Voting-rights activists are hoping the hype around this year’s midterm elections will give new energy to a bill intended to make it easier to vote. The bill would mandate no-excuse absentee voting in federal elections, a provision currently allowed for voters in 30 states. Twenty others only allow absentee ballots to be cast if certain excuses are offered. “We think this is fundamentally unfair and invasive to people’s privacy,” says Deborah Vagins, senior counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.
The Arizona Senate has voted to repeal a sweeping 2013 Arizona election law that included trimming the state’s permanent early voting list and a host of other provisions that incensed voter-rights advocates. Majority Republicans who pushed House Bill 2305 through last June voted Thursday to repeal the law 17-12. The House passed an identical bill last week. The bill will now go to the governor. Republicans pushing the repeal say they are following the will of the voters and expressed worry that the many provisions in the bill could not be changed without a supermajority vote of the Legislature if it is repealed by voters. Democrats worry the provisions will be re-enacted. Repealing the law will cancel the voter referendum.
Two Democrat state Senators, who are running for Secretary of State on the promise of free and fair elections, are looking into the new ballot qualification rules that are keeping third parties off the June ballot. Under new election rules established with the state’s Top Two primary, it would take the Green Party of California more than 16 years to raise enough money to pay the filing fee for all of its candidates in the June primary.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill today joined Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to officially unveil Connecticut’s new online voter registration system. The link to the new voter registration feature can easily be reached online at ct.gov and will be featured on every Connecticut state agency website. Connecticut now becomes the 15th U.S. state to provide the complete ability to register to vote online. The new online voter registration feature will be available to eligible Connecticut voters – residents of the state who are both American citizens aged 18 and older – who hold a valid Connecticut driver’s license or other ID issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles. The system is designed to have the voter enter their personal information for voter registration online, information which then populates a form that is sent via email to the registrar of voters where the new voter or voter changing address wants to register. The registrar of voters must then check the entered information and verify that it is accurate before adding the new voter to the Connecticut Voter Registration System statewide database. Secretary Merrill’s office worked with the Connecticut DMV to implement a new law requiring online voter registration that was enacted in 2012. Under the law, a new voter registering online agrees to add their electronic signature – already on file with the DMV – to the voter registration form online. With the electronic signature, the new voter attests online that all of the information contained in the voter registration form is true and accurate. In addition to new registrations, voters can also change their current registration online.
In the annals of cynical politics, Kentucky’s Republican Senate has reached new heights, or depths. It has thumbed its collective nose at 180,000 Kentuckians who have served their time for felony convictions but still aren’t allowed to vote, and the thousands of people who have worked for years to restore their voting rights — and told them they should be thankful. The House should refuse this farcical rewrite. The Senate has a long history of rejecting felon voting rights but the twist this year is the upper chamber manipulated the process so it could appear to be expanding rights without actually doing so.
A lawsuit has been filed in District Court to block attempts at a petition initiative that would require voters to show identification before casting ballots. The suit, filed in Carson City on Wednesday, is aimed at stopping former U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle and her supporters from gathering signatures to qualify the petition for the 2014 election. It argues the proposed constitutional amendment illegally commands the Legislature to enact the law and intrudes on powers reserved for the legislative branch.
Ohio voters will have shorter windows in which to cast early ballots under a proposed measure headed to Gov. John Kasich’s desk this week after the Republican-dominated legislature moved to cut almost a full week off the state’s early voting window. The House on Wednesday passed a measure that would end what’s known as “golden week,” the six days of early voting during which a voter can both register to vote and cast an in-person absentee ballot at the same time. Democrats and voting-rights groups opposed the measure, which passed the state House on a party-line vote. The Senate had passed an identical bill in November, so the proposal now heads to Kasich, who is likely to sign it.
The Oregon Senate on Thursday set the wheels in motion for studying the possibility of Internet voting, with proponents arguing the state could become a national pioneer as it did with vote by mail. Doubters pointed to the troubles of Cover Oregon’s website as an argument against tackling large Internet projects. Lawmakers approved a bill that would order the secretary of state to name a work group to examine issues surrounding a possible statewide Internet voting system. It gives the group until Dec. 1 to report its findings, including any estimated costs or savings and what would be needed to comply with federal elections laws.
Despite concerns about ballot security, the Oregon Senate on Thursday approved 18 to 11 a bill to study the feasibility of Internet voting. Senate Bill 1515 would establish a work group to study the issue and submit a report to the Legislature by Dec. 1. The bill now goes to the House. Opponents brought up the botched rollout of the Cover Oregon health insurance exchange and this month’s data breach of the Oregon Secretary of State’s website that continues to keep elections and business databases offline. The record, they said, made them question the state’s technological ability to ensure ballot security.
More than two weeks after the Oregon secretary of state’s office said it detected and stopped an intrusion into the agency’s website, the breach could now be the subject of a federal investigation. Spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, Tony Green, told the On Your Side Investigators that the agency reached out to the FBI after its campaign finance portion of the website was compromised in early February. They also contacted the Oregon State Police, which investigates cybercrimes. “This appears to be an orchestrated intrusion from a foreign entity and not the result of any employee activities,” according to the agency’s website.
Procrastinating voters who delay registering as the election approaches would have a little more time to sign up on-line before an election under a bill moving through the Legislature. But those who would prefer to go to the elections office and fill out the form would have a little less. Washington currently has two deadlines for eligible residents to register to vote: 29 days before an election for filling out a form and mailing it in or filling out the online registration form and pressing the send button; eight days before the election for those willing to go to the county elections office and fill out the necessary paperwork.
The boss of the Australian Electoral Commission has resigned in the wake of the fall-out over the bungled West Australian Senate recount that has prompted a new election costing taxpayers millions of dollars. Commissioner Mr Ed Killesteyn today wrote to the Abbott Government stating that he had formally tendered his resignation to Governor-General Quentin Bryce. Special Minister of State Michael Ronaldson said Mr Killesteyn had a long and distinguished career in the public service and he wished him well for the future. “Events in Western Australia mean that the Australian Electoral Commission must regain the confidence of the community,’’ Mr Ronaldson said.
The New Democrats are forcing a debate in the House over whether to hold cross-Canada consultations on the government’s proposed changes to federal election laws. The party is using its opposition day, a day set aside for it to set the subject of debate in the House, to present a motion that would instruct the procedure and House affairs committee to travel the country and seek input from Canadians. NDP Deputy Leader David Christopherson called the Conservatives a “serial-cheating government” that’s trying to “pre-cheat” the next election through the proposed changes. New Democrat MP Craig Scott called the bill the “unfair elections act,” playing off the government’s title for the bill, the fair elections act.
Libyans went to the polls Thursday to elect a panel to draft a new constitution in the latest milestone in the chaotic political transition following the overthrow of Moamer Gathafi. There was none of the voter enthusiasm that marked Libya’s first free election in July 2012 as public frustration mounts over the weak central government’s failure to restore order in the wake of the Arab Spring uprising. At Fatma al-Zahra school in the capital’s Hay al-Andalous district, less than 100 of 2,760 registered voters had cast their ballot two hours after polls opened. “It’s still early and it’s a holiday (for the vote). People are having a lie-in,” said Ali Hassan, the official in charge of the polling station. Houda Bouzid, a woman in her 30s, said: “I’ve come to vote for a candidate to push for women’s rights in the new constitution.”
The caretaker government of Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra continues to maintain its fragile grip on power two weeks after a general election failed to yield sufficient parliamentarians to enable the formation of a new government in Southeast Asia’s second largest economy. The People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), the Network of Students and People for Reform of Thailand (NSPRT) and the Dhamma Army continue to protest daily in the streets of the capital, Bangkok.
When the Supreme Court deregulated independent political spending four years ago, the court reasoned that unrestricted money posed no corruption risk because a firewall separates candidates from their outside benefactors. As Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission: “By definition, an independent expenditure is political speech presented to the electorate that is not in coordination with a candidate.” Such expenditures, the court concluded, “including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” Four years after that ruling, the supposed barrier between candidates and unrestricted super PACs is flimsier than ever. As midterm elections approach, complaints are rolling into the FEC from both parties about super PACs that share vendors, fundraisers and video footage with the politicians they support.
After the Supreme Court wiped out the most important plank of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) last summer, a broad range of experts told msnbc that the law’s key remaining pillar may now be at risk from the court’s conservatives. And lately there’s concern that efforts to stop strict voter ID laws could, perversely, give Chief Justice John Roberts and co. the chance they’ve been looking for. Striking down or significantly narrowing that key pillar, known as Section 2, would essentially render the most successful civil-rights law in U.S. history a dead letter. In a nutshell, Section 2 prohibits racial discrimination in voting. Though it’s a less effective tool than Section 5—which, until it was neutered by the Supreme Court, required certain regions to get federal approval before their election laws could go into effect—it’s still an important protection. The Justice Department is using it to challenge Texas’ voter ID law, as well as North Carolina’s sweeping voting law.
A proposed constitutional amendment aimed at restoring the voting rights of some felons cleared the Kentucky Senate on Wednesday after being rewritten to include a five-year waiting period. The measure returns to the House. It passed a much different version last month that proposed automatically reinstating voting rights for eligible felons after completing all conditions of their sentences. The proposal, which cleared the Senate on a 34-4 vote, would go on Kentucky’s fall ballot if it clears the Legislature. Some senators said they voted for the stricter Senate version in hopes of advancing it toward a better product crafted by House-Senate negotiators. They said the waiting period amounts to another punishment for people who paid their debt to society and should be eligible to vote. “Why do we want to punish them again, put another five years on them?” said Democratic Sen. Jerry Rhoads of Madisonville.