In the aftermath of the midterm elections, there’s no shortage of easy explanations for the outcome, and everyone’s an expert. Pundits say the Democrats didn’t allow President Barack Obama to campaign enough, or featured him too much. They didn’t talk enough about the economy. They went too negative, or weren’t negative enough. The Republicans ran better, less extreme candidates. Variously, gerrymandering, vote suppression, vote fraud, or big money made the difference. Of course, the real reasons are far more complex. In the weeks and months ahead, we’ll comb through the data to learn more, but right now one fact is painfully clear: Citizens showed up to vote at lower rates than in any federal election since the middle of World War II. Preliminary data indicate that national turnout was below 37 percent. That means nearly 2 in 3 eligible voters, or approximately 144 million American citizens—more than the population of Russia—chose to sit this election out. The nation hasn’t seen turnout this low in any federal general election since 1942. Even in recent midterms, when the turnout was remarkably low, it still exceeded 40 percent, meaning millions more Americans voted in 2006 and 2010 than in 2014.
Barack Obama’s reelection campaign pioneered a pathway for political campaigns to reach voters through Facebook when it released an app that helped supporters target their friends with Obama-related material. But as the 2016 presidential campaign approaches, Facebook is rolling out a change that will prevent future campaigns from doing this, closing the door on one of the most sophisticated social targeting efforts ever undertaken. “It’s a fairly significant shift,” said Teddy Goff, who was Obama’s digital director in 2012, and oversaw the effort that helped the Obama campaign gain a Facebook following of 45 million users that year. Goff’s team used Facebook and other tools to register more than a million voters online and to raise $690 million online in 2011 and 2012. “The thing we did that will be most affected — by which I mean rendered impossible — by the changes they’re making is the targeted sharing tool,” Goff said. More than 1 million Obama supporters in 2012 installed the campaign’s Facebook app. These supporters were given the option to share their friend list with the Obama campaign. Goff said most of the app users did so. And when they did, Goff’s team would then “run those friend lists up against the voter file, and make targeted suggestions as to who [supporters] should be sharing stuff with.”
Users of a different kind of gavel have been busy setting rules for voters and election administrators in 2014. Courts, and not legislatures, have been the major force shaping state election laws this year, with some key rulings landing just days before voters headed to the polling places. And it’s not just district circuit justices who have been asked to rule on litigation about photo ID requirements for voters, early voting and same-day voter registration. Several notable rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court this year have addressed how elections are run. And some of those decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court have hardly settled election matters. The brief court orders in a few October cases— often two sentences— have addressed simply the timing of changes to the elections process; these cases are still to be decided on their merits by the courts with jurisdiction.
The state laws that barred nearly six million people with felony convictions from voting in the midterm elections this month date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when Southern lawmakers were working feverishly to neutralize the black electorate. Poll taxes, literacy tests, grandfather clauses and cross burnings were effective weapons in this campaign. But statutes that allowed correctional systems to arbitrarily and permanently strip large numbers of people of the right to vote were a particularly potent tool in the campaign to undercut African-American political power. This racially freighted system has normalized disenfranchisement in the United States — at a time when our peers in the democratic world rightly see it as an aberration. It has also stripped one in every 13 black persons of the right to vote — a rate four times that of nonblacks nationally. At the same time, it has allowed disenfranchisement to move beyond that black population — which makes up 38 percent of those denied the vote — into the body politic as a whole. One lesson here is that punishments designed for one pariah group can be easily expanded to include others as well. The history of disenfranchisement was laid out in a fascinating 2003 study by Angela Behrens, Christopher Uggen and Jeff Manza. They found that state felony bans exploded in number during the late 1860s and 1870s, particularly in the wake of the Fifteenth Amendment, which ostensibly guaranteed black Americans the right to vote. They also found that the larger the state’s black population, the more likely the state was to pass the most stringent laws that permanently denied people convicted of crimes the right to vote. These bans were subsequently strengthened as the Jim Crow era began to take hold.
Editorials: The SCOTUS Should Reject Alabama’s Legislative Districts | Jim Sleeper/The Washington Monthly
With roughly 80% of Alabama whites voting Republican and 90% of African-Americans voting Democrat, it’s been easy for the state’s legislative leaders to deny they had any explicitly racial intent in compressing black voters into a few electoral districts and “whitening” the neighboring districts to elect more Republicans. Districting along party lines is the prerogative of whatever party controls the process, and if citizens are voting in racial blocs, what can a loyal Republican or Democrat line-drawer do but follow that pattern — and perhaps even intensify it when “voting rights” laws facilitate the design of “majority-minority” districts to enhance non-white voters’ opportunities to elect “candidates of their choice”? That’s the gist of Alabama’s defense this week in a suit brought by the state’s Legislative Black Caucus. The Supreme Court must decide whether the line-drawers acted racially, and therefore unconstitutionally, or for purely partisan purposes. But poor leadership on both sides of this question has intensified racial polarization even when voters have tried to transcend it, even in the Deep South. The Court should rebuff line-drawers in a way that points beyond both racialism and partisanship in districting.
Lawyers for U.S. Rep. Ron Barber asked Pima County on Tuesday to delay finalizing the canvass of the Nov. 4 election, with the campaign saying it had sworn statements from 132 voters that they were disenfranchised by poll-worker errors. Pima County rejected the request and finalized the canvass of votes at midday Tuesday. Barber, a Democrat, is locked in one of the closest elections in Arizona history with Republican challenger Martha McSally, whose lead in the race is a minuscule 161 votes out of more than 219,000 cast. If nothing changes, the race will head to Arizona’s first-ever general-election recount for Congress. A recount will not start before Dec. 1.
“It’s exhausting.” That’s how Clifford Tatum, the executive director of the D.C. Board of Elections, describes the work that has taken place after the Nov. 4 general election. Though the campaign signs are coming down, public attention has shifted away and most of the top-ticket races — mayor, attorney general, D.C. Council seats, the marijuana legalization initiative — were settled after votes were tallied on election night, work has since continued for Tatum and his staff. That’s because as with every election, the elections board is charged with counting every ballot that’s properly cast. The bulk of those come during early voting or on Election Day — 25,750 residents voted early, while 125,606 voted on Nov. 4. But for those residents living outside the city, or those who fall into a number of categories that may require that they vote using a special — or provisional — ballot, their votes are counted in the two weeks following the election. For the general election, that adds up to a lot of ballots — close to 6,000 absentee ballots and over 20,000 special ballots.
A coalition of groups in Florida are preparing to try to get a constitutional amendment on the 2016 ballot in Florida that would restore the voting rights of most individuals with past felony convictions upon completion of their sentence. These groups include the ACLU of Florida, the League of Women Voters, Faith in Florida and the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. The proposed constitutional amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense. The state’s current policy regarding ex-felons was an issue that Charlie Crist occasionally discussed during the recent gubernatorial campaign. When he took office after being elected in 2007, the then Republican governor was able to persuade a majority of the Florida Cabinet to change the policy to provide ex-offenders convicted of less serious offenses the right to regain their rights without a hearing, while those convicted of crimes such as murder required a more thorough investigation and a hearing. But that was repealed in 2011, when newly elected Attorney General Pam Bondi said that the process was too easy for released felons. Shortly after she made those comments, she and the rest of the Cabinet scrapped the process and set a minimum of a five-year waiting period.
Residents of Carrollwood, Citrus Park, Oldsmar and Safety Harbor won’t have a representative in the Florida House — for now, at least. State lawmakers voted Tuesday to throw out the results of the House District 64 election, creating a vacancy in that district. Gov. Rick Scott is expected to call a special election. State Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa, had already raised questions about the integrity of the Nov. 4 contest, which he won comfortably. Earlier this month, he pointed out that an appellate judge deemed the election unconstitutional. “You can’t send a candidate to Tallahassee to office on the back of an election that was deemed unconstitutional,” he told the Herald/Times.
The race for state treasurer remains undecided nearly two weeks after Election Day, with both campaigns agreeing fewer than 400 votes now separate the candidates in what could be the closest statewide race in Illinois in at least a century. The remarkably slim margin seems to point to a recount under an untested law put in place after the previously close-contest champ, the 1982 battle for governor. The match is rife with charges of “voting irregularities and ballot mishandling” in Chicago, prompting Illinois’ Republican U.S. senator call for an investigation Monday. Election officials have until Tuesday to finish counting ballots from the Nov. 4 election, including in the treasurer’s race between Republican Tom Cross and Democrat Mike Frerichs. Neither side was talking about recounts Monday, saying they’re waiting for all the votes to be counted. “Everyone knew that this was going to be a very close election. Mike’s been coming from behind the whole time,” said Dave Clarkin, spokesman for Frerichs, a state senator from Champaign. “Now we’re all just doing whatever we can to monitor everything closely.”
Illinois: Danville election official, criticized over absentee ballots, opts for retirement | News-Gazette
Almost three weeks after local Republicans called for the firing of Danville Election Commission Director Barbara Dreher for counting absentee ballots early, she has decided to retire. Dreher said Monday that she was planning to retire next year or the year after, but the election commission board members decided they couldn’t support her any more. She said she’s over the age of 60 and has more than 22 years of employment with Vermilion County, including the last 10 leading the election commission, so she will retire effective Dec. 1. But her last day will be today as she has vacation and personal time to use, she said. “I don’t need this,” said Dreher, adding that this election was very stressful with all the changes in voting times, policies and procedures. Barb Bailey, who is chairman of the three commissioners who oversee the election commission office, said Monday that she and the other two commissioners, Tom Mellen and Charles Bostic, knew this was coming. Bailey did not confirm whether the commissioners asked Dreher to resign but said that they felt Dreher’s leaving “was best.”
Newly elected Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate said Tuesday he is anxious to make changes to improve the state’s voting system. He expects the upgrades will require money and new technology to achieve. Pate is a former state senator who served as secretary of state from 1995 to 1999 and defeated Democrat Brad Anderson in the Nov. 4 election. He said he wants to expand use of computer-based poll books used in 66 counties to move voters through polling places more quickly and strengthen election security. Under his plan, Pate would tie the voter registration data to the Iowa Department of Transportation driver’s license database, which includes a bar code, photo and signature for additional verification. “It won’t happen overnight, but it has to happen,” said Pate, who discussed his ideas with about 30 Polk County Republicans at a breakfast meeting Tuesday.
OK, sure, there’s little doubt that Rand Paul is going to win the next presidential election by a 538-0 electoral vote margin. But there’s maybe .000001 percent possibility he won’t that we can’t fully rule out. He could lose the general election, for example, if the Democrat Party Voter Fraud Machine tries to steal it. He could also lose to one of the other ~35 Republican presidential candidates in the primary. And then what does he do? Go home to Kentucky and be a boring old eye doctor for the rest of his life? He’d probably like to return to the Senate, where he’s up for reelection in 2016. This is the problem. Kentucky law states that “no candidate’s name shall appear on any voting machine or absentee ballot more than once.” That means that on May 17, 2016, the day of the Kentucky primary, Rand Paul cannot be a candidate in both the presidential primary and Senate primary. Kentucky Republicans had hoped to change this law. The Republican-controlled state Senate has already passed a bill to allow Paul to run for both. But Republicans failed to win control of the state House on election night, and the Democratic House speaker, Greg Stumbo, has blocked the bill. He claims “the state constitution bars lawmakers from passing ‘special legislation’ that would benefit only one person.” He added, a bit more to the point: “I’m not a fan of Sen. Paul, and I’m not eager to see my country turned over to him.”
Instead of spending county-appropriated money on the required number of ballots for Hinds County residents to vote in multiple elections, the Hinds County Election Commission purchased a new absentee vote counting machine. While county officials said Tuesday the purchase of the machine was approved by both the county budget office and the board of supervisors, many residents were unable to vote Nov. 4 because of a shortage in ballots. The Hinds County Board of Supervisors asked county attorneys Monday to investigate the actions of Hinds County Election Commission Chairwoman Connie Cochran after she admitted to not ordering the number of ballots required by state law for any of the past four county-wide elections. In defense, Cochran said she was “just trying to save the county money.”
Ninety-four percent of the Oregonians with problem ballots have yet to fix theirs, and the deadline to do so is Tuesday evening. That may not seem like a lot, but 6 percent — or 752 people — is significantly more ballot corrections than the Secretary of State normally sees following an election, spokesman Tony Green said. Only about 2 percent of people usually correct their ballot. Their ballots had a signature that didn’t match what their county clerk had on file. Why the bump in signature fixes? It’s likely due to the fact that for the first time the Secretary of State’s Office made the “challenged ballot” list public before the deadline.
A computer system failure is delaying returns from Poland’s local elections while exit polls suggest the nationalist opposition winning in the countryside and the ruling party taking the big cities. Based on exit polls, Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz has congratulated the opposition Law and Justice party for its apparent victory before the 2015 general election. The State Electoral Commission said Monday that the computer problem has been fixed, but it wasn’t clear when the full returns would be known.
Romania’s foreign minister resigned Tuesday, after barely a week in office, after thousands of citizens overseas were unable to vote in this weekend’s presidential elections. Teodor Melescanu stepped down following the weekend’s runoff vote. His predecessor resigned last week after similar problems with the first-round vote. Images have poured in of Romanians standing in snaking lines to vote all over Europe. Anger at the problems contributed to the surprise victory of Klaus Iohannis over Prime Minister Victor Ponta. Reacting to public anger, Parliament’s lower chamber on Tuesday scrapped a controversial draft amnesty law that would have freed politicians and other officials serving prison sentences for corruption.
People have been travelling for the past two days and nights, making huge journeys back to their constituencies to vote. Absentee voting is not permitted in the November 19 elections, so people from the outer islands must travel to their home provinces to place their ballots. Bransby was standing on the jetty in Honiara, as hundreds of voters queued for boats for days and nights, to return home to exercise their democratic rights. This will be Solomon Islands’ first general election since the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) military personnel left the country late last year.
Two Tunisian politicians pulled out of the country’s upcoming presidential elections scheduled to take place at the end of the week on 23 November. On Monday, former central bank governor Mustapha Kamal Nabli, running as an independent, ended his presidential campaign in the northern city of Bizerte. The announcement came hours after the withdrawal of another candidate, Nourredine Hachad, a diplomat and labour minister during the rule of Zine Abidine Ben Ali, ousted in a popular uprising in 2011. Millions of Tunisians are expected to head to polling stations across the country to select a new president, the first to be elected following the overthrow of Ben Ali. The elections will take place after legislative elections were successfully held in October.