An enduring Republican fantasy is that there are armies of fraudulent voters lurking in the baseboards of American life, waiting for the opportunity to crash the polls and undermine the electoral system. It’s never really been clear who these voters are or how their schemes work; perhaps they are illegal immigrants casting votes for amnesty, or poor people seeking handouts. Most Republican politicians know these criminals don’t actually exist, but they have found it useful to take advantage of the party base’s pervasive fear of outsiders, just as when they shot down immigration reform. In this case, they persuaded the base of the need for voter ID laws to ensure “ballot integrity,” knowing the real effect would be to reduce Democratic turnout. Now a researcher has tried to quantify this supposed threat by documenting every known case of voter fraud since 2000 — specifically, the kind of impersonation that would be stopped by an ID requirement. (Note that this does not include ballot-box stuffing by officials, vote-buying or coercion: the kinds of fraud that would not be affected by an ID law.)
New ballots for Peoria’s Mesquite District Council race have been sent out with the names of all three candidates, according to a spokeswoman for the city. The ballots should arrive to all 16,000 registered voters in the district by Saturday or Monday. Election ballot errors omitting the name of a candidate in the Peoria Mesquite District not once, but twice, resulted in a lawsuit and left Peoria officials scrambling, trying to figure out how to remedy the situation. In a special meeting by the Peoria City Council Thursday, the council recommended in a 3-2 vote, a combination of two options to try and rectify the problem: 1. Mail ballots to all registered voters in the Mesquite District and, 2. Have remote voting locations. Earlier in the day, Dr. Ken Krieger, the candidate whose name was omitted from the ballots, held a news conference, along with his attorneys outside the Maricopa County Elections offices in Phoenix, who said they filed a suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona to stop the election in the Mesquite District because Peoria doesn’t have the authority to do it and it must be ordered by a judge.
To hear Kevin Mullin tell it, this summer’s saga in the race for state controller was the first time even he — a sitting assemblymember — realized just how antiquated and unfair California election law is when it comes to recounting votes in razor-thin races. “That really opened my eyes to how undemocratic our process is and how potentially chaotic,” said Mullin (D-South San Francisco). On Thursday Mullin introduced legislation to create a process for an automatic statewide recount in California — something other states have, and something supporters say will make clear just how and when to tally votes a second time. “It strikes me as a fundamental fairness question,” Mullin said.
Minority groups seeking more influence in local government would have a potentially powerful new tool at their disposal under a proposed expansion of the California Voting Rights Act. The way Los Angeles County — among others jurisdictions — has drawn districts for elected officials could face a legal challenge in California if a bill, introduced by state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), becomes law. It took a federal lawsuit more than 20 years ago to create the first Latino-majority district on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors. More recently, advocacy groups have argued for a second district, noting that Latinos make up nearly half the population of the county. A majority of the current board has resisted drawing new district boundaries to accomplish that.
ith Florida’s election schedule in disarray after a judge ruled the state’s congressional map unconstitutional, state lawmakers moved one step closer to resolving the uncertainty during a special session on Friday in Tallahassee. Redistricting committees for both the state House and Senate on Friday approved a redesigned congressional map — drawn in private by the two Republican committee heads, members of their staff and outside lawyers — that they expect will comply with the court’s orders. The redrafted map makes relatively minor changes to the two congressional districts that were ordered redrawn: the Fifth District, held by Representative Corrine Brown, a Democrat, and the 10th District, held by Representative Daniel Webster, a Republican. In all, seven districts in Central Florida would be slightly affected by the rejiggered map, which is expected to be approved early next week by the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature.
The state’s voter identification law and a poll worker who didn’t fully understand it prevented elderly residents of a Topeka care facility from voting in Tuesday’s primary election. Secretary of State Kris Kobach confirmed Thursday that some residents of Brewster Place in southwest Topeka who showed up to a polling place there without I.D.s were turned away without being issued provisional ballots, as required by law. “It appears the poll worker just didn’t understand the instructions,” Kobach said, namely that no potential voter should be rejected without at least being offered the chance to vote provisionally. Provisional ballots allow a potential voter more time to produce an identification that complies with the law the Legislature passed in 2011. They must be vetted by a county canvassing board that decides which provisional votes will be counted. Kobach spearheaded the ID law and a proof-of-citizenship requirement to register, saying the measures are necessary to prevent voter impersonation and protect the state from “alien” voters.
Increasing voter participation rates may be as simple as fining eligible voters for not showing up at the polls. It worked in Belgium, and it’s working in Australia. Peter Miller, a 2002 graduate of Billings Senior High School who’s now a John Templeton Foundation post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, told the League of Women Voters of Billings Thursday that compulsory voting is “a proven way to increase turnout,” but noted it has very little chance of becoming law in the U.S. According to its website, the Templeton Foundation supports research on subjects ranging from complexity and evolution to creativity, forgiveness, love and free well. The foundation encourages civil, informed dialogue among scientists, philosophers and theologians. Every Election Day, Australian voters are almost all in — and if they don’t vote, they pay a $50 fine, Miller said. During the last national election, 93 percent of eligible Australians voted. By comparison, 57 percent of Americans cast their ballot in 2012.
New Jersey: Third parties say Democrats and Republicans shouldn’t get top ballot spots this year | Star-Ledger
With all 21 county clerks about to draw candidate positions for the general election, some New Jersey third parties are preparing to take legal action to get their candidates equal billing with Democrats and Republicans in November. At issue is the state’s law that has allowed the Democratic and Republican Parties to get the two top slots on the ballot every November. If the two major parties get priority, officials in at least two political organizations — the Democratic-Repubilcans and the Libertarians — say they’ll sue. “Either the Libertarian Party and people of New Jersey will have won a history victory for ballot equality, or we’re going to have a historic battle on our hands,” said Patrick McKnight , chairman of the Libertarian Party. “I’m hoping for the former, but preparing for the latter.” Fred LaVergne, a “Democratic-Republican” candidate Congress in the 3rd District, said he plans a separate suit. County clerks hold drawings to determine where candidates go on the ballot after the Secretary of State certifies the primary election results. But under New Jersey law, political parties get a special “party column” if, in their primary elections, they received at least 10 percent of the total number of votes that were cast for Assembly candidates in the preceding general election. The party column means they’re at the top of the ballot.
Thou shall not be like Florida in 2000. To keep that commandment, state lawmakers want localities to purchase voting machines that leave a paper trail. However without state funds to back up the directive, local registrars must figure out how long they can chance using the old touch-screen machines while they find money to afford new ones. Botetourt County Registrar Phyllis Booze worries touch-screen voting equipment purchased following the Bush v. Gore debacle might not hold up to the demand of heavy voter turnout expected for the 2016 presidential contest. Under state law, she can’t buy replacements for broken or worn machines and she needs hundreds of thousands of local dollars to switch to paper-based optical scanners.
A federal judge in North Carolina on Friday rejected an effort by civil rights groups and the Justice Department to block the application of key elements of a Republican-backed state law that curtailed early voting and other opportunities for residents to cast their ballots. The 125-page written ruling, issued late Friday by Judge Thomas D. Schroeder of the Federal District Court, rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments that the law, one of the most far-reaching in a recent national wave of Republican-backed legislation on voter ID and against voter fraud, would place “disproportionate burdens” on African-American voters hoping to participate in the November elections. Judge Schroeder, who was nominated by President George W. Bush, acknowledged that given the racism in North Carolina’s past, residents “have reason to be wary of changes in voting law.” But he cited various ways in which black voters would still have opportunities to get to the polls, even with the less generous ballot access the law affords. For example, one part of the law reduces the period of early voting to 10 days from 17.
Editorials: North Carolina Becomes the Latest Casualty of the Supreme Court’s Voting Rights Act Decision | Ari Berman/The Nation
On Tuesday, August 6, the country celebrated the forty-ninth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, the most impactful civil rights law ever passed by Congress. Three days later, a federal judge in North Carolina denied a preliminary injunction to block key provisions of the state’s new voting law, widely described as the most onerous in the country. North Carolina’s new voting restrictions will now be in effect for the 2014 midterms and beyond, pending a full trial in July 2015, a month before the fiftieth anniversary of the VRA. The federal government and plaintiffs including the North Carolina NAACP and the League of Women Voters argued during a hearing last month that three important parts of the law—a reduction in early voting from seventeen to ten days, the elimination of same-day registration during the early voting period, and a prohibition on counting provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct—disproportionally burdened African-American voters in violation of Section 2 of the VRA and should be enjoined before the 2014 election. As evidence, plaintiffs showed that in recent elections African-Americans were twice as likely to vote early, use same-day registration and vote out-of-precinct. In 2012, for example, 300,000 African-Americans voted during the week of early voting eliminated by the state, 30,000 used same-day registration and 2,500 cast out-of-precinct ballots. Overall, 70 percent of blacks voted early and African-Americans made up 42 percent of new same-day registrants.
Texas and voting-rights activists supported by the U.S. government are set to resume a three-year battle over claims that Republican lawmakers intentionally drew Congressional districts to curb the political power of the state’s growing Latino population. Texas seeks to convince a three-judge federal panel today in San Antonio that its voter maps were designed to improve re-election chances for Republican incumbents and weaken Democratic opponents, not dilute minority voting strength. “Partisan gerrymandering” is legal, the state says. The federal government and civil-rights activists say the state is making a distinction without a difference because minorities tend to vote for Democrats in Texas. “Partisanship is not a defense to intentional vote dilution,” Bryan Sells, a lawyer with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, told the San Antonio judges last month.
Texans are on the hook for $3.9 million in costs for Attorney General Greg Abbott to fight for Republican-championed redistricting maps, and that number will only grow as a years-long legal fight continues Monday in federal court in San Antonio. A big tally is expected in complicated redistricting litigation, experts say, particularly with the Abbott legal team’s aggressive defense of the congressional and legislative maps approved by the GOP-majority Legislature. “Abbott’s attitude has been very much ‘I’m going to litigate this to the ends of the earth,'” said Michael Li, redistricting counsel at the Brennan Center at New York University School of Law. Abbott’s staff said he simply is doing his job as the state’s top lawyer and that the responsibility for the costs lies with those who have challenged the maps. Democrats said Abbott is using taxpayer funds as an ATM to defend discriminatory maps. Minority and civil rights groups, including the League of United Latin American Citizens, Mexican American Legislative Caucus and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, originally mounted the redistricting challenges in 2011.
This Tuesday’s primary may not have had many election surprises, but it did produce a first for four-term Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey: A certified election observer, whose job is to watch over those tallying votes, showed up wearing a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol. Every day before leaving his house, Gerald “Rick” Halle says, he attaches his firearm to his hip. Monday, as the 48-year-old Vancouver man and certified election observer cruised over to the auditor’s office, it was no different. “I can’t predict when I walk out the door what’s going to happen,” Halle said, likening it to putting on his seat belt before starting the car. The county currently prohibits employees from carrying a firearm at work, but elected officials and the public are allowed to bring weapons into some county buildings.
Voters will not have to show photo identification to cast a ballot in Tuesday’s primary election, but poll watchers say they’re still concerned there could be confusion thanks to a recent state Supreme Court ruling that the photo ID law is constitutional. The court’s decision didn’t reinstate the law because the photo ID requirement was previously blocked in federal court. Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is trying to get that ruling put on hold in time for the November general election. The opposing legal views create confusion, especially for voters who aren’t paying close attention or may be misinformed, said Larry Dupuis, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union in Wisconsin. The biggest concern is that someone without an ID may assume they can’t vote, so they won’t show up, Dupuis said.
It starts by cutting the bright green seal on the lid of the ballot box, but the tedious task of auditing just one box among five hangars’ worth in Afghanistan’s contested presidential election often ends only hours later. The pace of counting continues to lag amid challenges by both campaigns two days after rival candidates Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah stood with Secretary of State John Kerry and pledged to accept the results of an election audit they vowed would end before NATO leaders meet next month to discuss their future commitments in Afghanistan. Once the seals are cut, the box is opened and some quick math done to match the number of ballots with a tally sheet inside. Things slow from there. While an auditor form the Afghan Independent Election Commission flips through several bundles of ballots, observers from the rival campaigns lean in, peering at check marks and scribbles to pull aside the ballots they consider suspicious.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan swept to a landslide victory in Turkey’s first direct presidential election, extending his 12-year grip on power and securing a mandate to fulfill his pledge of creating a “new Turkey.” The country’s election board announced Mr. Erdogan had won according to preliminary results, obtaining enough votes to avoid a runoff. With 99% of the ballots counted, the premier had secured 52%, far ahead of his nearest opponent Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, a diplomat with a low profile in domestic politics who garnered 38% of the vote, according to state-run Anadolu news agency.
Facebook has launched new a “life event” enabling people to tell friends they have registered to vote in the independence referendum. The feature will allow users over 16 in Scotland to add the life event to their Facebook timeline. The move is part of a campaign by the Electoral Commission to raise awareness of the voter registration process. It comes as the campaign ahead of the 18 September vote enters its final weeks. The elections watchdog will also send a guide to voting in the referendum to every household in Scotland. Scottish Facebook users who visit the social network site over the next few weeks will also see posts in their newsfeed about an interactive referendum guide from the Electoral Commission.