Former President George W. Bush will join President Obama in Selma, Ala., on March 7 for the 50th anniversary of the voting rights marches there. Bush and his wife, Laura, will join a large, bipartisan congressional delegation for part of a three-day civil rights pilgrimage to Alabama, according to Robert Traynham, a spokesman for the Faith and Politics Institute in Washington, which is organizing the event. Obama and Bush will be on stage together to commemorate Bloody Sunday, when Alabama state troopers assaulted marchers on March 7, 1965, as they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge on their way to Montgomery to protest the lack of voting rights for African Americans. The event shocked the nation and helped win passage of the Voting Rights Act just a few months later.
National: Obama Calls Out America’s Dismal Voter Turnout: ‘Why Are You Staying Home?’ | Huffington Post
President Barack Obama urged Americans frustrated with the lack of progress on immigration reform to voice their discontent at the ballot box, lamenting the dismal turnout in last November’s midterm elections. Speaking Wednesday during a town hall in Miami, Florida, hosted by MSNBC and Telemundo’s José Díaz-Balart, Obama said the immigration system won’t truly change until voters elect lawmakers who will press for reform. “Ultimately, we have to change the law,” Obama said. “And the way that happens is, by the way, by voting”
Editorials: The Next attack on voting rights and why Democrats should fight for a constitutional right-to-vote amendment | Jamelle Bouie/Slate
he last round of voter restrictions came after the 2010 Republican wave, when new GOP majorities passed voter identification laws and slashed ballot access in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida. Now, three months after the 2014 Republican wave, another class of state lawmakers are prepping another assault on voting rights under the same guise of “uniformity” and “ballot integrity.” In Georgia, reports Zachary Roth for MSNBC, Republicans are pushing a bill to slash early voting from the present maximum of 21 days to 12 days. The goal, says Rep. Ed Rydners, a sponsor of the proposal, is “clarity and uniformity.” “There were complaints of some voters having more opportunities than others,” he said, “This legislation offers equal access statewide.” If cities like Atlanta want to have more voting access, said Rydners, they could open more precincts and “pay to have poll workers present.”
It is time to try lowering the voting age to 17 nationwide. Takoma Park, Maryland, has done it. Iowa, too, for caucuses. Scotland went down to age 16 for its recent independence referendum. Evidence suggests it will boost informed participation in our democracy over time. … The political scientist Mark Franklin studied 22 democracies and found a pattern: Lowering the voting age to 18 actually caused turnout to fall in most countries. Why? Because 18-year-olds are less likely to vote than 21-year-olds. And once those 18-year-olds missed their first year as eligible voters, they were less likely to vote again — not even when they reached 21. Franklin argued that, in the United States, changing our voting age to 18 may be the sole reason voter turnout has declined since the 1970s. But 17 may be a better age. At 17, most people are still living at home, where they can see parents voting and probably hear about local issues and candidates. They also are still in school, where voting can be encouraged and become a social norm.
Voting Blogs: The Right to Vote Amendment is Worth At Least One Candle: A Reply to Heather Gerken | Josh Douglas/Election Law Blog
A new constitutional amendment affirmatively granting the right to vote could have a significant impact on protecting voting rights for all Americans. Most significantly – and perhaps paradoxically – we are likely to see the biggest effects of a federal amendment where we least expect it: in state courts. Professor Heather Gerken, in a characteristically eloquent and well-reasoned new article, claims that pursuing a new constitutional amendment enshrining the right to vote is “not worth the candle.” The heart of Professor Gerken’s argument is that the benefits of a new right-to-vote amendment do not justify the costs involved, particularly as Supreme Court Justices and other federal judges are unlikely to alter the scope of voting rights analysis given the likelihood that, to pass, the amendment’s language would have to be too vague. But a constitutional amendment granting the right to vote does not need federal judges, or even the U.S. Supreme Court, to have a big impact. That is because many state courts follow federal law even when construing their own state constitutions. So a new provision in the federal Constitution, even if couched in broad platitudes, will have corollary effects on state constitutional law.
The campaign to combine Los Angeles’ elections with state and federal contests has been hailed by backers as a way to lift the city’s dismal turnout, which in the last mayoral race was 23%. But more than a dozen candidates for City Council now say that they oppose the idea, claiming it could make races more expensive and give a leg up to incumbents and others backed by special interests. Charter Amendments 1 and 2 were put on the March 3 ballot by the council to reverse a decline in voter participation during the odd-year city and school board elections. On the campaign trail, however, several candidates — some experiencing their first brush with the election process — have begun warning that the date change would have other, less positive, consequences.
Chicago voters endorsed by a wide margin Tuesday a plan to institute public campaign financing and limit outside contributions. The ballot measure, though non-binding, begins a process that will now move to city and state government, where legislation would be drafted. Asked whether the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois should “reduce the influence of special interest money in elections by financing campaigns using small contributions from individuals and a limited amount of public money,” voters signaled yes by a 58-point margin, 79 percent to 21 percent.
As Iowa’s Secretary of State works to implement online voter registration, the Iowa legislature weighs in. A subcommittee in the Iowa Senate is considering a bill that allows voters to provide their birth date and a unique identifying number, like the last four digits of a Social Security number, to register to vote online. Voters would then verify their identity with an electronic signature. Sen. Jason Schultz, a Republican from Schleswig, suggested adding a provision for photo I.D. to increase security, but Sen. Jeff Danielson, a Democrat from Waterloo, says that’s not necessary.
Kansas: Senate advances bill giving Kobach power to prosecute election crimes | Lawrence Journal World
The Kansas Senate on Tuesday advanced a bill that would give the secretary of state authority to prosecute election crimes. Senate Bill 34 would also amend current election law by establishing new crimes of attempting to vote more than once in an election, and it increases the severity of some other election crimes. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican, has asked for prosecutorial powers in the past, but previous Legislatures have not been willing to go along. Currently, election crimes can be prosecuted by the county or district attorney in the county where the alleged crime took place or by the Kansas attorney general.
A freshman delegate in the Maryland General Assembly is championing a cause that has deep personal meaning for him: the restoration of full voting rights for ex-offenders. Del. Cory V. McCray (D-Baltimore), who was arrested on the streets of East Baltimore more times than he can remember, recognizes that he could easily have been among the estimated 40,000 ex-offenders in Maryland who face obstacles to voting. The former teenage drug dealer is the lead House sponsor of a bill that promotes voting rights for former felons who have been prohibited from casting a ballot in Maryland. Nationally, an estimated 5.85 million Americans are unable to vote because of felony convictions, according to the Sentencing Project, a nonprofit criminal justice think tank.
A conservative think tank on Tuesday sued the state over a rule that allows unions and certain other groups to make campaign donations of up to $15,000 while barring businesses from making any direct political donations to candidates. The Arizona-based Goldwater Institute said the lawsuit targets a rule it believes violates the constitutionally protected rights of equal protection and free speech. The institute filed the suit in Suffolk Superior Court on behalf of two Massachusetts businesses — 1A Auto Inc., an auto parts shop in Pepperell, and 126 Self Storage Inc., a self-storage facility in Ashland. It names the head of the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance, Michael Sullivan, as the defendant. “There is no legitimate justification for allowing unions to contribute thousands of dollars to candidates, parties, and political committees, while completely banning any contributions from businesses,” the lawsuit said.
The bill to move Nebraska to a winner-take-all presidential electoral vote system easily survived an assault on Tuesday, but still may not be able to shake loose from the grip of a legislative filibuster. A motion by Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha to shelve the bill (LB10) for the remainder of the session was rejected on a 12-30 vote. A subsequent vote to reconsider that action lost on a 15-29 vote. The 15-vote count moved opponents of the bill within two votes of the magic number required to assure a filibuster can be sustained. And a look at the five senators who were either absent or not voting suggested the 17 votes may be there when required.
GOP Senate leaders had told UtahPolicy that the SB54 delay bill would die in their body, and, indeed, Sen. Scott Jenkins’ attempt to delay the political party candidate nomination change did die Tuesday. Whether it will pop up again before the Legislature adjourns March 12, either in the Senate or in the House (which already has killed a similar bill) remains to be seen. Sen. Scott Jenkins’ SB43 – which would delay the new dual-track political party candidate primary ballot route until 2018 – died in a 9-19 vote (one absent) after about 30 minutes of debate Tuesday morning. You can see the vote here. No senator who voted for SB54 last year switched and voted to delay it Tuesday. All the no votes came from GOP senators who voted against SB54 last year or are new GOP senators this session.
Australia: No voters prosecuted despite 7000-plus cases of suspected voting fraud in the 2013 federal election | Sydney Morning Herald
Not a single person will be prosecuted for multiple voting at the 2013 federal election – even those who admitted to casting more than one ballot paper. Australian Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers said he was “disturbed” that of the nearly 8000 cases of suspected voting fraud passed to the Australian Federal Police, not a single case has been forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Of the 7743 suspect cases referred to the AFP, just 65 were investigated and not one will progress to conviction. Mr Rogers told a Senate estimates committee that the file passed to the AFP included voters who had actually admitted to voting at more than one polling station and cases where the offence had been denied but there was supporting evidence that they had.
Political parties in El Salvador formally wrapped up their campaigns Wednesday ahead of local and legislative elections schedule for March 1, 2015. The close of the campaign period gives three days for the population to decide their vote without the influence of the publicity campaigns of the parties. Electors in Latin America’s smallest country will head to the polls to elect mayors as well as representatives to the country’s Legislative Assembly.
Kazakhstan’s leader Nursultan Nazarbayev on Wednesday called an early presidential election for April 26, in a move expected to extend his 26-year rule by another five. Nicknamed “Papa” and allowed by law to serve as many terms as he wants, the veteran president is poised to win another term in office easily, although he said he had not yet decided whether to run. Nazarbayev’s re-election would end speculation about his possible successor, a question watched closely by investors. “In the interests of the people, taking into account their appeal to me and their united will … I made a decision and signed a decree to call an early presidential election on April 26, 2015,” television channels showed Nazarbayev saying.
Philippines: Supreme Court orders Comelec, Smartmatic-TIM to answer IBP raps vs P268.8-M contract | Inquirer
The Supreme Court has ordered the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) to answer the allegations raised by a national organization of lawyers that the P268.8-million contract for the diagnostic of all the 82,000 Precinct Count Optical Scan voting machines (PCOS) is void for lack of public bidding. “The court required respondents (Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM) to comment within a non-extendible period of 10 days on the petition…,” high court’s Information Chief Theodore Te said at a press conference. Te clarified that the high court has not acted on the prayer for a restraining order filed by IBP. IBP, in its petition said Comelec Resolution No. 9922, which approved the contract, is null and void because it violated Republic Act No. 9184, otherwise known as the Government Procurement Reform Act.