Voting Blogs: A Constitutional “Right to Participate” in the Electoral Process? | More Soft Money Hard Law

In a close and insightful  reading of Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion in McCutcheon, reproduced here with his permission from the election law listserv, Marty Lederman has called attention to this first paragraph:

There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in  electing our political leaders. Citizens can exercise that right in a variety of ways: They can run for office themselves, vote, urge others to vote for a particular candidate, volunteer to work on a campaign, and contribute to a candidate’s campaign. This case is about the last of those options. (McCutcheon v. FEC, 134 S.Ct. 1434, 1440-41).

The right that Roberts cites—the right to participate in the electoral process—is apparently wide in scope and includes a “variety of activities,” including voting.  So Marty notes that this rationale does not spring from pure “free speech” jurisprudence, and indeed he argues that “if there were such a basic right, the opinion would make much more internal sense than if viewed through a Free Speech Clause” lens.  While disclaiming “naiveté” about the Roberts Court’s commitment to the interests of voters, Marty asserts that if “taken seriously,” this freshly minted right to participate could “be the source of a new flourishing of voting rights and other election-related rights.”

Voting Blogs: States prepare to implement voter photo ID | electionlineWeekly

While there are times that it may seem like we have been talking about voter ID forever, the number of states that have strict photo ID requirements to cast a ballot is still relatively low. Currently 34 states require some form of ID in order to cast a ballot, but only eight states are strict photo ID states. Strict photo ID states, as defined by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) are those states where, “[v]oters without acceptable identification must vote on a provisional ballot and also take additional steps after Election Day for it to be counted.” Two of those strict photo ID states are implementing photo ID requirements on a large-scale basis for the first time this year during their primaries: Mississippi and Arkansas.

Editorials: Before convicting four Alabama counties of voter fraud, let’s see the evidence | Bob Nicholson/

If you needed to rotate the tires on your car would you accomplish that task by changing the oil? Silly idea isn’t it? Yet that analogy is on target when you look at the Alabama Legislature’s actions in establishing strong voter ID laws. They claim that they are reacting to fraud allegations and a crowd of onlookers, columnists and pundits, are cheering them onward. Unfortunately, only a brief examination of the “evidence” shows no fraud. I am a Certified Fraud Examiner. The definition of fraud is specific (wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain) and to casually alleging such is irresponsible. In order to prove fraud, not only do you have to show what happened, you have to show intent as well. Lacking a confession admitting intent, fraud is proven in court by ruling out all other possibilities. Let’s look at the latest “evidence” and see if it meets the definition of proving fraud. Four counties in Alabama, Macon, Wilcox, Lowndes and Greene, have more voters on the roll than the US Census Department estimated their adult populations to be in 2012 by a cumulative 2934 people. And, these counties vote with a strong Democratic majority. Not only that, but in 2012 former Alabama Congressman Artur Davis alleged that wholesale voter fraud goes on in parts of the Black Belt. Convinced that there is fraud going on? Don’t convict just yet.

Arizona: Brewer signs bill limiting authority of Citizens Clean Election Commission | Associated Press

A bill preventing the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission from investigating possible campaign contribution violations by candidates who don’t participate in the program has been signed by Gov. Jan Brewer. Senate Bill 1344 allows only the Secretary of State and state Attorney General to investigate. The Republican governor signed the bill Thursday. It passed the GOP-controlled Legislature this week mainly along party-line votes.

Hawaii: Same-Day Voter Registration Bill Heads to Final Conference | Maui Now

A measure that would provide a process for the public to register to vote at polling sites on election day will be heard in a final conference committee on Friday, April 25, 2014. Representative Kaniela Ing of Maui who introduced the bill noted that Hawaiʻi has the lowest voter turnout in the nation and said, “It’s time we end this shameful distinction and foster a stronger public voice. There are all kinds of reasons people do not vote; arbitrary registration deadlines should not be one of them.” House Bill 2590 would allow voter registration at absentee polling places beginning in 2016; and late voter registration, including on election day, beginning in 2018.

Kansas: Federal lawsuit dismissed, ending challenge to Kansas law requiring voters to show photo ID | Associated Press

Two elderly northeast Kansas men have dropped a lawsuit challenging a state law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls, with a trial in federal court not set until next year. Attorney Jim Lawing said Thursday that Arthur Spry and Charles Hamner asked to have the case dismissed because the case would not be heard before this year’s elections. Also, he said, they found requests for personal information too intrusive. U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil in Kansas City, Kansas, granted their request Wednesday for a dismissal. The judge was still considering whether the case should be heard in federal court or state court, as the two men had wanted. Spry and Hamner, both over 80, live in a retirement home in Overbrook, about 20 miles southeast of Topeka. They sued Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the state’s top elections official and the architect of the photo ID law, after Osage County officials refused to count their votes in the November 2012. The two men couldn’t produce a valid photo ID.

South Dakota: App aids South Dakota residents, students in voting | The Volante

The South Dakota Secretary of State’s office released a new iOS and Android app called Vote605 this month to help South Dakota residents, including students, get voter information for the mid-term election. After logging in with voter’s name and zip code, information for the upcoming election appears. The app shows a map of the poll location. The app also has a sample ballot for voters to look at prior to voting. The selections made in the sample ballot are not transmitted to or tracked by the state. Information that is considered private such as a social security number or full birthdate is not in the application. The voter record is also not tied to the address of the voter to further protect the voter, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

Editorials: 10 ways e-voting could save or destroy democracy | Sydney Morning Herald

It seems a forgone conclusion that, with everything going digital, voting is sure to follow. Especially after lost paper ballots triggered the recent rerun of Western Australia’s 2013 Senate election, sparking renewed calls to trash pencil-and-paper voting for an online alternative. And why not? Networks can transport data faster than vehicles. Machines can tally numbers faster and, arguably, more accurately than humans. And machines alone can’t be accused of manipulating votes. Estonia and Norway have, with the aid of cryptographic ID checks, launched internet voting without too much controversy. But are machines really any less fallible than error-prone humans?

Canada: Limited Internet & telephone voting available for Toronto municipal election | 680News

Limited Internet and telephone voting will be available for Toronto’s upcoming municipal election, but only for residents with disabilities. The city said Thursday that the service will be available during advance voting from Oct. 14-19. “We are very excited to be conducting this pilot project,” city clerk Ulli Watkiss said in a statement. “It is important that our electoral services are accessible and create positive voting experiences for all. By providing greater choices we are working to make voting more accessible to persons with disabilities.”

Canada: Elections watchdog halts robocalls probe | Toronto Star

The federal Conservative Party says it stands vindicated by Canada’s top elections watchdog after a three-year probe failed to produce evidence of a deliberate or widespread conspiracy to suppress votes through the use of automated or live robocalls in May 2011. However opposition critics say Yves Côté’s conclusion does not clear the governing party and only highlights the need for more investigative powers for the Commissioner of Canada Elections. Côté released a report Thursday after an exhaustive investigation into “deceptive communications,” or robocalls, that occurred across Canada in the last federal election and directed voters to the wrong poll station. The commissioner said that beyond the riding of Guelph — where a separate investigation is ongoing and one Conservative staffer, Michael Sona, has been charged — the complaints were “thinly scattered” across the country and no pattern or deliberate attempt to mislead voters could be determined.

Editorials: India’s protracted election: Speed it up | The Economist

The sixth phase of India’s protracted general election took place on April 24th. Voters trooped to polling stations in 117 constituencies in various states including Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. As with other rounds there was much to cheer: first-time voters, enthusiasm in cities and villages, determination to take part despite the heat. Momentum seems to be with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Narendra Modi. A late surge of support for the BJP is reported even in places—West Bengal, Odisha—where the party has traditionally not done well. If true, its prospects of forming the next government look stronger by the day. Three more rounds of voting are due, the last on May 12th, before results are published on May 16th. It constitutes a marathon election. The voting period is eight days longer than last time, in 2009. Count in all the official campaigning and India will have been busy with its general election for a whopping 72 days. The local devotion to voting looks more remarkable with each successive election. As the population grows, and so the electorate, the process will presumably get more protracted yet. The next national poll is likely in 2019, by when more days of voting, and further rounds, may be needed to accommodate many more tens of millions of new voters. Are long elections a problem? They can certainly grow tedious, as some rightly point out that other big countries hold elections much quicker. Brazil, Indonesia and America can all get it done in a single day. The European parliamentary elections next month, across the whole of the European Union, will wrap up within four days. One of the reasons Thailand’s recent general election was annulled was because of a failure to abide by its constitution and hold it in a single day.

National: Supreme Court suspicious of Ohio law that criminalizes false speech about candidates | The Washington Post

Supreme Court justices across the ideological spectrum seemed deeply suspicious Tuesday of an Ohio law that criminalizes the spreading of false information about a political candidate during a campaign. Now they have to find a way for someone to bring them the proper challenge. Technically, the court was reviewing a decision by a lower court that an antiabortion group did not have the legal standing to challenge the constitutionality of Ohio’s law, which is similar to ones in more than a dozen other states. But the justices couldn’t resist giving a preview of their skepticism about what Michael A. Carvin, the Washington lawyer representing the group Susan B. Anthony List, called Ohio’s “ministry of truth” during oral arguments.

Editorials: Why Care About McCutcheon? | Mark Bittman/New York Times

In the food world, change from the ground up is all well and good. We desperately need cooks, gardeners, farmers and teachers. But we also need legislation. The recently passed and almost uniformly abysmal Farm Bill is a lesson in how legislation affects those of us working to change the chaotic so-called food “system.” Pittances were tossed at supporters of local and organic food, fortunes’ worth of agribusiness subsidies were maintained, and much-needed support for the country’s least well-off was slashed. That’s a Republican-led Congress at work, but when it comes to supporting Big Ag and Big Food, most of the Democratic representatives from states where farm income matters most are not much better: While the majority of Big Ag’s financial support for candidates goes to Republicans, Democrats are close behind. For big-time change on a national scale, we need representatives who put the needs of a sustainable food system and all that goes with it ahead of those of the chemical and processed food manufacturers who are currently running the show.

Arkansas: Judge voids Arkansas voter ID law | Associated Press

An Arkansas judge struck down the state’s new voter ID law on Thursday, saying it violates the state constitution by adding a requirement that voters must meet before casting a ballot. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox voided the measure in a lawsuit over the way absentee ballots are handled under the law. A separate lawsuit had been filed last week directly challenging the law, which requires voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot. The law “is declared void and unenforceable,” Fox wrote in the ruling. The Republican-led Legislature approved the law last year, overriding a veto by Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe with a simple majority vote in the House and Senate. Backers of the measure said it was aimed at reducing voter fraud, while opponents said it would disenfranchise voters. A spokesman for Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, a Democrat, says the state Board of Election Commissioners has asked McDaniel’s office to appeal Thursday’s ruling, and it will do so.

Maryland: Online ballot system in question after Board of Elections action | Baltimore Sun

The future of a system that would let voters download absentee ballots before mailing them in was cast into doubt Thursday when the State Board of Elections refused to move forward with part of the plan amid fears it would open the door to widespread fraud. The five-member panel declined to certify a system for marking the ballots on a computer screen despite assurances from its staff that the system was secure and ready to be used in this year’s June primary and November general elections. No formal tally was taken, but it was clear the approval was two votes short of the four-vote supermajority required. Both Republican members opposed the certification, and they were joined by one of the three Democrats. Opponents of the system were jubilant over the outcome. “Sanity prevailed,” said Michael Greenberger, a University of Maryland law professor and founder of its Center for Health and Homeland Security. “If this system had been adopted, Maryland would have had a voting system that was the most subject to fraud in the country.”