A number of technical glitches delayed the posting of full and accurate results of the D.C. primary on Tuesday, leaving voters frustrated and campaign workers unsure of where their candidates stood in relation to the competition. The polls closed at 8 p.m., but it wasn’t until almost 2 a.m. the next morning that full results for the primary were posted on the website of the D.C. Board of Elections. In between, reports provided to media on-site and those posted on the website showed significant discrepancies, while other reports listing results only included paper ballots, not electronic ones. Election officials also reported problems with electronic voting machines at five polling places, though they did not specify what the problems were or where they occurred until after most precincts had reported their results. The problems started at 10 p.m., when the results of early voting were posted. A printed report provided at the board showed just over 10,000 early votes cast, while the same report posted on the board’s website put the number at 9,000. Election officials were unable to explain the discrepancy at the time, nor were they able to say why the numbers were less than the 14,000 early votes announced Monday.
Conservative supporters of voting restrictions think they’ve found the holy grail in North Carolina: A genuine case of massive voter fraud that can be used to justify efforts to make it harder to vote. The reality, of course, is far less clear. Non-partisan election experts are already pouring cold water on the claims, noting that other recent allegations of major voting irregularities have fizzled upon closer scrutiny. In a report released Wednesday, North Carolina’s elections board said it had found 35,570 people who voted in the state in 2012 and whose names and dates of birth match those of voters in other states. The board said it also found 765 North Carolinians who voted in 2012 and whose names, birthdates, and last four digits of their Social Security number match those of people in other states. The board said it’s looking into all these cases to determine whether people voted twice. There’s a lot riding on what the board finds. North Carolina Republicans last year passed a sweeping and restrictive voting law, which is currentlybeing challenged by the U.S. Justice Department. The law’s voter ID provision would likely have done nothing to stop the double voting being alleged here, but solid evidence of illegal voting could still bolster the state’s case that the measure is justified. It could also make it easier for the state to remove from the rolls voters who are thought to be registered in two states—raising concerns that legitimate voters could wrongly be purged.
Ohio: Ed FitzGerald’s ‘voting rights’ legislation clears Cuyahoga council committee; Republicans dissent | Cleveland Plain Dealer
A Cuyahoga County Council committee voted along party lines Tuesday to advance “voter rights” legislation that conflicts with a new state law, a move which takes the county closer to what Republican council members said could end up being a costly legal fight. The eight Democrats on council’s committee of the whole – which is made up of all 11 council members — voted to move forward with legislation introduced last month by county Executive Ed FitzGerald, a fellow Democrat, while the council’s three Republicans dissented. The move indicates council is poised to approve the legislation, which would assert the county’s right to mail out unsolicited early voting applications and addressed envelopes with pre-paid postage to all its registered voters, at an upcoming meeting. The legislation is a response to a new state law, passed by Republicans in Columbus in February, that forbids counties from mailing out the applications. The new law allows the Ohio Secretary of State to send them out, statewide, if lawmakers appropriate money to pay for it — Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted says he plans to do so this November. Republicans say the new law promotes voting equality across all Ohio’s 88 counties.
An Hidalgo County grand jury Thursday took a step toward investigating possible criminal tampering with voting machines in the recent Democratic primary, District Attorney Rene Guerra said. The grand jury signed an order to hire a forensic analyst to inspect the voting machines used during early voting in late February and Election Day on March 4. The order is “requesting that experts be hired to look at the machines and determine if they were properly functioning during the primary election,” Guerra said. “I think it’s necessary and I think we can do it real quick-like,” he added.
A split Supreme Court Wednesday struck down limits on the total amount of money an individual may spend on political candidates as a violation of free speech rights, a decision sure to increase the role of money in political campaigns. The 5 to 4 decision sparked a sharp dissent from liberal justices, who said the decision reflects a wrong-headed hostility to campaign finance laws that the court’s conservatives showed in Citizens United v. FEC , which allowed corporate spending on elections. “If Citizens United opened a door,” Justice Stephen G. Breyer said in reading his dissent from the bench, “today’s decision we fear will open a floodgate.” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote the opinion striking down the aggregate limits of what an individual may contribute to candidates and political committees. The decision did not affect the limit an individual may contribute to a specific candidate, currently $2,600. But Roberts said an individual should be able to contribute that much to as many candidates as he chooses, which was not allowed by the donation cap.
Editorials: Supreme Court ruling: As if we don’t have enough money in politics already | Jessica A. Levinson/Los Angeles Times
Thank you, Supreme Court. Before your decision Wednesday in McCutcheon vs. FEC, Americans were confined to giving a measly total of $48,600 in campaign contributions to federal candidates (enough for about nine candidates) and a total of $74,600 to political action committees. That means individuals were subject to aggregate contributions limits totaling a mere $123,200. Of course, individuals could, and still can, give unlimited sums to independent groups, such as so-called super PACs and other nonprofit corporations. Much of this giving remains undisclosed. For instance, super PACs such as Restore Our Future, American Crossroads, Priorities USA Action and others spent almost $830 million in the 2012 election. Talk about constraints on one’s ability to participate in our electoral processes. And how many people were handcuffed by these limits? Well, fewer than 600 donors, or 0.0000019% of Americans, gave the maximum amount under those oh-so-restrictive limits, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And 0.1% of 310 million Americans give $2,500 or more in political campaigns. Well, good news for you big donors: no more pesky aggregate contribution limits. Sure, you are still limited to giving only $5,200 per federal candidate ($2,600 for the primary and $2,600 for the general) and $5,000 annually per PAC. But now you can directly support as many candidates as you want.
Editorials: Justice Roberts Hearts Billionaires: Justice Roberts doesn’t believe in money’s power to corrupt, so there’s that | Dahlia Lithwick/Slate
Five years ago, when the Supreme Court handed down the decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, polls showed that the American public—or at least a mere 80 percent of them—disapproved. Now of course public approval hardly matters when it comes to interpreting the First Amendment, but given that one of the important issues in the case was the empirical question of whether corporate free speech rights increased the chance of corruption or the appearance of corruption in electoral politics, the court might care at least a bit about what the public thinks constitutes corruption. Or why the public believed Citizens United opened the floodgates to future corruption. Or why it is that campaign finance reform once seemed to be a good idea with respect to fighting corruption in the first instance. Now, in a kind of ever-worsening judicial Groundhog Day of election reform, the Supreme Court has, with its decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, swept away concerns over “aggregate” campaign finance limits to candidates and party committees in federal elections, finding in the words of Chief Justice John Roberts—who wrote the plurality opinion for the court’s five conservatives—that the “aggregate limits do not further the permissible governmental interest in preventing quid pro quo corruption or its appearance.” In other words, since bajillionaires should be able to give capped amounts to several candidates, they should be allowed to give capped amounts to many, many, many candidates, without raising the specter of corruption.
The US Supreme Court on Wednesday took another big bite out of current campaign finance law, striking down a nearly 40-year-old measure capping the total amount of money individuals could donate to political campaigns and parties. Hanging over today’s court ruling in McCutcheon v FEC is the spectre of the 2010 Citizens United v FEC decision, which allowed corporations and labour unions to make unlimited donations to independent political action committees (super PACs) and fund issue advocacy advertising. This contributed to a general mood on the left and among campaign finance advocates of resigned outrage. “The Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling on Wednesday striking down aggregate limits on political campaign contributions is no less destructive for being so widely predicted,” writes Jesse Wegman in the New York Times. “This latest outburst of judicial activism in the struggle to render campaign finance laws completely toothless is merely accelerating a historical process that is coming to seem almost inevitable,” he writes.
After spending tens of millions of dollars in recent years on ineffective voting systems, California election officials are planning to experiment with an “open source” system that may prove to be the cure-all for secure, accessible balloting – or just another expensive failure. Most computer programs, such as the Microsoft Windows or Apple OS X operating systems, are “closed source” programs. That means the original computer code only can be examined by the program’s owners, in these cases Microsoft and Apple. “Open source” means the original computer code is made public so it can be used and examined by anyone, in particular to find security holes. According to Damicon, “True-open-source development requires that a community of software engineers band together to work on the software. The idea is that more minds create better software.”
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill wants as many people to vote as possible; among those ways are early voting or no-fault absentee balloting. Both of those methods, she believes, will draw in those under 35, who are least likely to vote. “Most other states, you don’t need an excuse to get an absentee ballot,” she told the New Haven Register’s editorial board Wednesday. However, both single-day voting and requirements for absentee balloting are enshrined in the state Constitution. The General Assembly has approved the changes twice, as is required, and now the constitutional question will be on the 2014 state ballot. Then the issue goes back to the legislature to figure out how to set it up.
At the same time Florida election supervisors are looking at how to bring online voter registration to the state, the chance of legislative action on the issue went from tiny to nonexistent this week. The senator pushing online registration withdrew his bill amidst doubts it could pass the full Legislature. Ask the question “Should Florida voters be able to register online?” and you’ll get different answers from different people. Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) says yes. “With 19 other states already doing this, we’re already behind the ball,” he told the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee Monday. But incoming Senate President and Orlando Republican Andy Gardiner, says not yet. “It may be a bill that’s just not ready for prime time,” he said, referring to Clemens’ bill.
The coverage on the impending Afghan presidential elections has been filled with death and chaos — the tragic shooting at the Serena hotel where an international election monitor was killed, the shocking attack on the Afghan Election Commission’s headquarters, the killing of a provincial council candidate and the news that several international monitoring groups are pulling out. These tragedies, however, shift the focus from the major news in Afghanistan this week: Election fever has gripped the nation. I hear from Afghans as well as many foreigners now working in Afghanistan that the excitement about the coming April 5 presidential election is palpable and encouraging. If this election goes relatively smoothly, it will mark the first democratic handover of power in Afghan history. Potential large-scale fraud and violence will be substantial obstacles to overcome, but there are also some positive signs. Voters, observers and security personnel are gearing up with a mixture of enthusiasm and trepidation. Why be optimistic?
Florida: Court rules Florida voter purge illegal, but will it stop GOP voting tweaks? | Christian Science Monitor
A panel for the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta on Tuesday deemed illegal a 2012 attempt by Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) to purge the state’s voter rolls of noncitizens and other ineligible voters. The ruling, which the justices said was intended to thwart future questionable roll purges, comes amid a new wave of pitched battles between Republicans who say they want to make voting fairer by curbing voting-booth shenanigans and Democrats who say adding restrictions to voting is a blatant attempt to keep poor people and blacks – many of whom are Democrats – from casting ballots. Since the US Supreme Court unshackled most Southern states from the preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act last year, Republican-led legislatures have launched efforts to create what they say are more uniform election systems to ensure that each vote is equal. Republicans in Ohio and Wisconsin have curbed weekend voting, which critics say would most affect blacks who often carpooled to polling places from church on Sunday. In North Carolina, Republicans have stiffened early-voting and registration rules.
North Carolina: State Board of Elections proposes ways to improve N.C. voter rolls | The Voter Update
Staff from the N.C. State Board of Elections discussed ways to improve the maintenance of voter rolls before a legislative committee on Wednesday and said they were investigating possible cases of voting irregularities. Kim Strach, director of the elections board, presented the findings of a recent crosscheck of voter registration information among 28 states, including North Carolina, comparing some 101 million records. The result of that analysis found 765 exact matches of name, date of birth and the last four digits of Social Security numbers for voters who may have cast a ballot in North Carolina and another state in the 2012 general election. The report found an additional 35,750 potential matches of name and date of birth – but not Social Security number – of people who possibly voted in North Carolina and one other state in 2012.
Sure, someone in the Philippines is probably working on a virus that will make Imelda Marcos our president. But Internet voting will be here some day, and probably sooner than we expect.Are we finally ready to begin choosing our political leaders on the Internet? Is it time to do our civic duty in our pajamas? Will we at last be able to message our friends, watch a Youtube video and cast a ballot at the same time, trying hard not to accidentally “like” a presidential candidate and “vote” for “Charlie bit my finger,” instead of the other way around? It’s been nearly 14 years since I first wrote about this. That was in the context of the 2000 presidential election, in which rooms full of Florida election judges tried to decide the fate of the presidency by examining punch cards that hadn’t been punched very well. At the time, I interviewed Scott Howell, a Democratic state senator who worked for IBM. He predicted Internet voting would be a reality within two years.
For Afghanistan’s “Generation America,” Saturday’s presidential election marks a vital rite of passage. Almost two thirds of Afghans are younger than 25, and millions have come of age during the 12 years since U.S. troops and development dollars arrived. Despite a violent Taliban insurgency and rampant corruption, young Afghans have enjoyed unprecedented freedoms and opportunities, and many of them will be voting for the first time to preserve them. A smooth election is hardly assured. On Wednesday, a Taliban suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest at the entrance to the ministry of interior, killing six officers in one of central Kabul’s most heavily guarded spots. An election critically disrupted by the Taliban—or stolen through fraud—could push Afghanistan into renewed civil war, reopening old ethnic fissures and imperiling many gains of the past decade. As Afghanistan prepares for the first transfer of power since the U.S. installed President Hamid Karzai in 2001, the vote will determine whether the gains of the American era will be sustained after most U.S. troops go home in December.
Australia: Dozens to recast vote due to ballot box problem in Western Australia Senate election | ABC
Dozens of people at an aged care facility in Perth will have to vote again in the WA Senate election re-run because of a problem with a ballot box. The latest voting bungle comes despite the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) promising improved security and counting procedures. The election re-run is being held because 1,370 votes were lost in the September poll and the High Court declared the election void. The AEC has now investigated the handling of about 75 ballot papers cast earlier this week at the Merriwa Estate RAAF retirement village in Perth’s northern suburbs.
Vote bank politics is a commonly bandied about expression in the election season, which is no surprise. But a new vote bank of Armed Forces personnel is now looking a step closer to reality with the Supreme Court directing the Election Commission (EC) to allow defence personnel to vote as general voters in peace stations. This is somewhat unusual. The Supreme Court merely reiterated the law it laid down in an earlier judgment in 1971, though the circumstances of that case were somewhat different. The Representation of the People Act, 1950 defines the term ‘ordinarily resident’ in Section 20, a qualification required to get registered as a voter. Armed forces personnel are among the few categories of people defined as persons with ‘service qualification’ in Section 20(8) and are given a special dispensation in Section 20(3) and Section 20(5). This category can declare while living at a place ‘ordinarily resident’ status at another place where they would have normally lived, if it were not for the exigencies of service. Implicit faith was to be placed on their declaration and they would be registered at the place they indicated as their place of ordinary residence, most likely their native place, and as a corollary the place of their posting could not be their ordinary place of residence.
Fears about vote buying and poll manipulation are widespread as Indonesia prepares to hold one of the world’s most complicated elections at a crucial juncture for the third-biggest democracy after India and the US. But Ronny Irawan, a local election official, is more concerned about the weather forecast. More than 40 per cent of the 1,130 polling stations in his district of Ketapang, on the island of Kalimantan, are in remote areas that can only be reached by jungle rivers and crumbling roads. “The weather will determine the smoothness of the logistics process because heavy rain might prevent our boats from navigating the rivers but low tide could strand our craft if it is too dry,” he says. Mr Irawan’s travails are a snapshot of the immense logistical challenge that infrastructure-poor Indonesia faces to organise parliamentary and presidential elections in the world’s biggest archipelago nation, with 186m voters spread across thousands of islands that stretch for 3,000 miles from east to west.