Republicans are poised to gain next month from new election laws in almost half the 50 U.S. states, where the additional requirements defy a half-century trend of easing access to the polls. In North Carolina, where Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan’s re-election fight may determine the nation’s balance of power, the state ended same-day registration used more heavily by blacks. A Texas law will affect more than 500,000 voters who lack identification and are disproportionately black and Hispanic, according to a federal judge. In Ohio, lawmakers discontinued a week during which residents could register and vote on the same day, which another judge said burdens lower income and homeless voters. While Republicans say the laws were meant to stop fraud or ease administrative burdens, Democrats and civil-rights groups maintain they’re aimed at damping turnout by blacks, Hispanics and the young, who are their mainstays in an increasingly diverse America. Texas found two instances of in-person voter fraud among more than 62 million votes cast in elections during the preceding 14 years, according to testimony in the federal case. “You’re seeing the use of the election process as a means of clinging to power,” said Justin Levitt, who follows election regulation at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “You have more states passing laws that create hurdles and inconveniences to voting than we have seen go into effect in the last 50 years.”
Editorials: How racism underlies voter ID laws: the academics weigh in | Michael Hiltzik/Los Angeles Times
The voting laws requiring photo IDs inherently racially discriminatory, as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg maintained in her blistering dissent Saturday morning? A team of politician scientists from Appalachian State, Texas Tech and the University of Florida took on that question for an article just published in Political Research Quarterly (h/t: Justin Levitt). Their conclusion is that the claims of proponents that they’re just upholding the principle of ballot integrity can be discounted; the photo ID laws aim to disenfranchise Democratic voters; they cite findings that the raised cost of voting imposed by photo ID requires “falls overwhelmingly on minorities.” In other words, the answer is yes. The researchers are William D. Hicks of Appalachian, Seth C. McKee of Texas Tech, and Mitchell D. Sellers and Daniel A. Smith of Florida. They observe that voter ID laws in general and photo ID laws specifically surged in 2006 and later, when the electorate became highly polarized. In 2000, four states–Arkansas, Georgia, Michigan and North Dakota–had enacted ID laws, none of them photo-based; they aimed to clarify voting rules, part of a trend that led to the Help America Vote Act, which was passed by a bipartisan vote in Congress in 2002. At the time, the idea of straightening out confusing differences in voting rules was noncontroversial: “why would any member of Congress oppose helping Americans vote?” the authors ask. The atmosphere soon changed. In 2001, only 14 states required identification to vote, of which only four specified photo IDs; by 2014, 34 states had ID laws, including 17 photo ID laws. In 2011 alone, six states added a photo ID requirement.
The recent primary election chalked up a first: An unheard of cost. Every ballot cast because of the new bifurcated voting system cost taxpayers $14,867. State law says a voter can’t vote in state elections until or unless they can prove they are a United States citizen. The federal registration form does not require proof of citizenship. It asks only that the person swear upon penalty of perjury that they are indeed a US citizen. For the feds, that’s enough. For the state, it’s not. However, the federal courts have ruled that the voters who use the federal form will be allowed to vote for federal offices even if they are barred from voting for state and local officials. So during the primary election, Pima County elections officials had to print separate ballots for those who used the federal form to register. That turned out to be for five different parties, even if there were no candidates for a federal office.
A local state representative says he wants answers to how candidates’ party affiliations were left off of Washington County digital ballots Monday, the first day of early voting for the November general elections. Rep. Justin Harris (R – West Fork) is afraid some voters’ voices may not be properly heard because of the electronic ballot glitch. Harris said he may file an official complaint if election officials do not remedy the issue. County election commissioners met Tuesday morning to address concerns over the ballot problem, after voters and officials noticed Monday morning electronic voting machines did not include party affiliations. The problem was noticed within the first few voters, and officials temporarily fixed the situation by placing paper ballots, which included parties, next to electronic voting machines for reference, said Jennifer Price, Washington County election coordinator. She said the problem was fixed in time for the second day of early voting Tuesday.
Boulder County voters electing to mail in ballots this election might come up 1 cent short on postage. Voter instructions for returning ballots say the cost of postage for county residents who received two-sheet ballots in the secrecy sleeve will cost 69 cents — the 49 cents for a stamp plus the cost of an additional ounce. However, in January the U.S. Postal Service raised the cost of an additional ounce to 21 cents, meaning postage for a two-sheet ballot and secrecy sleeve would actually cost 70 cents. Voters should rest assured their ballots will be delivered with no problem however, Boulder County Clerk and Recorder’s Office spokeswoman Mircalla Wozniak said in an email Monday.
A bitter feud between a voter registration group and Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State has seen a lawsuit, claims of voter suppression, a politically motivated effort to hype voter fraud, and fears that large numbers of minority voters could be disenfranchised. But in the final analysis, it perhaps says just as much about less sensational but more intractable problems in the way we run elections. How the fracas gets resolved may play a key role in Georgia’s tight U.S. Senate race, which could hang on minority turnout, and might end up determining control of the chamber next year. The latest twist in the saga came Monday evening, when a local news report cast doubt on claims made by Secretary of State Brian Kemp to justify a controversial investigation he launched last month into the New Georgia Project (NGP), a voter registration group working in minority areas.
The Republican is still angling for the black Democratic vote. The Democrat is trying to win over conservative tea party Republicans. Welcome back to the bizarre parallel universe that is the 2014 Mississippi U.S. Senate race. It has been and continues to be a dog-my-cats affair of epic proportions. In a rare public appearance in the Metro area, six-term incumbent Republican Sen. Thad Cochran will thank supporters Thursday at an event sponsored by the All Citizens for Mississippi PAC. This group, created by black religious and political leader Bishop Ronnie Crudup, ran ads and campaigned to help Cochran pull off a hail Mary primary runoff win against tea party challenger Chris McDaniel. McDaniel, still challenging the June 24 loss in court, called the ads race baiting and cried foul over thousands of Democrats crossing over to help Cochran win a Republican primary.
New Yorkers would finally be able to register to vote with a click of a mouse under a bill to be introduced in the City Council. Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) will introduce legislation to allow would-be voters to register online. Currently, the Board of Elections requires paper registration forms to be mailed in the old fashioned way. “We hope to have a city where everyone who is eligible can vote easily,” Kallos said. “We make it really hard to register, really hard to vote, and we can make it a lot easier.”
North Carolina: Elections polling site at ASU likely as appeals court lifts stay | Winston-Salem Journal
The campus of Appalachian State University may host a polling place for the early voting period. The N.C. Court of Appeals on Tuesday sided with a grassroots group of Watauga County Democrats that has fought for a long time to have a polling site on campus. The appellate court lifted its temporary block on a lower court’s decision that would have allowed the polling site earlier. There is still a possibility that the N.C. Supreme Court could upend the ruling, as the State Board of Elections, which is made up of three Republicans and two Democrats, had already filed an appeal last week with the high court. But what is certain is that the early-voting period begins Thursday.
Voting rights groups are worried that Virginia’s new voter ID law, which will require people to show a photo ID to vote, will disenfranchise some in next month’s midterm elections. “There are so many cases where voters who have every right to vote potentially can be turned away,” said Anne Sterling, president of the League of Women Voters of Virginia. She said rural, poor and elderly voters could face a harder burden. It’s an issue in states across the U.S., with the Supreme Court last weekend allowing Texas to use its strict voter ID law, over the vehement objection of three justices. The Texas law, unlike Virginia’s, doesn’t allow college student IDs as a form of identification. Defenders of Virginia’s law say it provides ample opportunities for people who don’t have photo IDs to get them in time to vote. And opponents such as the League of Women Voters are working to help people obtain IDs ahead of the election.
Brazil is on tenterhooks. With five days to go before the presidential run-off on October 26th the race remains too close to call. But for the first time since the first round of voting two weeks ago the left-wing incumbent, Dilma Rousseff, has gained ground. On October 20th a poll by Datafolha put Ms Rousseff four points ahead of Aécio Neves, her centre-right challenger; last week Mr Neves was leading by a whisker. Perhaps it was only a matter of time. Ms Rousseff’s campaign, as cynical as it is formidable, has relentlessly (and unfairly) bashed the market-friendly Mr Neves for wanting to slash social programmes and govern solely for the rich elite. It has also attacked his record as governor of Minas Gerais, a big state which has just elected a governor from Ms Rousseff’s Workers’ Party (PT) and where she beat Mr Neves in the first round (in part because the opposition vote was split between him and Marina Silva, a charismatic centrist who came third overall). “People who know Aécio don’t vote for him,” blare PT television ads, conveniently omitting to mention that whenever Mr Neves himself stood for elected office in Minas, he strolled to victory.
Canada: Confidentiality concerns force Clarence-Rockland to backtrack on bold e-voting plans | Ottawa Citizen
Confidentiality concerns have prompted the city of Clarence-Rockland to backtrack on its plans to hold electronic elections and it has implemented an “emergency plan” to use traditional paper-based ballots. The municipality, located just east of Ottawa, said problems mailing out confidential personal identification numbers (PINs) to thousands of voters in the area ultimately forced it to drop its groundbreaking plans. “It was brought to our attention that the Voting PIN was visible through the window of certain envelopes resulting in both the Voter ID and Voting PIN not remaining confidential to the elector,” said the municipality in a statement released Tuesday morning.
Foreign observers on Tuesday voiced concern over alleged irregularities in the counting of votes from Mozambique’s presidential and legislative polls held last week. Both the European Union and the United States government issued statements on Tuesday pointing at problems in the tallying process after last Wednesday’s polls. “Despite an orderly election day, these processes have encountered many difficulties and adversities,” the EU observer mission said. These included “faulty” handling of final result sheets from polling stations and lengthy tabulation procedures. The EU “considers that such mishaps in the tabulation process, added to the absence of official public explanations about these difficulties, hinders what has been an orderly start on election day.”
United Kingdom: Individual voter registration: 5.5m yet to be transferred, Electoral Commission says | BBC
Some 5.5 million potential voters in England and Wales have yet to be transferred onto a new version of the electoral register, officials say. People must now register to vote individually rather than – as in the past – being listed on a form filled in by one member of a household. The Electoral Commission said 87% of electors had transferred automatically. However, it said nobody would be unable to vote in the 2015 general election because of the changes. That is because under transitional arrangements, nobody will be removed from the existing registers until they are closed, either in December 2015 or December 2016.
For years, Daniela Leal saw only one good choice at the ballot box: She voted for the Frente Amplio, the Broad Front, the coalition of Uruguayan leftist parties that prioritized the well-being of families like hers. Ms. Leal, 43, her four children and one grandchild live in a cement-block house with a corrugated tin roof in a slum on the edge of the capital. Sewage runs out front in the cracks in the pavement she tries to sweep clean. The Broad Front governments of the past decade boosted minimum wages and pensions, and focused on better housing and health care – they cared about people like her, she said. But with a national election in Uruguay just around the corner, Ms. Leal is suddenly undecided. The Frente is the party of the poor, but she worries they have become just like all the other politicians. And she wonders if it’s time to try something new. The indecision of voters such as Ms. Leal has made the Oct. 26 election uncharacteristically difficult to predict. Polls suggest the Broad Front may hold on to parliament but will not win another majority. And the race for president is too close to call.