The Obama administration plans to join lawsuits against Republican-backed voting restrictions in two major swing states, Attorney General Eric Holder has said. The moves would represent the first time that Holder’s Justice Department has intervened against statewide voting laws outside the areas that the Supreme Court freed from federal oversight in last year’s Shelby County v. Holder ruling. They underline the administration’s intention to aggressively protect voting rights across the country, not only in the mostly southern jurisdictions directly affected by Shelby. “I expect that we are going to be filing in cases that are already in existence in Wisconsin as well as in Ohio,” Holder said in an unaired portion of an interview with Pierre Thomas of ABC News, according to a transcript provided by the Justice Department to msnbc. The interview was conducted Friday in London, where Holder was attending meetings about terrorism threats.
Voting Blogs: U.S. Election Assistance Commission May Be Back with Commissioners Soon | Election Law Blog
President Obama just announced two nominations for the U.S. Assistance Commission. Matthew Masterson and Christy McCormick are Republican-chosen nominees to join the two nominees from the Democrats, Thomas Hicks and Myrna Perez. The EAC was created as part of the 2002 Help America Vote Act as a way of providing best practices and doling out voting machine money in the wake of the Florida 2000 debacle. The commission functions with two Democratic nominees and two Republican nominees. As I explain in The Voting Wars, the EAC started out with some independent commissioners who looked like they were going to transcend partisan politics and get some stuff done. But then there was controversy over a voter id report, and pressure on Republican commissioners.
With 4.8 million registered voters, 5,000 polling places and the need to provide voting material in 12 different languages across the country’s largest election jurisdiction, Los Angeles County has its hands full during election season. Which is why local election administrators are looking beyond repairing old systems to design a new one that meets the unique needs of its voters, according to Governing. The project, helmed by registrar-recorder/count clerk Dean Logan, is aimed at creating a public-owned and operated, transparent and safe system that ensures voters their ballot is accurately cast and counted. The current system, which was developed by the L.A. County government during the late 1960s, employs different contracts from various commercial vendors for components of the overall voting system, according to Logan. He contends there has yet to be a voting system on the market to meet L.A. County’s needs, and creating a modernized system rather than rebuilding a version of an existing model is the solution.
Florida legislative leaders ended their silence on their rejected congressional map Tuesday and announced they will not appeal a judge’s ruling, but will redraw the invalid map, as long as they can wait until after the 2014 election. House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz asked Judge Terry Lewis to clarify his ruling about the timing of the revisions he is ordering when he ruled that two districts violate the Fair Districts standards of the state constitution, rendering the entire map invalid. Lewis scheduled a hearing on the case for Thursday. Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and Gaetz, R-Niceville, said Tuesday that revising the districts in the midst of a campaign season — after ballots have been printed and campaigns launched — would be impractical and disruptive. Elections officials sent overseas absentee ballots by Saturday, before lawmakers announced the decision not to challenge the maps.
Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D-Colo.) thought an all-mail election sounded like a bad idea when she heard Oregon was mailing out ballots to every voter during the2000 election. “It was a traditional thing for me—I liked to go to my polling place on Election Day,” she said. A little more than a decade later, Hullinghorst was one of four legislators who sponsored HB 1303, a 2013 bill that made Colorado the third state to have all-mail elections or vote-by-mail elections. Hullinghorst, majority leader in the Colorado House, said the success of vote-by-mail elections in Oregon and Washington convinced her that Colorado was ready to make the change in 2013. And it wasn’t much of a leap for a state that previously permitted jurisdictions to hold all-mail elections, excluding general elections. More than 74 percent of voters in Colorado chose to cast a mail ballot in the 2012 general election, according to the Colorado County Clerks Association. While Oregon, Washington and Colorado are the only states that automatically mail to every registered voter a ballot and do not run traditional in-person voting precincts, voters in many other states have experienced some form of a vote-by-mail election.
Billions of dollars are being spent in the run-up to this November’s midterm elections. The Supreme Court has struck down limits on campaign spending by corporations and unions, as well as overall caps on individual donations to candidates for federal office. More and more money is also being spent through ostensibly independent “super PACs” and nonprofit entities. Even as cash gushes through the system, though, we still have a key underpinning of our campaign finance law: the principle that the public has a right to know who finances campaigns, and how candidates, parties and other political committees are using those funds. If the Federal Election Commission, the agency charged with receiving and reviewing the reports and making the information available, falls down on the job, this principle is undermined. On May 21, about a month after reports for the first quarter of this year were filed, the research and technology teams here at the Center for Responsive Politics did a routine download of F.E.C. data, as we’ve done hundreds of times in our 30-year history. We use the information to populate a database that allows anyone to track giving by individual donors, their employers and their economic interests and to examine the links among campaign money, lobbying activity and the personal finances of politicians and key officials.
Voting Blogs: County elections official in ‘uncharted territory’ with California recount | electionlineWeekly
For elections officials in California, during a busy election year, July is often the time for well-deserved vacations, elections office housekeeping and a time for general administrative work and slow ramp-up to November. But this year, elections officials in 15 of the state’s 58 counties are either busy hand-counting ballots or preparing for their turn to count. On July 6, Democrat John Perez, who came in third behind Democrat Betty Yee in the race for state controller sent a letter to California Secretary of State Debra Bowen requesting a recount. Under California law, any voter may request a recount if they pay for it. Perez, who lost to Yee by 481 votes, requested that 15 counties manually recount dozens, if not all of their precincts.
Editorials: Florida Déjà Voodoo – Why there is no reform that could be better for progressives than redistricting reform | Ron Klain/Slate
In my legal career, I’ve suffered two painful defeats litigating against the Republican political machine of Florida. The first was a case called Bush v. Gore. The second—less famous, but just as bitter—came two years later, in 2002, when I worked on a legal challenge to Florida’s absurdly partisan redistricting plan, only to see our claims rejected by both the state and federal courts. So last week’s court ruling overturning gerrymandered congressional districts in Florida gave me a serious case of déjà vu for several reasons. First, its author was Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis—a major figure in the post-2000 Florida election litigation miasma, who ultimately wound up overseeing the statewide hand recount of ballots that the U.S. Supreme Court halted in its infamous 5–4 order. Second, the ruling represented a long overdue vindication of our 2002 claim that the Florida Legislature had abused its power in entrenching its control over the state through redistricting. While much of the coverage of Lewis’ opinion has focused on the Florida legislative “chicanery” that it laid bare, a more substantial question is this: Why did this case strike down a hyper-partisan districting plan, when virtually every other such court challenge, in virtually every other state, has failed over the past three decades? How was the widespread bastardization that allows “representatives to pick their voters, instead of voters picking their representatives” finally checked by a court decision?
The Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday rejected state Sen. Chris McDaniel’s (R) petition filed against the Harrison County clerk in order to gain access to all election records from the U.S. Senate primary runoff. McDaniel demanded “access to and full examination of all the original election materials,” including poll books. The Mississippi Attorney General and Harrison County Circuit Clerk Gayle Parker argued that a candidate’s right to review election records does not include poll books. Judge Josiah Coleman wrote in the court’s opinion that the clerk did not need to include poll books in election boxes for candidate review.
The Republican head of the Ohio House says he’s open to considering legislation setting hours for early voting in state law, rather than leaving it to the secretary of state or court action to determine when Ohioans can cast ballots in person before Election Day. “We’re thinking about it, very definitely,” Speaker Bill Batchelder (R-Medina) told reporters following an event at the Statehouse this past week. Statehouse Republicans moved a series of election law changes over the current session but have not dealt with the voting hours issue. Absent action, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted initially adopted an early voting schedule for the November general election that included mostly weekday polling, a plan he said had the backing of bipartisan county elections officials. A federal judge’s order, however, prompted Husted to open the polls over two additional days — the Sunday and Monday before Election Day, which were not part of his original directive.
Arlington election officials want the State Board of Elections to permit voters to use expired photo-IDs, such as passports and driver’s licenses, if they do not have current IDs when they come to the polls in November. “Does a photo ID past its expiration date mean it’s invalid as ID for voting? We think not,” the county elections office said on its Twitter feed (@arlingtonvotes) July 14. Arlington election officials are among those statewide who have weighed in on the issue. Election officials from several jurisdictions say using out-of-date identification will not cause a problem. “The photo IDs are intended to prove identity, and even an expired driver’s license or passport still serves to prove identity, even if the document cannot be used to drive or travel,” said April Cain, vice chairman of the Henrico County Electoral Board, during a public-comment period on the issue. But not everyone was in agreement.
A website built by volunteers to trawl through publicly available General Election Commission (KPU) data and conduct its own informal vote count came under attack from hackers on Thursday, according to the site’s founder — a day after it published data showing Joko Widodo in the lead. “Our team is fighting; there are only five of us against hundreds,” KawalPemilu.com founder Ainun Najib told news portal Tempo.co on Thursday. Ainun, a former International Math Olympiad champion, said the attacks began on Wednesday afternoon after news spread that the site had posted data showing Joko Widodo and running mate Jusuf Kalla ahead with just under 53 percent of the vote.
Indonesia: As Indonesia’s democracy is on the verge of crisis, hackers and fakers attack crowdsourced vote counts | Tech Asia
Indonesia’s young democracy is on the verge of a crisis with two presidential candidates claiming victory after last week’s general election. Both candidates have declared that they have received the people’s mandate to lead the country, and the nation is gearing up towards July 22 when the General Elections Commissions (KPU) will be announcing the winner based on the official vote tally. But both candidates are likely going to challenge the count, possibly leading to a stalemate and a constitutional emergency. So the KPU has done something breathtaking in Indonesia: releasing the vote tally documents to the public. Indonesians now can go to the KPU site and download all the scanned documents and count the votes themselves. This has sparked people to start up initiatives such as Kawal Suara, a site that crowdsources the count, and Kawal Pemilu, where a 700-man team of volunteers is counting the ballots in a “secret Facebook group” and publishing the count results in real-time on their website. Other initiatives include a Tumblr site called C1 Yang Aneh, which collects ballot documents which have unusual data, like a wrong tally or, worse, documents with no numbers. Even the KPU recently suggested its members to check the website to help identify the documents. C1 Yang Aneh now has over 100 verified “weird” documents after 900 documents were flagged by crowdsourced helpers.
With less than a month before the Turkish people go to the polls to elect a president for the first time in their history, a dispute has broken out on the disproportionate amount of media coverage Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been receiving on public television as opposed to the other two candidates. Turkey’s first popular presidential election is mired in controversy over its fairness. Both of the rivals of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the August presidential election are crying foul. Selahattin Demirtas, candidate for the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, is accusing Turkey’s state broadcaster TRT of blatant bias favoring Prime Minister Erdogan.
Ruth McPherson was born and educated in Scotland but left to work in London two years ago and so has no say on whether her native country should end three centuries of union with England. Over a million Scots like McPherson living outside the land of their birth can take no part in its Sept. 18 referendum on breaking from the rest of Britain, while one in six of those who can vote were not born in Scotland. That has fuelled a debate on just what it means to be Scottish in the 21st century. “It’s ridiculous,” said McPherson, 26. Born in Inverness and brought up in nearby Elgin in the north, she studied in the capital, Edinburgh, before following generations of compatriots south of the English border for a job in publishing. “I will be a Scottish citizen if the Yes vote goes through,” she said. “It seems ridiculous that you can be a Scottish citizen without being able to take part in this decision.”