A federal appeals court has delivered a new setback to officials in Arizona and Kansas, ruling that residents in those states can continue registering to vote for now using a federal form without having to show proof of citizenship. The decision is the latest blow to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who says the federal form — which requires only that people attest under penalty of perjury that they are citizens — creates a “massive loophole” in the enforcement of voting laws in Kansas and Arizona aimed at keeping noncitizens off the rolls. Late Monday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver extended its halt to U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren’s March 19 decision ordering the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to add instructions for Arizona and Kansas residents on the federal voter registration form about those states’ proof-of-citizenship requirements. Earlier this month, the same court had issued an emergency stay. The court also granted a request for a quick hearing in the case.
People with disabilities continue to vote at a lower rate than most others. Turnout in recent decades has improved slightly since federal laws were passed to ensure people with disabilities have access to voting polls. Study after study, however, shows these voters lag behind other cohorts when it comes to registration and participation in elections. The Research Alliance for Accessible Voting used U.S. Census data to show in a survey report that there was a disability turnout gap of 7.2 percent during the 2008 presidential contest and 5.7 percent in 2012. “There has been a fair amount of progress but we still have a long way to go,” said Jim Dickson, who co-chaired a voting rights working group for the National Council on Independent Living.
Candidates testing the waters of bitcoin fundraising are following different sets of rules as they go along, a function of both the freewheeling culture of the digital currency world and of mixed signals from the Federal Election Commission. The FEC approved bitcoin fundraising in a unanimous advisory opinion on May 8, but the agency’s six commissioners immediately began a public dispute over what that decision actually means. At issue is whether digital currency contributions must be capped at $100 per election per donor, or whether candidates, political action committees and parties may accept the virtual currency in larger amounts. The commission’s three Democrats maintain that they approved of bitcoin fundraising only to the $100 cap, and in a statement cited “serious concerns” about the potential difficulty verifying virtual transactions. But the commission’s GOP chairman, Lee E. Goodman, countered in his own statement that bitcoins are in-kind donations, and must therefore be capped only at existing contribution limits — $2,600 for a candidate and $5,000 for a PAC per election. “Innovation and technology should not and will not stand idly by while the commission dithers,” he declared.
Editorials: American elections are stuck in the 20th century. Here’s how to change that. | Timothy B. Lee/Vox
In the wake of the disastrous Florida recount in 2000, Congress appropriated billions of dollars for states to upgrade their voting equipment. A lot of states used this bonanza to purchase shiny new electronic voting machines. But those machines haven’t always worked out as well as their backers hoped, and a decade later they’re showing their age. And Congress isn’t expected to provide more billions for states to replace their aging voting systems any time soon. Aneesh Chopra, President Obama’s choice to be the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer from 2009 to 2012, wants to do something about the problem. He is teaming up with a group called the Open Source Elections Technology Foundation to address the problem. Their plan: develop the software necessary to run an election and release it as an open-source project. Chopra and his colleagues believe that could lead to better election systems while simultaneously saving cash-strapped states money. After every national election, you can find media reports of voting machine “glitches.” Common problems include “vote flipping” (where the voter tries to vote for one candidate but the machine registers it as a vote for another), broken machines, and mis-configured ballots. These issues can cause long lines as pollworkers take malfunctioning machines offline or have to spend time trying to fix them rather than checking in voters.
Voting Blogs: Should bipartisan/nonpartisan committees redraw districts? An example from the midwest | Explaining Elections
Using simple measurements like incumbency, competitiveness (elections won by less than 75%), and previous election results since 2000, we predicted the likelihood of Democrats regaining control of the state legislature. In doing so, we also measured the current disadvantage Democrats face resulting from districting. In this post, we’ll discuss whether different redistricting schemes help reduce skewed proportionality regarding a legislature’s seat to vote distribution. To the left is an example of our predicted “vote to seat” distribution (this time in Iowa), which predicts the likely seats Democrats will receive given their state-wide vote total. If districts were ideally drawn, 50% of the votes statewide for Democrats would translate into 50% of the seats in the state assembly. Comparing three midwestern states (Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin), we can see that different districting schemes yield different levels of proportionality. Since most elections are decided between 45%-55% of the vote, we can tell how volatile or unequal a system is by the steepness of the curve. A truly proportional system is represented by the dotted line in the graph to right, passing through 0,0 and 50,50. These trends are normal for majoritarian representation, but clearly some of these states are more proportional than others, so what causes the difference between these states?
A federal judge has sided with Orange County and rebuffed claims that elected officials had diluted Hispanic voting power in drawing its new County Commission districts, sources say. The voting rights lawsuit was filed against the county by local Hispanic residents and LatinoJustice PRLDEF, a New York City civil rights group. A county official said moments ago that the federal judge threw the case out, and sided with the county. A spokesman from LatinoJustice, John Garcia, said he’d received word from one of the group’s lead attorneys, who said “it didn’t look good.”
Registered voters will begin receiving a postcard from the Indiana Secretary of State’s office this week as part of an effort to update voter rolls. “The Secretary of State is sending out a postcard to every registered voter,” Tippecanoe County Clerk Christa Coffey said Monday. “It is the first step in the process of identifying voters who have moved and not updated their registration.” When registered voters receive a postcard, they should look over the information and then decide how to respond, she said. “If the information is correct on it, you don’t have to do anything,” Coffey said.
Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes predicted early this week that voter turnout for Tuesday’s primary election would be less than 30 percent. She was right: Statewide voter turnout was about 26 percent among a record number of registered voters at 3,105,349. … By 7 p.m., Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s office reported 205 calls to the Election Fraud Hotline, including almost 50 involving vote buying or selling, or bribery. The vote-buying complaints were from 18 counties, mostly in Eastern Kentucky. There were multiple allegations involving vote-buying from Bell, Breathitt, Clay and Pike counties.Breathitt County had the most calls to the hotline, 16 in all, including eight involving vote buying or selling, two calls about disruptions at polls, and one complaint about electioneering within 300 feet of the polls. The Attorney General investigates and prosecutes election-law violations and conducts random post-election audits in six counties 30 days after the election.
The National Federation of the Blind has sued Maryland election officials, charging that their April decision not to approve a system that would make it easier for disabled people to cast absentee ballots privately violates federal law. The Baltimore-based federation filed suit this week asking the U.S. District Court to order the State Board of Elections to provide that technology in time for the June 24 primary election. “The right to a secret ballot that can be filled out privately and independently is just as important to people with disabilities as it is for other voters,” said federation spokesman Chris Danielson. The board decided April 24 to overrule its professional staff’s recommendation that it allow the use of ballot-marking technology, an electronic tool that allows a blind person or someone who doesn’t have use of their arms to mark their absentee ballots on their computers before printing them out and sending them in. Special audio systems can help disabled voters who go to the polls, but some blind and other disabled voters say they have had to ask for help in casting an absentee ballot. Board members were swayed by arguments by some computer scientists and ballot security advocates that the system has shortcomings that would open the door to widespread voter fraud. The decision outraged advocates for the disabled because they had worked with the elections board staff for months to help develop the technology.
Massachusetts, a state with a reputation for liberal politics, has what many consider outdated election laws. That is about to change as state legislators have approved a compromise bill that includes provisions long sought by advocacy groups. The legislation would authorize early voting up to 11 days before Election Day, create a system for online voter registration, allow 16-and 17-year- olds to pre-register to vote, and provide for postelection audits of randomly selected polling places to assure the accuracy of voting machines. Voting rights groups have long pushed for many of the bill’s provisions according to Pam Wilmot, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “The bill is really a terrific step for voters in Massachusetts. It will make it easier and more efficient to vote and encourage people to participate.”
It’s hard enough attracting voters to primaries, except in “big” votes like presidential elections. And when there’s two primaries in the same year, forget about it, not to mention the increased costs to the state! That’s the situation New York state is in. Primaries for federal offices take place in June, but primaries for local offices and state offices take place in September. It’s been this way since 2010, when a court decided that under the terms of a new federal law, the September primary didn’t give enough time for military absentee ballots to be processed. Now, state Assembly and Senate Democrats, backed by good-government groups, have instituted a bill for a joint primary in June. However, the bill is being stalled at the state Senate level by the Republican majority, which prefers a combined August primary.
North Carolina: Voting law opponents file for preliminary injunction; state asks lawsuits be thrown out | Winston-Salem Journal
A federal judge could decide by this summer whether North Carolina’s new voting laws should be blocked for the Nov. 4 general elections. Attorneys filed motions for a preliminary injunction late Monday in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of North Carolina, which has jurisdiction in Greensboro and Winston-Salem, comparing the new law to past efforts, such as poll taxes, that were designed to disenfranchise black voters. Supporters of the new election changes filed a motion Monday seeking to throw out a trio of lawsuits filed last year challenging the law. The motions ask a federal judge to block the law that Gov. Pat McCrory signed last August. The law, referred to in court papers as House Bill 589, is officially known as the Voter Information Verification Act and includes a number of provisions. The most well-known is a requirement that voters present a photo ID, beginning in 2016. But the law also reduces the number of days for early voting from 17 to 10, eliminates same-day voter registration during early voting and prohibits county elections officials from counting ballots cast by voters in the right county but wrong precinct. In addition, the law gets rid of pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, increases the number of poll observers that each political party assigns during an election and allows a registered voter in a county to challenge another voter’s right to cast a ballot.
A frail 92-year-old woman is the latest victim of new voter identification laws sweeping across the U.S. Ruby Barber, a senior citizen in the small town of Bellmead, Texas, has been unable to vote because she can’t find her nearly century-old birth certificate that she’d need to obtain a voter ID under a new state law. “I’m sure (my birth) was never reported because I was born in a farmhouse with a coal oil lamp,” Barber, 92, told the Waco (Texas) Tribune. “Didn’t have a doctor, just a neighbor woman come in and (delivered) me.” Barber visited the state’s Department of Public Safety office last week to request the newly required election identification certificate, but was declined after she didn’t have a birth certificate.
Both candidates vying to be the next president of Afghanistan are convinced they will win and that only cheating can stop them — setting the stage for a fraught election when campaigning starts Thursday. Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani are locked in a head-to-head battle that could test Afghan stability as the country chooses its first new leader since the tumultuous days after the Taliban regime fell in 2001. As the drawn-out election process builds to a climax, US-led combat troops are closing bases and withdrawing rapidly, with all remaining 51,000 NATO soldiers due to exit this year after more than a decade fighting the Taliban. The first-round election on April 5 was hailed a success by Afghan officials and foreign allies after the insurgents failed to launch a major attack, and fraud — though widespread — was deemed not to have affected the outcome.
Estonia’s largest opposition party Centre Party is requesting to ban e-voting in the upcoming European Parliament elections, reports ERR. The request signed was addressed the letter to Estonian President Toomas-Hendrik Ilves, Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas, Secretary of State Heiki Loot, Chairman of the Electoral Committee Alo Heinsalu, Estonian Parliament speaker Eiki Nestor, Chairman of the Supreme Court Priit Pikamäe, Law Chancellor Indrek Teder and State Auditor Alar Karis. Copies of the letter were also addressed to the European leaders Martin Schulz, Herman Van Rompuy and José Manuel Barroso. In its request the party refers to the findings published yesterday by a group of international experts who claim that the Estonian Internet-based e-voting system is extremely vulnerable and should be banned.
Thailand’s prime minister has urged the military to support efforts to set a date for national elections, posing an early test for the generals after martial law was declared on Tuesday. Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan, the prime minister who has led the caretaker administration for less than a fortnight, said he had made contact with the generals on “pressing issues we need to discuss, including elections and reform”. He is pushing for Thailand to go to the polls on August 3, two weeks after his pre-martial law request for a July 20 vote. The armed forces say they imposed martial law to prevent further violence in the six-month-old political crisis, rather than to assume political power. But critics accuse them of executing a de facto slow-motion coup that has seen the military take television stations off the air and attempt to shut down political debate.
It is risky to see hopeful trends in the Ukrainian crisis. But a degree of calm seems to have settled over the rebellious southeast, which may bode well for the presidential election scheduled for Sunday. There are many things Moscow and its minions in Ukraine can still do to derail the election, of course, but President Vladimir Putin of Russia has refrained from publicly endorsing the “people’s republics” proclaimed by secessionists. His spokesman said on Monday that he had ordered Russian troops to pull back from the Ukrainian border, though NATO has not seen any change yet. It is crucial for the vote to be accepted by all sides so Moscow can stop referring to the interim administration as the “illegitimate regime in Kiev,” and the elected president can begin to repair the enormous economic and social damage suffered by Ukraine in recent months. But the election itself will not solve Ukraine’s problems unless a new president can also address the deep corruption and cronyism that have been a hallmark of Ukrainian government since independence in 1991. The front-runner in the presidential race is Petro Poroshenko, a 48-year-old tycoon known as the Chocolate King for his candy empire.
The Malawi president has called for an immediate manual audit of this week’s election results, alleging serious irregularities after the electoral commission reported its vote-tallying system had collapsed. “It has come to my attention that there (are) some serious irregularities in the counting and announcement of results in some parts of the country,” Joyce Banda said. She said unofficial partial results revealed vote tallies that exceeded the total number of registered voters in some constituencies. Discarded and tampered ballots had also been discovered, said Banda, who faces her first electoral test since she succeeded Bingu wa Mutharika after his death two years ago.
Andriy, a young entrepreneur from Slovyansk, won’t be voting in this weekend’s presidential election for fear masked gunmen who’ve taken over the small Ukrainian city will slay anyone who dares try. Separatists intent on abandoning Ukraine for Russia want to torpedo the ballot and have overrun half of the electoral offices in the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions, together known as Donbas. Tactics include abducting voting officials and issuing death threats, the Electoral Commission says. Thirteen servicemen died yesterday amid a push to repel the militants. “You can be killed for showing a position that’s different from them,” said Andriy, who asked that only his first name be used for fear of reprisals. “People have been killed here just because they brought some food to Ukrainian soldiers.”