In a buzzing and ringing world, technology has become an integral part of society, where almost anything can be done with the press of a fingertip But when voting is involved, things get a little tricky. With more than a million apps in the Google Play store and 900,000 apps in the Apple Store, users can download a variety of voting and polling apps. Several states, including Tennessee and Louisiana, have released voting apps that are free or can be purchased in the Apple and Android store for smartphones. New Hampshire is developing its own app for the midterm elections. Voters can’t cast ballots with these apps, but they can use them to find polling locations, ask for absentee ballots, look at sample ballots and more. The D.C. Board of Elections released its free app that can answer questions about the Nov. 4 election. “It’s a great trend for elections offices to be putting these kinds of tools out there. Not only does it help voters, but it can also ease some of the burden on calls coming in at busy times for finding polling places,” Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting, said. Her group provides voting information and wants to make sure technology is adopted carefully.
Editorials: Methodological challenges affect study of non-citizens’ voting | Michael Tesler/The Washington Post
A recent Monkey Cage piece by political scientists Jesse Richman and David Earnest, which suggested that non-citizen voting could decide the 2014 Election, received considerable media attention over the weekend. In particular, columns such as Breitbart.com’s “Study: Voting by Non-Citizens Tips Balance for Democrats” and the National Review’s “Jaw-Dropping Study Claims Large Numbers of Non-Citizens Vote in U.S” cited results from the authors’ forthcoming Electoral Studies article to confirm conservatives’ worst fears about voter fraud in the United States. A number of academics and commentators have already expressedskepticism about the paper’s assumptions and conclusions, though. In aseries of tweets, New York Times columnist Nate Cohn focused his criticism on Richman et al’s use of Cooperative Congressional Election Study data to make inferences about the non-citizen voting population. That critique has some merit, too. The 2008 and 2010 CCES surveyed large opt-in Internet samples constructed by the polling firm YouGov to be nationally representative of the adult citizen population. Consequently, the assumption that non-citizens, who volunteered to take online surveys administered in English about American politics, would somehow be representative of the entire non-citizen population seems tenuous at best.
A week from Tuesday, voters will choose an entirely new House of Representatives, a third of the U.S. Senate and the governors of 36 states. Lamentably, many qualified voters will stay home, some out of apathy or disillusionment but others because they lack the right sort of identification. In Texas, thanks to an outrageous order by the Supreme Court, voters will have to display a photo ID under a law that a lower court judge concluded was a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise blacks and Latinos, who disproportionately lack such identification. Welcome to the new world of voter suppression, the culmination of a sustained effort by mostly Republican state legislators to make it harder for Americans to exercise the most basic right afforded to citizens in a democracy. It’s an effort whose effect, if not its intent, has been to reduce the participation at the ballot box by groups that historically have been the victims of discrimination. It has been abetted by a Supreme Court that blithely gutted an important section of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act and by a Congress that has been to slow to undo the damage caused by the court.
One of the most shocking ads aired this political season was aimed at a woman named Robin Hudson. Hudson, 62, is not a congressional or Senate candidate. Rather, she is a State Supreme Court justice in North Carolina, seeking her second eight-year term. It wasn’t all that long ago when, in North Carolina, judicial races were publicly financed. If a candidate spent more than $100,000, it was unusual. Ads mainly consisted of judicial candidates promising to be fair. Any money the candidates raised was almost entirely local. This ad in North Carolina, however, which aired during the primary season, was a startling departure. First, the money came from an organization called Justice for All NC — which, in turn, was funded primarily by the Republican State Leadership Committee. That is to say, it was the kind of post-Citizens United money that has flooded the political system and polluted our politics. And then there was its substance. “We want judges to protect us,” the ad began. The voice-over went on to say that when child molesters sued to stop electronic monitoring, Judge Hudson had “sided with the predators.” It was a classic attack ad.
The Cook County Clerk’s Office said it will still use its normal procedures to process early and absentee voting for the upcoming election after Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan recently released an opinion about vote counting. Madigan’s statement, issued Oct. 15, said that ballots collected through early voting and absentee balloting cannot be counted before election polls close at 7 p.m. Nov. 4. Specifically, the opinion said that running the ballots through tabulating equipment is a form of counting. Natalie Bauer, Illinois Attorney General communications director, said the decision was released to clarify election laws because of procedural questions some election officials had asked. Cook County Clerk spokesperson Courtney Greve said the clerk’s office believes its normal process of compiling early ballots complies with the law and Madigan’s opinion.
The state of Kansas spent more than $34,000 on Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s failed effort to force Kansas Democrats to field a candidate in the race for U.S. Senate. Kobach called that amount very reasonable. The state paid Wichita-based Hinkle Law Firm to defend Kobach against a suit brought by Democrat Chad Taylor after Kobach ruled that Taylor would remain on the November ballot against his will. Kobach said Taylor had failed to properly comply with a statute by not explicitly declaring himself incapable to serve if elected. The Kansas Supreme Court rejected Kobach’s argument and ruled that Taylor’s name be struck from the ballot. Taylor’s absence has been a boon to independent Greg Orman in the tight race for a U.S. Senate seat. Taylor accused Kobach of trying to keep him on the ballot as a way to help Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts.
Political scientists from two of the nation’s most highly respected universities, usually impartial observers of political firestorms, now find themselves at the center of an electoral drama with tens of thousands of dollars and the election of two state supreme court justices at stake. Their research experiment, which involved sending official-looking flyers to 100,000 Montana voters just weeks before Election Day, is now the subject of an official state inquiry that could lead to substantial fines against them or their schools. Their peers in the field have ripped their social science experiment as a “misjudgment” or — stronger still — “malpractice.” What went so wrong? Last Thursday, the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices started receiving complaints from voters who had received an election mailer (see below) bearing the state seal and describing the ideological standing of non-partisan candidates for the Montana Supreme Court. The fine print said that it had been sent by researchers from Dartmouth College and Stanford University, part of their research into voter participation. But that wasn’t satisfactory for the voters who received the flyers or the state officials to whom they complained.
Two years ago this week New Jersey was ravaged by Superstorm Sandy, which left 8.2 million households without power in 15 states and the District of Columbia. The storm killed 34 people in New Jersey. Power outages throughout the state affected 2.4 million homes and businesses. The storm displaced roughly 61,000 families in New Jersey; 346,000 homes were damaged or destroyed and 22,000 housing units were rendered uninhabitable. Even today, not all New Jersey residents left homeless by Sandy have been able to return to their homes. In response to Sandy, which hit only eight days before the 2012 presidential election, Secretary of State Kim Guadagno, the state’s head election official, implemented five emergency voting measures, ostensibly to help people vote. As detailed in the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Rights Clinic’s report: “A Perfect Storm: Voting in New Jersey in the Wake of Superstorm Sandy,” published last week, the state’s emergency measures were misguided and illegal, and left millions of votes vulnerable to manipulation.
The Secretary of State’s office is pushing back against a newspaper article in the Santa Fe New Mexican that says Sharpies have been recalled from polling offices. The article said, “All 33 county clerks were to remove Sharpie pens from voting sites Thursday at the direction of Secretary of State Dianna Duran.” The article says that Sharpies were replaced by Papermate Flair pens. The Secretary of State’s office referred to it as a “sensational report.” Scott Krahling, the supervisor of the Doña Ana County Bureau of Elections, told NM Telegram that there was no order for county clerks to remove Sharpie pens from voting sites.
South Carolina: Election for Bobby Harrell’s seat to proceed without a GOP candidate, so far | Post and Courier
The future of the Statehouse seat held by former House Speaker Bobby Harrell remained in dispute Monday, with Democrats claiming the inside track for their candidate and Republicans vowing not to give up. “This isn’t over,” Charleston County GOP Chairman John Steinberger said. Earlier, it seemed Democrat Mary Tinkler was destined to become the representative for the Republican-leaning House District 114 seat anchored in West Ashley. The state Election Commission said the Nov. 4 election would go forward as planned, stipulating there is no chance Harrell can win or be considered.
Eric Kennie is a Texan. He is as Texan as the yucca plants growing outside his house. So Texan that he has never, in his 45 years, travelled outside the state. In fact, he has never even left his native city of Austin. “No sir, not one day. I was born and raised here, only place I know is Austin.” You might think that more than qualifies Kennie as a citizen of the Lone Star state, entitling him to its most basic rights such as the ability to vote. Not so, according to the state of Texas and its Republican political leadership. On 4 November, when America goes to the polls in the midterm elections, for the first time in his adult life Eric Kennie will not be allowed to participate. Ever since he turned 18 he has made a point of voting in general elections, having been brought up by his African American parents to think that it is important, part of what he calls “doing the right thing”. He remembers the excitement of voting for Barack Obama in 2008 to help elect the country’s first black president, his grandmother crying tears of joy on election night. “My grandfather and uncle, they used to tell me all the time there will be a black president. I never believed it, never in a million years.”
At the urging of county election officials in Austin, Texas, a group of Rice University engineers and social scientists has pulled together a team of U.S. experts to head off a little-known yet looming crisis facing elections officials nationwide. According to a January report from the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, U.S. elections officials are facing an “impending crisis” as they look to replace the aging voting systems they purchased after Florida’s flawed 2000 election. The commission concluded that elections officials “do not have the money to purchase new machines, and legal and market constraints prevent the development of machines they would want even if they had the funds.” But a STAR (Secure, Transparent, Auditable and Reliable) voting system is on the horizon.
The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has won the general elections in the world’s largest diamond producer. It secured at least 33 of the 57 parliamentary seats being contested, the national electoral commission says. A party needs 29 seats to take power. Opposition group Umbrella for Democratic Change has won 14 seats. The BDP party of President Ian Khama has been in power since Botswana gained independence in 1966. But it has been battling to gain support in urban areas where opposition parties have made recent inroads. Three parties competed to win over the 824,000 registered voters who directly elected the 57 members of parliament.
Brazilian voters re-elected Dilma Rousseff as president on Sunday, endorsing a leftist leader who has achieved important gains in reducing poverty and keeping unemployment low over a centrist challenger who castigated her government for a simmering bribery scandal and a sluggish economy. Ms. Rousseff of the Workers Party took 51.4 percent of the vote in the second and final round of elections, against 48.5 percent for Aécio Neves, a senator from the Social Democracy party and scion of a political family from the state of Minas Gerais, electoral officials said Sunday night with 98 percent of votes in the country counted. While Ms. Rousseff won by a thin margin, the tumultuous race was marked by accusations of corruption, personal insults and heated debates, revealing climbing polarization in Brazil. Mr. Neves surged into the lead this month in opinion surveys, only to be eclipsed by Ms. Rousseff as the vote on Sunday approached.
The secular Nidaa Tounes party won the largest number of seats in Tunisia’s parliamentary elections on Monday, defeating its main rival, the Islamist party Ennahda, which just three years ago swept to power as the North African nation celebrated the fall of its longtime dictator in the Arab Spring revolution. Though just a few official results had been released on Monday night, Ennahda’s leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, called Beji Caid Essebsi, the 87-year-old leader of Nidaa Tounes, on Monday evening to congratulate him. Mr. Ghannouchi then threw a large street party for party workers outside Ennahda’s campaign headquarters, with music and fireworks. Ennahda’s former foreign minister, Rafik Abdessalem, said that by the party’s count, Ennahda had won 69 to 73 seats, while Nidaa Tounes had most likely won 83 seats. “We accept the result,” Mr. Abdessalem said. “There are some irregularities, but we consider we succeeded in this process to hold transparent democratic elections.”
Exit polls in Ukraine’s parliamentary elections suggested that Sunday’s vote would cement the country’s new political course, seven months after the revolution that toppled former president Viktor Yanukovych. Forces loyal to President Petro Poroshenko and the government more broadly looked set to dominate the parliament, but there were also votes for more radical parties and those made up of former activists from the Maidan revolution. A new party mainly made up of Yanukovych’s defunct Party of the Regions polled in single figures, according to exit surveys. The vote came with parts of eastern Ukraine remaining under the de facto control of pro-Russia separatists, and with an increasingly radical mood taking hold in much of the rest of the country, impatient for reforms from a new government led by Poroshenko, a billionaire chocolate magnate.
Leftist former president Tabare Vazquez and his center-right rival Luis Lacalle Pou will head into a November 30 runoff after a presidential vote failed to deliver an outright winner, results showed Monday. President Jose Mujica will be succeeded either by his Broad Front ally Vazquez, who earned 45.5 percent of the vote, or the National Party’s Lacalle Pou, who garnered 32 percent, election officials said Monday, having completed a manual count of 78 percent of ballot boxes. Some Vazquez supporters had hoped he could squeeze out an absolute majority, but he fell short. Compounding their disappointment, his party was also seen as potentially losing its control over the legislature, projections showed. After preliminary results were announced, thousands of Broad Front supporters nonetheless filled July 18 Avenue, the main street in downtown Montevideo, honking horns and waving flags.