An attorney for the Mississippi Republican Party says state law does not prohibit people from crossing over to vote in party’s primary and another’s primary runoff, an issue in Chris McDaniel’s presumed challenge to his GOP runoff loss to Sen. Thad Cochran. “You heard me right,” said Michael Wallace, attorney for the state Republican Party. “There is an attorney general’s opinion on the subject, but that is all. The attorney general may be right. I wasn’t telling the judge that the attorney general wasn’t right. I was telling her that the issue has never gone to court. … The attorney general may be 100 percent right, but the issue has not been tested in court that I know of. It may have came up in a county court somewhere that hasn’t made it to reported cases. But to the best of my knowledge, it hasn’t been tested. All we have is an attorney general interpretation.”
When county clerks in New Mexico tried to figure out why voter registrations had slowed to a trickle this spring despite an upcoming primary, they made a surprising discovery: The culprit was a new online voter registration system at motor vehicle offices. Introduced with fanfare in January, the new system required drivers to go to a separate computer kiosk at the motor vehicle office to complete their voter registration. That proved to be too much hassle for many potential voters; it also violated the federal “motor voter” law. New Mexico, which has gone back temporarily to using paper voter registration forms, was trying to improve its motor voter performance in response to a 2010 court order. In most states, no one knows how well motor vehicle agencies comply with the mandate to register voters because no one is really keeping track. But a growing consensus says they are failing. Poor implementation of the National Voter Registration Act, the 21-year-old law that requires motor vehicle offices to register voters, is emerging as a problem when almost every aspect of voting is coming under scrutiny, either because of controversial voter identification laws or long lines at the polls.
Santa Barbara on Tuesday joined the ranks of California cities to be sued over their method of electing public officials. Five Spanish-surnamed registered voters in the city of more than 88,000 filed suit in Santa Barbara County Superior Court, claiming the city is in violation of the California Voting Rights Act. Santa Barabara Mayor Helene Schneider called the lawsuit premature and said the city had already authorized a study of its elections. The plaintiffs allege the city’s at-large elections system “has resulted in vote dilution for Latino residents and has denied them effective political participation in elections to the Santa Barbara City Council.” They want the court to order the city to begin electing its council members by geographic district. They believe by-district elections would give Latino voters, who are largely concentrated in certain areas of the city, a better chance of electing at least one representative of their choice to the council.
Florida: Groups argue State must hold statewide election if interim maps not approved | Associated Press
If a judge does not approve an interim map of Florida’s congressional seats to replace one that has been deemed unconstitutional, officials could be forced to allow voters from across the state to choose candidates for two congressional seats, the coalition challenging the current districts said Tuesday. The League of Women Voters and other groups filed court papers arguing that if new districts are not approved this year, then federal law requires at-large elections for the seats added in 2012. Florida went from 25 to 27 seats after the 2010 census. The groups acknowledged, however, that statewide elections for congressional seats are not very realistic. Instead, they urged Lewis to allow groups on both sides of the lawsuit to submit remedial maps that could be reviewed objectively by an independent expert. They repeated their suggestion that Lewis could push back the date of the Aug. 26 primary in order to have time to put a new map in place.
Florida: “Restroom row” in Miami is the latest attempt to make it harder for minorities to vote |New Statesman
It started off as a routine inquiry from a disability rights group in Miami over access to polling stations during an election. What followed was an angry dispute in which election officials were accused of trying to discourage voters from exercising their democratic rights. The “restroom row” in Miami-Dade county is symptomatic of a raft of political and legal battles being carried out across the country as states across the US pass new laws making it harder to vote. These laws are being challenged by critics who say they are aimed primarily at the poor, blacks and Hispanics who are more likely to vote Democrat. … The latest spat started when Marc Dubin, Director of Advocacy at the Center for Independent Living of South Florida, asked for disabled toilets to be made available at all polling stations. “I was not looking at it from the point of voter suppression, but from the point of view of voters with special needs,” he said. At the best of times Miami’s swamp-like climate is pretty uncomfortable and during the 2012 election, people were queuing for as long as six hours to cast a vote. To put it mildly, he was rather surprised at the email he received from John Mendez, Miami-Dade’s Deputy Election Supervisor.
The Elections Division of the Office of the County Clerk and the Kauai Police Department are investigating a possible case of voter fraud on Kauai. Officials had received an absentee ballot by mail, but the affirmation statement on the back of the return envelope wasn’t signed. When the voter was contacted for a signature, he informed officials that he had never received the ballot in the first place. “This recent event is of great concern to our office. We wish to note that the procedures we have in place to process absentee mail ballots were able to alert both the voter and our office of the situation,” said County Clerk Ricky Watanabe. “Fortunately, this appears to be an isolated case but we ask that anyone with information on this incident to please contact the Kauai Police Department.”
Oregon: Portland’s electoral system loses under California law aimed at ensuring minority representation | The Oregonian
Congress approved the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to break down the kind of system that the city of Portland uses to this day. The federal legislation prohibits voting practices that discriminate against African Americans, Latinos or other racial and ethnic minorities. Most successful lawsuits filed under the civil rights law have targeted local governments that elect representatives citywide rather than by geographic district. Courts ruled that some Southern cities used at-large elections to water down the voting power of African Americans, who lived clustered in one part of town but formed a minority of the total electorate.
Would the ability to vote in your pajamas, on a smart phone, make you a better participant in the political process? Would it make you care more? Utah’s lieutenant governor has convened a committee to study the idea of making the state a pioneer in Internet voting. They might want to look to Norway, which tried such a thing — then, according to a headline writer at npr.org, did a “Ctrl+Alt+Delete” on the whole thing a few weeks ago. Utah Director of Elections Mark Thomas told the Deseret News last week that the biggest hurdle to overcome is security. Norwegian officials would agree. They couldn’t do it. NPR quotes Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory computer scientist David Jefferson as saying, “There is no way to guarantee that the security, privacy and transparency requirements for elections can all be met with any practical technology in the foreseeable future.”
Three airless aluminium warehouses, shaped like giant armadillos, sit hunched on the outskirts of Kabul. Inside hundreds of volunteers and international election observers have been bustling around in stifling heat, arguing over the shape of tick-marks on individual ballots. During Ramadan the lack of food and drink made the stale atmosphere inside the godowns all the more draining. The Ramadan fast has since broken, but the counting goes on. Until it has finished, the presidential election that was supposed to replace Hamid Karzai hangs in suspension. After a surprising reversal of fortunes suddenly favoured Ashraf Ghani in the second round of the presidential elections, his opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, cried foul. Alleging fraud, several of his powerful supporters threatened to establish a breakaway government. It took an emergency agreement brokered by John Kerry, America’s secretary of state, to keep the process alive, but the deal is starting to show some of its inherent flaws. Mr Kerry has moved on and the two presidential hopefuls are now left to wrestle over its shortcomings.
The Communications Department has told the federal parliamentary committee examining electoral matters that it backs a limited trial of electronic voting. The department suggests using the myGov portal — a secure website used by about three million Centrelink, child support and Medicare customers — for any trial. Abul Rizvi, the department’s deputy secretary for the digital economy, yesterday told the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters it was inevitable Australia would embrace online voting. … He said computer equipment was now cheaper and electronic voting at polling stations could be done through a “bring-your-own-device’’ model. “You are still voting physically at a physical polling place but are voting using an electronic device that is connected to a local system using your own device that you’ve brought in,’’ Mr Rizvi said. “Yes there are security issues … but those can be addressed, and that I would suggest reduces your costs quite considerably.’’
The Department of Communications has floated the possibility of using the government’s new controversial MyGov identification system for Australians to trial electronic voting. … The MyGov so-called one-stop-shop for identity verification has faced criticism in the past few months after vulnerabilities were found in the website, including the ability for one researcher to hijack the accounts of registered MyGov users, according to a Fairfax report. Rizvi said there would be risks associated with testing electronic voting, but these would have to be weighed up against the risks associated with the traditional paper-based voting method, which resulted in Western Australia having to go back to the polls earlier this year to re-vote the WA Senate election.
A campaign to persuade British expats to vote in the European and local elections fell well short of its target, according to the Electoral Commission. An estimated 5.5 million Britons live overseas, but only a fraction – around 20,000 – were registered to vote in the UK as of February this year. The commission ran a campaign in the weeks before the elections on May 22 to encourage 25,000 more of them to register. However, only 7,079 did so – less than a third of the number hoped for. The Electoral Commission’s pre-ballot campaign involved advertisements on expat radio stations, and collaborations with the Foreign Office, groups such as Votes for Expat Brits, and political parties’ overseas networks. But in a report reflecting on the campaign, the commission disclosed that, although the number of registration forms downloaded from its website by Britons overseas was higher than for the previous European elections, it “fell well short” of its target. “Although we were disappointed not to hit our target we recognise that expatriates at these elections may have chosen to register to vote in their EU countries of residence,” said the report.
Last September, Saffron Dickson, then 15 years old (now “16 and three-quarters”), attended a televised BBC debate in Glasgow on the subject of the upcoming Scottish referendum. Partway through the show, the host opened the floor to comments—and Dickson shot for the mike. Smiling saucily for the cameras, in bleached-blond hair and a dark leather jacket, she gave the people of Scotland an earful: “We don’t live in a country where we have equal rights,” she cried, raising a furious hand to the sky. “Westminster bakes the Empire Biscuit and we put the jelly tot on top. And we’re supposed to be completely ecstatic about having that little bit of power. But we won’t be silenced by your ideology!” Within weeks, Dickson had become “a wee bit” of a political celebrity in Scotland, which is now less than two months away from a historic referendum on independence from Britain. Today, Dickson is on the central board of Generation Yes, a large pro-independence youth movement, and a regular media fixture. Asked whether she hopes to run for office one day, she’s emphatic: “Yes!”
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) does not have the internal capabilities to safely carry out an e-voting trial prior to the next federal election, according to the acting Electoral Commissioner, Tom Rogers. Rogers, who spoke today at a parliamentary committee hearing investigating electoral matters, said that he was not confident the AEC could safely introduce electronic voting. “I’m concerned about our ability to introduce some form of electronic voting, safely,” he said. “We could introduce something, but we may end up back in a WA sort of situation if we’re not careful, in a short space of time. “I would be worried about any form large scale adoption before the next election, even a trial. We would not have the internal ability now to do that. We would have already had to have started that process,” he said. “I’m concerned, as the acting commissioner, about whether I can tell you faithfully that we can implement a safe solution.”