In politics, it is sometimes better to be lucky than good. Republicans and Democrats, and groups sympathetic to each, spend millions on sophisticated technology to gain an advantage. They do it to exploit vulnerabilities and to make their own information secure. But sometimes, a simple coding mistake can lay bare documents and data that were supposed to be concealed from the prying eyes of the public. Such an error by the Republican Governors Association recently resulted in the disclosure of exactly the kind of information that political committees given tax-exempt status usually keep secret, namely their corporate donors and the size of their checks. That set off something of an online search war between the association and a Washington watchdog group that spilled other documents, Democratic and Republican, into the open. The documents, many of which the Republican officials have since removed from their website, showed that many of America’s most prominent companies, from Aetna to Walmart, had poured millions of dollars into the campaigns of Republican governors since 2008. One document listed 17 corporate “members” of the governors association’s secretive 501(c)(4), the Republican Governors Public Policy Committee, which is allowed to shield its supporters from the public.
Some of the longest lines on Election Day occur at polling places in black and Hispanic neighborhoods. A new report says that’s not a coincidence. In the three states with the longest lines in 2012, precincts in minority neighborhoods were systematically deprived of the resources they needed to make voting operate smoothly — specifically, voting machines and poll workers, according to the report by the Brennan Center for Justice. The report’s data show the growing need for federal supervision of voting rights, though ensuring supervision is harder than ever since the Supreme Court removed the teeth from the Voting Rights Act of 1965 last year. The report looked at Maryland, South Carolina and Florida, where many voters waited for hours to cast a vote in the 2012 presidential election. In all three, minority precincts were more likely to have had long lines. In South Carolina, the 10 precincts with the longest waits had more than twice the percentage of black registered voters, on average, than the rest of the state.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said Wednesday that the secretary of state’s office will defend Arkansas’ voter ID law when a lawsuit over its constitutionality goes before the state Supreme Court next week. McDaniel, a Democrat, said he agreed to yield to Republican Secretary of State Mark Martin’s office the state’s argument time when justices hold a hearing on the law Oct. 2. The state has appealed Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox’s May ruling that the law, which took effect in January, violates Arkansas’ constitution. Fox stayed his ruling, meaning the law is still in effect.
Florida: National voting-rights groups bash Manatee County for inconveniencing voters | Bradenton Herald
A national coalition of voting-rights groups say Floridians face persistent barriers to voting that could result in more ballots not counting in November, and singling out Manatee County for inconveniencing its voters. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Advancement Project and other groups cited Manatee, Polk and Orange counties for problems they claim they found in last month’s statewide primary election. The groups said Florida should encourage more people to register to vote, that voters are inconvenienced by changes in polling places, and that voters are not always told about a new law gives them a second chance to fix their absentee ballots should they forget to sign them, officials said during a news conference Tuesday. The groups singled out Manatee County, saying its elimination of polling places requires some black voters to travel longer distances to vote.
Ohio: State Supreme Court finds part of rule governing judicial candidates is unconstitutional | Cleveland Plain Dealer
The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday narrowed the scope of a rule that limits what judicial candidates can say when they run for office after holding the rule was, in part, unconstitutional. But at the same time, the court let stand a reprimand and penalty against an Ohio 11th District Court of Appeals judge for making a false statement. The court found that a badge Judge Colleen M. O’Toole wore during her campaign in 2012 was false. O’Toole had appealed her penalty to the Supreme Court, arguing it was excessive. The rule prohibits a judicial candidate from conveying two forms of communication: false information about themselves or their opponents and true information that would deceive or mislead a reasonable person.
Ohio: After losing early voting appeal; Secretary of State Jon Husted plans to petition full appeals court | Cleveland Plain Dealer
A federal appeals court on Wednesday affirmed a district court decision restoring early voting cuts and expanding early voting hours. The ruling from the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals is a setback for Secretary of State Jon Husted, who had appealed a lower court’s order that he expand early voting hours and move the first day of early voting from Oct. 7 to Sept. 30. The three-judge panel previously rejected a request to delay the court order pending Husted’s appeal. Husted then expanded statewide early, in-person voting hours while the case proceeded. Husted, in a statement released late Wednesday afternoon, said he will ask the full appeals court to overturn the panel’s ruling. “This case is about Ohioans’ right to vote for the public officials that make the rules and laws we live under, and yet, this ruling eliminates elected officials’ ability to do what we elected them to do,” Husted said. “That’s wrong and I must appeal this case.”
Voting Blogs: Sixth Circuit finds Ohio has held illegal elections for over 200 years | Excess of Democracy
In a stunning opinion, the Sixth Circuit just concluded in Ohio State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People v. Husted (PDF) that the State has held illegal elections from 1803 until 2005 that unconstitutionally burdened the right of Ohioans to vote. So let’s set aside the snark for a moment. What did the court say? In 2005, the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature enacted a series of election changes in House Bill 234. It developed no-fault early voting and allowed for early in-person voting at least 35 days before the election. Because voters must register at least 30 days before an election, there was a five-day period in which a voter could register to vote and vote on the same day. In 2014, the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature enacted additional changes via Senate Bill 238, including moving the first day of early voting to the day after the close of voter registration–essentially, 28 days of early-voting. (Additionally, the governor had instituted standardized early in-person voting hours across counties, the focus of additional litigation.) So prior to 2005, Ohio had zero days of early in-person voting; until 2014, it was 35 days; and the legislature amended that to 28 days. That, the Sixth Circuit says, is unconstitutional.
Graciela Villanueva should have been hosting a victory party on election night, celebrating a successful run for school board in this verdant valley of apples and wine grapes, peaches and hops. She had already been appointed to the spot on the Yakima School District board of directors, which oversees a student body that is nearly three-quarters Latino. She campaigned hard until the very end. She also ran unopposed. Jeni Rice, the only other candidate for Position 1, had dropped out of the race months earlier, although it was too late for her name to be struck from the ballot. Still, 61% of the vote last November went to the woman with the simple Anglo name who hadn’t campaigned. She had agreed that she would not accept the office if elected. Having won, she changed her mind.
A federal appeals court should leave its decision allowing Wisconsin election officials to implement the state’s voter photo identification law alone, state Department of Justice attorneys argued Tuesday. Changing course now, this close to the election and with preparations already underway to implement the law, would confuse election officials and voters, the attorneys wrote in a court filing in response to a request that the court reconsider its decision. The attorneys also argued that the vast majority of voters already have the proper ID. “Plaintiffs are asking this Court to pinball state and local election officials between enforcing and not enforcing the law with an election on the horizon,” they wrote in their brief. “Voters would get the pinball treatment, too.”
In an unusual move, a Dane County judge has refused to dismiss a voter ID case as ordered by the state Supreme Court, writing that he believed doing so would violate his oath to uphold the state constitution. Instead of entering an order to terminate the case, Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess wrote in a brief order Thursday that he was instead stepping aside and having another judge dismiss the case. “The Wisconsin Supreme Court has ordered this court to deliver the coup de grace to this case by dismissing plaintiff’s Amended Complaint on remand. However, doing so would violate my oath to ‘support … the constitution of the State of Wisconsin,'” Niess wrote, quoting from the oath that judges must take under state law. “Accordingly, I recuse.” Niess did not return a call Tuesday. The case has been reassigned to Judge Ellen Berz, who has not yet acted on the case.
Some voters are still expressing concerns about the way ballots were counted in the New Brunswick election Monday evening. The CTV News election unit detected incorrect data in at least a dozen ridings an hour before Elections New Brunswick acknowledged there was a problem, which took two hours to correct. The final results are due to be confirmed on Friday, but some voters remain skeptical about whether the results are accurate. Elections New Brunswick says it is verifying the vote to make it official, as it does after every election.
In his black T-shirt, shorts and flip flops, Joshua Wong could be just another Hong Kong high school student. But the 17-year-old has fast become the bête noire of China’s state media — they have called him an extremist and a buffoon in response to his leadership of student protests demanding greater democracy in the former British colony now ruled by China. “Students and youth have more passion and more power to be involved in this movement,” he told NBC News outside Hong’s Kong’s government buildings where he was protesting this week. “Young people expect more change and they dream to have a better political structure for the future.” Hong Kong is now halfway through a week of student strikes — class boycotts — culminating in a planned walk-out Friday by high school students.
Prime Minister Hage Geingob yesterday asked the electoral commission whether the electronic voting machines are reliable if there are still questions about the paper trail option. The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) paid a courtesy call on Geingob to explain and clarify to him the use of the electronic voting machines (EVMs) Geingob said there are questions being asked and requested that the ECN should provide comprehensive answers. “If the machines are so good, why do we still have the option of a paper trail?” Some political parties have questioned the voting machines’ reliability, saying there is a possibility for the machines to be tampered with or pre-programmed to favour a certain political party.
There were winners and losers in the Scottish referendum. Alex Salmond may have led the losers but 16- and 17-year-olds took gold. The yes supporters may have been bitterly disappointed by the result, but first-time voters for both sides relished the opportunity to flex their electoral muscle. That’s why, as an English 16-year-old, I am left wondering why I can’t have a vote in the next general election in May 2015. Thankfully, change may be in the air. At this year’s Labour conference Ed Miliband said “It’s time to hear the voice of young people in our politics” and that he needs the “hope, energy [and] vitality” associated with our youth. It’s good to hear a political leader calling out to my generation – and not just hustling for votes. At my age I can buy a lottery ticket, have sex, drive a moped and leave school. So why am I responsible enough to have a baby or win the lottery, but not old enough to vote? The social contract that governs our society says we should have no rights without responsibilities, but we teenagers have lots of responsibilities without the precious right to vote.
Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach jumped Wednesday into a lawsuit filed by a disgruntled voter seeking to force Kansas Democrats to name a new U.S. Senate nominee in hopes of speeding the resolution of a legal dispute shadowing a race with possible national implications. Kobach filed a motion to intervene in Shawnee County District Court and a request for a decision by Oct. 1, saying quick action is necessary so ballots can be printed in time for people to begin voting in advance on Oct. 15. Kobach, like the voter, argues that a state election law requires Democrats to replace ex-nominee Chad Taylor, who earlier this month dropped out of the race against three-term Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.
The state attorney general’s office is appealing a federal judge’s ruling ordering Maryland to use an absentee ballot-marking technology for the disabled that the Board of Elections had refused to certify as secure. The state will ask the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., to throw out District Judge Richard D. Bennett’s decision this month. Bennett found that the election board’s refusal to implement the program violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. The attorney general’s office filed a notice of intent to appeal Monday but did not spell out its objections to the ruling. Alan Brody, a spokesman for the office, said the state is not requesting a stay of Bennett’s ruling. The decision not to seek a stay means this year’s election will go forward with the system in place, according to Brody. Nikki Baines Charlson, deputy administrator of the elections board, said the system has been installed and is being used now by disabled absentee voters. “We will continue to use it until the court tells us otherwise,” Charlson said. She referred further questions to the attorney general’s office.
A federal appeals court is hearing arguments in a case challenging a new North Carolina voting law that critics say will suppress minority voter turnout in November. The Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set Thursday for an expedited hearing in Charlotte. The court will consider whether the November elections can be held under the voting law approved by Republican lawmakers. In early August, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder denied a motion seeking to hold the November vote under old rules, saying the groups failed to show they would suffer “irreparable harm.” But lawyers for the North Carolina branch of the NACCP asked the appeals court to review Schroeder’s ruling.
State officials went to the Supreme Court tonight in an attempt to halt expanded early voting now scheduled to begin Tuesday. “This is another step in protecting state’s rights,” said Matt McCllelan, spokesman for Secretary of State Jon Husted. The filing by the office of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine comes on the heels of a request to the full 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals earlier today to overturn yesterday’s unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the 6th circuit upholding increased early voting. State officials contend that the panel’s ruling is “irreconcilable” with U.S. Supreme Court rulings and thus should be reversed. The request for an emergency delay of the ruling went to Supreme Court Justice Elana Kagan, who has jurisdiction over cases from the 6th circuit. The state is making two appeals at once to give the high court more time to consider the case, today’s filing said. The Supreme Court should step in “because similar suits are percolating throughout the country with conflicting outcomes.”
The fate of Texas’ tough voter ID law moved into the hands of a federal judge this week, following a trial that the US Justice Department said exposed another chapter in the state’s troubling history of discrimination in elections. State attorneys defending the law signed by Republican Governor Rick Perry in 2011 urged the judge to follow other courts by upholding photo identification requirements. The most recent such case came this month when a federal appeals panel reinstated Wisconsin’s law in time for Election Day. Whether Texas will also get a ruling before then is unclear. US district judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ended the two-week trial in Corpus Christi on Monday without signaling when she’ll make a decision, meaning that as of now, an estimated 13.6 million registered Texas voters will need a photo ID to cast a ballot in November.
About 450,000 voters in Virginia may lack the proper identification needed to cast a ballot in the November midterm elections, the Virginia State Board of Elections said Thursday. Under a state law that took effect this year, Virginia voters must present a driver’s license or some other form of photo identification at their polling stations before they cast a vote. Although voters who lack such proof would be allowed to fill out provisional ballots on Nov. 4, election officials hope more people will obtain state ID cards or some other valid form of identification so that their votes could be more easily counted — particularly in the event of close contests.
With a competitive election for governor of Wisconsin less than six weeks away, a federal appeals court on Friday narrowly decided against hearing arguments on a recently instituted photo identification requirement for the state’s voters. In an order that evenly split the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit here, the judges turned down pleas for a hearing by the full court from people who argue that the requirement has created confusion and chaos. The decision came about a month before in-person early voting begins and after some in Wisconsin may have mailed in absentee ballots. The matter could ultimately wind up before the United States Supreme Court, and the Wisconsin case is seen as noteworthy among the numerous legal fights playing out around the country over voting regulations. Many of the regulations have been introduced in the last four years in states with Republican-dominated governments, like Wisconsin.