During the Wednesday afternoon session of Loretta Lynch’s confirmation hearing, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., pressed the attorney general nominee over her position on voting laws—and at one point tried to show she’d contradicted herself. Tillis, elected to the Senate in November, asked Lynch about the sweeping voting bill North Carolina’s governor signed into law in August 2013 while Tillis was speaker of the House in the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature. “It’s not something that I’m intimately familiar with,” Lynch, born in Greensboro, N.C., responded. “I look forward to learning more about it should I be confirmed, and I believe the matter will proceed to court and we will await the results there.” Tillis then focused attention to remarks Lynch delivered on a Martin Luther King Day celebration in January 2014. At the time, Lynch, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, had more pointed comments about her native state’s new voter laws. “Fifty years after the march on Washington, 50 years after the civil rights movement, we stand in this country at a time when we see people trying to take back so much of what Dr. King fought for,” Lynch said in comments available on video. “People try and take over the Statehouse and reverse the goals that have been made in voting in this country.”
This week may be remembered as the birth of the Koch Party. A usurper of the GOP and a rival to Democrats, the network of conservative advocacy groups backed by Charles and David Koch pledged Monday to spend $889 million on the 2016 election. Financially, the tax-exempt Koch coalition could be as big as either of the two major parties, spending more than the combined 2004 campaign budgets of President George W. Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry. Koch operatives will poll, track, and target voters—mirroring the activities of a traditional political party. Except for one thing: dark money. The Democratic and Republican parties are required by law to disclose their donors. Not so for outside groups. While the Koch alliance disclosed some of its contributors last year, most of its money comes from anonymous sources. Secrecy breeds distrust, if not corruption, as voters are left to guess what politicians do to repay their donors.
Several months of quiet whispers have quickly turned into a resounding buzz — and a nervous buzz, no less — about a case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court that questions whether it’s constitutional for independent state commissions to have the sole power to draw political district maps. The case is centered on Arizona, but the buzz being heard on this side of the Colorado River arises from the fear that if a lower court’s ruling is thrown out, California may very well be next in the return to partisan congressional gerrymandering. It explains why everyone from legal scholars to three former California governors is asking to be heard before the nation’s highest court. The case in question is Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, now scheduled to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in March. And the argument being made by Arizona’s legislative leaders in their quest to outlaw the state’s redistricting commission is pretty simple: The U.S. Constitution, they say, vests all power over congressional elections in state legislatures — and no one else.
Kansas: Kobach pushing bills to limit ballot withdrawals and to allow straight-party voting | Lawrence Journal-World
Candidates would have a much harder time withdrawing from a race after a primary election, but voters would have an easier time casting straight-party ballots under bills that Secretary of State Kris Kobach is urging lawmakers to pass. Kobach appeared before the House Ethics and Elections Committee Wednesday to testify in favor of two bills, including one that he said is a direct response to last year’s controversy over Democrat Chad Taylor’s withdrawal from the U.S. Senate race. “This bill is a direct response to two, what I believe to be erroneous, decisions by Kansas courts interpreting Kansas election law,” Kobach said. Taylor, the Shawnee County district attorney, dropped out of the U.S. Senate race on Sept. 3, a month after winning the Democratic primary. That cleared the way for independent candidate Greg Orman to be the sole challenger to incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts, a Republican.
Maryland voters will return to casting ballots on paper starting with the presidential election in 2016, election officials said Thursday, adding it to the long list of states that use paper ballots or a blend of paper and digital formats. On Thursday, state lawmakers were given a sneak peek of the new paper voting machines that will be set up in polling centers for the 2016 election. Officials also briefed the legislators on lessons learned from the last election in November. The state has used digital voting machines for the past decade. “We’re going to have a million more voters in 2016, although we’ve made some changes this additional volume is going to put stress on the administration of elections,” said John Willis, principal investigator for the University of Baltimore’s Schaefer Center for Public Policy.
North Carolina’s upcoming photo identification requirement to vote received a full day in court Friday but no decision from a judge on whether the mandate is lawful to begin in 2016 or unconstitutionally harms the poor or older adults who lack IDs. Superior Court Judge Michael Morgan didn’t immediately rule on motions by each side that would essentially declare a winner, and said it may take him up to three weeks to do so. A summer trial is scheduled unless Morgan strikes down the requirement as unconstitutional or rejects all the claims of those who sued. Attorneys representing state officials sat at one table in a Wake County courtroom while lawyers for some voters and two advocacy groups sat at another making oral arguments on top of written briefs already filed since the August 2013 lawsuit. The litigation is one of four complaints filed soon after Gov. Pat McCrory signed an elections overhaul law that contained several voting changes. In additional to photo ID, the law reduced the number of early-voting period days by one week, repealed same-day registration and prohibited voting outside one’s home precinct on Election Day.
Nigeria’s main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) party said its presidential candidate, former General Muhammadu Buhari, will not accept any attempt by the government to postpone the February 14 vote. APC National Public Secretary Lai Mohamed said the government of President Goodluck Jonathan, who is seeking re-election, has been canvassing media houses trying to influence editorial opinion in favor of a postponement. The ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has not directly come out in favor of postponement, but National Security Advisor Sambo Dasuki suggested last week that the elections should be delayed because not all voter cards had been distributed. The government has accused the opposition of politicizing the threat of the Islamic insurgency, Boko Haram. Mohamed countered that the government is using the violence as an excuse not to have the election because Jonathan knows he would lose badly in areas under Boko Haram’s control.
It is a sign of the times that the Speaker of the House of Commons – not the first person that comes to mind as being part of the digital age – has established a Digital Democracy Commission to look into ways to re-imagine democracy for the connected world. With one important exception – that concerning online voting – its recommendations are sensible and to be welcomed. … Enabling people to vote online would indeed draw in many young people who otherwise wouldn’t vote, and that’s hugely important. So why am I against the idea? Well, the report quotes a good encapsulation of the key issues here by the Open Rights Group:
Voting is a uniquely difficult question for computer science: the system must verify your eligibility to vote; know whether you have already voted; and allow for audits and recounts. Yet it must always preserve your anonymity and privacy. Currently, there are no practical solutions to this highly complex problem and existing systems are unacceptably flawed.
Civil rights leaders and groups are hailing legislation introduced by U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) on Jan. 22 that would unequivocally guarantee every American’s right to vote under the U.S. Constitution, in the wake of growing attacks on that right. “This amendment would affirm the principle of equal participation in our democracy for every citizen,” Pocan said in a statement. “As the world’s leading democracy, we must guarantee the right to vote for all.” Added Ellison: “Our nation is stronger when we make it easy for Americans to participate in democracy…A guaranteed right to vote in the Constitution would go a long way towards increasing access to the ballot box for all Americans.” Contrary to popular belief, the lawmakers said, the right to vote is not enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, and the “Pocan-Ellison Right to Vote Amendment” would amend the Constitution to expressly guarantee that fundamental right.
Republicans used the confirmation hearings this week for Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s attorney general nominee, to stress their commitment to voting restrictions—and to try to tie Lynch’s hands on voting issues should she assume the post. One GOP senator pressed Lynch on her stance on restrictive voting laws. And Republicans asked for testimony from a witness who has led the effort to stoke fear over voter fraud, suggested her group was targeted by the Obama administration because of her group’s support for voter ID laws. Under Attorney General Eric Holder, the Justice Department has acted aggressively to protect voting rights, challenging strict GOP-backed voting laws in Texas and North Carolina. Holder also has seemed to compare these laws to past efforts to keep minorities from voting. So Republicans sought to put pressure on Lynch to take a more conciliatory approach.