In North Carolina, early voting was cut by seven days. In Kansas, 22,000 people were stopped from registering to vote because they lacked proof of citizenship. And in Texas, Democrats say the country’s toughest voter ID law contributed to a one-term congressman’s losing a tight race to his Republican rival. After an Election Day that featured a wave of new voting restrictions across the country, data and details about who cast a ballot are being picked over to see if tighter rules swayed the outcomes of any races or contributed to the lowest voter turnout in 72 years. Since 2011, a dozen Republican-led states have passed strict voter ID requirements, some blocked by courts, measures that Republicans describe as needed to increase confidence in elections and critics call the modern equivalent of a poll tax, intended to suppress turnout by Democratic voters. Few are arguing that the laws drastically affected the overall results in a year that produced sweeping Republican victories, or that they were the dominant factor in voter participation. Although some Democrats claim the new laws may have swung close elections this month, voting experts caution that it is too soon to tell.
The voter ID debate isn’t going anywhere. The issue is largely a state-by-state one. Generally, Republicans rise to control in certain states and pass legislation, and then liberal and minority groups and supporters sue to overturn. And with the GOP obtaining full control of even more states after the 2014 election — they now have 24 — more states could look at such laws in the near future. So where do the American people stand? Well, on the surface, polls show they are overwhelmingly in favor of the concept of presenting identification before voting. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find a pretty deep divide on the basis for such laws. A new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute asked people which they thought was a bigger problem: voter fraud or voter disenfranchisement. Forty percent of Americans said the former, while 43 percent said the latter — about an even split.
Voting Blogs: Meet the New Nominee (Same as the Old Nominee?): Matthew Butler Tapped as New Dem EAC Pick | Election Academy
Recently, I mused about the future of the Election Assistance Commission in the wake of the 2014 election and related litigation – and it would appear that all of a sudden the future is now. On one side of the aisle, there are signs of progress: the Senate Rules Committee will be holding a hearing at 2pm today on the two Republican nominees, Christy McCormick and Matthew Masterson. On the other side of the aisle, however, we have continued intrigue. As was rumored late last week, Democratic nominee Myrna Perez of the Brennan Center has withdrawn her name from consideration. No reason for the withdrawal was given, but a good guess is the combination of an incoming GOP Senate majority and the Brennan Center’s high-profile (if not well-sourced) claims that new voting laws supported by the GOP affected outcomes in 2014. I have learned from a source close to the process that Perez withdrew her candidacy BEFORE Election Day. The confirmation challenges with a GOP Senate may still have been considerable but her withdrawal had nothing to do with what happened in the 2014 election – or afterwards. The White House has designated Matthew Butler (pictured above) as the new second Democratic nominee alongside Thomas Hicks. Butler is a former CEO of Media Matters and now is part of aconsulting group that offers “planning and production experience.”
Attorneys for a Republican political consultant have turned to the U.S. Supreme Court in their effort to block the release of emails and documents from Florida’s redistricting process. Lawyers for Pat Bainter and his Gainesville-based firm Data Targeting filed an emergency petition on Thursday to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas asking that the documents remain sealed until at least February. The documents were cited by a circuit judge as a reason why he ruled this summer the GOP-controlled Florida Legislature violated a state law that says congressional districts cannot be drawn to favor any political party or incumbent. State legislators were forced to hold a special session in August to redraw the districts although the changes won’t take effect until the 2016 elections. But the emails and documents have remained sealed as lawyers paid by the Republican Party of Florida have asserted that disclosing them would violate First Amendment rights and trade secrets.
One of the top election leaders in the state told 16 WAPT News that the ballot rules need to be thrown out. Gary Knight, the head of the Election Commissioners Association of Mississippi, said the group has worked for years to change legislation that requires precincts to print ballots for 75 percent of their voter population. “It is my opinion that statute is generally a little behind technology,” Knight said. Knight said he has heard about problems with ballots in Hinds County during the Nov. 4 general election. Some voters had to wait for ballots, even after the polls closed, because several precincts ran out.
Ohio: Redistricting reform for congressional maps unlikely this year, lawmaker says | Cleveland Plain Dealer
The lead lawmaker on redistricting reform in the House said Thursday changes to the process for drawing congressional districts likely won’t happen before next year. The U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing whether Arizona can hand its redistricting pen to an independent commission with some members selected by lawmakers instead of the Legislature. The U.S. Constitution states the “times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof.” Most Ohio politicians agree the state’s map-drawing has become hyperpartisan and allowed the majority party to ignore input from the minority party. Ohio lawmakers have proposed allowing a panel with the governor, secretary of state, auditor and four state lawmakers — two each from the minority and majority parties — to draw both congressional and state legislative boundaries.
The Lone Star State has decided to shine some of its Texas sun on the dark money used in elections. “Dark money” is a phrase commonly used to describe donations made by undisclosed donors. For the last several years, dark money been a growing concern in federal and state elections. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, spending by political organizations that do not disclose their donors increased from approximately $5.2 million in 2006 to over $300 million in the 2012 election. Some credit this rapid increase in dark money to the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which held that the federal government could not limit organizations from spending money to influence the outcome of elections. And, in an 8 to 1 decision, the Supreme Court also held that Congress can compel disclosure of that money spent on influencing elections, stating, “prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters.” The Supreme Court’s push for disclosure, however, launched the creation of super PACs and the growing use of disclosure loopholes. Given how quickly dark money has become an influential factor in elections, many states, including Texas, are attempting to address dark money within their borders.
No one in Wisconsin has been more forceful in demanding changes to the state’s Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections, campaign finance, ethics and lobbying, than Robin Vos. The Republican Assembly Speaker has deemed the GAB “dysfunctional” and called its director and general counsel, Kevin Kennedy, an “embarrassment” who “needs to be gone.” His critique has been long on vitriol but short on specifics. Vos likes that the board, which the Legislature created in 2007, is led by six former judges appointed by the governor to staggered six-year terms. But he feels these judges are being manipulated by Kennedy and other staff into serving as “a rubber stamp.” “The GAB judges are not in charge, and that has to change,” Vos said recently. Kennedy, noting in an interview that the board has at times overruled staff, is not aware of any board support for legislative intervention. He considers Vos’ comments “an insult to the board members.” The judges seem inclined to agree.
Australians won’t have the chance to vote electronically any time soon, after a parliamentary committee put the idea on ice. Beloved of netizens for at least 20 years, ‘net voting – as distinct from other ways in which IT&T change our electoral processes – was pitched to the committee on the basis that people “would rather be online than in line” (as the committee’s chair Tony Smith writes in the introduction). However, there’s no chance that with only two years remaining before the next federal election, a suitable system could be selected and rolled out, the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Matters says in the report posted here. Not only would the logistics be catastrophic, the report states: there’s no way to verify that someone voting over the Internet doesn’t have someone else standing over them, and the lack of privacy “opens up a market” for votes to be bought. The report notes that “technological convenience must be balanced against electoral integrity”. The report also makes the inevitable nod towards the risk of hacking.
Tiny Gulf monarchy Bahrain holds elections on Saturday but with the opposition boycotting there seems little hope of an end to political deadlock in the key US ally. Bahrain remains divided nearly four years after security forces in the kingdom clamped down on protests led by demonstrators taking their cue from the Arab Spring uprisings. The opposition is demanding a “real” constitutional monarchy with an elected prime minister who is independent from the ruling royal family. But the Al-Khalifa dynasty has refused to yield. Bahrain is home to the US Fifth Fleet and is one of several Arab states supporting US-led airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, making it a vital Western ally. Turnout on Saturday is likely to be low as the main opposition party has already called for a boycott.
Should Canada require citizens to vote or face a fine as Australia, Argentina, Brazil, and eight other countries do? Debate over the merits of compulsory voting seem to spring up every time there’s an election. Proponents see voting as an essential duty of citizenship, and no different in that respect from paying taxes. The Australian experience indicates that even a modest fine of $20 for non-compliance is enough to boost voter turnout to more than 90 per cent. By contrast, Canada’s voluntary voting system has produced an average turnout of 62 per cent over the past five Canadian federal elections. The compulsory voting debate cuts across ideological lines. Supporters include Justin Trudeau’s adviser Robert Asselin on the left and National Post columnist Andrew Coyne on the right. And, for once, good-government advocate Don Lenihan and the libertarian Ludwig von Mises Institute are on the same page—both opposed mandatory voting.
The Pima County Election Integrity Commission is concerned that state law might complicate the expected recount in Congressional District 2 next month. The commission fears complexities in the recount law could force Pima and Cochise counties to recount all 220,000 votes in the CD2 race by hand, although Secretary of State’s Office spokesman Matt Roberts said there are easier ways to comply with the law. A portion of the state’s election law requires that the ballot tabulating program used for the recount “differ” from the initial vote counting system. But the law is vague on what exact changes need to be made. Commissioner Bill Beard said the commission, which advises the Pima County Board of Supervisors, is in virgin territory in terms of the state’s first general election congressional recount. He said that while the commission is not making any recommendations, it is important that the supervisors be aware of the state law. Possible alternatives could include a recount by hand, Beard said. But Roberts said the law won’t require new machines or an army of election officials.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dissolved the lower house of Japan’s parliament Friday, forcing a snap election in an apparent bid to shore up support for his scandal-plagued government so that he can pursue his policy goals. His ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which has been in power for most of the post-World War II era, may lose some seats but is likely to retain a solid majority with its coalition partner in the 480-seat lower house. The election, expected on Dec. 14, follows Abe’s decision to postpone a planned sales tax increase after figures released Monday showed the economy slipped into recession. He is portraying the election as a referendum on his economic revitalization policies, known as Abenomics, and the postponement of the tax hike ? from the current 8 percent to 10 percent ? that had been set for next October. “The battle is now starting,” he said. “We’ll make an all-out fight in this battle so that we all can come back here to resume our responsibility to make Japan a country that shines in the center of the world.”
Computer hackers have attacked the website of Poland’s electoral commission, which is still unable to publish full returns from local elections because of an unrelated computer glitch, officials said Wednesday. The State Electoral Commission said while the website hacking incident didn’t add further difficulties to the vote counting process, it ordered its officials to change their passwords. The problems have undermined the credibility of Sunday’s vote, which has been seen as a test of strength for new Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz before next year’s general election.
Protesters led by right-leaning journalists stormed the headquarters of Poland’s top electoral authority on Thursday evening, demanding local elections be held again because last Sunday’s vote led to discrepancies in the vote count. Several dozen demonstrators called for the dismissal of electoral officials. One senior official on the electoral authority, Kazimierz Czaplicki, quit his post on Wednesday after the authority’s computers had been hacked and the vote-count system malfunctioned. On Thursday evening, four days after voting stations had closed, the electoral committee’s website still only gave the official turnout information from Sunday afternoon. The authority has acknowledged its inability to provide full official results in a timely manner, blaming an outside technology contractor.
A guy running for head of a borough in Taipei gave me a sack of napkins even though I’m a foreigner without voting rights. Had I attended his rally in the park that day, I could have scored a free minced pork bun. Another candidate in the neighborhood gave away wooden back scratchers. These people are frugal. In the southern city Tainan, a candidate was passing out women’s cosmetic kits. News reports cite banquets, discounted air tickets and cash handouts. The potential booty is boundless with 19,762 people running for borough heads, city councils, mayoral posts and their county-level equivalents in most of Taiwan. It’s expected to grow next week in the final approach to elections Nov. 29. Vote-buying has long fit as snugly into Taiwan’s colorful, volatile politics as campaign banners and rallies. The China-friendly Nationalists and their opponents, who are less keen on tie-ups with old foe Beijing, need whatever they can get to win the island’s notoriously close elections.
Outspoken, long-time judge Kalthoum Kannou is Tunisia’s first female presidential candidate. On 23 November, she will compete against 22 other contenders in the country’s first round of presidential elections since the Arab Spring’s protest wave overthrew the long-lasting regime of former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. Kannou is hoping that the fact that she is a woman and politically independent will win the Tunisian voters’ confidence. However, who is Kannou, what does she stand for and what are her chances? Today, Tunisia’s young and commendable democracy has somewhat 190 political parties, most of which were established in its post-revolutionary era. However, Kannou is not happy with the current political scene; many political parties compete against each other and make promises they can’t keep, she argued passionately over coffee at her headquarters in Lafayette, an old Tunis quarter. “Focus is not on Tunisia’s best,” Kannou told me. Instead, argued the 55-year old judge, the political climate is dominated by quarrels over political ideology and that the debate is far too verbal and confrontational. What her country needs now, when Tunisia is beginning a new chapter of its young democracy, is unity. “Tunisians have had enough of politics,” explained Kannou, “That’s why I presented myself for the presidency,” she declared proudly, “an independent candidate without political affiliation.”
In the days leading up to the 2014 Midterm Election, our former colleague Dan Seligson became part of a growing trend. In his mailbox was an official-looking document detailing his voting history and comparing his voting history to his neighbors’. While the details about his voting history weren’t correct, Seligson, like many others, was none-too-pleased about the attempt to “vote shame” him. “…[F]rankly, it wasn’t an incentive to vote. It made me lash out at the organization that thought this was a good idea,” Seligson said. “I was motivated alright, motivated to tell them how much they insulted me.” Seligson isn’t alone. Since 2008, “vote shaming” or social pressure as academics and others prefer to call it has become an increasingly popular tool in the GOTV toolbox. During the 2014 election cycle, there were news reports — typically about angry voters — from Alaska to Maine to Florida and lots of places in between about voters receiving “vote shaming” materials.
When all the ballots are finally tallied from last week’s election, the proportion of Californians voting by mail is expected to break the record set in 2012, the first time more than half of the state’s electorate voted absentee. The uptick has more Californians pushing for the state to go all the way and ditch traditional polling places. Washington, Colorado and Oregon require all of their elections to be run entirely by mail, and at least 19 others permit some of their elections to be all mail, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. County elections officials have touted the potential increase in voter interest and significant savings from avoiding the task of recruiting and training polling place workers. And some believe an all-mail system could even help speed up and avoid some overtime ballot-counting. “I say, ‘yes, please,’” said Jill LaVine, the registrar of voters in Sacramento County. “I would love to go all vote-by-mail.” LaVine compared overseeing the current system to running two elections at the same time – one via the Postal Service and another at polling places. The latter process is so resource-heavy that her office essentially “shuts down” counting absentee votes the Friday before an election, leaving a huge pile of ballots to count in the days and weeks afterward, LaVine said. “I could direct all my money and equipment to vote-by-mail,” she said, noting that the rural counties of Alpine and Sierra issue mail ballots to everyone. “All of the expenses and problems of running two elections would be off the table. It would be smooth.” LaVine suggests it also could generate speedier election results by giving officials more time to count mail ballots before an election day. In California, seven congressional and legislative races remained undecided for a week as tens of thousands of late-arriving mail and “provisional” ballots were being tallied.
Decade-old voting equipment is quickly aging in nearly half the state’s counties, and there has been a struggle at the local level to secure money to cover the replacement costs. Secretary of State Ken Detzner said he will meet next month with local supervisors of election in Orlando to determine which counties are most in need of new equipment before the 2016 elections. “It’s kind of one of those things that you don’t think about until something happens,” Detzner said this week. “We know we need to do something.” Detzner estimated that about 30 counties might need new equipment or upgrades, but he declined to specify the counties. There is no statewide accounting of equipment needs by county. Calls to the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office were not returned Tuesday, but Palm Beach County acquired its current voting machines, an optical scanning system, six years ago. Before 2008, the county used a touch-screen voting system, which drew criticism because it left no paper trail. The touch-screen system, in turn, was the county’s answer to the 2000 election that brought national ridicule because of the Butterfly Ballot and problems with punch-card chads.
The prospect of online and electronic voting at Australian federal elections has officially had its plug pulled for the foreseeable future. The Parliamentary Committee tasked with investigating the feasibility of digitising Australian ballots has unanimously found that a high-tech solution is still too risky, complicated and expensive to make it a reality in the near term. The probe came after the now infamous Western Australian vote counting bungle that forced the state back to the polls after ballot papers were somehow mislaid. Now in a second interim report issued by the Electoral Matters Committee, federal politicians have concluded that although there is a raft of technological improvements that could be made to the running of elections, a fully digitised solution is still a long way off. “After hearing from a range of experts, and surveying the international electoral landscapes it is clear to me that Australia is not in a position to introduce any large – scale system of electronic voting in the near future without catastrophically compromising our electoral integrity,” said the Committee’s chairman, Tony Smith MP. The Committee’s main beef with online and electronic systems – aside from the obvious threat of hacking – is that the confidentiality of how people vote could be undermined or compromised. At the moment voters physically front-up at polling booths and have their name crossed off a roll before being given two ballot papers, or more in the case of a referendum.