In many countries, polling day ends with disputes about ballot-box fraud, corruption and flawed registers. In countries such as Cambodia, Thailand and Maylasia, for example, recent elections ended in mass protests, opposition complaints and political stalemate. The consequences undermine regime legitimacy and public trust and confidence in electoral authorities. Where there are disputes, however, which claims are accurate? And which are false complaints from sore losers? The Electoral Integrity Project has just released new evidence, which compares the risks of flawed and failed elections, and how far countries around the world meet international standards. The EIP is an independent research project based at the University of Sydney and Harvard University, funded mainly by the Australian Research Council, under the direction of Prof. Pippa Norris.
The Internal Revenue Service, one of the most beleaguered federal agencies, is seeking to assume a new role in regulating election financing. And the reaction, perhaps predictably, has been critical. Many of the nearly 67,000 comments following the IRS’ proposal to rein in politically active nonprofits urge the organization to focus on its day job: tax collection. “It sounds to me like the IRS is making law, not enforcing it. Leave rule-making to the buffoons in Congress,” one comment reads. Another puts it more bluntly: “Stick to taxes.” The public opposition comes from both liberals and conservatives, who are blasting draft regulations released by the Treasury Department in November that would tighten restrictions on political spending by nonprofit “social welfare’’ organizations, formally called 501(c)(4) groups under a section in the tax code.
San Diego has seen a litany of special elections recently, from the mayor’s race to City Council District 4 to state senate and assembly races. In each election, many of the votes were cast by mail. Now, state Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez is proposing a bill that would allow counties and cities to conduct special elections entirely by mail. Gonzalez said in special elections, the majority of voters cast ballots by mail, so it’s a waste of money to keep polling stations staffed for 13 hours on Election Day. “In the Senate 40 district, we had one polling place where only one person showed up to vote,” she told KPBS Midday Edition. “So the cost per vote at the polling place is over $100, where the cost per vote for the mail in is less than $10.” She said in that election, the cost per voter who went to a polling place was $221.43, while each mail ballot cost $8.73.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, endorsed legislation Monday that would have Connecticut join an interstate compact committing the state’s electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. The governor’s office announced the support of Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman as the legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee held a public hearing on the bill. The legislation is a House bill, so a more immediate hurdle to reach the floor after it clears the committee is an endorsement from House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden. He has said he would schedule a vote on the bill if sought by his caucus. “I fully support a national popular vote for President. All Americans deserve to have their votes counted equally for the highest office in the country,” Malloy said. “Connecticut should join the nine other states and the District of Columbia in taking this important step. The candidate who wins the most votes should be president.”
The Guam Election Commission wants to have new voting tabulators for this year’s elections and now is one step closer to that goal. The commission released an invitation for bids on Feb. 19 for a central count voting system with software and professional services, according to the bid documents. The bids are due by March 14, said Maria Pangelinan, the commission executive director. That’s a system capable of counting voting results from multiple precincts at a single location. During the 2012 General Election, the GEC had problems with at least three of its four tabulators.
Missouri House Republicans are trying again to enact legislation that would require voters to show photo identification before casting ballots, and they’re hoping the courts or the Democratic governor don’t stand in the way this time. The House gave first-round approval to measures Tuesday that could lead to a voter photo ID requirement. Previous attempts have stalled in the Senate, been vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon or blocked by judges. As they have in the past, Republican supporters argued Tuesday that a photo ID requirement would protect the integrity of elections and prevent fraud at the ballot box. “Unfortunately it is a reality in life and in modern America that there is voter fraud,” said one of the measure’s sponsors, Rep. Stanley Cox, R-Sedalia.
Sen. Al Davis of Hyannis sent an email late Thursday to members of the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee to emphasize why he thinks it is time to change Nebraska’s primary election laws. His bill, LB773, which the committee heard on Wednesday, would make it easier for independent voters to participate in primary elections. In executive session Thursday, there was a motion to kill the bill, but that motion failed and the bill will be held in committee indefinitely. The bill would allow nonpartisan voters to choose a party’s ballot on election day without officially changing their party affiliation. This would affect elections for president, governor, secretary of state, attorney general, county commissioner, county clerk and county sheriff, among others. Currently, independent voters are only allowed to participate in nonpartisan elections, including those for state legislature, state board of education, mayor and city council. The bill would turn Nebraska’s primary system from a totally closed system to a hybrid system similar to other states.
Lawyers representing the state of North Carolina, Governor Pat McCrory and other defendants were accused of holding back crucial electronic documents in a hearing last Friday as lawsuits seeking to overturn North Carolina’s new voting law move forward.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Bridget O’Connor demanded “real deadlines and consequences for not meeting them,” in a hearing before Magistrate Judge Joi Elizabeth Peake on Friday, February 21. The plaintiffs in three lawsuits are seeking emails and other electronic documents produced by state employees documenting the creation and implementation of the North Carolina’s controversial Voter Identification Verification Law (VIVA). Several parts of the new law, such as a reduction in the number of early voting days and the end of same-day voter registration, are set to go into effect before the November 2014 election.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted announced Tuesday he is cutting early voting on Sundays and weekday evenings, dealing another blow to the voting rights effort in the nation’s most pivotal swing state. Husted’s change would spell doom for a voting method that’s popular among African-Americans in Ohio and elsewhere. Many churches and community groups lead “Souls to the Polls” drives after church on the Sunday before the election. There’s little doubt that cuts to early voting target blacks disproportionately. In 2008, black voters were 56% of all weekend voters in Cuyahoga County, Ohio’s largest, even though they made up just 28% of the county’s population. “By completely eliminating Sundays from the early voting schedule, Secretary Husted has effectively quashed successful Souls to the Polls programs that brought voters directly form church to early voting sites,” said Mike Brickner, a spokesman for the Ohio American Civil Liberties Union, in an email.
Oregon’s secretary of state’s website was fully back in business Monday after “an unauthorized intrusion” earlier this month, according to the agency. But in a statement, the secretary of state’s office warned that while all systems were working again, some applications may need to be taken down temporarily to fix any bugs. “I appreciate the enormous patience that Oregonians have demonstrated during the website outage,” said Secretary Kate Brown in a statement. “I’d also like to thank everyone in this office who worked incredibly long hours to restore these important services as quickly and securely as possible.”
With submitted public opinion running heavily against the idea, the Senate last week voted to pass a bill to the House that proposes studying the feasibility of Internet voting in Oregon. Sen. Bruce Starr, R-Hillsboro, carried Senate Bill 1515 and told the chamber that he’d been advised that the Secretary of State’s office had said it could absorb a study under the current budget, “so cost wouldn’t be an issue,” Starr said. But a half-dozen Oregonians commenting in earlier committee hearings voiced strong opposition to online voting for a variety of reasons. Sam Croskell of Portland wrote that the state’s track record with Cover Oregon’s website and the recent security breach at the Secretary of State’s office were sufficient proof that the risks associated with online voting weren’t worth taking.
Stung by the release of detailed voter information on 1.5 million Utahns online in January, Utah lawmakers are taking action to protect voter information. A bill making two changes in the voter information process passed the House by a 71-2 vote on Tuesday. The bill, HB 302, would keep voter birth date information classified and would also allow voters to opt into a program to protect all of their information, going forward. The bill now advances to the Senate for further consideration. Sponsored by Rep. Becky Edwards, the bill is one of two voter information related items being considered by the Legislature this session. It comes weeks after a New Hampshire man bought a voter registration list from the state and made that personal information available online for free. The information includes names, birth dates, phone numbers and the voting activity of everyone in specific households during recent elections.
State lawmakers are trying to figure out how to prevent Utah voters’ information from being used for personal gain after a New Hampshire man bought it from the state and posted it online. The Senate last week unanimously passed SB36 to limit access to the state’s voter registration rolls and prohibit putting it on the Internet. It includes exceptions for political, scholarly, journalistic and governmental purposes. But a House committee Monday expanded those exceptions to include banks, hospitals and insurance companies. It now goes the full House for consideration.
Wisconsin: State Supreme Court hears arguments on voter identification law; no timeline on ruling | Star Tribune
A member of the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s conservative majority said Tuesday she’s troubled by the state’s voter photo ID requirements, saying it’s not fair that people who lack identification may have to pay for supporting documents to obtain it. The League of Women Voters and the NAACP’s Milwaukee branch have filed separate lawsuits challenging the Republican-authored voter ID mandate. Both cases have wound their way to the Supreme Court; the justices spent more than three hours listening to oral arguments in a packed hearing room Tuesday. The lawsuits face an uphill fight given the court’s ideological makeup. Surprisingly, though, Justice Patience Roggensack said the provisions were troubling because people who lack acceptable IDs for voting would have to pay for copies of supporting documents, such as birth certificates, to get them. “It’s still a payment to the state to be able to vote,” Roggensack said. “That bothers me.”
A Wisconsin law requiring voters to show identification at the polls went before the state’s highest court Tuesday. The Wisconsin Supreme Court listened to arguments for more than three hours in front of a packed courtroom. Attorneys on both sides of the law faced questions from the court’s justices. Justice Pat Roggensack told the state’s attorney she’s concerned some people have to pay $20 for a birth certificate, which they need to get an ID. “It’s still a payment to the state to be able to vote. That bothers me, can you address that?” asked Roggensack. “Since the voter ID law was in place, or was going to be in place, there were some places in Wisconsin that offered free birth certificates,” responded Clayton Kawski, an assistant Attorney General for Wisconsin. The law was enacted in 2011. It was in effect for a primary election in February 2012, but it was blocked soon after by a court order. It hasn’t been in place since.
The re-run of the West Australian senate election will cost taxpayers as much as $20 million, nearly double initial estimates of $10-13 million. And the Griffith by-election that saw Labor’s Terri Butler edge out the LNP’s Bill Glasson to take former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s former seat of Griffith cost taxpayers another $1.194 million. Acting electoral commissioner Tom Rogers told Senate estimates late on Tuesday night that the lower estimates for the statewide by-election had been merely been an early estimate of the cost of heading back to the polls. Mr Rogers said the Australian Electoral Commission was still finalising estimates but the bill could run to about $20 million for taxpayers.
Australian Federal Police are investigating numerous instances of voters casting more than one ballot in last September’s election. The Australian Electoral Commission has revealed that almost 2000 people have admitted voting more than once, and some have been referred to the AFP for investigation. And the AEC says almost 19,000 letters have been sent to other electors who had multiple marks recorded beside their names. So far, Federal Police are investigating 128 cases where Australians voted more than once at the 2013 federal election. One person is believed to have voted 15 times. Australian Electoral Commission spokesman Phil Diak says the AEC routinely scrutinises the vote count and works with the Australian Federal Police to investigate cases of multiple vost casting.
Canada: Independent panel’s study suggests idea for online voting be pulled offline | Nanaimo News Bulletin
A year-long study by the Independent Panel on Internet Voting has concluded the province of British Columbia and its municipalities are ready for online voting. The panel was formed in August 2012 by the chief electoral officer at the behest of the B.C. attorney general and met 13 times between September 2012 and October 2013 to examine pros and cons of Internet-based voting. The panel’s findings, released in a report earlier this month, said potential benefits of online voting include providing greater accessibility and convenience for B.C. voters, especially for people with disabilities, and the possibility of improving voter turnout, but the report also mentioned inherent security risks in spite of the fact that Internet transactions for banking, shopping, and government services are widespread and growing.
Germany: Raising The Bar For Participation? The German SPD Membership Ballot | Social Europe Journal
It was an interesting and promising experiment: In December 2013 the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) asked its members to vote on the question of a possible grand coalition with the German Christian Democrats of Angela Merkel. And within as well as outside of the party many observers had been questioning if this procedure was such a good idea. A broad and fundamental discussion arose about the planned party ballot and whether the mere 475.000 members of one political party should, in the end, be able to decide if a planned national government could materialize. And don’t forget about the question of wether the usual procedures of a parliamentary democracy can easily be extended with more direct and participatory forms of decision-making. A big part of the guessing game on a possible outcome of the membership vote was due to the fact that any survey could only focus on people sympathizing with the SPD but not directly on the members themselves. Only the party leadership holds the address list of party members and running a poll over the whole population just to filter the voting SPD members out would have been far too costly. The result was that until the party ballot was held nobody really had an idea what the outcome would be and therefore about the consequences for the SPD, any new government run by Angela Merkel, and for German democracy in general.
Ukraine’s interim leadership pledged to put the country back on course for EU integration now that Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovich has been ousted and new elections are called for 25 May, the same day as EU citizens will vote in the European elections. Meanwhile the United States warned Russia against sending in military forces. As rival neighbours east and west of the former Soviet republic said a power vacuum in Kyiv must not lead to the country breaking apart, acting President Oleksandr Turchinov said late on Sunday (23 February) that Ukraine’s new leaders wanted relations with Russia on a “new, equal and good-neighbourly footing that recognises and takes into account Ukraine’s European choice”. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will travel to Ukraine today (24 February), where she is expected to discuss measures to shore up the ailing economy. Russia said late on Sunday that it had recalled its ambassador to Ukraine for consultations on the “deteriorating situation” in Kyiv.
Ukraine’s new authorities navigated tricky political waters Tuesday, launching a new presidential campaign, working on a new government and trying to seek immediate financial help from the West. Yet protests in the country’s pro-Russian region of Crimea and the shooting of a top aide to fugitive President Viktor Yanukovych — a man despised by protesters — have raised fears of divisions and retaliation. Andriy Klyuyev, the chief of staff for Yanukovych until this weekend, was wounded by gunfire Monday and hospitalized, spokesman Artem Petrenko told The Associated Press on Tuesday. It wasn’t clear where in Ukraine the shooting took place. At the Ukrainian parliament in Kyiv, lawmakers delayed the formation of a new government until Thursday, reflecting the political tensions and economic challenges the country faces after Yanukovych fled the capital and went into hiding.
United Kingdom: Call for compulsory voting and votes for 16-year-olds from prominent Labour AM | Wales Online
A rising star of Welsh Labour has given his backing to extending the vote in all British elections to 16-year-olds and making voting compulsory. Cardiff South and Penarth AM Vaughan Gething, who was made a Deputy Minister in the Welsh Government in June last year, told a conference of sixth-form students at the National Assembly that he backed extending the vote and making voting mandatory. His call for 16-year-olds to vote was backed by the Welsh Government, but it rejected the suggestion of a move to compulsory voting. The right to vote has been granted to 16-year-olds in the Scottish independence referendum, which will take place in September. Asked if he was in favour of votes for 16, Mr Gething, who was representing Welsh Labour , said: “Yes, is my view. I’m in favour for votes for 16 for all elections – for local government, for the Assembly and the general election. I think it would be a positive experience to get people voting early.”