Iowa was one of the few states that saw voter turnout increase in 2012. Brad Anderson is proud of the role he played in encouraging turnout there as state director of President Obama’s campaign. Now he’s running for secretary of state, which would put him in charge of overseeing elections. “I have a plan to make Iowa No. 1 in voter turnout,” Anderson says. The fact that a former Obama operative wants to run elections makes some people nervous. But he’s part of a trend of overtly partisan figures running for a job designed to be neutral when it comes to election administration. No fewer than three superPACs have been formed in recent weeks — two on the left, one on the right — with plans to spend millions of dollars this year influencing elections for what used to be a low-profile post in most states.
Voting Blogs: Dude! Where’s my ballot? Democracy Works pilots new ballot-tracking program | electionlineWeekly
Even in this day and age where just about everything is done online, elections officials nationwide are still tied to their telephones. In the days leading up to an election, elections offices can field hundreds of phone calls each day as anxious voters want to check on the status of their mail ballot. Not only can and does this put a strain on understaffed and overworked elections offices, it can put a strain on voters who get busy signals or are put on hold. Democracy Works — which most of you may recognize as the nonprofit parent organization for TurboVote — is working on a pilot project that will help alleviate some of this pressure on both the elections officials and the voters. “From the beginning of TurboVote, we knew that to improve elections for everyone, we needed to work with the people who actually run them,” said Kathryn Peters, co-founder of TurboVote. So Democracy Works partnered with Reboot, a service-design consultancy to shadow election administration in six offices in Colorado, Texas, Missouri, Kentucky, Florida, and Vermont in 2013.
In the discussion of Super PACs, seemingly different concerns tend to intermingle or become fused together, creating confusion. Most obvious is the continuing disagreement about whether candidate support for an independent committee, particularly fundraising, results in “coordination.” Some argue—some propose an amendment to the law to provide—that a candidate’s public endorsement of a committee, including but not limited to appeals for funds, is coordination. Another view distinguishes among Super PACs and would subject single-candidate committees to stricter coordination than others. The issue might be easier to follow if it were made clear that there are two regulatory objectives, close in nature but not the same, running through the arguments about the impact of candidate fundraising for an independent committee. One goal is to keep officeholders and candidates from soliciting “soft money”—money in unlimited sums and without restriction in source—and, in consequence, placed in a position rife with the potential for corruption. The other is to determine whether a Super PAC, as a result of coordination with a candidate, is limited in its spending. The “coordinated” spending is, of course, a contribution and must comply with dollar limits. Not so the spending that remains an “independent expenditure.”
Arizona voters have a constitutional right to wrest control of drawing congressional boundaries from the Legislature, a federal court ruled late Friday. U.S. District Judge Murray Snow acknowledged the arguments by Peter Gentala, an attorney for the Republican-controlled Legislature, that the U.S. Constitution spells out that the “times, places and manner” of electing members of Congress “shall be prescribed in each state by the Legislature thereof.” But Snow, writing for the majority of the three-judge panel, said he reads nothing in the Constitution that precludes the voters, as the ultimate lawmakers, from deciding that legislative chore and instead giving it to the Independent Redistricting Commission, which is what they did in 2000. That makes the lines the commission drew for the state’s nine congressional districts legal and enforceable, he said.
Editorials: Four things the District of Columbia can try to send election turnout through the roof | Norman Ornstein/Washington Post
Voter turnout in the District is generally abysmal. With rare exceptions — a presidential election with an African American at the head of the ticket, for example — turnout in the city falls at the lower end of a national spectrum that is pretty poor to begin with. In some ways this is no surprise; for those of us living in the District, voting can be a drag. First, we have no voting representation in Congress. Second, the general elections are almost always pro forma; the District is so overwhelmingly Democratic that the only contest that matters is the Democratic primary. Those issues aren’t likely to change anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean turnout has to remain at such low levels. The District is ripe for a dramatic experiment that could show how changing the rules and processes could significantly increase voter participation. Unlike North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas, where lawmakers have tried multiple ways to suppress votes to maintain partisan political advantage, the climate here isn’t hostile to voters. Rather, there is every reason for political figures, election officials and citizens to work together to create a healthier democracy. This creates a great opportunity to use the District as a laboratory for cutting-edge ideas.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul said Friday that he prefers a Kentucky constitutional amendment that would restore the voting rights of convicted felons without strings attached, rather than one backed by Senate Republicans that puts numerous restrictions them. “The bill in the House, which I support, would let you, once you served your time for a nonviolent felony, would let you get your voting rights back. I support that,” Paul, R-Ky., said while attending a Jefferson County Republican Party fundraising event that was focused on broadening the party’s appeal. But Paul said he still hopes some agreement between the House and Senate is in the offing, and that a bill can be passed by the end of the 2014 session of the General Assembly.
Imagine if two-thirds of people living in Lexington just disappeared. Their houses sat empty, their jobs unfilled and taxes unpaid. When it comes to our country’s most basic democratic right — voting — that is what’s happening today. Nearly 200,000 Kentuckians living and working in our communities cannot vote because of antiquated laws excluding them from our democracy. When someone is convicted of a felony, they can never vote again unless the governor individually allows them to do so. It does not matter how long ago the crime was, how old the person was when he did it or how long he has been living productively among friends and neighbors. This year, the legislature, and every citizen, had a chance to change that, but it looks as if the Kentucky Senate is squandering that opportunity. The legislature is considering House Bill 70, which would allow voters to decide on a constitutional amendment that would automatically restore voting rights for people with criminal convictions who have fully completed their sentences.
A federal judge this afternoon held off on ruling whether 13 North Carolina state legislators should comply with subpoenas requesting documents in connection with a trio of lawsuits challenging a voting law passed last year. Magistrate Judge Joi Elizabeth Peak also told parties in the suit to develop a plan to produce electronic documents from the state, and told defense attorneys to produce documents related to how the law is being implemented. The U.S. Department of Justice, along with a group of plaintiffs that include the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP and the League of Women Voters, is contesting the Voter Identification Verification Act (VIVA).
With Gov. John Kasich’s signature now on two Republican-sponsored bills that reduce early voting, eyes turn toward his likely Democratic challenger to see if he follows through on a threat to challenge the new laws in court. Yesterday, Kasich signed Senate Bill 238, which eliminates “Golden Week” — when Ohioans could register and vote on the same day — and shortens early voting by a week. He also signed Senate Bill 205, which makes legislative approval a requirement before the secretary of state can mail out absentee-ballot applications statewide. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald, who also is the elected Cuyahoga County executive, said he has asked his county law director to review the two new laws for possible legal action. “We’ve done that before,” said FitzGerald, who emailed supporters after Kasich signed the bills to say he was “livid.”
Hamilton County leaders can move elections operations to Mount Airy, but the issue about where to put early voting remains unsettled in the wake of Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s tie-breaking vote on the matter. The decisions have national implications. Ohio – and Hamilton County in particular – are key battlegrounds in presidential elections, and how elections are conducted here can affect whose votes get counted. In the 2012 presidential election, more than 24,000 people voted early, in-person, at the Downtown location. “They need to find a place everyone can live with,” Husted told the Enquirer. “I’m not trying to tell anyone in Hamilton County where their early voting should be.” Husted added: “Honestly, the current location is not the best location.”
Australia: Electoral Commissioner Ed Killesteyn resigns after bungled WA Senate vote | Sydney Morning Herald
The head of the Australian Electoral Commission, Ed Killesteyn, and his most senior colleague in Western Australia have quit in the wake of the state’s bungled Senate election. Special Minister of State Michael Ronaldson announced on Friday that Mr Killesteyn had formally tendered his resignation to Governor-General Quentin Bryce. The High Court this week declared last September’s West Australian Senate result void – paving the way for a fresh election in the state – after more than 1300 ballot papers went missing during the counting process. Mr Killesteyn is currently on personal leave and will remain on leave until his resignation takes effect on July 4. Deputy electoral commissioner Tom Rogers will act as commissioner. ”Events in Western Australia mean that the Australian Electoral Commission must regain the confidence of the community,” Senator Ronaldson said in a statement. ”The government will in due course announce a new electoral commissioner who will be charged with the restoration of that confidence.”
Approximately 85% of eligible voters are registered, which is an extremely impressive figure and represents the largest number of registered voters in Fiji’s history, says Electoral Commission chairman Chen Bunn Young. And the Elections Office is focusing on providing as many locations as possible around the country where Fijians can register to vote. Young said the Commission is determined to pick up the pace of opening registration centres in convenient locations across Fiji.
Iraq: Iraq begins handing out elections ID cards in Baghdad as unrest rages on across country | Associated Press
Iraqi election officials began handing out new, computerized voter identification cards Saturday across the capital as the country prepares for its first nationwide election since the withdrawal of U.S. troops. But the more than $100 million push to modernize voting comes as officials can’t distribute cards in embattled Anbar province, where al-Qaida fighters seized control of parts of two cities, and as militant attacks rage on unabated, killing at least 14 people alone Saturday and wounding nearly two dozen. The new voter cards, which include a computer chip, will allow election officials to check a voter’s identity and try to halt fraud. Several Iraqi political blocs alleged that some people voted multiple times in the last vote in 2010, although the results of the election were not widely disputed.
Pheu Thai, Chartthaipattana, Chart Pattana and Phalang Chon parties stepped up calls on Friday for the EC to wrap up the incomplete election process, warning that the country faces the threat of huge economic damage in the absence of a government. But election commissioner Somchai Srisuttiyakon yesterday dismissed the request, saying the EC was required to act within the law. He was speaking at a meeting of chairmen and directors of provincial election committees to discuss preparations for the Senate election on March 30 and the poll re-runs. Mr Somchai, who is in charge of election management, said it was impossible to hold a fresh election in the 28 southern constituencies which had no registered candidates as the caretaker government and the EC still could not reach a clear conclusion on how to proceed.