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.”Full Article: Lynch Pressed on Voting Laws at Confirmation Hearing | National Law Journal.
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.Full Article: The Rise of Dark Money and the Koch Party - NationalJournal.com.
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.Full Article: A Gerrymandering Comeback in California … via Arizona? | FaultLines | KQED News.
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.Full Article: Kobach pushing bills to limit ballot withdrawals and to allow straight-party voting / LJWorld.com.
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.Full Article: Paper ballots return to Maryland elections - The Washington Post.
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.Full Article: NC voter ID requirement weighed in court - Winston-Salem Journal: State / Region.
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.Full Article: Nigeria’s Opposition Rejects Any Election Delay.
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.Full Article: Digital Democracy? - Yes, Please; but Not Online Voting - Technology Blog and Community from IT Experts - ComputerworldUK.com.
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.Full Article: Lawmakers Seek to Enshrine Right to Vote in Constitution - The Dallas Weekly: National.
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.Full Article: GOP uses Loretta Lynch hearing to debate voting rights | MSNBC.
Fingerprints can now be used to unlock smart phones, car engines, even guns. Why not ballots, too? A New Mexico legislator has just proposed that his state’s election officials study the feasibility of a biometric voter identification system. The idea is simple enough: Rather than require voters to show a particular type of document that not everyone possesses, the law could require election officials to collect a piece of information — a finger image or an eye scan — from all voters, which would confirm their identity at the polls. The political appeal of the idea is clear: Republicans would have the ID laws they claim are needed to protect against voter fraud. And Democrats would have a system that doesn’t disproportionately hurt minorities and the poor. Both parties could declare victory in the war over voter ID and move on.Full Article: Want to Vote? Get Fingerprinted. - Bloomberg View.
California: Santa Clara County: First steps suggested to start fixing beleaguered election system | San Jose Mercury News
With an upgrade to its outdated equipment years away, Santa Clara County officials suggested Wednesday taking steps now to remedy the beleaguered election system from malfunctions encountered in past elections. At a special committee meeting on Wednesday, supervisors Joe Simitian and Ken Yeager said the Registrar of Voter’s Office should look into providing staff 24-hours around the clock during the election period to speed up notoriously slow ballot counting and improve communications with the public — a situation that left voters confused and wary about the status of recounts. They also suggested developing a system that would require an automatic recount when races come down to the wire. “We’re all of the same mind that we’ve got to see some real progress,” said Simitian. “We can’t be having this same conversation every two years.”Full Article: Santa Clara County: First steps suggested to start fixing beleaguered election system - San Jose Mercury News.
Michigan teens would be able to pre-register to vote under a proposal in Lansing. The measure would allow 16 and 17 year olds to fill out their voter registration paperwork when they get their driver’s licenses. The state would mail their voter cards when they turn 18. “It’s another way of making government much more efficient,” said state Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren. “It saves people in lines at secretary of state offices. It saves more correspondence going to the secretary of state’s office. It makes it a much easier process.”Full Article: 16 Year Olds Could Pre-Register To Vote Under Bill At State Capitol | WEMU.
An unusual alliance of some of the state’s most liberal and conservative lawmakers at the Capitol this year are supporting an effort that would allow convicted felons to vote once they leave prison. Under Minnesota law, convicted felons are only eligible to vote after they’ve completed all terms of their sentences — including probation or supervised release. Bills sponsored by Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, and Sen. Bobbie Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, would allow convicted felons to vote after finishing their prison sentences. It would restore voting rights to an estimated 47,000 Minnesotans. On Thursday, Republicans and Democrats joined together at a press conference to tout the effort. Joining them were representatives from the Restore the Vote Coalition, which is comprised of more than 60 organizations that include public safety groups, churches and civil rights organizations.Full Article: Bipartisan alliance wants to restore felon voting rights - PostBulletin.com: Politics.
State and local election officials endorsed a bill Wednesday to allow citizens to register to vote online if they have a valid Montana driver’s license or identification card. The House State Administrative heard testimony on House Bill 48, by Rep. Geraldine Custer, R-Forsyth, on behalf of Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, a Democrat. The committee didn’t take immediate action on the bill. Custer said the bill is for registering people with driver’s licenses and voter ID cards. The former longtime Rosebud County clerk and recorder said the system would be secure. McCulloch said HB48 would give people the choice of registering to vote between the current paper form or electronically. “Offering the ability to apply for voter registration online will increase transparency, accuracy and efficiency in the voter registration process,” said McCulloch, the state’s chief election official.Full Article: Election officials pitch online voter registration.
Whether N.C. voters will have to show a photo ID in 2016 will depend on whether opponents can show why they shouldn’t have to. That test begins Friday when critics of the 2013 election law overhaul argue that the ID requirement violates the North Carolina Constitution. North Carolina residents and voting-rights organizations challenging the state’s voter ID requirement contend that voters, not lawmakers, hold the power to make such a change to election law. Voters, they say, would have to approve an amendment to the state Constitution. In a hearing scheduled to take place in Wake County court on Friday, attorneys for the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute and five female voters plan to argue that lawmakers overstepped the bounds of the state Constitution when they overhauled election laws in 2013. Friday’s hearing focuses on the voter ID requirement scheduled to go into effect in 2016.Full Article: Critics of NC’s voter ID law to present their case in court Friday | CharlotteObserver.com.
North Dakota: Student organization against voter ID legislation: Klein says bill could disenfranchise many | The Dickinson Press
A representative of the North Dakota Student Association spoke against a bill that would tweak the state’s voter identification law Thursday. Kelsey Klein, governmental relations director for the group, told the House Government and Veterans Affairs Committee that House Bill 1333 could disenfranchise many student voters, especially those from out of the state. The bill would eliminate the option of student identification certificates that were provided by the university system. The bill, introduced by state Rep. Randy Boehning, R-Fargo, would allow a bill, bank statement or U.S. Postal Service change of address form to prove residency if a voter’s ID hadn’t been updated. It would also clarify acceptable forms of voter identification.Full Article: Student organization against voter ID legislation: Klein says bill could disenfranchise many | The Dickinson Press.
If it doesn’t take 30 days to get a sandwich made-to-order, it shouldn’t take 30 days to process a voter registration form. That’s one York County legislator’s take on same-day voter registration, under which people could turn out at the polls the same day as an election, register on the spot and cast a vote. “In this day and age, you can walk into a gas station and get a custom-made sandwich in minutes just by touching a screen,” said Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City. “We should make voting that easy.” The process of casting a vote is already as effortless as touching a screen, but Schreiber and Erie County Democrat Rep. Ryan Bizzarro are resurrecting a proposal to make registration just as easy.Full Article: York County rep faces opposition against same-day voter registration - York Dispatch.
As U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin considers a 2016 return bid for governor, Republicans hope to block West Virginia’s most prominent Democrat from handpicking his Senate successor for two years. Should he reclaim his old job, Manchin will have served enough of his Senate term that the governor — potentially him in 2017 — could name the next senator through 2018. The appointment would guarantee that the Democratic Party holds a crucial seat for at least another two years. After a bruising 2014 election, Manchin is in the Senate minority for the first time in his short tenure. In his state, he’s the last Democrat standing in Congress. Big Republican gains also shook up the statehouse. With majorities in the House and Senate for the first time in more than eight decades, Republicans have the numbers to stymie Manchin’s ability to name a potential replacement.Full Article: The Charleston Gazette | W.Va. GOP wants election changes in possible Manchin gov bid.
Canada: Ontarians like online voting, but turnout boost may be minor, study suggests | The Globe and Mail
Voters and election administrators were satisfied with online ballots in many of last fall’s Ontario municipal races, according to a new study, but the digital shift’s impact on declining turnout appears to be modest. Ninety-seven municipalities across Ontario used online voting in October, most for the first time, in addition to traditional in-person voting and mail-in ballot options. Half of the municipalities participated in a study by the Internet Voting Project, which surveyed voters, candidates and election administrators. Preliminary results of the study are being released in a webinar Thursday afternoon.Full Article: Ontarians like online voting, but turnout boost may be minor, study suggests - The Globe and Mail.