Alabama taxpayers will spend $3 million on a runoff election Tuesday that most citizens will skip. Alabama’s chief election official, Secretary of State Jim Bennett, said he expects about 5 percent of Alabama’ 2.85 million active voters to participate because of a lack of races that draw voters. “You have no extremely high profile elections,” Bennett said. His forecast is less than one-fourth of the 22 percent who turned out in the primary June 3. No party has a runoff for governor or U.S. Senate. The Republican Party has runoffs for secretary of state, state auditor and Public Service Commission Place 2, the 6th Congressional District, and six legislative seats. The Democratic runoff has no statewide races, no congressional contests, and only one legislative runoff. Only 20 of Alabama’s 67 counties have a Democratic runoff Tuesday.
Both candidates vying to be California’s next secretary of state say the controversial recount in the controller’s race demonstrates the need to change election laws. Sen. Alex Padilla, the Democratic candidate from Pacoima, called the process “embarrassing.” Pete Peterson, a Republican who leads a public policy institute at Pepperdine University, said recount laws are “a mess.” The recount was called by Assemblyman John A. Pérez after he finished 481 votes behind Betty Yee, a Board of Equalization member, in the June 3 primary. The two Democrats are vying for the chance to face off with Ashley Swearengin, the Republican mayor of Fresno, in the November general election. In California, any candidate or registered voter can call for a recount, but he or she has to pay for it.
California: Palmdale continues lonely fight against California Voting Rights Act | Los Angeles Times
Across California, cities, school districts, even water boards are scrambling to comply with the state’s Voting Rights Act and settle costly lawsuits, or avoid them altogether. Palmdale is an exception. Leaders in the Antelope Valley city have lost court battles and racked up big legal bills fighting to keep their system of electing officials, which a trial court last year ruled violates minority voters’ rights. An appeals court recently agreed with the trial judge on some points, and now the city is asking the state Supreme Court to step in. “I think every city in California needs to wake up. … We should all unite instead of folding,” Palmdale Mayor James Ledford said. He repeated his view that the lawsuits are “nothing but a money grab” by the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
After political operatives helped redraw the boundaries of Florida’s Fifth Congressional District, now held by Representative Corrine Brown, a Democrat, it snaked all the way from Jacksonville to Orlando, packing in more Democrats, but also benefiting Republicans in nearby districts. In a similar process in the 10th District, in the Orlando suburb of Winter Garden, an “appendage” was tacked on benefiting the incumbent, Representative Daniel Webster, a Republican. On Thursday night in a scathing decision, a state court judge tossed aside those district lines, saying they “made a mockery” of a voter-approved amendment meant to inject fairness into a process that has long been politically tainted. But Judge Terry P. Lewis’s blistering attack offered no remedy or timetable for fixing the boundaries. With Florida’s primary election only six weeks away, it is unclear whether voters will cast ballots on Aug. 26 and then on Nov. 4 based on a map that a judge has declared unconstitutional — or whether changes, if they withstand appeal, will be postponed until 2016.
The court ruling that invalidated Florida’s congressional districts this week will give voters in November’s elections something they are used to: uncertainty. Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis rejected the Legislature’s 2012 congressional map and specifically ordered two of the state’s 27 districts redrawn to comply with the state’s Fair Districts constitutional amendment. U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, a Jacksonville Democrat, should see her sprawling district become more compact and follow traditional political boundaries, Lewis ruled. And U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, a Winter Garden Republican, should have his Orlando-based district revamped to eliminate the partisan advantage that came when lawmakers swapped out Hispanic Democrats for white Republicans. Among the harsh criticism Lewis directed at the Republican-controlled Legislature was that they allowed “improper partisan intent” to infiltrate the redistricting process and seemingly ignored evidence that partisan political operatives were “making a mockery” out of their attempts to conduct themselves with transparency.
A judge cleared the way Friday for Kansas to use a dual voting system to help enforce its proof-of-citizenship rule for new voters, suggesting that doing otherwise could taint the state’s August primary election. Shawnee County District Judge Franklin Theis’ ruling was a victory for Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a conservative Republican who champions the citizenship rule as an anti-election fraud measure. Critics contend it will suppress the vote. Theis rejected the American Civil Liberties Union’s request to block a policy Kobach outlined last month in instructing county officials on handling ballots from voters who registered using a national form without providing a birth certificate, passport or some other documentation of their U.S. citizenship. Kobach advised counties to set aside the ballots and count only their votes in congressional races.
Yesterday afternoon, journalist Charles C. Johnson — who’s based in California — announced a surprise press conference to be held at the National Media Center. The looming, anonymous building housed a group that had been paid by for work the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and that had purchased ads in Mississippi that warned black voters of the danger if they let Thad Cochran lose his primary. Johnson, joined by New Jersey political operative Rick Shaftan, was there to lay out the possible, illegal ramifications of this. “It is an incontrovertible fact that one of this firm’s top officials, John Ferrell, signed forms for race-baiting ads all over Mississippi,” said Johnson, reading his statement as a local Tea Party leader hoisted a Gadsden flag. “Rick Shaftan and I did the work nobody in the media bothered to do and obtained the order forms direct from radio stations in Mississippi.” Ferrell had not commented, and the media write large had not followed up the story. Indeed, I was one of just four reporters who decided to stop by the presser. Johnson deferred to Shaftan on the details of the case. “There is no proof that his theory is true,” he said, “but there is no proof that it is not true.”
A decade after Ralph Nader‘s failed attempt to get on the presidential ballot in Pennsylvania, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia ruled Wednesday that minor parties should get another day in court. The 54-page opinion stated the Constitution, Green and Libertarian parties have the standing to challenge the constitutionality of two provisions of state election code regulating ballot access. Third-party candidates are required to submit nomination petitions with signatures, and then to bear administrative and legislative costs if those petitions are successfully called into question.
Republican lawmakers argue they intended to weaken Democrats and not discriminate against black and Latino voters when they drew controversial election maps in 2011. To voting-rights activists and the Obama administration, it’s a distinction without a difference. They contend redrawn voting districts designed to advantage Republicans are biased against minorities who have historically voted more for Democrats. Those arguments in a three-year-old fight over Texas redistricting return to federal court today in San Antonio. It will be the first voting rights trial since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that states with a history of racial discrimination no longer need federal approval to change their election rules.
Efforts by the Obama administration to wring protections out of a weakened Voting Rights Act begin Monday in Texas over allegations that Republicans intentionally discriminated against minorities when drawing new election maps. A federal trial in San Antonio comes a year after the U.S. Supreme Court made a landmark ruling that Texas and 14 other states with a history of voting discrimination no longer need permission from Washington before changing the way elections are held. The Justice Department and minority rights groups now want a three-judge panel to decide that Texas still needs that approval under a historically obscure portion of the Voting Rights Act that has drawn new attention since the heart of the 1964 civil rights law was struck down.
I am 54, but have never in my life seen an election ballot. “Have you seen one?” I ask people, out of curiosity. Like me, most of them have no idea what a ballot looks like and have only seen pictures on television of people completely unknown to them clutching a ballot and voting on their behalf. A few say they have seen a ballot, but a long time ago, in their college days, when a class monitor came over, ballot in hand, and had them write down a name they’d never heard of. That was the closest they came to a democratic election. Every March, however, almost 3,000 National People’s Congress delegates and more than 2,000 Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference delegates gather in Beijing. The government claims that, as participants in the political process, they represent the voices of China’s 1.35 billion people. Every five years sees a turnover in the two assemblies, and at the meetings in March 2013, delegates who had completed their terms made way for new members. A friend of mine, returning to Beijing after a lecture tour in Europe, got a phone call as soon as he landed: He had been elected a member of the C.P.P.C.C., he was told, and was to proceed at once to the meeting hall.
Indonesia’s young democracy faces its biggest challenge since emerging from decades of autocratic rule 16 years ago after both candidates claimed victory in last week’s presidential election. It will be up to two key institutions, both with bruised reputations, to decide which of the two men who contested the July 9 poll has the right to move into the white-pillared presidential palace in central Jakarta and lead the world’s third biggest democracy for the next five years. The first will be the Elections Commission, hit by graft charges in the past, and which is now in the process of checking the vote count before it announces the final result by July 22.
A group of six New Zealand environmental organisations are set to file documents against the Electoral Commission this afternoon, in what they have described as a freedom of speech test case. The groups — Greenpeace, Forest and Bird, 350 Aotearoa, Generation Zero, Oxfam New Zealand and WWF New Zealand — have brought the case after the Electoral Commission branded material produced by them as an election advertisement. The material in question related to the Climate Voter initiative, launched last month, which aims to get all political parties to address climate change in the run up to September’s General Election. Election advertisements must adhere to a strict set of legal requirements, and restrictions on spending.
The six-week-old party of Slovenian political newcomer Miro Cerar won a snap election on pledges to reconsider the state-asset sales that helped sink the previous government. Cerar’s party got 35 percent of the vote, beating jailed ex-Premier Janez Jansa’s Slovenian Democratic Party, which got 21 percent, the State Election Commission said yesterday with 99.9 percent of ballots counted. Karl Erjavec’s pensioners party, Desus, was third with 10 percent, while the United Left was fourth with 6 percent, according to the commission, based in Ljubljana, the capital. Turnout was 51 percent, it said. Cerar is set to form the fourth coalition government since 2008 in the former Yugoslav republic of 2 million, which pushed through a 3.2 billion-euro ($4.4 billion) banking rescue last year to avoid a bailout similar to fellow euro members Greece and Cyprus. His pledge to review outgoing Premier Alenka Bratusek’s privatization plan risks friction with the European Union, which backed the proposals to help bolster state coffers.