We’ve all heard plenty of complaints in recent years that national and state legislatures have simply grown too polarized to govern effectively. Democrats and Republicans not only can’t work together, they see each other as enemies and threats to the country. Thanks to this polarization, the country can’t solve the problems it faces. The Bipartisan Policy Center has produced a comprehensive document aimed at addressing this issue. (Disclosure: I served as a consultant on this project during an event last year.) To its credit, the Center isn’t pushing any magic bullets. There is no one simple reform that will substantially reduce polarization while allowing the United States to remain a democracy. It is, however, pushing a series of reforms that, enacted together, could potentially have some kind of impact. Given how many of us decline to even join parties in the first place, should we be encouraging, no less mandating, that such people vote in party nomination contests?
We’re conscientious voters in my household, never missing a chance to cast a ballot. And that’s probably why, in the final weeks before elections, we find our mailbox flooded with a tsunami of political advertisements. In the recent primary, for example, nearly 200 pieces of mail showed up for my wife, my daughter and me, with 29 of them arriving on the Monday before the election, long after we had made up our minds and voted by mail. As a voter, I was annoyed by the 7 pounds of mail we received. We got 19 mailers in the race to replace County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, 16 of them from a single candidate. In the race for the state Senate seat that Ted Lieu vacated to run for Congress, 70 pieces of mail came. Fifty-five mailers came from those hoping to replace retiring Congressman Henry A. Waxman, 43 of them on behalf of candidates who didn’t make it into the runoff. And there were 25 so-called slate mailers laying out a list of candidates we should vote for, most of whom (if you read the fine print) had paid to be included on the slate.
Attorney General Tom Horne has filed a lawsuit, challenging the right of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission to investigate … Attorney General Tom Horne. For a guy who says he wants the truth to come out, he’s fighting awfully hard to squelch it. In a lawsuit filed Thursday, Horne’s asking that a Maricopa County Superior Court judge block the Clean Elections Commission from investigating him. Horne’s been on the hot seat for a while now. The latest scorcher comes courtesy of a former employee who claims Horne and other members of his executive staff were campaigning for his re-election on the taxpayer’s dime. Sarah Beattie produced e-mails sent from private accounts during work hours and said Horne often held strategy sessions and even gave out her work number for campaign-related calls.
Arizona: Redistricting panel urges US Supreme Court to reject challenge from state lawmakers | Arizona Capitol Times
A bid by state lawmakers to take back the power to draw congressional lines is legally flawed and should be rejected, the lead attorney for the Independent Redistricting Commission told the nation’s high court. Mary O’Grady acknowledged that the U.S. Constitution does say that the “times, places and manner” of electing members of Congress “shall be prescribed in each state by the Legislature thereof.” But in legal papers filed with the Supreme Court, O’Grady said that doesn’t necessarily mean the 90 people who serve in the Arizona House and Senate. O’Grady pointed out that the Arizona Constitution, while setting up the two legislative bodies, spells out that the people “reserve the power to propose laws and amendment to the (Arizona) constitution and to enact or reject such laws and amendments at the polls, independently of the legislature.” She said that’s exactly what happened in 2000, when voters created the redistricting commission: They constitutionally took away the power that lawmakers had had since statehood to draw both congressional and legislative lines.
Mississippi: Tea party challenger wants a redo of Republican runoff in Mississippi | Los Angeles Times
Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi returned to the Senate on Monday for the first time since last month’s wild-ride election, but the Republican primary runoff he appears to have narrowly won remains far from over. Tea party challenger Chris McDaniel is poised to launch an unprecedented legal challenge after refusing to concede the June 24 election. McDaniel claimed widespread voter fraud after the Cochran campaign openly courted Democratic support at the polls. On Monday night, the Mississippi Republican Party officially certified Cochran’s victory, saying he won by 7,667 votes. But earlier in the day, more than 200 McDaniel supporters arrived at courthouses in the state’s 80 counties to scour voter logs for irregularities. The campaign has offered 15 $1,000 rewards for information leading to voter fraud convictions.
Mississippi: Chris McDaniel’s lawyer says a new Mississippi election could be ‘automatic.’ Is he right? | The Washington Post
Mitch Tyner is the lead counsel for failed Mississippi Republican Senate primary candidate Chris McDaniel’s effort to have the results of the state’s runoff election overturned. In a brief press conference on Monday, Tyner responded to a question about the margin between McDaniel and incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran — which was at about 6,700 at last count — with assurance.
We don’t have to have 6,700 (ineligible voters). However, I would be surprised if we don’t find 6,700. It’s very easy to see the Mississippi law holds that if there’s the difference between the Cochran camp and our camp — that vote difference — if there’s that many ineligible voters, then there’s automatically a new election.
In an e-mail to the Post, McDaniel campaign spokesman Noel Fritsch said that the number of “irregularities” found on ballots was at 6,900 as of last Thursday — a number that “will certainly grow.” Most of those irregularities are of the kind that has become central to McDaniel’s case: people who apparently voted in the Democratic primary and then the Republican runoff. (More background here.) So done deal, right?
When Alan Langley, a Republican member of the local elections board here, explains a new proposal to consolidate five voting precincts into two, it sounds procedural and well-meaning: He speaks of convenient parking and wheelchair access at the proposed polling places, and of saving more than $10,000 per election. Those precincts, however, are rich with black voters who generally vote Democratic. And when the Rev. Dante Murphy, the president of the Cleveland County N.A.A.C.P. chapter, discusses the plan, he talks of “disenfranchisement” and “conspiracy.” “We know,” Mr. Murphy said, “that this is part of a bigger trend — a movement to suppress people’s right to vote.”
Sweeping changes to North Carolina’s voting law, considered one of the toughest in the nation, should be put on hold until at least after the November election, the U.S. Justice Department told a federal judge Monday. Lawyers for the Justice Department and an array of civic groups said the Republican-backed measures were designed to suppress turnout among minorities, the elderly and college students — blocs that generally vote Democratic. Supporters of the measure said they ensured fair elections, prevented voter fraud and no group was disenfranchised during recent party primaries. Representing the NACCP, lawyer Penda Hair tried to draw a direct line between the new law and voting rights won during the civil rights era. “We can never forget we are walking on sacred ground when it comes to African-American and Latino voting rights,” Hair said. “The long arm of slavery and Jim Crow still reaches into the present.”
In March 1965, Carolyn Coleman, a young activist with the Alabama NAACP, marched to Montgomery in support of the Voting Rights Act. After the passage of the VRA, Coleman spent a year registering voters in Mississippi, where her friend Wharlest Jackson, an NAACP leader in Natchez, was killed in early February 1967 by a car bomb after receiving a promotion at the local tire plant. A year later, Coleman was in Memphis organizing striking sanitation workers when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Coleman devoted her life to expanding the franchise for the previously disenfranchised, serving as president of the North Carolina NAACP and Southern voter education director for the national NAACP. For the past twelve years, she’s been a county commissioner in Greensboro’s Guilford County. Nearly fifty years after marching for voting rights in Alabama, Coleman testified in federal court today in Winston-Salem against North Carolina’s new voting restrictions, which have been described as the most onerous in the nation. The law mandates strict voter ID, cuts early voting by a week and eliminates same-day registration, among many other things. After the bill’s passage, “I was devastated,” Coleman testified. “I felt like I was living life over again. Everything that I worked for for the last fifty years was being lost.”
Afghanistan: Election officials admit voter fraud, delay results in presidential vote | Associated Press
Former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai has the lead in Afghanistan’s disputed presidential election, according to a preliminary tally released Monday despite allegations of massive fraud. The announcement came as Ahmadzai is locked in a standoff with his rival Abdullah Abdullah, who has refused to accept any results until all fraudulent ballots are invalidated. The Independent Election Commission acknowledged that vote rigging had occurred and promised to launch a more extensive investigation before final results are released. “We cannot ignore that there were technical problems and fraud that took place during the election process,” the commission’s chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani said. “We are not denying fraud in the election, some governors and Afghan government officials were involved in fraud.”
Ashraf Ghani edged closer to becoming Afghanistan’s next president after winning a majority of votes in a preliminary count of last month’s election, but officials stopped short of declaring a winner as millions of ballots could still be reviewed for fraud allegations. The country’s election commission said Monday that Mr. Ghani, a former finance minister, had won 56.4% of the vote in a preliminary count, against Mr. Abdullah’s 43.6%. But with his rival Abdullah Abdullah alleging widespread fraud in the June 14 runoff vote, the political crisis over the validity of the election’s results remained unresolved. One of Mr. Abdullah’s most prominent supporters, northern Balkh province’s powerful Gov. Atta Mohammad Noor, called late Monday for “widespread civil unrest” and warned of forming a “parallel government.” That statement drew a swift condemnation from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who was speaking at the Yokota Air Base in Japan en route to high-level talks in China.
Carrying ballot boxes on their backs, Indonesian tribesmen climbed barefoot up a mountain in a remote part of Borneo island to ensure a small village would not miss the chance to take part in tomorrow’s presidential poll. It is just one example of the great lengths gone to in the world’s biggest archipelago nation, home to some 6,000 inhabited islands and stretching around 3,200 miles (5,150 kilometres) from east to west, to organise elections.Months of painstaking preparation culminate in a weeks-long operation, with ballots taken in speedboats out to remote islands, carried on horseback along mountain paths, and in helicopters and small planes to far-flung hamlets. There will be some 480,000 polling stations set up for the vote across the world’s third-biggest democracy. Some 190 million eligible voters will cast ballots, from the crowded main island of Java – where more than half of the country’s inhabitants live – to mountainous eastern Papua, and jungle-clad Sumatra in the west.
Just how far Indonesia has come along a democratic trajectory since the Suharto dictatorship was deposed 16 years ago has been demonstrated in the election for a new president. Voting takes place tomorrow. And the vibrancy, freedom and competitiveness of the campaign to elect a successor to Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono have done the Islamic world’s largest democracy great credit. Polls show the outcome is too close to call, reflecting how hard-fought the contest has been to win support among 170 million voters. The campaign, which has been commendably free from violence, has been fought almost entirely on secular rather than religious issues. Both candidates, Joko Widodo, 53, and Prabowo Subianto, 62, have shown themselves well equipped to take over the leadership of our most important neighbour. Mr Widodo, known as “Jokowi”, is the populist Jakarta governor with a reputation for incorruptibility and good municipal government. He is a cleanskin in what Transparency International rates as one of the world’s most corrupt nations (114th out of 177). Mr Subianto, a tough-talking former army general and commander of the notorious Kopassus special forces, was part of the Suharto establishment. He was married to the former dictator’s daughter.