Before last fall’s election, Colorado’s new mail-ballot election system was viewed with suspicion in conservative media channels as rife for corruption, inconvenience and higher costs. But one-third of the way through the legislative session that has more Republicans in the House and a new GOP-controlled Senate, little has been proposed to remedy those concerns. The 2013 law provided a mail ballot to every registered voter, including those formerly considered inactive because they hadn’t cast a ballot in a while. A report by the Colorado Voter Access and Modernized Elections Commission that examined the new law’s performance is due Tuesday, but it isn’t expected to cite major flaws or offer significant proposals for change, according to commission members.
Lawmakers at the state Capitol will consider Wednesday whether people registering to vote close to Election Day should have to show a photo ID. Two bills on the policy have committee hearings scheduled. One measure would require people to show a photo ID when registering in the weeks leading up to an election. The other would put the same policy up for a statewide vote next year. When we interviewed the new Secretary of State, Wayne Williams, earlier this year, he said this type of voter ID law was part of his agenda. Specifically he wants photo ID for Election Day registration.
Illinois: State proposal would require county to buy laptop for each precinct | The Edwardsville Intelligencer
Madison County would be required to purchase more than 225 laptops if a proposal pending in Springfield becomes law. It would require larger counties to provide laptops at each of its precincts, and while that may be fine in Cook or DuPage counties, it’s too costly and impractical for most. If the law passes, counties with more than 200,000 residents would have to provide each precinct with an electronic poll book on Election Day, allowing voters to connect to that county’s voter registration database. But unlike many northern counties, Madison County has large pockets of rural areas that render Wi-Fi and cell tower coverage spotty in some places and non-existent in others.
A plan to further slash the availability of early voting is rapidly advancing in Georgia. A committee of state lawmakers voted along party lines last week to slash the state’s early voting days from 21 to 12. The full legislature could call a vote on the cuts at any time, and with Republicans holding a majority of the House seats, the measure would likely pass. More than a third of the state’s voters cast their ballot early in this past election, and demand for early voting was so high that several counties opened the polls on a Sunday for the first time in state history. In 2008, more than half of participants voted early. But the bill’s sponsors say the goal of the cuts is to ensure “uniformity” and “equal access” between counties. Civil rights advocates, including President Francys Johnson of the Georgia NAACP, disagree, and tell ThinkProgress the measure would suppress the votes of the state’s growing minority population. “People of color tend to utilize early voting, and I think at the heart of all of this is an attempt to reduce the opportunities for people to let their voice be heard,” he said. “They’re saying to working Georgians and seniors and communities of color and the young: ‘We’re not interested in your participation.”
The state Senate on Tuesday endorsed a bill to require a special election for a U.S. Senate vacancy, as the law currently does for House vacancies, but it would allow the governor to appoint a temporary senator until the election occurs. Senate Bill 169, by Sen. Bradley Hamlett, D-Cascade, won approval on a 48-2 vote and will face a final Senate vote before heading to the House. In brief, here’s how the bill would work: If a vacancy occurs in the Senate, the Montana governor would immediately order a special election. The date of the election would vary depending when the vacancy occurred. It would allow the governor to make a temporary appointment to fill the vacancy until special election occurs. The governor’s temporary appointee to the Senate would have to be from the same political party as the person who vacated the job.
The legislative proposal to require photo IDs for voters in Nebraska ran into a buzz saw of opposition Tuesday during floor debate that signaled the beginning of a filibuster that will resume Wednesday. The bill (LB111) sponsored by Sen. Tyson Larson of O’Neill would require voters to show a government-issued photo ID, but provides for acquisition of a state card at no cost for voters who may not have a photo ID. Opponents said there is no evidence of voter fraud to suggest that the new requirement is needed and that the result would be an impediment to voting that would tend to depress, if not actively suppress, voter turnout. Larson said the requirement is needed to “protect the integrity and reliability of the electoral process.”
Voters would be required to show photo identification before casting a ballot under a bill introduced Tuesday in the Nevada Senate. Under Senate Bill 169, sponsored by Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, and eight other Republican lawmakers, proof of identity would include a document or identity card issued by the state, federal government or recognized Indian tribe that contains a “recognizable photograph.” It also would require the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue a voter identification card free of charge to anyone who lacks other proof. Settelmeyer said requiring voter ID is “something my constituencies have been clamoring about for a long time.”
A federal judge has ruled that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has until Friday to set the date for a special election to replace former Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), or the court will do it for him. Judge Jack B. Weinstein of the Federal District Court in Brooklyn ruled on Tuesday in favor of a group that sued Cuomo in an attempt to force him to call for the vote in New York’s 11th District. “The right to representation in government is the central pillar of democracy in this country,” Weinstein wrote. “Unjustified delay in filling a vacancy cannot be countenanced. Unless the Governor announces the date for a special election on or before noon on Friday, February 20, 2015, or justifies a further delay at a hearing to be conducted by this court at that time and date, this court will fix the date for a special election as promptly as the law will allow.”
North Carolina: House members file redistricting bill to ban ‘irregularly shaped’ boundaries | News Observer
A bipartisan group of N.C. House members filed the second of two proposals Monday to create a nonpartisan redistricting process. House Bill 92 would be modeled on an Iowa plan that lets lawmakers vote on redistricting proposals drafted by legislative staffers. It would take effect for the next round of redistricting, after the 2020 U.S. Census. The group Common Cause North Carolina, which advocates for election reforms, is pushing for the bill. “For decades, North Carolina’s flawed redistricting system has resulted in gerrymandered districts that deprive voters of having a real voice in their elections,” executive director Bob Phillips said in a statement Tuesday. “We applaud these Republican and Democratic lawmakers for working together to pass reform that would protect the fundamental right of voters to choose their representatives.”
Virginia: Challenge ahead, state senator’s bill would make his district even safer | The Washington Post
A state senator facing a competitive reelection bid this fall has proposed legislation that would make his district more Republican — and therefore safer for him. Sen. Bryce E. Reeves, a freshman senator from Spotsylvania County, about an hour south of the District, won his seat four years ago by 226 votes. He already faces a Democratic challenger this year. Reeves filed a bill that would trade precincts with a neighboring district represented by Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D), giving Deeds a heavily Democratic precinct and taking for himself a Republican one.
Washington: Secretary of state says we need 2016 presidential primary that counts | Seattle Post Intelligencer
Washington needs a 2016 presidential primary that’s not merely a “beauty contest” but will count in allocating Democratic and Republican convention delegates, Secretary of State Kim Wyman argued Tuesday. Wyman is asking the Legislature to revive the primary and to give it clout. She will run into resistance. The state’s Democratic and Republican parties are long wedded to their presidential caucuses, which maximize influence of party activists and provide lists of names for fundraising. “My goal is to secure a voice for our Washington voters with a plan that assures a meaningful election where the results are used to allocate at least part of the national convention delegates from our state,” said Wyman, the state’s lone Republican statewide elected official. Wyman estimated that the primary would cost $11.5 million, the bulk of the money to reimburse costs incurred by the state’s 39 counties.
Voting rights advocates are hoping that the U.S. Supreme Court will take up Wisconsin’s voter ID law, one of the most stringent in the country. “There are a lot of barriers that Wisconsin’s law imposes on voters that have not been resolved,” said attorney Karyn Rotker of the ACLU of Wisconsin, which is among the groups asking the court to review the voter ID law. “We hope that the Supreme Court will make sure that voting rights are protected.” The law, passed in spring 2011 and only in effect during one low-turnout election, has had a tumultuous legal history. As it was challenged in state and federal courts, it was put on hold, then suddenly revived by a federal appeals court just before last November’s general election—and put on hold once again, this time by the U.S. Supreme Court.
A House committee Tuesday forwarded a bill that would allow county clerks to establish centralized voting places for future elections. Senate File 52 previously passed the Senate and now has three rounds of voting before potentially becoming law. In Wyoming, people vote by geographical precinct. A county voting center would be a place where anyone, regardless of their precinct, could vote. Laramie County Clerk Debbye Lathrop told members of the House Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee voting centers would be helpful to someone who lives in one town and works in a larger city, where a voting center could located. Instead of having to drive home during the lunch hour, the voter could cast a ballot in the city.
Myanmar: Myanmar Court Deems White Card Holders’ Vote Unconstitutional, Sends Law Back to Parliament | The Irrawaddy
Burma’s Constitutional Tribunal informed Parliament on Monday that the articles of the recently passed Referendum Law that granted white card holders voting rights are in violation of the Constitution. Union Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann read out the Tribunal’s verdict stating that “white card holders are ineligible to vote in a referendum on amendment[s] of [the] State Constitution,” as it violated the charter’s Article 4, Article 38(a) and Article 391, state media reported on Tuesday. According to Article 391, only those with citizenship can be granted voting rights, the verdict stated. The verdict of the Tribunal had become a moot point after President Thein Sein last week decided to backtrack on the implications of the Referendum Law he had sent to Parliament by issuing a directive that let all temporary identification cards expire per March 31.
Editorials: The UK should encourage prisoners to be good citizens and let them vote | Juliet Lyon/openDemocracy
Last week’s ruling by the European Court of Human Rights on prisoners’ voting reinforces previous judgments of the Court that the UK’s blanket ban on sentenced prisoners voting is unlawful. But with three months to go before the UK general election, it’s clear that the government would rather flout human rights law, ignore the advice of prison governors, bishops to, and inspectors of, prisons and take up Parliamentary time and taxpayers’ money in order to stop sentenced prisoners from acting responsibly by voting in democratic elections. For ten years now successive UK governments have wasted public money resisting the European Court’s judgment. The current Prime Minister has even admitted to feeling “physically ill to even contemplate having to give the vote to anyone who is in prison”.
United Kingdom: Outsourcing voting: How private companies could profit from British elections | Politics.co.uk
Switching to electronic voting poses lucrative opportunities for private companies – and they’re now champing at the bit to get involved. It is, right now, a relatively small market. Only about 20 countries around the world look to the international marketplace to procure electronic systems which will help their elections run smoothly. Most of them have done so out of necessity. Governments facing limited public trust have proved more likely to abandon the laborious – and easily manipulated – paper-based voting methods than those in countries whose system isn’t obviously broken. Latin American states have been the most enthusiastic adopters. They’ve had some success. In Brazil, where the most recent presidential contest saw a gap of just 1.5% between the two main candidates, the results were released by the morning after polling day. And they weren’t contested. In Europe progress has been slower. An Irish attempt turned into a classic IT fiasco. A Dutch effort was quickly hacked, prompting embarrassment and a rapid retreat to paper-only systems. Europe has on the whole been a tricky market because of widespread worries about cybersecurity and privacy issues. And then, last month, a sudden enthusiasm for making the change suddenly emerged in Britain.