During an event honoring African-American History Month Tuesday evening, Vice President Joe Biden pressed Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act and said that voter ID laws offered in some southern states are evidence of lingering racism. He specifically pointed to voting legislation in North Carolina, Alabama and Texas as examples of what’s going wrong on the state level. “These guys never go away. Hatred never, never goes away,” Biden said of the laws in Alabama, North Carolina and Texas, the latter two of which are facing lawsuits by the Justice Department to block their laws that would require showing identification before voting. “The zealotry of those who wish to limit the franchise cannot be smothered by reason.”
The Anchorage Assembly voted Tuesday to change the date of the regular municipal election from April to November starting in 2017. Assemblyman Chris Birch, who introduced the measure, said that moving the city’s elections would boost voter turnout, citing historical data that recent city races have drawn 20 to 35 percent of voters, while there has been a 50 to 60 percent turnout for recent state races held in the fall. The ordinance passed in a six to four split, with Assembly members Tim Steele, Elvi Gray-Jackson, Paul Honeman and Dick Traini opposing the change. Patrick Flynn was absent from the vote. Mayor Dan Sullivan has said he supports the switch. While some Assembly members offered other solutions to amp up voter turnout, like switching to mail-in votes or connecting voting to Permanent Fund Dividends, all who commented stressed the need to bring more voters to the polls.
Kentucky: Changes to voting bill would leave more than half of Kentucky felons without the right to vote | Kentucky.com
More than half of the 180,000 Kentuckians barred from voting because of a felony conviction would remain permanently disenfranchised under changes the Kentucky Senate made last week to a voting rights bill, according to an analysis released Tuesday by the League of Women Voters of Kentucky. In its original form, House Bill 70 would put a constitutional amendment on November’s ballot asking voters if felons should have their voting rights automatically restored after they complete their sentences. Felons convicted of intentional murder and certain sex offenses would be excluded. Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, last week changed the bill to make it more restrictive. The Senate version, which cleared that chamber on a 34-to-4 vote, would require felons to wait five years with no misdemeanor or felony convictions before they could register to vote. The Senate version also would exclude felons with multiple prior offenses.
More than a third of North Carolina’s counties are asking for an exemption from part of the sweeping election overhaul the General Assembly passed last year. Those exemptions would allow counties to cut early voting periods beyond what the new law already does. There are a couple ways to look at the early voting changes that are part of the overhaul. On a calendar, it’s simple: there are seven fewer days of early voting. But Republicans who back the law have argued that’s not really a cut. Governor Pat McCrory explained how on WFAE’s Charlotte Talks a few months ago. “The number of hours of early voting is going to be the exact same number of hours,” he said.
Ohio voters this year will not be able to cast votes at boards of elections on Sundays – and that has some Democrats angered across the state. Voters will still be able to cast ballots weekdays and two Saturdays in the four weeks before Election Day under a directive issued Tuesday by Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted. They’ll also be able to cast early ballots by mail. But to Hamilton County Board of Elections Chairman Tim Burke, who is also the county’s Democratic Party chairman, Sunday voting is “critical.”
The ink is barely dry on the report from President Obama’s election administration commission and states are already disregarding its blue-ribbon recommendations, namely around early voting. The endorsement of expanding the voting period before Election Day was one of the strongest components of the bipartisan commission’s report. But yesterday Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted released a new voting schedule that deletes both pre-Election Day Sundays from the early voting formula. Under the new rules, people can vote in the four weeks before Election Day, Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and on the final two Saturdays before Election Day. The Sunday erasures come in conflict with the “souls to the polls” black church-led campaigns to take their congregants to vote after worship services. When Husted dropped Sunday from the early voting period in 2012 it landed him in court, where a federal judge ultimately forced him to reinstate Sunday voting. In 2008, over 77 percent of people who voted early in Ohio were African-American.
Lawmakers on Wednesday shelved legislation that would have required the Oregon Secretary of State’s office to study the feasibility of Internet voting. Senate Bill 1515 came under intense criticism from opponents who cited the state’s questionable track record of information technology projects and the Feb. 4 hack of the Secretary of State’s website. The agency’s business and elections databases returned online last weekend after a nearly three-week outage. Sen. Bruce Starr, R-Hillsboro, sponsored the bill and voted for it when it passed the Senate on Feb. 20. But on Wednesday, he asked the House Rules Committee to kill the bill.
The chairman of the Sevier County Democratic Party, who serves on the Sevier County Election Commission, said he believes no candidates from his party are running in upcoming county elections in part because they don’t trust the machines being used in the election. Michael Fitzgibbons said he has no issue with any of the personnel working for the election commission, and isn’t accusing any of them of tampering with the machines. He isn’t saying he has evidence of a specific instance of tampering. But he said his research has indicated it’s possible to tamper remotely or on site with the Election Systems & Software Ivotronic voting machines used in Sevier County, and he doesn’t believe the possibility can be ruled out until different machines are used.
Officials with the United States Postal Service say they have fired a North Texas mail carrier for skipping part of his route and not delivering a significant amount of mail by simply marking the letters and packages ‘return to sender.’ A number of items returned included voter registration cards and that’s now caused concern for Dallas County elections officials. A single voter’s complaint led the Dallas County Elections Department to investigate and discover the post office delivery issue. On Tuesday Dallas County Commissioners heard from elections administrator Toni Pippins-Poole. She told city leaders that a City Carrier Assistant working in Irving had been cutting his route short and stamping undelivered mail return to sender. Apparently the mail carrier was doing this at the same time that voter registration cards were going out.
Low voter turnout among Hispanics in Texas plays a key role in preventing the Republican-dominated state from being politically competitive, according to a new report from the polling company Latino Decisions. In Texas, which is home to nearly one in five of all U.S. Hispanics, just 39 percent of Hispanics who were eligible to vote in the 2012 presidential election cast a ballot. That’s compared with 48 percent of eligible U.S. Hispanics, 61 percent of eligible white Texans and 64 percent of eligible white Americans. “If Hispanic voter mobilization efforts were successful in the state, Texas would be as competitive as Florida in statewide contests, including presidential elections,” said the report, which was commissioned by America’s Voice, which advocates for immigration reform. Twenty-five percent of Texas Hispanic voters said they were contacted by campaigns or organizations encouraging them to vote in 2012, the report said. The national average was 31 percent.
In the future, you may have the option to make certain your voter information is not accessible by the general public. Utah’s House of Representatives approved legislation on Tuesday, on a vote of 71-2, that will allow the public to request that their voter information be kept private. The bill, H.B. 302, also calls for birth dates to be unavailable when someone purchases Utah’s voter rolls, but the records would still list a voter’s age. “I believe strongly an individual should not have to trade their constitutional right to vote in order to ensure their privacy,” said Rep. Becky Edwards, R-North Salt Lake. Edwards explained that the legislation comes as a direct result to a website that surfaced earlier this year that contains the whole Utah voter roll on it.
Many federal lawmakers are echoing Attorney General Eric Holder’s call to restore voting rights to felons in Virginia. In a couple states felons can vote while in prison. In many right after they leave the gates their voting rights are restored. Not in Virginia. The commonwealth is one of just a handful of states that doesn’t restore voting rights upon being released from prison or completing probation or parole, which Attorney General Holder says is unjust. “I call upon state leaders and other elected officials across this country to pass clear and consistent reforms to restore the voting rights of all who have served their terms in prison or jail, completed their parole or probation and paid their fines.” Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine remembers fighting to change Virginia’s law while in Richmond. “As governor, I, Mark Warner first and then me and then Bob McDonnell, we really tried to dramatically escalate the re-enfranchisement of folks, because I think we’ve all come to the realization that the sort of automatic disenfranchisement for a felony…is a bad rule.”
Provincial lawmakers are poised to consider two private member’s bills that could bring a landmark change to the way Torontonians elect their mayor and councillors. The duelling bills tabled by Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter and NDP MPP Jonah Schein, who both represent Toronto ridings, would give the city the option of switching to a ranked choice ballot system, starting with the 2018 municipal election. If MPPs give their blessing to one of the bills, the change would not be automatic. The final say would rest with city council. The bills are not carbon copies of each other but they both have the same aim – to allow Toronto to replace its traditional electoral system, if it chooses, with ranked balloting. Hunter, who represents Scarborough-Guildwood, is tabling her bill – the Toronto Ranked Ballot Elections Act – Wednesday afternoon at Queen’s Park. “We live in a diverse city and the way we elect our municipal representatives should reflect that,” Hunter told reporters at a news conference before she tabled the bill.
The European parliament could become a squabbling ground for “loonies and lobbyists”, observers warned after a German court on Wednesday ruled against a voting threshold at European elections. The president of the federal court, Andreas Vosskuhle, ruled on Wednesday that the 3% entry hurdle violated the constitution and had stopped parties from getting a fair hearing. The ruling will come into effect immediately and apply to the European elections in May, where Germany will elect 96 MEPs for the next parliamentary term – the highest number of seats of all member states. Sixteen out of 29 EU countries, including Britain, have no threshold quotas for European elections, but the issue is an unusually politically loaded one in Germany: a 5% hurdle was introduced for the national parliament in 1949 with a view to making the raucous parliamentary squabbles of the Weimar Republic a thing of the past.
A myriad small German parties, including the neo-Nazi NPD, could enter the European Parliament following a ruling by the Constitutional Court on Wednesday (26 February) to abolish the minimum threshold for the vote. The Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe says the threshold discriminates against small parties. The verdict, approved with 5 out of the 8 votes in the judging panel, says fringe parties are being discriminated against with the current three-percent threshold. The Karlsruhe-based court already in 2011 ruled that a five-percent threshold in place for the 2009 EU elections was unconstitutional. Following that ruling, Germany’s parliament lowered the threshold to three percent, arguing that smaller parties could hamper the work of the European Parliament. The law was challenged again – this time by a coalition of 19 fringe parties, including the neo-Nazi NPD and the German Pirate Party. The judges agreed with the plaintiffs.
The Mozambican parliament on Wednesday passed unanimously amendments proposed by the main opposition party Renamo to allow vote recount in case of irregularities. The Renamo bill introduces for the first time in Mozambican electoral legislation the possibility of recounts, the state news agency AIM reported. In case of irregularities at polling stations, any candidate and the National Election Commission (CNE), together with the Constitutional Council which is the highest organ in matters of constitutional and electoral law, may demand a recount, according to the report.
The Election Commission (EC) is poised to petition the Constitution Court to rule whether the EC or the government can authorise the announcement of polls in 28 constituencies in the South. Anti-government protests barred candidates from registering to contest the Feb 2 election in 28 constituencies in the southern provinces and an election rerun has to be called in these areas to complete the contest. The EC wants the government to issue a new royal decree for the election rerun to go ahead but the government argues such a step would violate the constitution. EC member Somchai Srisuttiyakorn said yesterday the agency will ask the charter court to rule on who would be able to authorise the rerun as the government has made it clear that it would not re-issue a royal decree for the purpose. He said the petition can be lodged without a formal reply from the government.
US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke passionately yesterday about the “incredible yearning for modernity” sweeping across the world, warning that free elections do not necessarily usher in true democracy in many countries. The months of protests in Ukraine that led to the ousting of president Viktor Yanukovich were just one example of “people power” in recent months. Such protests were “a reflection of this incredible yearning for modernity, for change, for choice, for empowerment of individuals that is moving across the world, and in many cases moving a lot faster than political leadership is either aware of or able to respond to,” the top US diplomat told a small group of reporters. The ousting of Yanukovich, like July’s toppling of Egypt’s first democratically elected president Mohamed Mursi, proved that elections by themselves were not always enough. “A democracy is not defined solely by an election,” the top US diplomat argued.
Making good on a promise, the leader of Ohio’s largest county is taking legal action to counteract the state legislature’s new restrictions on early voting. And since the Cuyahoga County executive, Ed FitzGerald, is also a candidate for governor, that means he could be matched in a court challenge against current Gov. John Kasich. FitzGerald rolled out a series of actions during a press conference this morning outside the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. Last Friday, Kasich signed Senate Bill 238, which eliminates “Golden Week” – when Ohioans could register and vote on the same day – by shortening 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, and forbids counties from doing so on their own.
Editorials: High-tech Internet voting may beckon in Oregon, but pulling the plug wins out | Susan Nielsen/OregonLive.com
Bruce Starr killed his own bill this week. The Washington County state senator visited his peers in the House and asked them, respectfully, to give it the heave-ho. You have to admire the guy. He had thought it would be a good time to study the possibility of ditching Oregon’s vote-by-mail system for a fancier, higher-tech version. He not only realized he was wrong, but he admitted it, too, before pushing the state further in that direction. In the land of Cover Oregon, that’s big. Not quite “Profiles in Courage” big, but it’s a nice change of pace in a state that seems serially unaware of the limits of its technological prowess. It’s also a welcome check on the propensity to assume the smartest choice is always the highest-tech one. Starr came up with the idea while traveling last year in Estonia, which has embraced Internet-based voting. He thought that maybe Oregon, known for pushing the envelope on voter access, might give online voting a closer look. “When I was there, it was like, ‘Wow, that’s interesting.’ They clearly have a system that works, at least for their citizens,” Starr said. ” …. That is the beginning of what brought us to this bill.” So he packed the idea in his suitcase and brought it home. However, the timing for introducing a feasibility study for a new state tech initiative turned out to be less than ideal.