occasion that criticism of the 1% was akin to Nazi persecution of Jews. Apparently his pronouncements aren’t to be taken literally; they’re pleas for understanding from a brave member of a victimized minority group. Right. Yet Perkins has given us the gift of a great thought experiment. What if we took him literally and granted more votes to those who earn more? One dollar, one vote. It would seem antithetical to every notion of equal citizenship and fair play, and at odds with our constitutional ideal of one man, one vote. But in fact, the result would not look terribly different from today’s political reality.
Alaska’s largest Native organization is challenging a Southeast group to lead the regional campaign to regain federal voting-rights protections. The Alaska Federation of Natives is already campaigning to restore voting protections struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court last year. Speaking at a Native Issues Forum in Juneau, President Julie Kitka asked for regional help. “You have the history in our Native community, helping leading us to getting us to the right to vote,” she said. “We need the full weight of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood.”
An elections bill that took several strange turns through the legislative process passed the state Senate Friday, helping to quell concerns of anxious fire districts and city councils worried about having enough time to prepare for spring elections. House Bill 1164 is an update of the election code for nonpartisan elections: municipal, special district and school districts. Democrats say it creates one standard for residency in Colorado elections and allows people who move the ability to vote where they live. But Republicans argued the bill invites voter fraud and is a continuation of problems created with last year’s Democratic elections measure that allowed for all mail ballots and same-day voter registration. The measure passed the Democratic-controlled Senate on a party-line vote.
A leading scholar in Kansas election law says there’s a real possibility the state will end up holding “dual” elections this year in which some voters are only allowed to vote in federal elections, but not in state or local elections. Reggie Robinson, a former president of the Kansas Board of Regents who now teaches at Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, said that could be the result of legal battles now pending in federal courts over the state’s requirement that new voters show proof of citizenship to register. “In Kansas, Secretary (of State Kris) Kobach has said we may have to do this and has already begun to make plans,” Robinson said in a speech to the Lawrence Rotary Club. “I know he’s communicated to local election officials.”
Aided in part by Attorney General Chris Koster, supporters of an early-voting period in Missouri are gathering petition signatures in a quest to put the issue on the November ballot. A campaign treasurer said Monday that organizers are using a mixture of professional petition circulators and volunteers and are committed to meeting a May 4 deadline to submit the thousands of required signatures from registered voters. “If there is a spectrum of 1-10, with 10 being initiative efforts that are serious and plan to be on the ballot in 2014, we’re a 10,” said Matthew Dameron, the treasurer for the Missouri Early Voting Fund.
Nebraskans could be heading to the polls in 2016 a month earlier than usual for the primary election. Some state lawmakers and leaders of both major political parties have begun talking about the possibility of moving up the primary for the next presidential election year. State Sen. John Murante of Gretna is promoting the idea because, he said, an earlier primary could attract more attention from presidential candidates. Nebraska’s current primary — scheduled for the first Tuesday after the second Monday in May — is one of the latest in the presidential race. “By the time Nebraska rolls around, the race for president is almost always over,” Murante said. “We are at the end of the process. Therefore, we are irrelevant.”
Legislation has passed in the Assembly that would allow early voting in all general, primary and special elections in New York. The bill (A.689-a) would establish a 15-day early voting period for general elections and an eight-day early voting period for primary and special elections. “It is long past time for New York to join the ranks of 32 other states and the District of Columbia who offer the ease and convenience of early voting,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan.
A week after approving two election reform bills, a state House panel is set to vote Wednesday on another piece of legislation that would tighten rules for casting a provisional ballot in Ohio. Under Senate Bill 216, voters would be required to provide their address and date of birth when casting an absentee ballot. The measure would also reduce the amount of time provisional voters would have to produce valid identification from 10 days after Election Day to seven. Thirdly, the bill would codify federal court rulings from the 2012 campaign season that required elections officials to count ballots from voters who voted in the right polling place but the wrong precinct without being told of their mistake.
Oregon: Secretary of State Kate Brown modifies elections rules as website breach keeps databases offline | OregonLive
Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown on Friday made temporary changes to elections rules after a data breach last week continues to keep the state’s campaign finance database offline. Nobody will be fined for missing campaign finance reporting deadlines while the ORESTAR database is down, though final details will be announced when the system returns, a department press release said. A temporary rule will also allow Voters’ Pamphlet filings to be submitted by email until the outage ends. After the site is fixed, filings will need to be submitted through the regular online system, the release said.
Australia: High Court Judge indicates Western Australia likely to go back to polls for fresh Senate election | ABC
The Court of Disputed Returns has given a strong indication that Western Australia will go back to the polls for a new Senate election. The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) asked for the Senate election to be declared void after 1,370 ballot papers were missing for a recount. Justice Kenneth Hayne has ruled that the loss of those ballot papers meant the electors were prevented from voting. He also ruled that Greens senator Scott Ludlam and the Australian Sports Party’s Wayne Dropulich were not duly elected.
Bulgaria’s 42nd National Assembly approved rules on print and online media during elections as voting on the Bulgarian Socialist Party’s controversial election code entered its latest day on February 18. Voting on the second reading of the election code began on February 12, but two sittings have collapsed since then – one amid a row over rules on using only Bulgarian in election campaigning, while on February 17 proceedings could not begin because of a lack of a quorum, the result of a row over the same issue. On the morning of February 18, all eyes were on whether the National Assembly would secure a quorum after the previous day’s walkout by Volen Siderov’s ultra-nationalist Ataka party and by centre-opposition party GERB.
Philippines: Comelec suggests use of direct-recording electronic voting machines in 2016 | InterAksyon
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has recommended to Congress and Malacanang the use direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines for the 2016 presidential elections in order to speed up the casting and canvassing of votes. In an exclusive interview after attending the hearing on electoral reforms in the Senate, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr., said that the idea was one of the three alternatives discussed with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Electoral Reforms. “We have submitted to Congress some alternatives, kasi puwede naman namin gamitin ang DRE, ang Direct-recording Electronic voting machine, pero magastos,” Brillantes said. Brillantes said the machine will cost the government about P60 billion. “KungDRE (Direct-Recording Electronic) system, P60 billion, kaya ba natin ibigay iyon?”
Since the February 2 elections, Thailand’s interim premier has lacked the authority to rule the Southeast Asian country. Four people have recently died in riots. The government is running out of options. Government buildings in Thailand’s capital Bangkok lie abandoned. For months, they have been besieged by opposition protestors who have forced the government to deal with the day-to-day operations at other facilities. Although the government of interim Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has exercised utmost restraint so far, it changed its strategy last Friday, February 14, when it ordered riot police to move against opposition barricades and demonstrators in an attempt to clear the roads leading to ministries and other administrative buildings.