Election Day was a month ago, but the winners of many races are still being decided, and not just by recounts or runoff elections such as Saturday’s Senate runoff in Louisiana. There are a handful of elections across the country that ended in a tie, in which the winner has been decided by drawing lots, flipping coins or other games of chance. With hundreds of seats in Congress, thousands of seats in state legislatures, and tens of thousands of mayor, city council, county judge and local dog catcher elections being regularly held, it’s almost certain that each year some will end up tied. But because tied elections are so rare for any given office, most state and local election boards do not lay out guidelines for resolving them. In many states, the law indicates that ties should be broken by a “game of chance,” but details are rarely specified. This can create interesting tiebreakers.
You’ve all heard the story. The young couple in Chicago waiting hours to use the city’s new same-day registration system to register to vote and then finally casting their ballot just after 3 a.m. on November 5. What you most likely haven’t heard about are the thousands of Americans in other parts of Illinois, Connecticut, Colorado and nine other states and the District of Columbia that utilized same-day registration with little to no problem on November 4. While same-day registration took some well-publicized legislative and legal hits in Ohio and North Carolina recently, it is working and by many accounts working well in other jurisdictions. In fact, it’s working so well in Montana that the residents overwhelmingly defeated a referendum this November that would have eliminated that state’s election day registration.
A federal judge has voided state laws requiring groups to register before spending money on campaigns — and with it, the reports they’re supposed to file on who is behind all that cash. Judge James Teilborg accepted arguments by challengers that the statute dictating who must register is “vague, overbroad, and consequently unconstitutional in violation of the First Amendment.” Teilborg said that means it cannot be enforced. Deputy Secretary of State Jim Drake said his office will ask Teilborg to delay the effect of the ruling, made late Friday, to provide a chance for an appeal. If nothing else, Drake said his office needs time to figure out how badly this undermines years of laws designed to give the public a better idea of who is contributing to political campaigns. But Drake said he’s not optimistic. “It does kind of turn campaign finance on its head,” he said.
Editorials: As another early voting measure comes around, expect more Christie amnesia | Star-Ledger
Another early voting bill has passed through the Senate, and though it is likely to face the same grim fate as its progenitors once it reaches the governor’s desk, its necessity has never been more apparent. The lesson derived from a recent report by the Constitutional Rights Clinic at the Rutgers School of Law is watertight: Opening polling sites for days or weeks before Election Day would revitalize civic interest, increase turnout, and prevent the chaos that can result from weather emergencies. Speaking of which, the study specifically cites the Keystone Kop choreography of Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, calling the measures she took that year “illegal, insecure, and confusing,” and asserting that her unauthorized executive decisions “unilaterally altered New Jersey election law.”
Voting Blogs: North Carolina Attempting to Run-Out Clock in Voter Suppression Lawsuit (Again!) | BradBlog
North Carolina Republicans are now seeking to delay the full federal trial challenging their massive election reform law, which has been described as the worst-in-the-nation and as a “monster” voter suppression law. The tactic threatens to, once again, undermine any ruling by the court, should it be made too close to the state’s 2016 elections. The trial in the case had previously been set, according to a timetable established in federal court in December of 2013, to take place during the July 2015 trial calendar. State Republicans, however, now argue that a separate state court challenge to one section of its massive voter suppression law, scheduled during the same period next summer, will “severely prejudice” their ability to defend themselves in the federal case which follows it. Plaintiffs argue in response that the move is “another step in Defendants continued attempts to delay the ultimate resolution of this action.”
A bipartisan House plan to change the way Ohio draws legislative districts drew high marks from an election-law expert who three weeks ago had no kind words for the House Republicans’ initial proposal. The compromise plan “would be a very significant improvement over the status quo,” said Dan Tokaji, professor at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law. Unlike the current system, in which the party that controls at least three of the five seats on the apportionment board can rig the legislative districts to protect its majority and create a host of noncompetitive districts, Tokaji said the new plan contains a number of improvements. “Redistricting reform goes to our fundamental right to vote,” he said. “If lines are drawn in such a way that virtually every general-election contest for the legislature is meaningless and we know the outcome in advance, that destroys voters’ faith in the system.”
Montgomery County officials are exploring the possibility of purchasing new voting machines. “We just want to be proactive,” said Commissioner Leslie Richards, who is chairman of the county’s election board. “We are always looking to make our voter experience better.” Richards pointed out that only two counties in the state, Montgomery and Northampton, use Sequoia Pacific electronic voting machines. Chief Financial Officer Uri Z. Monson said that, while there are no problems with the current machines, “many are reaching the end of their useful life” and the county does not want to have to scramble if many of them start failing at the same time. The county, which has 425 voting precincts, purchased 1,050 Sequoia machines in 1996 at an approximate cost of some $4 million. Today, the county has 1,133 Sequoia machines, with 10 used as “demos” and another 15 considered out of service while they undergo repairs.
Prince William County is on track with plans to replace its aging, touch-screen voting machines with a new system that uses paper ballots, election officials said Tuesday in a presentation to the Board of County Supervisors. The conversion to a paper ballot system is one of several measures the elections office is taking to reduce waiting times for voters, including investing in new technology to speed up the voter check-in process, officials said. Residents in some Prince William precincts have faced long lines in recent elections, such as in 2012, when voters at River Oaks Elementary School in Woodbridge had to wait for as long as four hours. Interim General Registrar Rokey Suleman said that Election Day backups typically occur at two “choke points” — during check-in and at the voting machines. “If you have four machines, you can only have four people voting at a time,” Suleman said.
Civil society groups in Burundi on Sunday urged the electoral commission to halt voter registration and said fake identification cards were being used, highlighting tensions before next year’s elections. Opposition parties in the African nation which emerged from ethnic-fuelled civil war in 2005 made a similar demand last month, citing irregularities in appointments for the registration process. The government has previously denied foul play, while the electoral commission said it was dealing with any complaints. The ruling coalition and its opponents are locked in a row over whether President Pierre Nkurunziza can run for office for a third term. He is widely expected to make another bid but has yet to say whether he will run in the June presidential vote.
Left Party politician Bodo Ramelow has been chosen as premier by the parliament in the eastern German state of Thuringia. The state now has the first socialist-led government in Germany since reunification in 1990. The state parliament of the eastern German state of Thuringia on Friday elected Bodo Ramelow to head a left-leaning coalition consisting of his Left Party, the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens. A former trade unionist from western Germany, Ramelow has become the first member of his party to become premier of a state.
THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) said on Monday that it has approved the pilot-testing of touchscreen and Internet voting sytems in Pateros, Metro Manila, and select sea-based Filipinos during the 2016 elections. Both Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes and the Committee on Overseas Absentee Voting head, Commissioner Lucenito Tagle, disclosed during separate interviews that the poll body has already issued a resolution formalizing the commissioners’ consensus to test the touchscreen and Internet voting systems. “We have already issued a resolution, which is to use all the 410 Direct Recording Electronic [DRE] units in Pateros since it fits the requirements of pilot-testing,” Brillantes said. Meanwhile, Smartmatic-Total Information Management Corp. has to overcome yet another legal challenge in order to advance to the next stage of the bidding for additional voting machines for use in the 2016 national elections. This after the bids and awards committee of the Commission on Elections was asked to exclude the Venezuelan firm from the proceedings on grounds of eligibility.
Smartmatic International has maintained that it has exclusive rights over the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, which gives it sole authority to refurbish the equipment for the 2016 presidential balloting. Cesar Flores, the Venezuelan firm’s president for Asia, said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) should award the contract to repair and upgrade 80,000 PCOS machines to Smartmatic as it owned the rights to its parts. “If you open this to other bidders, the other bidders will try to [get into the] parts, which they cannot [do so] because we have exclusivity on those parts,” Flores told reporters in a recent interview. He added that the Comelec would benefit a lot if it would forgo its plan to bid out the project and award it instead to Smartmatic as the former wouldn’t have to seek a recertification if new software were needed for some of its parts.
It was supposed to be the Swedish Social Democrats’ triumphant return. But two months after forming a minority coalition government with the Greens, Stefan Lofven, the Social Democratic leader, has been forced to step down as prime minister. The four-party centre-right opposition alliance enlisted the support of the far-right, anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats to vote down his budget, pushing through a budget of its own instead. Mr Lofven might have let the other parties try to form a new government. But instead he plans to call an “extra” election on March 22nd. Such high political drama is rare in Sweden, where advance negotiations before parliamentary votes normally mean the budget passes with little fuss. The only previous special election was in 1958. Social Democratic-led governments, in particular, have usually sat out their four-year terms in an orderly fashion. But Sweden has never before had to contend with a far-right party that enjoys as much support as the Sweden Democrats. The party is the third-largest in parliament. Without its backing, neither the centre-right alliance nor a coalition of the Social Democrats, Greens and the small Left party commands a majority. Worse, a new election could see the Sweden Democrats grow stronger, although the absence on sick leave of their leader, Jimmie Akesson, may count against them.