Civil rights groups have spent a decade fighting requirements that voters show photo identification, arguing that this discriminates against African-Americans, Hispanics and the poor. This week in a North Carolina courtroom, another group will make its case that such laws are discriminatory: college students. Joining a challenge to a state law alongside the N.A.A.C.P., the American Civil Liberties Union and the Justice Department, lawyers for seven college students and three voter-registration advocates are making the novel constitutional argument that the law violates the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18 from 21. The amendment also declares that the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.” There has never been a case like it, and if the students succeed, it will open another front in what has become a highly partisan battle over voting rights.
Editorials: Scytl e-voting exposes the dangers of automating a democracy | Scott M. Fulton/Fierce Enterprise Communications
Technology is already neutral. While vendors and manufacturers and lobbyists characterize technology as a natural force unto itself with the power to improve our lives and work simply through direct contact with it, more often than not, it provides people within organizations, societies, states and countries with the tools they require to further entrench themselves in bureaucracy, and to bury themselves further in the obscurity and anonymity they desire. The first trials of Scytl’s protocol took place in Norway in 2013. The Carter Center, which has monitored and verified the accuracy of global elections ever since Pres. Carter left the White House, reported on the progress of the Scytl approach (.pdf). The process of voting in Norway, according to that report, was not at all dissimilar to the way B-52 bombers were told to attack Moscow in the movie Dr. Strangelove:
In order to vote, a voter had to register their mobile phone with a centralized government register (one could do so online while the voting was underway). The voter should have also received a special card… delivered through the postal service, with personalized numeric return codes. These cards provided the voter a list of four-digit numbers corresponding to each party running for election. The four-digit numbers were randomly assigned for every voter so that, for example, any two voters who wanted to cast their vote for Labour would unlikely have the same return codes associated to the Labour party.
In much the way surgeons need skilled hands and fighter pilots must have great eyesight, there is at least one key requirement for election workers handling the recount in California’s controller race: long attention spans. Starting Friday, they will gather in government offices and sit four to a table, where ballots will be lined up for their review. One worker will read a voter’s decision, another will watch and two more will keep count. They will do this thousands and thousands of times. “It has to be people who can stay focused, because you can understand how boring it can get,” said Debra Porter, Imperial County registrar. And if the workers lose count, they’ll have to backtrack to make sure they get it right. This tedious process is at the heart of what could become the largest recount in California history. It will also showcase a rarely discussed area of state law that observers and participants say fails to provide an equitable safeguard in close elections.
A judge threw out Florida’s congressional redistricting map Thursday, ruling that the Legislature allowed for a “secret, organized campaign” by partisan operatives to subvert the redistricting process in violation of the state Constitution. Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis ruled that two of the state’s 27 districts are invalid and must be redrawn, along with any other districts affected by them, to bring the map into compliance with the state’s new Fair District amendments. The 41-page ruling, issued late Thursday, invalidates the entire congressional map and raises questions now about whether the map will be redrawn before the November elections or revised later. The case, brought by a coalition led by the League of Women Voters, is expected to be appealed and ultimately decided by the Florida Supreme Court.
A federal judge will now have to decide whether North Carolina’s new voting law is so onerous on black voters that it needs to be blocked before the upcoming November elections. That’s the central question after a four-day hearing in U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem ended Thursday afternoon. National and local voting-rights activists are closely watching the case. U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder said in court that he would issue a written decision at a later date, noting it would be “sooner rather than later,” given the urgency of the matter. State attorneys argued Thursday that the law was not discriminatory and that it gave everyone an equal opportunity to vote. Opponents disagree. The hearing featured about three days of testimony from state officials, Democratic legislators, experts and blacks voters who said they would be burdened by voting changes that Republicans legislators passed in 2013. The law, known as the Voting Information Verification Act and referred to in the hearing as House Bill 589, would reduce early voting from 17 days to 10, eliminate same-day voter registration, prohibit county elections officials from counting ballots cast by voters in the correct county but wrong precinct and get rid of pre-registration by 16- and 17-year-olds.
At a time when election officials are struggling to convince more Americans to vote, advocates for the disabled say thousands of people with autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy and other intellectual or developmental disabilities have been systematically denied that basic right in the nation’s largest county. A Voting Rights Act complaint to be filed Thursday with the U.S. Justice Department goes to a politically delicate subject that states have grappled with over the years: Where is the line to disqualify someone from the voting booth because of a cognitive or developmental impairment? The complaint by the Disability and Abuse Project argues that intellectual and developmental disabilities, including conditions such as Down syndrome, are not automatic barriers to participating in elections. It seeks a sweeping review of voting eligibility in Los Angeles County in such cases, arguing that thousands of people with those disabilities have lost the right to vote during the last decade. “We want these past injustices to be corrected, and we want the judges and court-appointed attorneys to protect, not violate, the rights of people with developmental disabilities,” Thomas F. Coleman, the group’s legal director, said in a statement.
More than a hundred absentee voters who registered at the address of a mailbox center in Cedar-Riverside will have to re-register under their home addresses — a decision that follows a stir in the Somali community regarding legal voting practices. At an administrative hearing on Thursday, the Hennepin County Attorney’s office announced that the case of 141 improperly registered voters was not an intentional or organized effort, dismissing allegations of voter fraud. The hearing came about two weeks after the attorney’s office was prompted to investigate the incident by a petition filed by a lawyer for Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis.
Could there be yet another election in the Republican Senate primary in Mississippi? More than two weeks after six-term incumbent Thad Cochran won the GOP runoff against Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel, campaign workers are still swarming county courthouses in the Magnolia State trying to find evidence to overturn the election. Although Cochran won by 7,667 votes on election night, McDaniel’s campaign alleges that enough votes were improperly cast to call the result into question. McDaniel has hired Mitch Tyner, a prominent Mississippi trial lawyer who was a long-shot Republican candidate for governor in 2003, to lead his legal team. In a press conference this week outside a courthouse in Jackson, McDaniel’s lawyer claimed that there were lots of allegations and reports of voter fraud in the race. At the time, when the margin between the two was only 6,700, Tyner said that the McDaniel campaign didn’t need to find that many illegal votes to force a do-over of the runoff but thought they would find ample evidence.
After three days of testimony, a hearing in federal court is wrapping up on whether to block certain provisions of North Carolina’s new voting law, such as eliminating same-day voter registration, for November’s election. U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder on Wednesday began listening to final arguments from plaintiffs’ attorneys. The U.S. Department of Justice, the state NAACP, the League of Women Voters and other groups have filed lawsuits challenging the law and are seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent many of the provisions from going into effect during the Nov. 4 general election. Among the many provisions, the law reduces the number of days of early voting from 17 to 10, eliminates same-day voter registration and prohibits county election officials from counting ballots cast by voters in the correct county but wrong precinct. It also gets rid of pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds and would require voters to show a photo ID, beginning in 2016.
It’s far too soon to make any predictions. But a recent decision by a federal judge in the challenge to Texas’s harsh voter ID law may augur well for the chances of getting the law struck down when it goes to trial in September. Overturning the law would be a massive win for the Obama administration, which is spearheading the challenge, and could boost Democrats’ long-term hopes of competing in Texas. It would be an embarrassing defeat for Gov. Rick Perry and for Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is highlighting his defense of the law as he runs to succeed Perry as governor. The law, passed in 2011 with strong support from Perry, imposes the strictest ID requirement in the nation. It requires that Texans show one of a narrow range of state or federal IDs. Gun licenses are accepted, but student IDs, and even out-of-state driver’s licenses, aren’t. Finding that it would disproportionately affect minority voters, a federal court blocked the law in 2012 under the Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which required the state to get federal approval for its voting laws. But hours after the Supreme Court invalidated Section 5 last year, Abbott announced that the law would go into effect.
Felons who have served their prison sentences could win back their right to vote under a proposal to be considered next week by a Wyoming legislative panel. The measure, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, would establish a process of re-enfranchisement for nonviolent first-time offenders once they finish serving time behind bars, probation or parole. The ACLU’s Wyoming chapter said the bill would have restored voting rights to 4,200 nonviolent offenders in Wyoming between 2000 and 2011. Current law only allows restoration of voting rights to felons who are pardoned by the governor or who are specifically given the right to vote by the state parole board. But the law doesn’t lay out any criteria for re-enfranchisement, and some members of the board have complained they don’t have enough guidance.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Afghanistan on Friday to try to broker an election-audit deal between presidential candidates amid widespread allegations of voting fraud and as a deepening political crisis threatens to fragment the country along ethnic and regional lines. On Monday, Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission announced preliminary results following a June 14 presidential runoff between former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani. Mr. Ghani emerged as the apparent winner, with 56.4% of the vote, but Mr. Abdullah rejected the preliminary results, charging widespread fraud, and declared himself the victor. Followers of Mr. Abdullah have called for him to set up a “parallel government,” raising fears of upending the country’s democratic transition and a return to civil war.
July 7, Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced the preliminary results of the country’s presidential election. According to the IEC’s chairman, Ashraf Ghani received 56.44 percent of the votes in the June 14 runoff; he had placed second during the first round of elections, with 31.56 percent. His opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, who fell just short of an outright majority in the first round with 45.00 percent, only received 43.56 percent in the runoff. The fact is that although the magnitude and scope of the fraud is unclear thus far, the integrity of the election has been tainted beyond repair. This has caused some, including Abdullah’s vice presidential running mate, Mohammad Mohaqiq, to describe the preliminary results as a “coup” against voters. Election observers have already noted that the number of votes cast in the runoff was not anywhere close to the 8.1 million quoted by the IEC; nor have they accepted the notion that 37.6 percent of that number reflects votes of women.
Former general Prabowo Subianto’s refusal to accept unofficial counts showing he lost the Indonesia presidential race to Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo has focused attention on the seven-person body that’s charged with confirming the votes in the world’s third-biggest democracy. The General Elections Commission is tallying votes from the July 9 ballot, with official results due in less than two weeks. About 140 million votes need to be added up across an archipelago that would stretch from New York to Alaska, with the numbers passing through village, district, provincial and regional tabulation centers before reaching Jakarta. While the election was violence-free and Jakarta’s streets quiet yesterday, a result seen as questionable by either side risks legal challenges and public protests. Even after the country moved to direct presidential elections a decade ago, having shaken off the rule of dictator Suharto in 1998, graft is widespread, with Indonesia ranked 114th among 177 countries in a 2013 Transparency International corruption perceptions survey.
Jolanka Horvat has watched her home region of Pomurje, in Slovenia’s northeast, slide deeper into poverty and joblessness over the past few years. And the 53-year-old seamstress has little hope of change after Slovenia’s snap election this weekend, the third in less than three years. “Our kids will have to go abroad to make a living,” the mother of two told AFP ahead of Sunday’s vote. “I expect nothing from this nor any other government… they just make promises but nothing happens,” she said, a refrain echoed around the country. Once a model member of the European Union which it joined in 2004, Slovenia was hit hard by the 2008 financial crisis and narrowly escaped a bailout last year.
Hackers have briefly disrupted online voter registration for elections in Tunisia later this year, the election commission has said. Registration on the internet and by SMS was temporarily suspended following a “pirate attack”, it added. The commission, known as Isie, did not say who was behind the hacking. The elections in October and November will be the second in Tunisia since long-serving ruler Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was ousted in 2011.
United Kingdom: Young people should be encouraged to vote as soon as possible after their 18th birthday to start a habit of a lifetime, advises expert | Wales Online
A leading Welsh expert on voting has told MPs it is “vital” that young people cast their first votes as close to their 18th birthdays as possible so they start the habit of a lifetime. The warning from Rebecca Rumbul of Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre comes at a time of high concern about low turnouts in recent election. In the recent European elections, less than one in three eligible people took part. Around four of 10 of the electorate voted in the 2011 National Assembly election and only 36% participated in that year’s referendum on law-making powers. She is concerned there is a “growing group of young people who will probably never reach that point where they engage in voting”. One option to encourage voting, she suggested in her evidence, was to allow people to register to vote on election day.
Secretary of state John Kerry said on Saturday both of Afghanistan’s presidential candidates were committed to abiding by the results of the “largest and most comprehensive audit” of the election runoff ballots possible. Kerry stood with the two candidates who are disputing the results of Afghanistan’s presidential election. He announced that finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah had agreed to abide by a 100%, internationally supervised audit of all ballots in the presidential election in Kabul. “Both candidates have committed to participate in and abide by the results of the largest and most comprehensive audit; every single ballot that was cast will be audited,” Kerry said. “This is the strongest possible signal by both candidates of the desire to restore legitimacy to the process.” The audit is expected to take a “number of weeks” and will begin with ballot boxes in Kabul. Ballot boxes from the provinces are to be flown by helicopter to the capital by US and international forces and examined on rolling basis. Observers from each campaign as well as international observers will be involved in the oversight of the review, and the candidate with the most votes will be declared the winner and become president.
Hours after voting ended in Indonesia’s presidential race, candidate Joko “Jokowi” Widodo proclaimed victory while his rival Prabowo Subianto urged patience as the official vote count proceeded. Results of an unofficial quick count on Wednesday indicated a slight edge for Widodo, a former furniture exporter who rose to become Jakarta governor, ahead of Prabowo, a former military man. “Today, Indonesia’s new son has been chosen by the people,” Widodo declared. “We begin a new phase in our history and we start a new beginning of Indonesia.” Widodo’s leap from relative obscurity to potential leader of the world’s most populous Muslim nation has drawn comparisons to U.S. President Barack Obama’s meteoric rise in 2008. For his supporters, the “Jokowi effect” heralds a new breed of political leaders — a break from Indonesia’s tradition of leaders with military, bureaucratic or elite backgrounds.
Indonesia: Election Commission starts vote tally after both candidates claimed victory | The Malay Mail
Indonesia’s election commission began the task of tallying about 140 million votes to meet a two-week deadline to announce the winner of the country’s closest-ever presidential election after both candidates claimed victory. The disputed outcome raised the prospect of short-term uncertainty for Asia’s fifth-largest economy and the world’s third-biggest democracy, after unofficial counts by two survey companies showed Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo, 53, secured more votes than Suharto-era general Prabowo Subianto, 62. Both candidates in their victory speeches called on supporters to guard against attempts to manipulate the tally, while outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono urged supporters on both sides to remain calm following the vote.