In elections that begin this week, voters in 10 states will be required to present photo identification before casting ballots – the first major test of voter ID laws after years of legal challenges arguing that the measures are designed to suppress voting. The first election is Tuesday in Texas, followed by nine other primaries running through early September that will set the ballot for the midterm elections in November, when voters decide competitive races for governor and control of Congress. The primaries will be closely watched by both sides of the voter ID debate, which intensified in 2011, the year after Republicans swept to power in dozens of statehouses. For months, election workers have been preparing new voting procedures, while party activists and political groups seek ID cards for voters who do not have them.
Last week, Connecticut took an important step in making the right to vote accessible to more people by embarking on a statewide online voter registration system. This new system will make the first hurdle to casting a ballot — registration — that much easier to surmount. While registering for the first time is seen as a rite of passage by many, including 18-year-olds and new citizens, it can be a challenge for those who work or are away at school when town offices are open or who lack the means to get to town hall. This is especially true for those who live in Connecticut’s cities and larger towns. While there is a mail-in process, that has its pitfalls as well. Using the Internet also simplifies the process for people who simply want to make a change to their registration. Perhaps they want to align with a political party so they may participate in a primary. Or, maybe they just need to inform of a change of address.
Indiana: 3,700 Warrick County votes not counted in 2012 due to technical error | Evansville Courier & Press
More than 3,700 absentee ballots cast in-person in Warrick County for the November 2012 general election weren’t counted due to an error made by an electronic voting machine technician, county officials confirmed Monday. According to the Warrick County Clerk Sarah Redman’s office, Indianapolis-based MicroVote, which services the county’s electronic voting machines, found that one of its electronic technicians inadvertently incorrectly uploaded votes cast early at the Warrick County Election Office. The technician reportedly used a microchip card-reader that didn’t have the storage capacity to hold the total amount of early votes cast. The error resulted in only 10 percent of in-person, early votes being tallied by the county for the 2012 general election — leaving 3,791 Warrick County votes behind. “And nobody ever caught the error until Pat (King) went looking,” said Kevin Derr, chairman of the Warrick County Democrats Central Committee.
A bill that would set up a system for online voter registration in Iowa unanimously passed in the Senate on Monday without debate and moved to the House for further work on verification of electronic signatures. Under the bill, which passed 48-0, voters must provide the same information required on other voter registration forms. They would use the secretary of state’s website to electronically register. Those registering must have an Iowa driver’s license, a Social Security number or other identifying number, and they must attest that all information is correct. The measure makes fraudulent electronic registration a class D felony.
The problems plaguing the 2013 mayoral election in Hattiesburg may have captured the Pine Belt’s attention. But, in Jackson, they took a backseat to swine. At least, according to one disappointed lawmaker, Rep. Toby Barker, R-Hattiesburg. “I saw more time spent on the issue of wild hogs than I saw for meaningful discussion on our antiquated election laws,” said Barker, the principal author of the Municipal Election Reform Act of 2014. Barker and fellow Republican Pine Belt legislators unveiled the reform bill with great fanfare in mid-January. But the bill died a quick, silent death in committee just two weeks later without being brought to a vote.
Carson City’s consolidated city-county government is moving to electronic poll books for elections. The devices should cut down on voting time and eventually also should save money, though the initial cost will be somewhat higher as voters get identified by the new process in the June primary and November general election here, according to officials at the clerk-recorder’s office. “This is really a major leap forward for elections,” said Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover, citing at least 50 percent faster processing that will precede voting when each voter must be identified. “We’re the first county in the state of Nevada to use them,” added his chief deputy, Sue Merriwether. “They replace the paper rosters on election day.”
The City Council has identified instant runoff voting—and the end of citywide runoff elections—as one of several dozen budget and legislative priorities in Albany, according to a report to be released by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito on Tuesday. The report, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, outlines 35 priorities that the council will be championing in the state capital this year, including Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal to increase city income taxes on wealthy New Yorkers to pay for universal prekindergarten and an expansion of after-school programs for middle-school students. Ms. Mark-Viverito is slated to join Mr. de Blasio on Tuesday for a day of lobbying in Albany, where the mayor’s proposal to raise income taxes on New Yorkers making $500,000 or more will take center stage. Ms. Mark-Viverito said in an interview Monday that the council plans to advocate for dozens of other issues, including the push for instant runoff voting.
Former North Dakota gubernatorial candidates went unrepresented in a court hearing Monday when Solicitor General Douglas Bahr failed to show up. Due to confusion over start times, Bahr missed a hearing in Morton County on a lawsuit filed by Paul Sorum over the result of 2012’s race for governor. Sorum, an independent candidate in the 2012 race, filed a lawsuit after his loss. Citing an error in paperwork, he requested the more than 300,000 votes for the Republican and Democrat candidates be thrown out and he be named governor. Gov. Jack Dalrymple was declared the winner with 64 percent of the vote. Democratic candidate Ryan Taylor received 35 percent. Sorum received 1.69 percent.
In a highly unusual move, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine yesterday told the U.S. Supreme Court that the state’s election law banning candidates from making false statements with malice violates the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of speech. In legal papers filed with the justices, DeWine said the Ohio law has a “chilling” impact on the speech not only of candidates, but independent organizations wishing to advertise against a candidate. The attorney general contended that the law “polices not just ‘false’ speech, but speech that indisputably is protected under the First Amendment.” Normally, the state attorney general would defend a law approved by the legislature in his or her state. The justices are expected later this spring to hear two challenges — both from Cincinnati — to the Ohio law. They have been consolidated into one case.
The group of African-American leaders pushing the inclusion of a Voters Bill of Rights in the Ohio Constitution has revised its amendment summary and submitted new signatures after Attorney General Mike DeWine rejected their initial attempt to get on the ballot. The Voters Bill of Rights would add items to the constitution that are controversial among some Republicans, such as preserving a 35-day early voting period, specifiying extended hours for early voting, allowing a voter to cast a provisional ballot anywhere in the correct county and moving toward online voter registration. Supporters say their effort is a reaction to several new laws that may make voting more difficult for some – in exchange for added security, fairness and efficiency, Republicans say.
The Utah House and Senate believe they have come up with a “win-win solution” to expand access to Utah’s primary elections. Amendments to Senate Bill 54 were officially announced in a press conference Sunday at the Utah State Capitol, with members of the Utah Legislature and the leadership behind the Count My Vote ballot initiative attending. In what was called “historic legislation,” by Count My Vote executive chairman Rick McKeown, the bill seeks to expand options to voters while retaining Utah’s caucus-convention system. The bill creates a direct primary election, opening the door for candidates to use caucus-conventions or signature gathering as a means of getting on the ballot and allowing an estimated 665,000 unaffiliated voters to participate in primary elections.
Afghan presidential candidates continue campaigning amid escalating security threats by the Taliban militant group, Press TV reports. The Taliban have rejected the April election and stepped up attacks to sabotage the electoral process. This comes after presidential candidates in Afghanistan began two months of campaigning for the April 5 election. The presidential hopefuls discuss issues at small rallies ranging from the Taliban to the future of foreign troops in Afghanistan. They also have outlined their working plans after being elected as the country’s new president.
More than five months after the Cambodian People’s Party and the Cambodia National Rescue Party first announced a joint commitment to electoral reform following a September 16 meeting, specific measures have finally been agreed upon. The first official meeting yesterday of a bipartisan committee tasked with discussing election reforms agreed on “the organisation of voter registration and a voter list to guarantee and defend the voting rights of all people”, and that a law on political party finance be created, a joint statement says. While the two sides have agreed in principle on the need for a revamped voter list, details of how that could be practically implemented will only be decided after a yet-to-be-scheduled national workshop with relevant stakeholders, opposition spokesman and committee member Yim Sovann said last night.
The federal Conservative government recently announced the Fair Elections Act, a controversial proposal to amend the Canada Elections Act. Ironically, the act is being criticized for taking steps to suppress voter turnout by implementing new rules for verifying who is an eligible voter at the polls. This new piece of legislation poses significant issues for minority voters, low-income families, and, unfortunately, students. At present, eligible voters can vouch for another person’s eligibility, such as a roommate or neighbour, at polling stations, allowing them to vote. The Conservatives’ proposal places unnecessarily stringent limits on reasonable and useful forms of identification, which will inevitably prevent young people from voting. One form of identification targeted for elemination is vouching. While the act will leave 39 identification options, these are often onerous or impossible for students or marginalized voters. Other identification options — including providing phone bills, bank statements, or ID — work for voters who have a well-established life in the riding. Students — who often live in a given riding for only one federal election, and marginalized citizens — who might not have a mailing address or ID — rely on vouching to facilitate their democratic right.
The head of Libya’s election commission and two of its members resigned on Sunday, state media reported, a day after it released initial results of a vote for the country’s constitutional panel amid violence and boycotts. Nuri Al Abari, the head of the commission, did not say why he resigned, although it appeared to be out of concern over Libya’s volatile political situation and tension over the election. Later in the day, armed protesters stormed the parliament building while lawmakers were in session, trashing furniture, burning the speaker’s chair and beating at least three lawmakers, deputy speaker Hussain Al Ansari said. The February vote for the 60-member constitutional panel was marred by violence, with several voting stations coming under attack and security forces failing to secure others.