Voting rights groups filed an appeal Friday of a judge’s order that federal election officials must help Kansas and Arizona enforce state laws requiring new voters to provide documentation proving their U.S. citizenship. A court filing sent to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals challenges a ruling earlier this month by U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren in Wichita. Melgren had ordered the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to immediately modify a national voter registration form to add special instructions requiring proof of citizenship for Kansas and Arizona residents. The appeal was filed by more than a dozen voting rights groups and individuals who had earlier intervened in the case on behalf of the election commission. They include the League of Women Voters of the United States, Project Vote Inc., Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Common Cause, Arizona Advocacy Network, League of United Latin American Citizens Arizona, Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, Chicanos Por La Causa and others.
Pivotal swing states under Republican control are embracing significant new electoral restrictions on registering and voting that go beyond the voter identification requirements that have caused fierce partisan brawls. The bills, laws and administrative rules — some of them tried before — shake up fundamental components of state election systems, including the days and times polls are open and the locations where people vote. Republicans in Ohio and Wisconsin this winter pushed through measures limiting the time polls are open, in particular cutting into weekend voting favored by low-income voters and blacks, who sometimes caravan from churches to polls on the Sunday before election. Democrats in North Carolina are scrambling to fight back against the nation’s most restrictive voting laws, passed by Republicans there last year. The measures, taken together, sharply reduce the number of early voting days and establish rules that make it more difficult for people to register to vote, cast provisional ballots or, in a few cases, vote absentee.
Suicide bombers targeted buildings near the Independent Election Commission headquarters in Kabul on Saturday, staff and police said, the latest in a spate of attacks ahead of next week’s presidential election. “I am here… the attack is going on around the IEC compound,” spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor told Reuters by telephone from a safe room inside the building. An explosion was followed by gunfire, IEC staff and police said.
Gov. Rick Scott’s chief elections official is suspending a politically charged election-year plan to purge noncitizens from Florida’s voter rolls, citing changes to a federal database used to verify citizenship. The about-face Thursday by Secretary of State Ken Detzner resolves a standoff with county elections supervisors, who resisted the purge and were suspicious of its timing. It also had given rise to Democratic charges of voter suppression aimed at minorities, including Hispanics crucial to Scott’s re-election hopes. Detzner told supervisors in a memo that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is redesigning its SAVE database, and it won’t be finished until 2015, so purging efforts, known as Project Integrity, should not proceed. “I have decided to postpone implementing Project Integrity until the federal SAVE program Phase Two is completed,” Detzner wrote.
It’s that time again, when primary voters start casting their ballots for the midterm elections. As in recent years, voters face new rules and restrictions, including the need in 16 states to show a photo ID. But this year, some voting rights activists say they’re seeing a change — fewer new restrictions and, in some places, even a hint of bipartisanship. Although that wasn’t the case last month in Ohio, when the Legislature voted along party lines to eliminate a week of early voting. Lawmakers also agreed to prevent local election officials from mailing out unsolicited absentee ballot applications. “We’re talking about disenfranchising thousands of folks,” Democratic state Rep. Alicia Reece said on the House floor. “And don’t tell me it can’t be done, because our history has shown it has been done.”
The Arkansas Republican Party wants to intervene in a lawsuit over how absentee ballots are handled under the state’s new voter ID law, arguing that the state’s Democratic attorney general can’t adequately represent GOP voters. The GOP on Wednesday asked a Pulaski County judge to allow it to help defend the state Board of Election Commissioners for adopting a rule that gives absentee voters additional time to show proof of ID. The Pulaski County Election Commission claimed in a lawsuit earlier this month that the state panel overstepped its bounds with the new rule.
Century-old elections language sparked a fiery partisan debate in the Colorado Senate on Thursday as Democrats steered through an update to recall laws despite complaints that they’re trying to change the rules in their favor. The bill updates dusty recall requirements that were written long before modern elections procedures such as mail-in voting. The bill was approved on an unrecorded voice vote and faces a more formal vote before heading to the House. Democrats say the bill is not an attempt to make it harder to recall public officials, even though two of their own were ousted last year in the first state legislator recalls in Colorado’s history.
tung by the recalls of two state senators last September, Colorado Democrats are carrying out an age-old tradition – trying to revamp laws about recall elections. Going back at least a century, practically anytime a surprising recall effort has qualified for the ballot, legislators immediately scurry to modify the law. Despite the seemingly self-serving nature of this and many other post-recall reform proposals, Colorado’s Democrats are right in pushing this one forward. If approved, it would clean up poorly drafted statutes that don’t conform to general election laws. They would remove roadblocks to citizens seeking recalls. And, learning from the 2013 snafus in Colorado, they seek to avoid expensive delays and lawsuits. The proposed Colorado changes are an attempt to conform recall law to existing election laws, some of which were passed earlier in 2013. The major focus is to make workable a judicial ruling that prevented the recall from being an all mail election by defining the constitution’s language of “date for holding the election” so that it allows candidates to petition onto the ballot until 15 days before mail ballots are sent out, instead of 15 days before the election closes.
Charlie Baker’s bid to become the Republican nominee for governor hit another snag Thursday night when the chair of the rules committee for last Saturday’s convention said his party did not appear to follow its own rules. Steve Zykofsky, a longtime state committee member and chairman of the rules committee that developed the regulations for the GOP convention, said blank ballots should not have been counted in the final tally of votes that delegates cast to decide which candidates can run for governor. If those blank votes had been excluded, he said, Tea Party challenger Mark R. Fisher apparently would have qualified for the ballot, triggering a primary with Baker. “I support Charlie Baker for governor 100 percent — 110 percent perhaps,” said Zykofsky. “But the fact of the matter is, as rules committee chairman and a member of the state committee, I have to be fair.”
In the heart of South Carolina lies Richland County. Home to the University of South Carolina, the second largest county in the state is celebrating its 215th anniversary. By all accounts, it’s a nice place to live and work. Recently though, it has not been a good place to vote. The Richland County Board of Elections and Voter Registration has been under a cloud of controversy since 2011 when the General Assembly passed a law merging Richland County’s elections office and voter registration office. During the 2012 presidential election, voters in Richland County faced some of the longest lines in the country. Some of the problems were blamed on a lack of poll workers, malfunctioning machines and that in many cases there were simply too few voting machines at precincts. There were anecdotal reports that hundreds of voters ultimately gave up and never cast a ballot.
Add a Wisconsin mayor to the list of voters who violated the state’s election law prohibiting sharing pictures of completed ballots. Wisconsin Rapids Mayor Zach Vruwink, 26, faces a possible felony after posting online a picture of his ballot in the primary for his re-election. A City Council candidate saw the post and filed a complaint with the district attorney, who was debating moving forward with charges as of Thursday. Despite warnings from the Government Accountability Board — which governs elections in Wisconsin — the issue has come up in multiple elections in the last few years as voters photograph their ballots and share them on social media. “I understand the law’s intent is to protect the integrity of the voting process,” Vruwink wrote in a text message. “This post was in no way election fraud.”
The Harper government’s overhaul of federal election rules could make it difficult for more than half a million voters to exercise their constitutional right to a ballot, says the author of a report that’s been used to justify the crackdown. “Either amend it or pull it,” Harry Neufeld said of Bill C-23 — dubbed the Fair Elections Act — after appearing before a parliamentary committee Thursday. Neufeld, the former British Columbia chief electoral officer, was just one of five non-partisan experts in electoral process to tell MPs the legislation requires some major fixes. In fact all five witnesses said the bill, as written, would do more harm than good to Canadian democracy.
Egyptian General Abdel Fattah el-Sissi’s decision to run for president comes as the United States is pushing Cairo to improve its treatment of journalists and political opponents. The Obama administration is trying to balance support for Egyptian democracy with security concerns in Saudi Arabia in an awkward position. The former general’s candidacy has been expected for months. So U.S. officials say they are focusing now on the freedom of Egypt’s electoral process. Deputy State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf. “It is up to the people of Egypt to determine their future. And we have also repeatedly said that, as the people of Egypt go to the polls to do that, it must be in a climate that’s free from intimidation where people feel they can vote for and support whatever party and whatever candidate they want to. And we have raised concerns with the interim Egyptian government about the ability for citizens to freely express their opinions,” said Harf.
El Salvador’s right-wing ARENA party formally accepted on Thursday the victory of leftist Salvador Sanchez Ceren in the March 9 presidential runoff. The announcement came a day after the Supreme Court rejected ARENA’s demand for a manual recount of the ballots. Sanchez Ceren beat ARENA’s Norman Quijano by just 0.22 percentage points. The standard-bearer of the governing FMLN got 1.49 million votes, or 50.11 percent of the total, compared with 1.48 million – 49.89 percent – for Quijano.
A campaigner for the visually impaired has brought a High Court action alleging the State has failed to provide a suitable mechanism enabling those with sight difficulties to vote by secret ballot. Robert Sinnott, a representative of the Blind Legal Alliance, argues there is no mechanism allowing him or other visually impaired people to cast their vote in a manner respecting the secrecy of their votes.