With the midterm elections only months away, efforts to carry out some of the country’s strictest photo ID requirements and shorten early voting in several politically pivotal states have been thrown into limbo by a series of court decisions concluding that the measures infringe on the right to vote. The most recent ruling came last Wednesday, when a federal judge ordered Ohio’s elections chief to restore early voting hours on the three days before Election Day. It is the second lower court decision in Ohio since 2012 that bolsters voter rights. The court decisions have gone both ways, but several have provided a new round of judicial rebukes to the wave of voting restrictions, nearly all of them introduced since 2011 in states with Republican majorities. The decisions have ensured that challenges will remain a significant part of the voting landscape, perhaps for years. And, with challenges still going through the courts, voting rules and requirements remain uncertain in several states before the midterm elections.
What does the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) have to do with elections? Glad you asked. IEEE, or the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, is the world’s largest professional association for the advancement of technology. Along with its major educational and publishing activities, IEEE is one of the leading standards-making organizations in the world. IEEE standards affect a wide range of industries including: power and energy, biomedical and healthcare, Information Technology (IT), telecommunications, transportation, nanotechnology, information assurance, and many more. In 2013, IEEE had over 900 active standards, with over 500 standards under development.
IEEE has many subgroups that establish standards for various industry areas. and one of these is IEEE Project 1622 (or P1622). This group has been active lately working on setting common standards for important election related practices, including things like distributing blank ballots (for voters who are overseas, e.g.). With Congress’ stalemate on appointing new members to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), development and adoption of U.S. election data standards seems to be shifting from the EAC’s Voluntary Voting Systems Guidelines (VSSG) Technical Development Committee to the IEEE VSSC. Brian Hancock, EAC Director of Voting System Testing and Certification, spoke positively about this development at the recent conference of the Election Verification Network (EVN) in San Diego.
Following adoption of its initial proposed standard for electronic distribution of blank ballot information (1622-2011, published in January 2012), the IEEE Project 1622 for Voting Systems Electronic Data Interchange has been authorized to become the IEEE Voting Systems Standards Committee (VSSC).
As Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis begins his final deliberations on congressional districts drawn by lawmakers in 2012, the gaps in conversations among lawmakers and political consultants might be as important as what’s in the record. Groups challenging the map have painted the words not committed to paper, and documents destroyed by the Legislature, as evidence of improper activity. The state has countered that there’s no proof that those gaps contain any damning information. A coalition of voting-rights groups filed a lawsuit after the once-a-decade redistricting process in 2012, saying the new map ran afoul of the anti-gerrymandering Fair Districts amendments that voters approved two years earlier.
Data showing Americans’ increased political polarization breathes new life into an old cause: mandatory voting. If the connection between the two isn’t clear, then bear with me. A new report from the Pew Research Center shows that a growing share of Americans hold increasingly strident ideological views; those views are increasingly far apart; and the people who hold those polarized views are the most likely to vote. It seems self-evident that this is a problem. Increased polarization means voters elect lawmakers who are increasingly unwilling to compromise, which in turn means Congress can’t react to new problems or deal with old ones. It also means that whichever party wins the White House is all but guaranteed to infuriate the half of the country whose votes it didn’t get, as the demands of each party’s most strident supporters become increasingly irreconcilable.
Secretary of State Connie Lawson has identified 727,000 potentially inaccurate voter registration records across Indiana. A massive May postcard mailing to all 4.4 million registered Hoosier voters saw about 16 percent returned as undeliverable. Starting this week, the state is sending a second, forwardable postcard to those registrants urging them to update their address and voter registration data. “Inaccurate voter information impairs the integrity of our voting process, and it artificially lowers our voter turnout statistics,” Lawson said. Hoosiers who receive a second postcard must update or confirm their voter information by July 24. Those who do not will be placed on “inactive” status. Inactive registrants still can vote this year, in the 2015 municipal elections and 2016 elections. But inactive voters who fail cast a ballot or update their registrations by 2017 will become eligible for removal from the poll lists.
Missouri voters may be facing a choice this November that could affect the integrity of the state’s elections for generations to come. The issue is that of early voting and which direction, if any, Missouri voters are going to choose to enact. Currently, the only early voting allowed in Missouri is that of absentee ballots by which voters must declare they will be out of town or otherwise unable to cast a ballot in person on election day. The Legislature passed a measure that the governor has placed on the November General Election ballot that would allow early voting with no explanation or excuse needed for six business days prior to the November General Election. This proposal would provide a means of early voting to increase voter turnout and ease election day waiting lines while not putting undue financial pressures on local election authorities.
The House Elections Committee approved a bill Thursday protecting the votes of people who pass away between casting an early ballot and Election Day, when that vote is officially counted. House Bill 1267, the Everette Harris Act, is named for the father of 2014 U.S. Senate candidate Mark Harris, who lost in the Republican primary. The elder Harris mailed in his absentee ballot in early April, during the early mail-in voting period, but passed away April 17, before May 6 primary.
Oklahoma: Democrats blame hacker for shoe sales pitch — State party website leads to Nike shoe site | Muskogee Phoenix
Perhaps neon yellow Nike running shoes are a tongue-in-cheek allusion to Democratic candidates “running” for office and trying to get people to the polls. Because when many visitors checked the state Democratic Party’s website Thursday, they were promised “Absolute flexibility for a natural run” and told to “Just Do It.” The problem: Those messages came from Nike, not Democrats.
Texas’ indignant reply to a bid for attorneys’ fees in a redistricting battle is “a case study in how not to respond,” a federal judge ruled, awarding the state’s opponents more than $1 million. U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer in Washington, D.C., said Texas “basically ignore[d] the arguments supporting an award of fees and costs” to parties that had opposed the state’s lawsuit seeking approval of its 2011 redistricting plans. The Republican-controlled Legislature had redrawn election maps following a 2010 Census report that the state’s population had grown by more than 4 million since 2000. Voters and various advocacy groups called the 2011 plans discriminatory, saying they diluted the strength of minority votes. As the legal challenges mounted, Texas urged a panel of federal judges in Washington, D.C., to declare that its redistricting plans “fully comply” with the Voting Rights Act.
Canada: ‘Fair Elections Act’ will be challenged in court by Council of Canadians, Federation of Students | National Post
The Council of Canadians and the Canadian Federation of Students announced Thursday they will challenge the Harper government’s new election bill, hours before Gov. Gen. David Johnston was to grant royal assent, making it law. The council and federation will go to Superior Court of Ontario to challenge the law on the grounds that it violates section 3 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees the “right to vote in an election of the members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein.” The two groups intend to challenge voter-ID provisions that critics say will make it harder for students, aboriginals and seniors to vote, and changes that limit the mandate of the chief electoral officer to promote voting.
Indonesia: The road ahead: Decoding a nation of 13,466 islands, 360 ethnic groups and 719 languages | The Economist
On July 9th the Indonesian presidential election will pit a charismatic, down-to-earth, former furniture-maker against a retired general dogged by allegations of past human-rights abuses. The military man is Prabowo Subianto, the former son-in-law of Suharto, the country’s one-time dictator. If, as (just) seems likely, the former businessman, Joko Widodo, wins, then for the first time since Suharto fell 16 years ago, Indonesia will be led by someone from outside its entrenched elite. It is a remarkable story, but one that will probably soon pall abroad. Talk of the world’s fourth-most populous country, as Elizabeth Pisani notes in her new book, tends to provoke “a mildly panicked look in people’s eyes…at drinks parties in London or New York”. Widespread ignorance about the place is compounded by its bewildering diversity and the subtle complexity of its politics and society. And there are very few good books in English to help the general reader to understand it. Ms Pisani’s is probably the best. Into a beautifully written, richly entertaining account of a year spent travelling around the archipelago, she weaves a deep knowledge of the country acquired first as a reporter there, and then as an epidemiologist. Her first book, “The Wisdom of Whores”, which came out in 2008, was about Indonesia’s HIV/AIDS epidemic.
At this pivotal moment for Afghanistan, one of the two candidates for president, Abdullah Abdullah, is creating a political crisis by trying to interrupt the vote-counting in Saturday’s runoff. On Wednesday, he demanded that the election commission stop counting ballots and withdrew his election observers from the process. This could be catastrophic for Afghanistan, which is still very fragile and under grave threat from the Taliban. If no winner is decided, there is likely to be a protracted political struggle along ethnic lines that could make it impossible to transfer power democratically. The uncertainty would paralyze government decision-making and prevent the signing of a security agreement that would allow the United States to leave a residual force in Afghanistan after combat troops depart later this year.
A revised national referendum law that lowers the minimum voting age to 18 from the current 20 took effect Friday. The law, enacted by parliament a week ago, is seen as a crucial part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to amend the pacifist Constitution to enable Japan to play a greater security role. Changes to the Constitution can be initiated with the support of at least two-thirds of the lawmakers in both houses of parliament and must be endorsed by a majority of voters in a referendum.
Emad Al-Sayeh, head of the Libyan electoral commission, has affirmed that they are ready to go as planned with regards to the June 25 elections. Barely a week before the legislative elections in Libya, militias are involved in serious gun battles inciting fears that certain regions will not be able to vote. More than half of the eligible voters have registered for the elections while the minority Berbers or Amazighs have decided to boycott it if their demand are not met.
Voters in Mauritania head to the polls Saturday to vote in presidential elections, widely expected to return President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz to office. But the opposition remains hopeful. Mauritanians have a choice of five presidential candidates, including incumbent President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. His two main challengers are a prominent anti-slavery activist and the country’s second-ever female presidential candidate, both running as independents. Boydiel Ould Houmied, a member of a loyalist-backed party of former president Maawiya Ould Taya, and Ibrahim Moctar Sarr, a Black African who won five percent of the vote in the 2009 election, are also contenders. The country’s leading opposition coalition is boycotting the poll, claiming a lack of transparency and vote-rigging.
Staff at an Auckland printing facility are using high tech gear to make sure around 2 million personally addressed letters are ready for posting to registered voters across the country next week. The letters are among 3.2 million asking electors to confirm their details prior to the general election in September. They are being printed at NZ Post’s Highbrook printing facility in Auckland’s eastern suburbs and the remainder are being produced in Christchurch.
IT could be a nail-biting finish but election officials have warned there will not be a recount if the independence question is decided by just one or two votes. A close result will not be enough to trigger a repeat count, officials say. Only concerns about the integrity of the process in the 32 counting areas will be considered a sufficient reason. The warning comes from Mary Pitcaithly, the chief counting officer for the referendum. Both sides are hoping for a clear and definitive result on the morning of September 19. But historical parallels suggest that that may not happen.
The Senate Judiciary Committee next week will examine legislation designed to restore the voting rights protections shot down by the Supreme Court last summer. Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has scheduled a June 25 hearing on the Voting Rights Amendment Act, his bill aimed at updating those sections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) deemed by the high court to be unconstitutional. The date marks the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision, which Leahy characterized as a “disastrous” threat to voting protections. He’s urging lawmakers to adopt his bill ahead of November’s midterm elections.
We ask the men and women serving overseas to make the ultimate sacrifice, to protect the rights you and I take for granted. And how do we thank them? – by asking them to waive their right to a secret ballot. Under MA General Laws: Chapter 54, Section 95: “… Email or facsimile transmissions of a federal write-in absentee ballot shall include a completed form approved by the Federal Voting Assistance Program, or any successor program, declaring that the voter voluntarily waives the right to a secret ballot….” Allowing overseas citizens the option of electronic voting, assuming they have access to it, was the state’s solution to our September primary being too close to the November election (see May 2014 Massachusetts Military: The REAL Disenfranchised). Nine other states and the District of Columbia, that had similar conflicts, have changed the dates of their primaries. But despite repeated opportunities, politicians on Beacon Hill refuse to do so, seemingly because they oppose extending their campaign season. State Senator Jamie Eldridge, disagrees with those colleagues, and supports moving the primary to late spring or early summer. “As it is now, whoever wins the primary has only 6 weeks before the general election.”