How was your last voting experience? Smooth? Perhaps not. The Open Source Election Technology Foundation wants to change that by making voting simpler and more transparent. Its chief effort, called TrustTheVote, is a push to develop airtight, open-source vote casting and tabulation software that can be paired with off-the-shelf hardware. Open-source code and off-the-shelf plastic mean that TrustTheVote will, if it meets its goals, sell better, transparent voting machines to precincts at a fraction of the current cost. Each major election cycle in the United States brings the same whispers: Irregularities in Ohio counties, odd voting machine behavior in Iowa, and constant fringe intrigue about which candidate is getting a secret electronic bump due to a distant relative’s relationship with a voting machine company. It’s not healthy for our democracy.
There has been plenty of talk about the Ta-Nehisi Coates-Jonathan Chait argument over the term “black culture” in the context of the ills of poverty and the question of progress as seen through the lens of the actual history of America. A drastically shortened version of Coates’s analysis is that white supremacy—and the imposition of white power on African-American bodies and property—have been utterly interwoven through the history of American democracy, wealth and power from the beginnings of European settlement in North America. The role of the exploitation of African-American lives in the construction of American society and polity did not end in 1865. Rather, through the levers of law, lawless violence, and violence under the color of law, black American aspirations to wealth, access to capital, access to political power, a share in the advances of the social safety net and more have all been denied with greater or less efficiency. There has been change—as Coates noted in a conversation he and I had a couple of years ago, in 1860 white Americans could sell children away from their parents, and in 1865 they could not—and that is a real shift. But such beginnings did not mean that justice was being done nor equity experienced.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Arkansas Law Center filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging Arkansas’ law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. The suit, filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court on behalf of four Arkansas voters, alleges that Act 595 of 2103 violates the Arkansas Constitution by imposing requirements on voting that go beyond the requirements established in the constitution and impairing the rights of Arkansans to vote. “People who have been qualified to vote their entire adult lives are now being blocked from doing so by this unnecessary and unconstitutional law,” Rita Sklar, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, said in a statement. “The Arkansas Constitution specifically outlines the qualifications needed to vote. The state should be ashamed of making it harder for eligible voters from exercising this most fundamental right than our own constitution requires.” State Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, who sponsored Act 595, said the law addresses voter fraud. “Requiring someone to present a photo ID is not shameful,” he said. “You have to do it to get on an airplane. You have to do it at a lot of basic functions that we operate in everyday life. Is it shameful that we have do require this for people that get on an airplane? That’s ridiculous.”
Editorials: Let’s Settle This Once and for All: D.C. Statehood Is Constitutional. Period. | Joan Shipps/Huffington Post
On April 16th, D.C.-based voting rights activists plan to meet with Congressional offices to encourage support for D.C. statehood. Statehood advocates are calling on Congress to cosponsor, hold hearings on, and vote for the New Columbia Admission Act — legislation that would grant full citizenship rights to the disenfranchised residents of Washington, D.C. In anticipation of Wednesday’s lobby day on the Hill, I feel compelled to go on record about the constitutionality of statehood for the citizens of D.C. That D.C. statehood is unconstitutional is the single most common misconception I hear when discussing D.C. governance with Congressional staff and opponents of D.C. voting rights generally. So let me be absolutely clear on this issue: Statehood for the residents of D.C. is Constitutional. Now here’s why. The D.C. statehood bill does two things, both of which have precedent without any constitutional amendments.
Florida: Orange County voting rights suit: Government lawyers fail to kill Latino voting rights suit | Orlando Sentinel
A federal judge ruled against Orange County government lawyers today and allowed a lawsuit to proceed that alleges elected officials diluted Latino voting strength in its latest redistricting effort. “We’re going to trial,” said Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the civil rights group behind the lawsuit. “They can’t stop us now. They tried, and it didn’t work.” A county spokeswoman said Orange officials do not comment on pending litigation. Instead of a jury, Chief Judge Anne C. Conway will preside over the voting rights trial set for May 12.
We didn’t have to wait long for the Supreme Court to decide its most important case of the term. Last Tuesday, the justices heard arguments over whether a second OWI offense is an “infamous crime” under the Iowa Constitution. Yesterday–one week after the oral argument–the Iowa Supreme Court ruled, by a 5-1 vote, that it’s not. That might not seem that important. It is. For starters, it means that Tony Bisignano can run for State Senate. Article II, section 5 of the Iowa Constitution says that a person who’s been convicted of an “infamous crime” can’t be an “elector” (which means they can’t run for office), and one of Bisignano’s primary opponents (Ned Chiodo) argued that a second OWI (which Bisignano has been convicted of) is an infamous crime. Five of the six sitting justices disagreed with that. (The seventh, Justice Appel, was recused.) But the case is much bigger than one Senate race. And that’s where it gets interesting. To vote you also have to be an eligible “elector,” meaning that people who’ve been convicted of an infamous crime can’t vote–at least not unless their voting rights have been restored. So the line between an infamous crime and a run-of-the-mill crime can affect everything from school boards to the presidency. (Iowa’s a swing state, after all.)
Republicans in the Missouri General Assembly are mounting a two-pronged effort to make voting more difficult for certain citizens, who are most likely to be elderly, low-income, students or minorities. They’re not even subtle about it. On one front, the annual effort to require voters to produce government-issued photo identification at the polls is moving quickly. If the Senate votes in favor, a resolution seeking a constitutional amendment requiring photo identification will be headed for the November ballot. A separate effort, endorsed Wednesday by the House, is a pre-emptive strike against a citizen-initiated ballot proposal to finally get early voting in Missouri. In a show of pettiness, the House budget even deletes $79,900 in funding for a special unit of the secretary of state’s office that investigates allegations of election improprieties. The elections integrity unit is a more effective and less expensive way to ensure that elections work well than a cumbersome voter ID law. Created by Secretary of State Jason Kander, it follows up on complaints and suspected problems. The intent is not only to look out for the slim prospect that an ineligible citizen may try to cast a ballot, but to make sure that the process of voting works well for citizens who are eligible.
Though the votes have not yet been counted in Thursday’s presidential election in Algeria, the result is all but decided: President Abdelaziz Bouteflika will win a fourth term. Bouteflika’s long reign is unprecedented (and unconstitutional), and so is the nature of the election. The ailing and frail 77-year-old Bouteflika had not made a single public or televised campaign appearance until this month’s meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry, in which Bouteflika looked more dead than alive. Indeed, one critic, novelist Yasmina Khadra, calls Bouteflika’s government a “zombie regime.” The president — a functionary of the National Liberation Front, the party that has owned Algeria since its independence in 1962 — is entrenched, propped up by generals and an uneasy status quo. The question is, how long will the government manage to impose scripted elections on a population ready for the risks and rewards of an unscripted future?
Editorials: Lost in the Canadian Fair Elections Act fight: The right to vote | Cara Faith Zwibel/The Globe and Mail
A supporter of Stephen Harper’s government has suggested that Elections Canada is in an inherent conflict of interest because of its twin goals of increasing voter turnout and improving the integrity of the system. It is argued that, in light of this conflict, Elections Canada’s concerns about the government’s proposed Fair Elections Act can’t be taken seriously. Does this conflict really exist? Since its introduction in early February, the government’s proposed Fair Elections Act has been widely debated in the pages of our major newspapers, the focus of town hall meetings held across the country by the NDP, and the subject of testimony and heated questioning before a House of Commons Committee. The bill has even been the topic of a pre-study by a Senate Committee, an indication that the government would like to move it forward quickly. One of the most hotly contested parts of the bill would put an end to vouching, a process that allows people without appropriate identification to vote, provided another elector in their polling division is able to vouch for their identity and residence.
Jose Mario Vaz, Guinea-Bissau’s former finance minister, will face Nuno Gomes Nabiam, a candidate seen closest to the army, in a May 18 presidential run-off due to complete the country’s return to civilian rule. The presidential and parliamentary vote is meant to offer the nation a fresh start after decades of instability since independence from Portugal. Its last vote in 2012 was abandoned after the military seized power between rounds of voting. “Guinea-Bissau citizens have given a strong signal to the political class in coming out in huge numbers to exercise their civic rights,” Augusto Mendes head of the election commission said on Wednesday, referring to a turnout of over 80 percent. Vaz, candidate of the dominant party African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), secured 40.99 percent of the votes in the first round, according to election commission figures.
Indians cast ballots Thursday on the biggest day of voting in the country’s weekslong general election, streaming into polling stations even in areas where rebels threatened violence over the plight of India’s marginalized and poor. Nationwide voting began April 7 and runs through May 12, with results for the 543-seat lower house of Parliament to be announced four days later. Among the 13 key states voting Thursday was Chhattisgarh, now the center of India’s four-decade Maoist insurgency. “I want a good life for my baby, security and peace,” said Neha Ransure, a 25-year-old woman who was voting in the Chhattisgarh town of Rajnandgaon despite fears of violence. “The rebels are bad. They kill our soldiers. I don’t go outside of town. It is too dangerous.” Rebels always threaten to disrupt Indian elections, and this year is no different. On Saturday, insurgents killed 14 people in two separate attacks in Chhattisgarh in a campaign to disrupt the polls. The dead consisted of five election officials, five paramilitary soldiers, two bus drivers and two civilians. Last month, rebels in Chhattisgarh killed 15 law enforcement officers and one civilian in their deadliest raid in almost a year.
The Republican-controlled Missouri House endorsed a pair of measures Wednesday that would expand early voting, though Democratic critics called it a “sham” that could circumvent a separate voting initiative that would go further. Missourians currently can cast absentee ballots under limited circumstances, including if they will be out of town on Election Day. The proposal that won first-round approval Wednesday would send a constitutional amendment to the ballot allowing early voting for nine days and ending the week before the election. Companion legislation would call for polls to be open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturday for four hours.
Internet tycoon Kim Dotcom holds court while bathing in the pool of a sprawling New Zealand mansion, fist bumping and chatting with some of the 700 guests gathered to celebrate the political party he launched last month to promote Internet freedom. His latest ultra-encrypted file storage site, Mega, will soon go public after a deal that values it at NZ$210 million ($180 million), and Baboom, an online streaming music service designed to bypass record companies, is nearing its hard launch. In Dotcom’s alternate universe, he is fighting extradition from his adopted country to the United States, where the hulking 40-year-old stands accused of massive copyright infringement related to the Megaupload file sharing site he founded in 2005.
For those following the issue of voter fraud nationwide, this fact-check by PunditFact of a claim by Fox News commentator Dick Morris is a must-read. Morris said that “probably over a million people” voted twice in the 2012 general election nationwide. PunditFact rated that False — and you can read the full report here. Morris was referring to data from a project dubbed Interstate Crosscheck run by Republican Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. As of 2013, 28 states sent voter information to Kansas where the record of each of their voters is run against the records in all the other participating states. They are matched on first name, last name, date of birth and Social Security number. Interstate Crosscheck’s own guide for states includes an important caveat that tends to get overlooked: “a significant number of apparent double votes are false positives and not double votes. Many are the result of errors — voters sign the wrong line in the poll book, election clerks scan the wrong line with a barcode scanner.”
Iowa elections officials will continue to bar convicted felons from voting despite a landmark state Supreme Court ruling that suggests not all of them lost their voting rights, a spokesman said Wednesday. Three justices ruled Tuesday that only some felonies are “infamous crimes” under the Iowa Constitution that bar individuals from voting or holding office. Writing for that group, Chief Justice Mark Cady said only crimes that suggest the offenders “would tend to undermine the process of democratic governance through elections” qualify. Cady said justices would have to “develop a more precise test” in future rulings to define them. The ruling concluded that state Senate candidate Tony Bisignano can hold office even though he had been convicted of second-offense operating while intoxicated, an aggravated misdemeanor. Cady’s opinion invalidated three of the court’s prior rulings dating to 1916, which had held that any offense for which the potential punishment is imprisonment was an “infamous crime.” Cady suggested the new definition followed the intent of authors of Iowa’s Constitution, who wanted to protect the integrity of elections.