A federal judge’s order backing Arizona and Kansas laws that require proof of citizenship for voter registration is “not the American way” and must be challenged, opponents said Thursday. The comments came after a U.S. District judge in Kansas ordered the Election Assistance Commission to include the two states’ proof-of-citizenship requirement on federal voter registration forms, which only require that people check a box verifying their U.S. citizenship. “We will appeal it,” said Sam Wercinski, executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network. He said no official decision has been made, but he expects voting-rights advocates will file an appeal “within 30 to 60 days.” But state officials in Kansas and Arizona said they are confident the latest decision will stand – and that they do not intend to wait for appeals. “They have a right to appeal, but the decision was made effective immediately,” Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said Thursday. It is the latest twist in a case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled last summer that Arizona officials could not reject federal voter registration forms because they did not require proof of citizenship.
The battle over requiring voters to prove they are U.S. citizens has been intensely political over the last several years. But it is not one of right vs. wrong. It’s one of right vs. right. The goal of supporters is a sensible one, and so is the goal of opponents. The question is how to weigh each interest — not that the most partisan Democrats or Republicans have shown much inclination to do such calibrating in the name of fairness. Their interest is in gaining or protecting their political advantage. So let’s try to discuss this outside of political advantage. Kansas and Arizona passed laws aimed at making sure no non-citizen casts a ballot. They require prospective voters to show a birth certificate, passport or other document to prove they are citizens. In 2013, Arizona lost a decision in the Supreme Court, which said that it could not unilaterally impose a requirement for voter registration in addition to those imposed under federal law.
Make what you will of Judge Melgren’s analysis of preemption, or the hints of his constitutional stance on the federal-state balance of authority under the Elections Clause—his decision in Kobach v. The United States Election Assistance Commissionis a mechanical exercise that leaves the reader without any sense of what this case isabout. Kansas and Arizona have not merely made a “determination” of what they need to verify the citizenship of state residents seeking to become voters. The history behind this litigation is more complex, with more history to it, and the court knew it. It chose, however, to follow example of the Supreme Court and to do as the High Court has done in other cases, like Purcell v. Gonzalez and Crawford v. Marion County, and leave the real world out. Some might say that the Supreme Court is bound to disregard the politics behind these cases and train its eye on the “law” alone. But the Justices’ fidelity to this proposition is mixed. Justice Scalia, for example, has enlivened his constitutional position on campaign finance doctrine with references to the history of incumbent manipulation of the campaign finance laws—including evidence of political mischief that he found quite compelling in the very case under review.
Democrats this week unveiled legislation that aims to correct some of the legal conflicts revealed last summer during recall elections of two Senate Democrats that nullified mail balloting and contributed to the Democrats’ loss. During an impromptu media availability hosted by Senate Democrats on Monday, lawmakers proposed a measure that would modify a provision in state statute that allows a person to petition onto a recall election ballot 15 days before the election date. The provision was highlighted during a Denver District Court case this summer challenging the recall elections of then-Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs and then-Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo. Both lawmakers were subsequently ousted from office for their support of gun control after the court allowed the elections to continue. The Libertarian Party of Colorado filed the lawsuit, arguing that they had not missed a 10-day deadline to submit signatures in order to petition a successor candidate onto the ballot. The case pointed out that state law mandates that ballots be mailed no later than 18 days before the election. But the state constitution requires that successor candidates have up to 15 days before the election to submit signatures.
It’s been a major conflict in the voting wars: Across the South and country, Republican-led states have moved to shrink the early voting period before Election Day. But this week, voting rights advocates scored a key victory in a state where the GOP enjoys a strong majority. On Thursday, March 20, the Georgia House declined to pass HB 891, a measure that would have allowed more than 500 cities and towns to reduce early voting from three weeks to one week. The bill applied only to municipal elections, but it was considered an important test of support for efforts to reduce early voting in state and county contests in the future. But after passing the state Senate by a 36-16 margin, HB 891 died in the House as the General Assembly closed its 2014 session, ensuring that Georgia won’t see any restrictions to early voting until the issue is taken up again in 2015.
The Guam Election Commission has received three bids for voting tabulators and the commission’s evaluation committee can begin reviewing the submissions. GEC Executive Director Maria Pangelinan gave commissioners an update on the machines at their meeting Thursday night. Pangelinan said she couldn’t give specifics about the bids or say which companies put in submissions. The four tabulators the GEC has now are old and outdated and caused some problems during the last election in 2012. The four tabulators are based on technology from the 1980s, according to Pacific Daily News files.
Kelli Jo Griffin has a criminal record, but she got her life back on track and wanted to become engaged in her community by voting in a local election. For that act, the state of Iowa accused Griffin of a criminal act that could have put her in prison for up to 15 years. That would have been a personal travesty and a cruel injustice. Fortunately, a Lee County District Court jury acquitted her Thursday on charges she intentionally violated state law by registering and voting even though as a convicted felon she had lost that right. Griffin’s criminal prosecution is a result of Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s campaign to go after non-citizens and persons with felony records who have registered or voted in Iowa elections. Griffin’s case, the first to go to trial, clearly illustrates why Schultz’s campaign is so terribly misguided.
Kansas: New voting laws adding to confusion, Douglas County election official says | Lawrence Journal World
Douglas County’s chief election official, County Clerk Jamie Shew, says he wishes legislators who keep passing new voting laws would be around to deal with angry voters who are tripped up by the changes. “We’ll get yelled at,” over the newest proposal, Shew predicted. The bill says no one who is registered as a Republican, Democrat or Libertarian will be able to switch party affiliation between June 1, which is the deadline for candidates to file for office for the Aug. 5 Republican and Democratic primaries, and the end of August. Current law says voters registered with a party can switch to another party up until two weeks before the primary. Republicans, who are the majority party in Kansas, see this proposed restriction as a way to stop Democrats from switching parties to influence GOP primaries, whether to try to set up the weakest Republican candidate for the general election or to elect the Republican candidate most aligned with their interests when there is little or no Democratic opposition in the November general election.
New Jersey primaries could one day include all voters, not just those affiliated with a political party if a California-based non-profit has its way. The Committee for a Unified Independent Party and The Independent Voter Project, which together form Endpartisanship.org, have joined a group of seven registered voters in filing the suit against Secretary of State Kim Guadagno seeking to have the current primary system declared unconstitutional because it bars nearly 50 percent of all state voters from the process. “Defendant barred nearly half of New Jersey’s registered voters from participating in New Jersey’s 2013 primary election because they exercised their right not to associate with either the Democrat or Republican Party,” the brief, filed in District Court earlier this month, states. “This action seeks to protect the fundamental right to vote under the New Jersey Constitution and U.S. Constitution from the condition required by the New Jersey Primary Election Law that a voter forfeit his or her First Amendment Right not to associate with a political party.” The suit goes on to claim that the state, which foots the bill for the annual primary election, is violating the New Jersey constitution by allocating money for the primaries, which are held on behalf of private political parties.
Utah: Democrats excited about Utah’s same-day voter registration, even if it helps GOP | The Salt Lake Tribune
The Democratic National Party is excited about Utah’s new pilot project on same-day voter registration — even if it does help the opposition party sign up new voters in the GOP-dominated state. The Legislature passed a measure this session to allow counties and municipalities to have same-day registration in the next three years, a move that dovetails with Democratic efforts nationwide to increase access to the polls for Americans. Pratt Wiley, the Democrats’ national director of voter expansion, acknowledges that in deep-red Utah, the program could “absolutely” help Republicans. “Our job is to make sure we’re working so that everyone votes,” Wiley said this week, “not to make sure that Obama voters vote, not to make sure that Democrats vote; it’s to make sure that everyone votes. And so we recognize that this can help Republicans — especially in a state like Utah, it can help Republicans probably in a way that it doesn’t in some swing states.”
The state Senate passed a bill Friday limiting voting times to submit absentee ballots. Under current law, one can apply to a municipal clerk in person to vote using an absentee ballot. The ballot can be submitted between the third Monday before the election and the last Friday before the election by 5 p.m. In-person applications for absentee ballots would only be received Monday through Friday between 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. under Senate Bill 324, introduced by Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend. Both Democrats and Republicans criticized the bill and urged Gov. Scott Walker to veto it.
Two foreign election observer and support missions have pulled staff out of Afghanistan after a Taliban attack on a hotel in Kabul, in a move that could undermine confidence in the outcome of next month’s vote. The presidential election on 5 April could mark the country’s first democratic transfer of power. Many fear a repeat of the widespread fraud that discredited the poll in 2009 when about 20% of votes were thrown out. “It’s really bad news,” said Jandad Spingar, director at the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan, the largest Afghan monitoring group. “Having international observers in the election is really, really important … [to] give legitimacy to the process.”
Canada: Faltering Parti Québécois fears voters from outside province are trying to steal election | The Globe and Mail
The Parti Québécois is trying to bolster a faltering campaign with a new wedge issue on Quebec identity, accusing Ontarians and other Canadians from outside Quebec of trying to steal the provincial election. PQ Leader Pauline Marois went to a sugar shack and left the main campaign spotlight to three of her candidates Sunday. They held a news conference at PQ headquarters to demand an investigation over an influx of voters – frequently young anglophone university students – who are trying to register for the April 7 vote. “Will the Quebec election be stolen by people from Ontario and the rest of Canada?” said Bertrand St-Arnaud, the Justice Minister and PQ candidate in Chambly. “The coming week is crucial for democracy.”
Canada: Director General debunks Parti Quebecois complaint, says voter registration requests are down | CTV
Quebec election officials are debunking the notion that voter registration requests are up since the 2012 election, as Denis Dion, a spokesman for the electoral office, told CTV Montreal that only one of five ridings cited by the Parti Quebecois has seen a rise in demands to vote. One of the five ridings had 56 more requests over this time in the last election, while the others were significantly down. The Parti Quebecois had asked the Director General of Elections to take action concerning reports of unusual voter registration requests in three Montreal-area ridings and two others in the Eastern Townships. Justice Minister Bertrand Saint-Arnaud, MNA Leo Bureau-Blouin and Families Minister Nicole Leger demanded stricter supervision and training for election officials determining voter eligibility, daily reports on voter registration and a post-revision report.
As speculation about the expected presidential candidacy of popular Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi continues to grow, the secretary-general of the Presidential Supreme Electoral Commission, Hamdan Fahmy, said the delays in the election process were due to “technical issues.” Egypt’s long-awaited presidential elections are set to take place later this year, with most analysts expecting the polls to be held in the summer. Egypt’s interim President Adly Mansour announced earlier this month that presidential elections would finish “before July 17.” Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on Thursday, Fahmy said: “Technical issues have caused the delay in the announcement of the timetable for the presidential elections and the opening of the registration of candidates.”
Over the past four years, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has overseen a gridlocked Parliament, contended with renewed sectarian conflict and made a host of political enemies. But when Iraqis go to the polls on April 30 for the first parliamentary elections since U.S. forces left in late 2011, they are expected to reward the 63-year-old Shiite politician with a third four-year stint. Few here expect Mr. Maliki, who has been in office since 2006, to rein in his efforts to dominate the government, repair relations with the Kurds or end his suppression of Iraq’s Sunni minority—a religious group that has grown increasingly ostracized and radicalized. With an eye toward the premier’s re-election, “pretty soon, everyone is going to want to be Maliki’s friend,” said Michael Knights, an Iraq expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who recently visited the country. “Very little that’s happened over the last four years seems to matter” to Iraq’s voting public. With campaigning set to open on April 1, Mr. Maliki has been touting his populist credentials. In a speech last week, he blamed political opponents for difficulties including traffic and horrific violence, pledging to personally address each issue.
A self-organised “referendum” over the independence of one of Italy’s wealthiest regions has resulted in an overwhelming victory for the separatist camp, but authorities in Rome have largely ignored the result, amid scepticism over the regularity of the informal, non-binding poll. Nevertheless, events in Veneto, the north-eastern region around Venice that is home to almost 5 million people, have attracted international attention, particularly from government-sponsored Russian media, keen to draw comparisons with the military-backed vote that sanctioned Moscow’s annexation of Crimea. Out of 3.8 million eligible voters, 2.3 million took part in Veneto’s independence “plebiscite,” organisers said Friday, after six days of voting through makeshift polling booths, via phone or the internet. The pro-secession camp was declared the winner with over 89 percent, against just under 11 percent for the unionists.
Voters in the Indian Ocean atoll nation cast their ballots on Saturday, despite concerns that the country’s elections commission was understaffed and unable to carry out the ballot properly. An ally of President Abdulla Yameen had petitioned the Maldives’ Supreme Court to delay the parliamentary polls. But with no decision made by the judges, the election continued as scheduled on Saturday. The court had sacked Election Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek and slapped him with a suspended six-month jail sentence for contempt of court. His deputy, Ahmed Fayaz, was also fired but avoided jail time.
EC member Somchai Srisuttiyakorn said there are two possible options for staging a new general election and the commission will debate them after studying the court ruling. Constitutional Court Secretary-General Pimol Thampitakpong: “The election was not held on the same day nationwide, which goes against the constitution.” “The first option is that the EC and the government work together and set a new election date within 60 days,” he said. “The other is that the EC and all political parties work out the election date, which doesn’t have to be within a 60-day time frame.” Mr Somchai said the two possible scenarios are based on the charter court’s 2006 ruling which nullified that year’s general election and asked the EC and political parties to work out a new poll date. He said even though the 2006 ruling stated that a fresh election should be organised within 60 days, a meeting of political party leaders agreed to delay the poll.
Turkey: Citizens have right to monitor elections for fraud-free voting, says activist | Today’s Zaman
Selen Gülün is a mayoral candidate who seeks no votes! A successful musician, she is a candidate for mayor for the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality, just because a civil society initiative wants to monitor the election process to make sure that there is no vote rigging on the March 30 local elections, and the only way for doing it was to show a mayoral candidate. “I’ve become an independent candidate for mayor of İstanbul. Of course, I seek no votes, and I’ve also become a volunteer for the ‘Sandık Başındayız’ [Ballot Watch], so I will work on March 30 to monitor the voting process,” says Gülün. Başındayız reminds us that there is a dire need for independent civil society organizations in Turkey’s highly polarized environment. Their survival and growth would mean that Turkish society deserves to exercise full citizenship rights in a pluralistic setting.
Vladimir Putin has declared Russia stands ready to intervene in eastern Ukraine should the area’s residents demand protection from Kiev’s pro-Western revolutionary government. But if an internet poll is to believed the residents of one city in the east are turning their pleas to Whitehall for outside intervention. Donestk was founded in the 19th century by John Hughes, a Merthyr Tydfil steel worker who had landed a contract from the Tsarist government to provide steel plating for the navy. Now residents of the city have responded to pro-Russian protests for autonomy from Kiev with an internet vote that rejects Russia’s claims in favour of a turn to the Queen and London. It calls for the restoration of the original name Hughesovka or Yuzovka and requests London rule.