Both sides are already making claims and counterclaims about the impact of Texas’ strict voter ID law in last week’s election. There’s no question that some legitimate voters were disenfranchised by the law. But how many? Perhaps a large number — but the truth is, nobody knows. The difficulty of gauging the law’s effect, at least in the election’s immediate aftermath, points to an irony that has characterized the voter ID controversy nationally: Though lawyers challenging ID measures have marshaled reams of compelling evidence to show how they could keep voters from the polls, individual elections are not well-suited to demonstrating the impact. That’s not stopping partisans from jumping into the debate. At a post-election event last week, Gilberto Hinojosa, the chair of the Texas Democratic Party, said the ID law was “a large part of the reason” for the decline in state’s 2010 turnout (though he also said that Texans who didn’t turn out “need to look at yourself in the mirror”). His Republican counterpart, Steve Munisteri, just as confidently dismissed the idea. Around 600,000 registered Texas voters don’t have one of the limited forms of ID that the law allows, according to evidence presented at trial. The state did almost nothing to challenge that assessment. That means there’s no doubt whatsoever that the law disenfranchised legitimate voters. MSNBC met with several of them last week.
Romania’s presidential runoff sees Prime Minister Victor Ponta facing off against Klaus Iohannis, the ethnic German mayor of the Transylvanian city of Sibiu. Ponta, a former prosecutor, led Iohannis by 10 points in the first-round voting on Nov. 2, and polls indicate Ponta is likely to win, despite corruption probes and convictions of some of Ponta’s senior aides. Here is a brief rundown of the people and issues involved in Sunday’s vote. “Pugnacious” Ponta, 42, became Europe’s youngest prime minister in May 2012 just before he turned 40. An amateur rally driver, Ponta married Daciana Sarbu in 2007. She’s a European Parliament lawmaker and the daughter of a bigwig in the powerful Social Democratic Party. Ponta’s career has mostly been plain sailing since then, even though he’s been accused of plagiarizing his doctoral thesis and of being an undercover spy by outgoing President Traian Basescu — allegations he denies. Since taking office Ponta has overseen economic growth and political stability. He says Romania will remain a U.S. ally and rejects claims he’ll cozy up to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Critics say that as president Ponta could grant an amnesty to political allies imprisoned for corruption, and that his party would have far too much power.
Texas and Georgia struggled the most with glitchy electronic voting machines on Election Day, according to an analysis by watchdog Verified Voting. Some machines simply wouldn’t boot up, and others unexpectedly shut down. Faulty touch screens were another issue — some registered a vote for the wrong candidate, while others just went blank. Pamela Smith, the group’s president, said poor machine management and outdated equipment is likely responsible for the malfunctions, which were seen nationwide. U.S. electronic voting machines are rapidly aging. Just over a decade ago, an influx of federal funds allowed many states to buy up electronic voting machines. Since then, budgets have dried up and more than half of those states have taken steps back toward paper ballots as electronic fallibilities increase. Given those trends, glitches are expected, Smith said. Verified Voting runs call centers around the country on Election Day, fielding reports of voting difficulties. “Some of the problems that we saw in the early voting period, we also saw on Election Day,” Smith said. “Most of the issues we heard about were not enough equipment or equipment breaking down.”
The turnout for Tuesday general election was the lowest recorded level since World War II, according to the United States Election Project. A scant 36.4 percent of the voting-eligible population cast ballots last week, marking the smallest percentage participation since 1942, when less than 34 percent went to the polls. Voter participation has generally been in decline since the early 1960s. Years with presidential elections usually see higher turnout than midterm election cycles — 62 percent voted in the 2008 election, 58 percent in 2012 — but 2014 was down substantially, even when compared with the last two off-year elections (41 percent voted in 2010). Measuring the motivations behind voter turnout is not an exact science. Decisions might be based on convenience or logistics — a voter might not be able to take time off work or lacks adequate transportation to make it to a polling place — or it might be a byproduct of interest-level or alienation — there might not be a competitive, high-profile contest or voters might have just lost faith in their elected officials or the electoral process. Or, as has been the case with increasing frequency in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision, the rules may have changed enough to confuse voters or create real barriers to participation.
The explosive issue of racial segregation returns to the Supreme Court on Wednesday, 60 years after justices declared separate schools for blacks and whites unconstitutional. This time, it’s all about politics. At issue is the redrawing of political districts that has contributed to an emerging phenomenon in the South: To get elected, you better be a black Democrat or a white Republican. The court will be asked by black and Democratic Alabama residents to strike down the state’s legislative maps drawn by Republicans. They claim the maps pack too many black voters into the districts of black legislators to make surrounding districts more hospitable to the GOP. For an object lesson in such racial-political purity, the justices need only look at the congressional results from Election Day in the Deep South, stretching from South Carolina to Louisiana. Rep. John Barrow of Georgia, the last white Democrat in the House from any of those five states, lost re-election after his district was redrawn. Now every Democrat is black, and every Republican is white.
Editorials: Did legislators redraw district lines to hurt Democrats or to disenfranchise black voters? | Richard Hasen/Slate
As Democrats struggled last week to salvage control of the Senate, they pushed to get as many black voters to the polls as possible, especially in the South. It’s no wonder: Blacks are the most reliable Democratic voters, and 89 percent of them ended up supporting Democratic candidates in the 2014 elections (a mark that was actually down from 2012). White voters, in contrast, came out heavily for Republicans in the South. In North Carolina, where incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan lost to Republican Thom Tillis, the GOP candidate got just 3 percent of the black vote. But as we all know, the black turnout was not high enough to beat back the Republican wave in North Carolina or elsewhere. In North Carolina in particular, black turnout was down compared with 2012. Recognizing this major overlap of race and party in the South is key to understanding Wednesday’s Supreme Court case involving a constitutional challenge to Alabama’s legislative redistricting. No one disputes that the Alabama Legislature packed black voters into a few legislative districts, thus strengthening Republican control in the majority of districts throughout the rest of the state. But whether or not that action is constitutional depends a great deal on whether the court views this as a case about race (in which case Alabama may have acted unconstitutionally) or one about party (in which case Alabama’s actions are constitutional, if unsavory politics as usual). Given current realities, this “race or party” determination is a wholly artificial exercise, but one that puts the justices in a very interesting spot.
In last week’s elections, Alabama Republicans shrank their once-powerful Democratic opponents to just eight seats in the state Senate, all of them from districts in which African-Americans are a majority. Black Democrats say the GOP did it by misusing a landmark voting-rights law, intended to ensure the right to vote for southern blacks, to instead limit their voting strength. Republicans, they argue, relied too heavily on race to draw new electoral maps following the 2010 census. The case goes before the Supreme Court on Wednesday. Last year a conservative majority on the court effectively blocked a key component of the Voting Rights Act, and this case will be watched closely for signs that the rest of the law could be in peril. Like other Southern states, Alabama has undergone a decades-long change in its electorate. White voters now overwhelmingly back Republicans, leaving black voters as the Democrats’ only reliable voting bloc.
Alaska will begin counting more than 53,000 absentee and questioned ballots on Tuesday in an effort to resolve the state’s unsettled contests for the Senate and for governor. Democratic Sen. Mark Begich trailed Republican challenger Dan Sullivan by about 8,100 votes after Election Night. Begich is banking on the uncounted votes after waging an aggressive ground game in rural Alaska. The outcome of the new round of vote-counting won’t change the balance of the Senate. Republicans gained seven seats in last week’s election, more than enough to grab the Senate majority for the remainder of President Barack Obama’s presidency. The limbo between Election Night and the outcome of the new count created a vacuum the candidates’ spokesmen sought to fill. “Every Alaskan deserves to have their vote counted, and past experience indicates that counting these votes will favor Begich and draw this race closer,” Begich’s spokesman, Max Croes, said in an email Monday to The Associated Press. Begich has returned to Washington, D.C., for the lame duck session.
A recount in the Congressional District 2 race most likely will take place, but not until at least December at the earliest. The 133-vote gap between Democrat Ron Barber and Martha McSally is small enough to trigger an automatic recount according to state law, but Secretary of State Ken Bennett won’t ask a judge for a recount until after the statewide results are certified next month. The Pima County Board of Supervisors is expected to canvass election results next week, but Bennett is not expected to certify those results until Dec. 1, when he signs off on all the races on this year’s ballot. Once the results are official and show less than a 200-vote margin, Bennett will present them to a judge in Maricopa County Superior Court, who will be asked to order the recount.
Four months after the photo finish in the California controller primary put a spotlight on the state’s unique recount rules, possible recounts loom in a handful of close legislative and congressional races on last week’s ballot. In Sacramento County’s 7th Congressional District, Rep. Ami Bera has cut the lead of Republican former Rep. Doug Ose to 530 votes, just 0.35 percent of the total counted so far, with thousands of late-arriving mail and provisional ballots still to process. Bera’s campaign has already launched a drive to raise money for a possible recount. The next official vote tally is expected Wednesday.
It’s a week after Election Day and they’re still counting votes in Colorado, where some are blaming a new state law that replaced polling booths with mandatory mail-in ballots. Top-ticket races have been decided—Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper was re-elected and Republican Cory Gardner unseated Democratic Sen. Mark Udall—but the vote totals in a dozen state House and Senate races remain unknown. Democrats currently have a 37-28 majority in the House and are expected to keep it. But they did lose the Senate, where the Republicans will hold an 18-17 edge after being in the minority for a decade. And although those outcomes are unlikely to change once all the votes are counted, there is frustration with the new process, especially among the grass-roots.
While Colorado’s 2014 election was primarily about the candidates and initiatives on the ballot, it was also a test of the state’s all-mail ballot and vote center system. Our verdict: It was a success. Not only did Colorado buck a national trend of declining voter participation compared to the 2010 midterm election, there were no scandals involving voter fraud, which was a concern expressed by critics of mail balloting. This year, roughly 2 million voters cast ballots, an increase over the 1.8 million in 2010. That’s a significant increase in participation. Of course, the number of registered voters increased by more than 350,000 during that time, too.
The next step in former Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White’s fight to overturn his voter fraud conviction is set for next month. The Indiana Court of Appeals announced Monday that a panel of judges will hear oral arguments in White’s case on Dec. 9. The Republican was automatically removed from office in February 2012 after a Hamilton County jury convicted him of six felonies. That included using his ex-wife’s home in Fishers as his voting address in 2010 while living elsewhere as he served on the Indianapolis suburb’s town council and campaigned for secretary of state.
The election results reporting glitch in Monmouth County was caused by four laptops that were used to create the voting machine cartridges, authorities said. Hours after the polls closed on election night, results were not displaying online. The county said software issues were to blame and they were working to determine the root of the problem. “The…
This Election Day, I was in a new polling place in a largely rural township in Central New Jersey. Elections out here are usually sedate affairs, with friends and neighbors chatting, and the same poll workers year after year. Almost boring. Except when a local election heats up. This year, the election hotspot was the 2 seats on the Township Committee. Here’s the background. The township is the center of a long-running dispute over a general aviation airport which might – or might not – want to expand. It’s probably cost both sides millions in land studies, lawyers, and campaign sign. The election should have been easy: there were only 2 candidates on the ballot from one party. None from the other. No nominations by petition. But there was the usual write-in option. And the losers in the June primary were running a write-in campaign. Here’s the other twist. We still vote on old full-face electronic voting systems. So “write-in” really means “type-in” on a clunky, modal interface. That makes a write-in campaign doubly daunting. The candidates need to not only get the word out, but make sure their supporters know how to cast their votes. And, of course, it takes more time than just touching a few buttons for candidates on the ballot.
A lack of enthusiasm among Bahrainis for this month’s elections has been blamed for the limited number of citizens who have signed up to become poll monitors. So far just 30 people have put their names forward to work with anti-corruption watchdog the Bahrain Transparency Society – a fifth of the total that signed up to become observers in the 2010 elections. Its president Abdulnabi Al Ekry claims the opposition boycott is to blame for this apparent apathy among Bahrainis, an apathy that could hamstring his society’s ability to properly monitor the polls. “Compared to previous elections, this time we are noticing a drop in the number of monitors because of the boycott calls and also because of restrictions by officials,” he said. “This election is peculiar with its string of volatile accusations and counter-accusations constantly made by groups from all sides.
For Luciana Bizgan, Romania’s presidential race could mean she’ll never again turn up for work wearing rubber boots. Across the nation of 20 million, the second-most populous of the European Union’s newer members, Romanians are witnessing Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s bid for president triggering a spending glut on streets, schools and churches. Bizgan, 36, a seamstress, wants her dirt road in the southern town of Turnu Magurele asphalted so rain doesn’t dictate her footwear. “I just hope this time it’s my street’s turn,” she said. The EU’s second-poorest member, whose post-communist transformation has pushed bond yields to record lows, is loosening the purse strings a year after exiting monitoring by the bloc for fiscal slackness. Next year’s budget shortfall may balloon to double the government target, leaving a headache for Ponta’s successor, should the prime minister turn his poll lead into victory in a Nov. 16 runoff.
Catalan authorities suffered a massive cyberattack while the region was voting in an independence ballot outlawed by Madrid, their leader said on Tuesday. On polling day Sunday, the regional government’s computer systems received 60,000 times more hits than usual in “hard, organised cybernetic attacks”, said its president Artur Mas. “They tried to take down the Catalan government’s computer systems.” He was speaking to reporters in his first public address since Sunday’s polls, in which 2.3 million people turned out to vote on whether the rich region should break away from Spain.
Catalans have voted for independence in a referendum that holds no official sway but has enormous significance. Now Catalonia needs to decide where to turn next. The referendum, held on November 9, was promoted by a coalition of forces, backed by the Catalan government, that argue that Catalonia has the “right to decide” whether it should be independent. About 2.2 million people voted in what has been called a symbolic referendum. A significant 80.7% backed total independence. Between 10% and 11% wished Catalonia to federate with Spain and 5% supported the status quo. This was understandably seen as a success by the Catalan government and has strengthened the standing of its president, Artur Mas.
United Kingdom: Sixteen year olds could have the vote in a referendum on tax-raising powers for the Welsh Government | Wales Online
Sixteen year olds could have the vote in a referendum on whether to give new tax raising powers to the National Assembly. The Welsh Government will now be able to decide the age at which people can vote in the poll. The changes were announced in the House of Lords on November 11 as an amendment to the Wales Bill, which will grant limited tax raising powers to the Welsh Government. The amendment was tabled by Plaid Cymru’s Lord Dafydd Wigley and Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas. Lord Wigley welcomed the changes, which have been seen as a significant concession by the UK government. Speaking at the House of Lords debate, he said: “Plaid Cymru has long campaigned for the lowering of the voting age in Wales to 16 years old. As might be expected, this amendment was drawn up partly in response to the decision of the Scottish government to empower 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in the September referendum, as well as the outstanding take up of that right.