The stereotype of the “greedy geezer” voter, a political bloc of 65-and-older Americans who hate taxes but love their government entitlements, is a figment of the public imagination, according to election data. These older voters do turn out at higher rates — a phenomenon that goes back for only four decades. But election results over time show that older voters’ choices and party affiliations closely mirror those of the rest of the electorate. There’s at least one exception to this pattern, however: Florida retirees, who often sever their community and family ties when they relocate south, and may or may not form new ones after they arrive. Older Americans vote at three times the rate of 18-to-24-year-olds in midterm elections. Even when picking a president, their turnout is about 40 percent higher, said social scientists speaking at Columbia University’s Age Boom Academy, a yearly symposium for journalists who write about generational trends.
When William E. Davis was growing up here in DeSoto County, just across the state line from Memphis, there were more than 300 dairy farms, and he was raised on one of them. “Now there are zero,” said Mr. Davis, 66, who is known as Sluggo, the chancery court clerk in a county that has been transformed into a booming suburb of over 168,000 residents. About 800 miles to the east, the same kind of sweeping changes have taken hold in the sprawling suburbs around Richmond, Va., where woods and farmland have been turned into gleaming new subdivisions with names meant to evoke the state’s colonial past. In both states, the growth fueled by a migration of newcomers from other parts of the country and even abroad is bringing nationalized politics to races further down the ballot. It was these new arrivals, more than any other voters, who most crucially rejected two influential Republican incumbents — the House majority leader, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, and Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi — in primaries this month, upending long-held assumptions about the appeal of traditional levers of power.
An Alabama county won’t have to pay a $2 million legal bill for winning a case that led the Supreme Court to throw out part of the Voting Rights Act, according to the man who spearheaded the lawsuit. “Shelby County owes nothing,” Edward Blum of the Project on Fair Representation said in an email. Blum, whose legal defense fund partnered with Shelby County to challenge portions of the Voting Rights Act as unconstitutional, said he has raised money from private donors to pay part of the legal costs. If he doesn’t raise more, the Wiley Rein law firm in Washington, which handled the case for the Project on Fair Representation, will absorb the costs, Blum said. Wiley Rein also is working to convince a federal court that the Justice Department, which lost the Supreme Court case, should have to pay the fees. A federal judge ruled that the Justice Department doesn’t have to pay, but the firm has appealed that ruling.
Arizona: Scott Fistler, “Cesar Chavez”: Arizona congressional race devolves into war over Hispanic surnames. | Slate
On Aug. 26, Democratic voters in Arizona will choose a successor to 7th Congressional District Rep. Ed Pastor. It’s a safe, blue seat, covering the most liberal parts of Phoenix and Glendale. And it’s heavily Hispanic. That’s what led a Republican trickster named Scott Fistler to pay $319 to legally change his name, to “Cesar Chavez,” and attempt to get on the ballot. It was difficult to overstate the chintziness of the move. On his website (now offline), Fistler posted pictures of mobs of people marching in “Chavez” shirts—he took them from rallies for the late Venezeulan President Hugo Chavez. When I was in Phoenix last week, it was widely understood that Fistler would face challenges to his ballot petitions. In interviews, he’s responded to the challenges by saying “the Cesar Chavez train is smoking and it’s not going to stop until the election” and “my campaign is too legit to quit.” So we’re not talking about a serious person. Here’s where the story veers into pure derp. Ready? OK.
If there’s one thing elections officials pray for, it’s wide margins on Election Day. A clear and convincing election result allows final tallies to be announced. Winners receive congratulations, losers give concession speeches and everyone else returns to work. But that’s not what’s happening this year. In the state controller’s race, we find an incredibly close result that has changed leads repeatedly throughout the counting period. Republican Ashley Swearengin is solidly in first place, nearly guaranteed a spot in the runoff. But the vote differential between second and fourth is a mere four-tenths of a percent, with hundreds of thousands of votes to count. This easily could go to a recount if the margins remain this narrow.
The House of Representatives passed an elections reform bill Thursday that will consolidate the state’s three county election boards into one state panel. Republican legislators grilled the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Earl Jaques, D-Glasgow, and state elections commissioner Elaine Manlove on the details of House Bill 302. The bill was crafted to mirror the Election Law Task Force’s review of election protocol. It creates an 11-member state elections board and eliminates election boards in Kent, Sussex and New Castle counties. County elections offices would still be in place, but under the new proposal, directors would report to the state board to ensure all offices were communicating.
Florida: Voting-rights groups blast Legislature for secrecy, favoritism in drawing congressional districts | Florida Times-Union
A state judge has the power to decide that Florida’s congressional districts were illegally drawn to favor Republicans — and he should do just that, a coalition of voting-rights organizations argues in written closing arguments. In arguing that the districts violate a voter-approved Constitutional amendment specifically prohibiting such political favoritism, the plaintiffs fired a volley of salvos following 12 days of testimony in a landmark trial. “The 2012 congressional plan is exactly what one would expect from a legislature that fought the Fair Districts amendments at every hedgerow, involved partisan operatives in its decision-making, and made key decisions outside of the public eye,” the plaintiffs wrote to Circuit Judge Terry Lewis.
This is going to be a big week in the ongoing death struggle for political power in Illinois. Even as a ballot dispute over a proposed constitutional amendment on legislative redistricting continues in Springfield, House Speaker Michael Madigan’s lawyers are going to court in Chicago to kill two proposals that could eventually bring the state’s professional political class to its knees. One proposed constitutional amendment would set eight-year term limits on legislators while the other would strip them of their authority to draw boundary lines for their own House and Senate districts, transferring that authority to a bipartisan citizens’ group. Oral arguments on Madigan’s legal challenges will be heard Wednesday by Cook County Circuit Judge Mary Mikva, the daughter of former congressman and federal appeals court judge Abner Mikva.
Kansas: Hundreds of Douglas County voters still in limbo as primary election nears | Lawrence Journal-World
Douglas County election officials are reaching out to more than 600 would-be voters whose registrations are being held “in suspense” because they have not yet provided necessary documents to prove they are U.S. citizens. County Clerk Jamie Shew said Thursday that those voters have until Aug. 4 to provide those documents if they want to vote in the Aug. 5 primary elections for federal, state and local offices. But a small number of them – four, to be exact – may be eligible to vote in the federal primaries for U.S. House and Senate, although they will not be able to vote in state and local races. “There has been some confusion about that,” Shew said Thursday. “Some people think they can show their proof of citizenship at the polls. But they have to file it with us before Election Day to be eligible.”
Now that the primary elections are behind us, the debate returns to what was always the main subject – the race for governor. The battle between incumbent Paul LePage and challenger Mike Michaud, with Eliot Cutler again in the mix, has an epochal quality to it. Whatever happens, it won’t be one of those elections where you wonder how much difference it would have made had the other guy won. So it’s time to dust off the modest proposal I raised back in March – whether we could create a grand bargain to reform what are some of the oddest and least useful parts of Maine’s political system. Those would be legislative term limits – unnecessary in a citizen legislature whose powers are already limited – and the indirect election of the attorney general, secretary of state, and treasurer, something practiced by no other state, and not in federal elections, either, since the 17th Amendment provided for direct election of U.S. senators a century ago.
The TotalVote comprehensive voter database got its first statewide test in the primary election June 3. Whether it succeeded depends on whom you talk to. While reported problems seem roughly proportional to the size of the counties using it, Minnehaha County Commissioners heard enough tales of voters being directed to the wrong precincts in the low-turnout primary to spark concern about how TotalVote will perform in the November general election, when turnout is expected to be much higher. Getting the election right is a sobering responsibility for public officials. The effect, for them, of heading toward the general election with potentially unresolved TotalVote issues might be summer dreams haunted by apocalyptic visions along the lines of Supreme Court justices peering owlishly at hanging chads and banana republic dictators winning elections by margins greater than 100 percent.
Afghanistan: Voters brave Taliban threats to choose new leader in presidential runoff | Associated Press
Afghans braved threats of violence and searing heat Saturday to vote in a presidential runoff that likely will mark the country’s first peaceful transfer of authority, an important step toward democracy as foreign combat troops leave. The new leader will be challenged with trying to improve ties with the West and combatting corruption while facing a powerful Taliban insurgency and declining international aid. Despite a series of rocket barrages and other scattered attacks that Interior Minister Mohammad Umar Daudzai said killed 46 people, the voting was largely peaceful. Independent Election Commission Chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani said initial estimates show that more than 7 million Afghans voted, which would be equivalent to the first round on April 5. That would be a turnout of about 60 percent of Afghanistan’s 12 million eligible voters. Abdullah Abdullah, who emerged as the front-runner with 45 percent of the vote in the first round, faced Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, an ex-World Bank official and finance minister. Neither garnered the majority needed to win outright, but previous candidates and their supporters have since offered endorsements to each, making the final outcome unpredictable.
Some 60% of Afghan voters went to the polls Saturday for the second round of presidential elections. Former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani was in a tight race with former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, and it will be weeks before we know the final outcome. But the fact that both men are pro-Western moderates should put to rest the notion that the Afghan people and their leaders are not ready for democracy. The election marks an improvement over the 2009 ballot that re-elected Hamid Karzai, which was marred by low voter turnout and credible allegations of widespread fraud. The turnaround is a testament to the success of the U.S. surge in routing the Taliban from their old strongholds, and of the ability of Afghan security forces—army and police—to maintain security at thousands of polling places.
Colombians decided Sunday to give President Juan Manuel Santos four more years to clench his signature project — a peace deal with the nation’s guerrillas that might end a half century of civil conflict. With 99 percent of the vote counted, Santos had won 51 percent versus 45 percent for former Finance Minister Oscar Iván Zuluaga. Months of whiplash polls and bitter recriminations boiled down to a difference of about 900,000 ballots in a race that was largely seen as a referendum on ongoing peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Havana. After he plowed through a crowd of supporters and white-clad children waving cutouts of doves, Santos said he was determined to clench a peace deal.
One month before the world’s largest Muslim democracy, chooses a new president, pollsters say an Indonesian tabloid’s “black campaign” is evidence of a concerted effort to discredit the leading candidate. Independent pollster Politicawave has found that Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and running mate Jusuf Kalla had been the subject of 94.9 percent of slander, while rivals Prabowo Subianto and Hatta Rajasa were the subject of a minimal amount. In the past few months, questions have been raised in the nation’s press about Jokowi’s ethnicity, race and religion, along with allegations of corruption. One report even went as far as to claim Jokowi had died.
Colin Craig’s Conservative Party may be buying into a fight over the proposed alternative logo it is trying to register with the Electoral Commission. The logo which the party wants to have printed on ballot papers is a round blue speech bubble which simply says “Vote” in white writing. However it was been criticised on Twitter over the weekend, including by Labour’s Northcote candidate Richard Hills who said it was confusing. Electoral Commission rules state a logo will not be accepted if is “offensive, indecent, misleading, confusing, referring to an honour or title, or infringing someone else’s intellectual property rights”.