In a stunning election result that was unthinkable just weeks ago, Sri Lanka’s longtime president acknowledged Friday that he had been defeated by a onetime political ally, signaling the fall of a family dynasty and the rise of former Cabinet minister Maithripala Sirisena. Sirisena, who defected from the ruling party in a surprise move in November, capitalized on the outgoing President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s unpopularity among this island’s ethnic and religious minorities, as well as grumbling among the Sinhalese majority about his growing power and the country’s economic troubles. Sirisena, 63 and a longtime politician, was expected to be sworn in later Friday. The wider world was watching to see if the election was carried out fairly, especially since Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in the country on Tuesday. So far, there were no signs of post-election violence.
In 1986, the economist John Kenneth Galbraith declared, “If everybody in this country voted, the Democrats would be in for the next 100 years.” But for decades, the consensus among scholars and journalists has been the opposite. In their seminal 1980 study on the question, using data from 1972, political scientists Raymond Wolfinger and Steven Rosenstone argued that “voters are virtually a carbon copy of the citizen population.” In 1999, Wolfinger and his colleague Benjamin Highton again came to the same conclusion: “Outcomes would not change if everyone voted.” Their argument rested upon the fact that polling data did not show large differences in opinions on most issues between those who voted and those who did not. However, a growing literature both within the United States and internationally suggests that, in fact, policy would change rather dramatically if everyone voted. Does this mean that Galbraith was right all along? Not exactly. The reason for the recent shift in the findings is not that the early studies were wrong, but that the preferences of voters and nonvoters are becoming increasingly divergent.
The Democrat-controlled General Assembly plans to convene Thursday and vote on whether to hold a special election in two years for state comptroller, potentially handing Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner a loss even before he takes office next week. House Speaker Michael Madigan on Wednesday threw his support behind a proposal for a 2016 special election to fill the seat of late comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, an idea pitched by outgoing Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. Rauner opposes it and intends to name a four-year replacement immediately after he is sworn in.
Indiana’s top legislative Republicans said Tuesday that a bill allowing Gov. Mike Pence to run for the White House and governor on the same ticket is unlikely to be approved this year. Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said Tuesday he plans to send it to the the Senate Rules Committee — shorthand for killing legislation in the Statehouse. Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, told the Indianapolis Star last week that he submitted legislation that would let Pence seek both offices in 2016. His focus, Delph said, was clearing “obstacles” to a potential Pence White House run, to continue drawing national attention to the state.
Maryland: Hyattsville becomes second U.S. municipality to lower voting age to 16 | The Washington Post
Hyattsville has become the second municipality in the country to lower the voting age for city elections to 16, nearly two years after its progressive neighbors in Takoma Park took similar steps. During a public meeting Monday night, residents young and old packed into City Hall to speak overwhelmingly in support of council member Patrick Paschall’s measure to extend voting rights to more city residents. The council voted 7 to 4 in favor of amending the city charter.
County Executive Dan McCoy told a federal judge Wednesday that he kept his hands off the county’s controversial 2011 redistricting process after he created the commission charged with carrying it out. “When I put the commission together, I gave them no guidance after that,” said McCoy, who was at the time chairman of the Albany County Legislature and the county Democratic Party. His testimony, which last 35 minutes, came on day nine of the trial in a lawsuit challenging the political map. McCoy asserted he did not recall many of the details of the contentious political maneuvering that embroiled the legislature’s sharply divided Democratic majority during passage of the electoral map nearly four years ago. Democrats including McCoy split 16-14 in favor of the law creating the map, which ultimately passed 22-14 with Republican support.
Editorials: Ohio shows pathway to reform redistricting in North Carolina |Lee Mortimer/NewsObserver.com
The lopsided 2014 election results leave little reason to expect Republicans and Democrats to work together in the upcoming General Assembly session. Republicans are riding high after retaining veto-proof majorities in both legislative chambers. Democrats believe that the GOP’s super-majority control is undeserved and that gerrymandered elections unfairly pushed them to the sidelines. Ironically, agreement may be attainable on the very issue that has most divided the parties – redistricting. That is, if they can take a cue from what Republicans and Democrats recently achieved in Ohio.
South Dakota: Obama Administration Intervenes In Native American Voting Rights Lawsuit | ThinkProgress
The U.S. Department of Justice has intervened in a lawsuit accusing a South Dakota county of disenfranchising Native Americans living on the Pine Ridge Reservation, arguing the case should move forward because the issues in question fall under the still-enforced sections of the Voting Rights Act. In the months leading up the November election, Native Voting rights advocates filed a lawsuit against Jackson County, South Dakota accusing it of requiring Native Americans to travel often prohibitively long distances to vote instead of opening a satellite office on the reservation. In response to the litigation, Jackson County opened a satellite center for voter registration and early voting in the town of Wanblee on the reservation, but the legal action continued in order to ensure the voting rights would be maintained for future elections. County officials filed a motion to dismiss the litigation after the November midterm, arguing that Native Americans still have three ways to vote absentee including traveling to the county auditor’s office which is more than 27 miles away from Wanblee. But when the DOJintervened, it said the issues presented in the lawsuit should be considered as violations of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which designates Native Americans as a protected class.
Lawmakers will cast ballots Thursday morning and elect the state’s next governor, but don’t expect any public airing of how each of Vermont’s 180 legislators voted. It’s pretty widely understood by now that since no candidate received a majority of the popular vote in November, lawmakers must decide the race, according to Vermont’s constitution. They’ll do that Thursday morning when the 30 members of the Senate make the short walk to the House chamber for a joint assembly. They have three choices: incumbent Democrat Peter Shumlin, Republican Scott Milne and Libertarian Dan Feliciano. Shumlin won a plurality of the vote, topping Milne by 2,434 votes, or roughly 46 percent for Shumlin and 45 percent for Milne. Feliciano earned 4 percent of the vote.
Elections Canada has budgeted up to $1 million to help First Nations cope with new voter-identification rules that could make it harder for indigenous people to cast ballots in this year’s federal election. The agency is hiring the Assembly of First Nations to warn its 634 bands and others about the tougher rules, which are doing away with “vouching,” commonly used on reserves where relatively few voters have identity cards that show their home address as required. Previous federal elections have allowed a second person to vouch for the identity of a voter who lacks documents that contain an address. But last year’s controversial Fair Elections Act essentially ended the practice after the Harper government said it was open to abuse.
Voters went to the polls Thursday in Sri Lanka, where President Mahinda Rajapaksa faces a fierce political battle after a onetime ally suddenly defected from the ruling party to run against him. The November defection by former Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena turned the race, which Rajapaksa had been widely expected to easily win, into a referendum on the president and the enormous power he wields over the island nation. People waited in long lines to cast their votes in Colombo, while in northern Jaffna, the ethnic Tamil heartland where voting has been poor in previous national elections, there was good early turnout.
Demands by Conservative MPs for curbs on voting rights enjoyed by 1.5 million foreign-born residents in this year’s British general election do not cover the 350,000 Irish-born people living in Britain, a senior Conservative backbencher has said. Earlier this week Graham Brady, chairman of the influential 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers, said voters from countries that do not offer reciprocal voting rights to British people should not be able to vote in British elections. Ireland does offer reciprocal voting rights to British citizens living in the Republic to vote in Dáil elections. This privilege is not offered to citizens from other EU states, who are restricted to voting in local and European Parliament elections.
One opposition supporter was on Wednesday seriously injured after supporters of rival candidates in Zambia’s presidential election clashed in the western part of the southern African nation. Supporters of the governing Patriotic Front (PF) and the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) clashed in the provincial town of Mongu early on Wednesday, leaving one member of the opposition party with a deep cut on his head after he was hit by a plank. The opposition party said in a statement that the incident happened as party members wanted to escort their leader Hakainde Hichilema who was about to fly out of the town after holding campaign rallies.