With three weeks left before Election Day, officials and voting rights advocates in Texas are still wrangling in court over the state’s controversial and restrictive new voting law. Any day now, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to say whether the Texas voter ID law should be implemented on Election Day or not. The Supreme Court could step in as well. Should the appeals court — and possibly the Supreme Court — side with the law’s supporters, the law will be reinstated before the midterms, keeping more than 608,000 registered voters that don’t have the required ID from voting. If the courts side with opponents of the voter ID law and put it on hold for the time being, the law’s supporters argue it would inject “doubt where for 15 months, and three statewide elections, there had been certainty.” The Texas case is just one of several ongoing disputes over controversial voting laws that could have an impact at polling places on Nov. 4.
National: Whites are more supportive of voter ID laws when shown photos of black people voting | The Washington Post
Sixty-seven percent of white Americans support voter ID laws, according to a new University of Delaware study of 1,436 U.S. adults. But when the voter ID question was accompanied by a photo of black people using a voting machine, white support for voter ID laws jumped to 73 percent. That six-percentage-point difference is modest but statistically significant. The images made no difference to black and hispanic voters’ preferences, although the authors note the sample sizes for those groups were considerably stronger. Among white voters, “the resulting increase in support for the laws happens independently of — even after controlling for— political ideology and negative attitudes about African Americans,” researcher David C. Wilson said in a release about the study. Many white Americans think racism is basically over, and some believe that racism against whites is actually a bigger problem than racism against blacks. But results like these show that racism is still very much active at the subconscious level.
Is the Federal Election Commission a dysfunctional agency deaf to voters fed up with loophole-riddled campaign finance rules? Or is it a newly revived organization making unprecedented moves to invite a wide-ranging public debate over its regulations? The answer may be both. In a fit of productivity on Oct. 9, the FEC managed to outrage its critics, thrill political party leaders, send election lawyers scrambling and break out once again into public bickering. It was an abrupt departure from the months and even years of partisan deadlock that have rendered the FEC incapable of settling even the most routine enforcement disputes. Advocates of political money restrictions have long decried the FEC’s paralysis, but they are even more irate now that the agency has finally sprung into action. Most controversial was the FEC’s move to essentially double the maximum that donors may contribute to the Republican and Democratic National Committees. The Campaign Legal Center’s Larry Noble called it a “disgraceful and activist decision” at odds with federal law.
Liberal observers are astonished and thrilled that Judge Richard Posner, the most influential judge sitting on the federal bench, has written a scathing condemnation of Wisconsin voter ID laws. Posner was appointed by Ronald Reagan, and his law-and-economics approach with its libertarian overtones can in a certain sense be described as conservative. Notably, Posner wrote a 2007 opinion upholding Indiana’s strict voter ID law — an opinion subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court. Now, it would seem from the headlines, Posner has reversed himself. Newsworthy, right? Well, sort of. A close reading of Posner’s opinion indicates that the judge hasn’t so much reversed his earlier view as he has taken seriously data that were unavailable in 2007. The numbers, as Posner now interprets them, do strongly suggest that the purpose of voter ID laws is to make it more difficult for poor people, especially blacks and Latinos, to cast votes. According to Posner, he wasn’t wrong in 2007. It’s just that then, there was no basis to assume that Indiana was trying to exclude minority voters. Now, there’s evidence in favor of that view. A careful look at Posner’s opinion is an object lesson in how a rational person should reconsider initial presumptions in light of new evidence — an approach pioneered by the British statistician Thomas Bayes in the 18th century and now dubbed Bayesianism. When Posner had to analyze the Indiana statute, he made much of the fact that, as he now puts it, “there was no evidence that the Indiana law was likely to disenfranchise more than a handful of voters.”
Editorials: When Duty Doesn’t Call: Voter ID laws bring out the worst in their uncivic-minded opponents | The American Spectator
Americans will cease arguing over the federal Voting Rights Act and its intricacies — oh, I imagine around the time Texas starts exporting ground water to Minnesota, or the Lord returns to judge the quick and the dead. Mandatory voter ID laws passed by Republican legislatures in Texas, Arkansas, and Wisconsin have been under legal assault by Democrats. A lower federal court order expanding statewide early voting and same-day registration in Ohio got overturned by the Supreme Court — which had before it, at the same time, an appeal from North Carolina asking affirmation of its right to eliminate same-day registration and voting, along with out-of-precinct voting. Democrats see in these various state laws an evil Republican attempt to suppress voting by minority group members likely to — duh — vote Democratic. Requirements to present photographic identification draw particular scorn. Republicans say all they want to do is make sure voting procedures are honest and reflective of actual popular will. The point commonly buried in these slanging matches over intent and results is a point little attended to in our current ideological wars. I would call that point the need for rekindled earnestness regarding the duties that come, or ought to, with exercise of the franchise.
Editorials: California politicians would never suppress voting, but they might not count all the ballots | The Sacramento Bee
It’s tempting to be smug in the face of other states’ fights over voter suppression. California, thankfully, isn’t Texas, where voter-ID requirements were compared to a poll tax by a federal judge last week. Signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry in 2011, the ID requirement was just one of many ways in which the Lone Star State historically blocked participation among minority voters, said U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, who ruled that the requirement had an “impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose.” And Texas, of course, isn’t the only part of the nation where voter protections aren’t, well, Californian. A year after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision narrowing the Voting Rights Act, 15 states controlled by Republicans have imposed tighter restrictions on voting for the Nov. 4 election, the Los Angeles Times reported last week.
The New Georgia Project claims 47,867 voter registration applications cannot be found across five counties; Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Chatham and Muscogee. They claim to have turned in 7,481 applications that cannot be located to DeKalb County. The group says they have checked the voter list and the list of pending applications at the county level to no avail. After a paper application is turned in, the county has to input the applications information to the system. The system will then attempt to verify the information and approve the registration. If approved the voter is added to the voter list. If an application cannot be verified, or if it cannot be input into the system for verification due to an error or missing information, it is placed on the pending list and a letter is supposed to be sent to the applicant at the address on the application.
A Kentucky law banning election-day campaigning near polling places was struck down Tuesday by a federal judge, who ruled the 300-foot buffer impedes free speech by reaching private homes and yards. The ruling by U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman came three weeks before voters head to the polls to decide a long ballot of local, state and federal races. Those races include the hard-fought U.S. Senate campaign pitting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. The ruling means that a broad range of electioneering activities would be allowed near the polls, said Christopher Wiest, one of the attorneys for the northern Kentucky man who challenged the state law. “What this means is there is now complete freedom of speech in and around polling places on Election Day,” Wiest said by phone. “People can hand out fliers, talk to voters. They can wear (campaign) T-shirts, they can hold signs. All that is now fair game.”
A Wake County Superior Court judge has sided with a group of Appalachian State University students who were miffed that there wasn’t an early voting site on campus this year. Judge Donald Stephens on Monday kicked Watauga County’s plan back to the State Board of Elections for revision, ordered it to include “at least one” ASU early voting site, and agreed with the plaintiffs that the plan violated a constitutional provision against the discrimination of young voters. “I think it’s a great victory for voting rights,” said Bill Gilkeson, attorney for the seven plaintiffs, five of whom are students. Elections records show Watauga County has the highest percentage of student voters of any county in the state, while the plaintiffs’ petition for judicial review noted students make up 34 percent of the county’s population. “All credible evidence indicates that the sole purpose of that plan was to eliminate an early voting site on campus so as to discourage student voting and, as such, it is unconstitutional,” wrote Stephens in his order.
A federal appeals court on Tuesday evening reinstated Texas’ controversial voter identification law, striking down a lower court’s ruling that blocked it on grounds it would have “an impermissible discriminatory effect” on Hispanics and African-Americans and is unconstitutional. The three-judge panel of the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stayed a ruling just five days earlier by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi on grounds that it “substantially disturbs the election process of the state of Texas just nine days before early voting begins.”
A federal appeals court on Tuesday reinstated Texas’ tough voter ID law for the November election, which the U.S. Justice Department had condemned as the state’s latest means of suppressing minority voter turnout. The ruling by the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily blocks last week’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos in Corpus Christi, who determined the law unconstitutional and similar to a poll tax designed to dissuade minorities from voting. The 5th Circuit did not rule on the merits of the law; instead, it determined it’s too late to change the rules for the upcoming election. Early voting starts Oct. 20. The law remains under appeal. For now, the ruling is a key victory for Republican-backed photo ID measures that have swept across the U.S. in recent years. The Texas law, considered the toughest of its kind in the nation, requires that an estimated 13.6 million registered Texas voters will need one of seven kinds of photo identification to cast a ballot.
As Mozambique prepares to vote Wednesday, the nation has clearly progressed beyond its reputation as a war-ravaged southern African nation that struggled for decades to piece itself together. Today’s Mozambique is full of economic promise, thanks in part to huge natural gas reserves. What makes this particular national election interesting is that the clouds of Mozambique’s 16-year civil war, which ended in 1992, no longer dominate every political discussion. These days, it’s all about the economy. That is nowhere more evident than in Maputo’s central market, where election posters virtually wallpaper the market. Many sellers even wear aprons bearing the smiling face of the leading presidential candidate, Filipe Nyusi of the longtime ruling party Frelimo. The party effectively controls the capital.
Mozambique could see a new political landscape after elections on October 15. Next to the old rivals, FRELIMO and RENAMO, a new party, the MDM has gathered political strength. Jose Domingos Manuel, seems certain of a victory. His cap boasts the party logo and his t-shirt an image of the MDM’s top candidate Daviz Simango. The Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM) is only five years old, but it is aiming high. “Simango is the right man to lead this country,” says MDM board member Domingos Manuel. The MDM won a surprise victory in the 2013 local elections. They beat the powerful ruling FRELIMO in four major towns. Domingos Manuel thinks that the party has proven its ability to rule at least at a local level.
The leader of the wealthy Catalonia region Tuesday said that he would move forward with a controversial plan to hold a vote on independence in November, but under a revised process that both supporters and opponents say would lend decidedly less legitimacy to the outcome. Catalan leader Artur Mas said he was abandoning his original plan for a nonbinding referendum set for Nov. 9, because he saw no hope of persuading Spain’s constitutional court to lift an injunction barring the vote. In remarks Tuesday in Barcelona, Mr. Mas acknowledged the new voting plan, with volunteer election officials and no voter-roll, wouldn’t be “definitive” and was vague about many of the operational details. The revised plan “is more an act of citizen participation, like a petition drive, rather than a referendum or an election,” said Lluís Orriols, a political scientist at Carlos III University in Madrid.
Voting in all elections should be extended to include 16 and 17-year-olds, following the independence referendum, a study has suggested. The work by think tank dpart found lowering the voting age could increase youngster’s engagement with politics. It also found schools had more influence than parents in giving confidence in understanding politics. Those aged 16 and 17 were able to vote in the referendum on 18 September, the first UK ballot to include them. Researchers at dpart gathered evidence from two surveys of under 18s – one conducted in April and May 2013, and then a second conducted one year later. More than 1,000 young people responded to each survey.
In a rational world, the debate over voter ID laws would be ended by the eloquent, incisive and angry opinion issued late last week by U.S. Circuit Judge Richard A. Posner of Chicago in a case concerning Wisconsin. But this isn’t a rational world. So not only will the debate continue, but Posner’s opinion failed even to sway his fellow judges on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court split 5-5 on Posner’s request for an en banc — that is, full court — rehearing of the Wisconsin case, in which a three-judge panel already had cleared the state’s ID law to go into effect for next month’s election. That meant Posner’s request was turned down and his opinion was in the nature of a dissent. As it happens, the Supreme Court has stepped in and suspended the Wisconsin law, probably invalidating it for the upcoming polls. But Posner’s 30-page dissent, laid out in his typical lucid and direct manner, is as exacting an examination as you’re likely to find of why voter ID laws are corrupt and iniquitous, and why their usual rationale — to combat voter fraud — is a lie.
National: McAfee partners with Atlantic Council in new study that explores online voting | BiometricUpdate
McAfee has sponsored a new Atlantic Council study that explores how online voting and e-voting could become more integrated in the international political process if particular technologies and processes are implemented to ensure its security. Released at an event at the Atlantic Council, the study found that many of the technologies that are already being used for online financial transactions could also be applied to e-voting and online voting to increase its popularity in the future. Estonia became the first country to hold nationwide elections through an e-voting system in 2005, and since then more than a quarter of the country’s population are voting online. Additionally, e-voting is successfully used in other countries, including Australia, Brazil, France, and India. “Online and e-voting are examples of how a greater emphasis on security could empower a new era in digital democracy,” said Michael DeCesare, president of McAfee.
Almost no one shows up at the polls pretending to be someone else in an effort to throw an election. Almost no one acts as a poll worker on Election Day to try to cast illegal votes for a candidate. And almost no general election race in recent history has been close enough to have been thrown by the largest example of in-person voter fraud on record. That said, there have been examples of fraud, including fraud perpetrated through the use of absentee ballots severe enough to force new elections at the state level. But the slew of new laws passed over the past few years meant to address voter fraud have overwhelmingly focused on the virtually non-existent/unproven type of voter fraud, and not the still-not-common-but-not-non-existent abuse of absentee voting. In August, Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola University Law School, detailed for Wonkblog 31 instances of documented, in-person voter fraud that would have been prevented by stricter rules around identification at the polling place. The most severe instance Levitt outlined involved as many as 24 voters in Brooklyn who tried to vote under assumed names.
Voting systems designed to be tamper-resistant may be missing lots of votes. New research shows that only 58 percent of ballots using new end-to-end technology were successfully cast. The systems are designed to give voters the option to both verify the system is working properly and to check that their votes have been recorded after leaving the polling place. Voting concerns such as accuracy, privacy, and bribery/coercion have prompted research and development of ways to make voting tamper-resistant and verifiable by voters. While the three systems evaluated solved many of the security problems surrounding voting with traditional methods—such as voters being able to independently confirm that a vote was counted correctly—the systems’ added complexity appeared to negatively impact their usability. “Overall, the tested systems were exceptionally difficult to use,” says Claudia Acemyan, a postdoctoral fellow at Rice University and lead author of the study that is published online in the Journal of Election Technology and Systems.
Where primary elections are concerned, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. And for years, political thinkers have debated what effect the design of a state’s primary has on electoral results. In this age of sharp partisan polarization—when primaries often determine who occupies the seat more than the general election does—the question of how primaries can shape results has become increasingly urgent. High-profile congressional upsets in recent primaries—House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia and Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi (although he later squeaked out a win in the runoff)—have also drawn attention to the debate over which type of primary best reflects the will of the voters. Some political reformers see opening up primaries as a way to curb the influence of the parties’ ideological extremes, which tend to dominate in closed primaries that are open only to registered party members. But does wresting primaries from the control of only registered party members actually result in the election of candidates with more moderate views? Research suggests it’s, at best, an open question. Those who have studied the phenomenon say the hard evidence is under-whelming.
The review of absentee and questioned ballots cast in Tuesday’s municipal election revealed a general sense of confusion among many Juneau voters. City and election officials tallied 1,447 additional ballots during a public review Friday at the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Chambers. The certified official results will be announced Oct. 14, after the remaining mail-in ballots trickle in. Election officials noted that counting machines continually rejected “over-voted” ballots in which too many candidates were chosen in a particular race. These errors disqualified that race on those ballots, though the rest of the correctly completed votes on the erroneous ballots were counted.
With a little over three weeks to go before elections in close races for U.S. Senate and governor, an escalating fight between Georgia’s Republican secretary of state and a Democratic-leaning voter registration group is moving to court. Third Sector Development Inc., the parent nonprofit of the New Georgia Project that has been working to register minority voters, has filed suit in Fulton County Superior Court against Secretary of State Brian Kemp and five county election boards, claiming officials have failed to process tens of thousands of voter applications ahead of the Nov. 4 vote. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People joined the suit, which calls on the court to force the secretary of state and the boards to speed up processing the applications.
Voters could have an extra six days to cast ballots during the 2016 presidential election if a proposal to change the Missouri Constitution gets enough support on Election Day. Touted by Republicans as making voting more accessible and faulted by Democrats as not making it accessible enough, proposed Amendment 6 would allow registered voters to cast a ballot for six days ending the Wednesday before a general election, not including weekends. Unlike the six-week period of absentee voting in Missouri, residents wouldn’t need an excuse to vote — in-person or with mail-in ballots — early. The catch: Local election offices could hold early voting only if the state agrees to pay for the costs, estimated at close to $2 million the first year and at least $100,000 per election in following years. That has some local clerks worried that they might not get enough state funding and be saddled with expenses. To that end, a state appeals court panel ordered a description of the initiative for the Nov. 4 ballot be changed to add the state-dependent funding.
It has divided good-government groups, alienated some liberals and reformers from the governor, been ruthlessly edited for veracity by a State Supreme Court justice and, with Election Day just a little more than three weeks away, virtually ignored by the voters. Still, Proposal 1 will be on the statewide ballot Nov. 4 and, given the way things work in Albany, is likely to benefit whichever party wins control of the State Senate after the next decennial census in 2020. Democrats comfortably control the Assembly; the Senate has teetered between the two parties. In theory, at least, the compromise proposal would amend the State Constitution to change the way state legislative and congressional districts are drawn after every census, a process that traditionally has been meticulously, if sometimes awkwardly, designed to favor incumbents.
Anyone who votes in Lucas County knows that there’s a limit to how far the computer revolution has invaded the election process. At each of the approximately 350 precinct locations, poll workers flip through paper binders to locate a voter’s name, and then the voter signs his or her name in that book. After the election, those binders then go back to the Lucas County Board of Elections office to be audited, page by page, to verify who voted and who didn’t. While that time-honored process is not going to change in time for the Nov. 4 election, the Lucas County Board of Elections would like to replace the old paper and pen method with computerized tablets at least in time for the 2016 presidential election.
An unexpected U.S. Supreme Court order setting aside a voter ID law in Wisconsin could spell trouble for Texas as it tries to appeal a federal judge’s ruling striking down Texas’ own photo-identification requirement. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott was taking steps Friday to appeal the decision overturning the Texas law. But some election law experts pointed to the Supreme Court’s order blocking implementation of Wisconsin’s similar voter ID requirements before the Nov. 4 election. The high court, 6-3, handed down an emergency order in the Wisconsin case over the objections of the panel’s three biggest conservatives — Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. The majority, including Chief Justice John Roberts, provided no explanation in the order. Because the Texas and Wisconsin laws are similar — with Texas’ law considered the strictest in the nation — Abbott’s appeal could run into a roadblock even if he is initially successful with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That is where he will lodge his appeal of Thursday’s decision by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi.
Following a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to block its implementation, voters are not required to show a photo ID to cast a ballot in Wisconsin, but that could change after November. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) criticizes the GOP for trying to make it harder for people to vote. “The Republicans, the last two sessions, have passed restriction after restriction and impediment after impediment to make it harder for people to vote.” The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that executing Wisconsin’s voter ID law would cause too much confusion this close to Election Day. The high court did not rule on the merits of the law, however. That means photo ID could be implemented after the fall elections. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) is confident it will. He calls this move a “temporary delay.”
With over 90 percent of ballots counted, Bosnia’s government appears likely to remain in the hands of Serb, Bosniak and Croat nationalists. Serb, Bosniak and Croat nationalists look to have held on to Bosnia’s three-person presidency, according to partial results released on Monday. Under Bosnia’s complex electoral system, the country as a whole has three presidents – one from each of the country’s major ethnic groups. Over 90 percent of votes from Sunday’s elections are now counted. The country is also divided between two semi-autonomous entities, Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation.
The government of Gibraltar on Monday proposed lowering the voting age in the tiny contested British outpost on Spain’s southern shore from 18 to 16, following the example of the recent referendum on independence in Scotland. The move follows last month’s referendum on independence in Scotland when voters aged 16 and above were allowed to cast their ballots and proposals in Britain for the voting age in future general elections to be lowered. “With the referendum in Scotland having included 16-year-old voters, any future referenda in the UK and Gibraltar are likely to have such a franchise,” Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said in a statement. “As a result, it is clear to us that voting at general elections should also be extended to those who are 16 years and over.
The wording of a referendum question on foreigner voting rights was presented on Monday, along with three other questions to be put to a vote next year. The questions were presented by a parliamentary commission dedicated to constitutional reform and will form the basis of the draft law. However, until the law is passed in parliament, changes to the text are still possible. The referendum questions will be asked in French, German and Luxembourgish; however, on Monday only the French version was publicly available on chamber.lu