Members of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) met Tuesday. This meeting marked the first time the Commission was able to meet with a quorum of Commissioners in four years. The Commission addressed a variety of pressing issues at the meeting. These issues included the accreditation of a new voting system test laboratory; consideration of possible updates to the standards used to test voting systems; and updates to the EAC’s voting system testing program manuals. Additionally, Commissioner Christy McCormick was selected to chair the Commission and Commissioner Thomas Hicks was selected as vice-chair. “After four years without Commissioners, the EAC has a great deal of work to do,” said Chair McCormick. “Today we took important steps in helping support state and local election officials as they continue to cope with aging voting equipment and limited funds. All three Commissioners recognize that we must operate with a sense of urgency,” Vice-Chair Hicks added.“The Commission does not have the luxury of time; we have already heard from our stakeholders that they expect us to act quickly to address many of the outstanding issues from over the last four years.”
Editorials: How Dark Money Is Distorting Politics and Undermining Democracy | Bruce Freed & Karl Sandstrom/ Fiscal Times
The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision and subsequent court rulings deregulating political spending have greatly increased the influence of corporate special interests. Today, corporations are among the leading underwriters of Washington politics and a dominant force shaping its policy-making. Long gone are the days when unions and government could balance the impact of corporations. At the same time, a large swath of political spending has gone underground. Prior to Citizens United, election spending by companies, unions and individuals was subject to limits and carried out with disclosure of donors. Post-Citizens United, the limits are gone for corporations. Donor secrecy reigns. Corporations can spend to influence elections directly, or indirectly through trade associations or so-called “social welfare” organizations as long as these groups don’t coordinate with a political candidate. The result is significant growth in “dark money” influence.
Voting Blogs: Is it Possible to Be In Favor of a Right-to-Vote Amendment but Against Amending the Constitution? Yes. | Heather Gerken/Election Law Blog
The DNC Executive Committee has just endorsed the idea that we should amend the Constitution to add a right to vote. I’m entirely in favor of a constitutional right to vote. But I’m against amending the Constitution to add it. There are excellent scholars and organizations in favor of amendment, including Jaimie Raskin, Alex Keyssar, the Advancement Project, and FairVote. But I remain skeptical and have a new paper explaining why I fear that the amendment game is not worth the candle. There are two stages for ensuring a robust right to vote: (1) amending the Constitution, and (2) enforcing that amendment. As to the first stage, if an amendment enshrining the right to vote looks anything like its cognates in the Constitution, it will be thinly described, maddeningly vague, and pushed forward by self-interested politicians. If the amendment takes this form, the benefits reformers and academics assert we’ll reap are anything but automatic. Once a vague guarantee is embedded in the Constitution (Stage 1), reformers will still have to turn to legislators and courts to get something done (Stage 2).
California: Federal judge rejects challenge to L.A. council’s 2012 redistricting | Los Angeles Times
A federal judge on Tuesday rejected a three-year-old legal challenge to the boundaries drawn for Los Angeles’ 15 City Council districts, saying she found no evidence that race was the predominant factor in creating the new maps. U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall said lawyers for the city provided “undisputed evidence” that the boundaries approved by the council achieved “traditional non-racial redistricting” goals, such as keeping distinct communities and neighborhood councils in the same district. The ruling delivered a major victory to council President Herb Wesson, who presided over the once-a-decade redistricting process and is now seeking a third term in Tuesday’s election. The decision also dealt a blow to a group of Koreatown residents who argued that the map-making process diluted the neighborhood’s voting power and unlawfully divided it into multiple districts.
Gov. Rick Scott doesn’t like to lose. But he lost an important court case dealing with voting rights and last week he decided to cut his losses, along with those of Florida taxpayers who have footed the bill for more than 2 ½ years. Scott dropped his appeal of a federal court order that said the state’s efforts to purge the voter rolls of suspected noncitizens during the 2012 presidential campaign violated a federal law that prohibits “systematic” removals less than 90 days before a federal election. And he issued a statement that signaled a new willingness to work with county elections supervisors, who opposed the purge. “Florida is in an excellent position to conduct fair elections,” Scott’s statement said. “I am confident that the 2016 presidential election cycle will put Florida’s election system in a positive light thanks to the improvements made by our supervisors of elections, the Legislature and the Department of State.” As a result, Scott is facing criticism from the right.
Iowa: Legislative panel aims to make online voter registration available to more Iowans | The Gazette
A Senate legislative panel Tuesday began work on a measure designed to make online voter registration available to more Iowans beyond the upgrade being planned by the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate is working on a system with the state Department of Transportation that will offer the electronic registration option to anyone with a valid Iowa driver’s license or a state-issued identification card. However, Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Waterloo, leader of a Senate State Government subcommittee, said Senate Study Bill 1152 would expand the online registration option to eligible voters who do not have access to a computer or face other challenges. He estimated that represented 7 percent to 9 percent of eligible Iowa voters.
Kansas: Senate edges closer to handing prosecutorial power to Kobach on voter fraud | Topeka Capital-Journal
A majority in the Senate deflected opposition from Democrats on Tuesday to legislation granting authority to prosecute alleged crimes of voter fraud with the office of the state’s Republican secretary of state. The bill given first-round approval on a voice vote in the GOP-dominated chamber has been long-sought by Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who expressed discontent with work by county prosecutors in addressing election misconduct. Senate Bill 34 would vest power to prosecute election crimes in district or county attorneys across the state, the Kansas Attorney General Office as well as the Secretary of State’s Office. In addition, the measure headed to a final vote Wednesday would elevate the state’s penalty for a series of voting offenses to felonies rather than misdemeanors.
On Monday, the Kentucky House of Representatives passed legislation based on Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes’ recommendations to modernize voter registration in Kentucky. House Bill 214, a bill to allow voters to register to vote and update their voter registration electronically, passed 92-3. House Bill 212, which would allow in-person absentee voting on the basis of age, disability or illness, previously passed unanimously. Both bills are sponsored by Rep. Darryl Owens (D-Louisville). Grimes has pursued the use of technology to protect the right to vote since being elected, successfully seeking in 2013 legislation to permit electronic voter registration for military and overseas voters. In 2014 she oversaw the implementation of the military and overseas voting portal, which has been praised nationally by voters and local election officials alike for how easy and convenient it is to use. Grimes also held roundtable discussions with elected officials and citizens around the state to discuss expanding electronic voter registration to all voters.
Kentucky: Judge throws out election results in 2014 Magoffin judge-executive race | Lexington Herald-Leader
There were so many violations of election rules in last November’s election for Magoffin County judge-executive that the results must be thrown out, a judge has ruled. Circuit Judge John David Preston declared the office vacant, creating a question about Judge-Executive Charles “Doc” Hardin’s status. Hardin, a Democrat seeking a third consecutive term, defeated Republican challenger John P. Montgomery by 28 votes in the disputed election, 3,281 to 3,253. On Saturday, one of Hardin’s attorneys, James L. Deckard, said Hardin is disappointed with the ruling and will appeal. In Preston’s decision, he cited a raft of improprieties, including a lack of required information on applications for absentee ballots; precinct officers failing to document how they identified voters and improperly helping people vote; and residents casting early ballots at the county clerk’s office when there was no Republican election commissioner present as required.
A bill proposed in the Michigan state legislature could make voting easier for University students. Earlier this month, several state senators sponsored a bill that would allow first-time voters in the state of Michigan to vote by absentee ballot or mail. The bill has been sent to the Senate’s Committee on Elections and Government Reform for review. Currently, first-time voters in Michigan are required to vote in person unless disabled, older than 60 or temporarily residing overseas. Proponents of the new legislation said the current law presents a problem for many University students, who are living in Ann Arbor during their first election and cannot return to their hometown to vote in person.
North Dakota: House passes bill requiring special election for U.S. Senate vacancies | Grand Forks Herald
The North Dakota House backed legislation Tuesday that would require a special election to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy, a bill Democrats have panned as an attempt to dissuade U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp from running for governor in 2016. Representatives voted 67-25 to pass House Bill 1181 after debate over whether the same special-election process applies to U.S. House vacancies. The bill would require the governor to call a special election within 95 days of when a Senate vacancy occurs, unless the vacancy occurs within 95 days of the end of the Senate term, in which case the seat would be filled in the next regular election.
The Senate gave preliminary approval Monday to a constitutional amendment that could overturn a new law to change how parties choose their nominees. The Senate voted 17-12 to send SJR2 to a final vote later this week — but that was three votes short of the two-thirds majority (20 of 29 members) that it would need eventually to pass and be sent to the House, and perhaps eventually to voters for a decision. Its sponsor, Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, said the amendment would ask voters “the question: should a party’s rights be infringed upon.” He said the amendment says “parties should be able to decide under their own terms and circumstances how their candidate goes to a ballot.”
Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev is to send Parliament a request for the holding of a referendum on the country’s electoral system – formally resuming a campaign that was defeated in the previous parliament. Plevneliev tabled a request in the now-departed 42nd National Assembly for a referendum on issues including compulsory voting, electronic voting and a majoritarian element to the electoral system, but this was blocked by the then-ruling axis of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and Movement for Rights and Freedoms. In an interview published by mass-circulation daily 24 Chassa, Plevneliev was reported to have confirmed that his proposal was similar to the one he had made previously, to hold the referendum simultaneously with scheduled elections – in the case of 2015, the municipal elections to be held in the autumn.
Future elections are one step closer to including e-ballots as Edmonton’s executive committee voted Tuesday to petition the province to allow online voting. A brief report was brought to the committee at the request of Coun. Andrew Knack outlining what it would take for the city to include internet voting for future elections. “There’s no foolproof system,” admitted Knack, a proponent of online voting, in response to concerns raised about the potential threats that web-based elections may pose. Computer programmer Chris Cates voiced those concerns to the committee. “I see the Internet as full of risks,” Cates said. “In the long run, something is going to happen.” He referred to issues that were found in the online voting that the Alberta PC Party used when choosing Jim Prentice to lead them as an example of what can go wrong and warned that one person could seriously jeopardize the system. He added a recount would be relatively impossible because no paper ballots would be available to count.,
International observers monitoring the second round of legislative elections in the Indian Ocean island nation of Comoros declared the vote free and transparent. Voting held on Sunday on the archipelago took place in an atmosphere of “transparency, freedom and serenity,” Samuel Azu’u Fonkam, head of the observer mission sent by the International Francophonie Organization, told reporters in the capital, Moroni. Municipal elections took place alongside the vote for legislators.
Tanzania’s electoral commission on Monday began to register voters through the biometric voter registration (BVR) system for an upcoming constitutional referendum. “Registration starts today at Njombe region and we are going to carry the activity for seven days before moving to another region,” Damian Lubuva, chief of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), told The Anadolu Agency by phone. Lubuva said the electoral body has faced some challenges while implementing the exercise. “BVR kits we are using sometimes fail to work as it was expected,” he said. “Our experts are on the field making sure all are going well as planned.”