A Kentucky House committee on Tuesday passed a bill that would give felons the right to vote. The House has passed a similar bill every year since 2007, but the bills have died or been significantly changed in the Senate. Janet Tucker, of the advocacy group Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, said that keeping felons from voting disproportionately affects minority communities. “Those communities really aren’t getting their full vote in our democracy still, so it’s an important issue for our democracy as well as individuals and their rights as citizens,” Tucker said. Felons convicted of murder and sex offenses are excluded in the House bill.
It’s official: Oregon has become the only state in the country with three major political parties. Secretary of State Kate Brown announced Monday afternoon that the Independent Party of Oregon has enough members to be a major party, on par with the Republican and Democratic parties. As of Feb. 2, the party had 108,742 members, just three more than the threshold requires, which is more than 5 percent of the registered voters in the 2014 gubernatorial election. Brown noted in a statement that the party will be subject to re-verification on Aug. 17, which could potentially change the outcome if it were to lose four members.
Virginia: Redistricting reform debate continues with little traction in State House | The Washington Post
The day after the House and Senate passed bills policing gift-giving and travel, good-government advocates said lawmakers were silent on the biggest ethics issue facing the state: redistricting. A House panel will consider Thursday the first of several Senate proposals that call for nonpartisan drawing of the lines separating legislative districts — a political process currently controlled by the General Assembly. Because districts are often drawn to protect incumbents, they tend to include populations that lean heavily toward one party over the other — attracting candidates who appeal to the extremes of their parties at the expense of bipartisanship or moderation. As a result, redistricting is regularly blamed for the partisan discourse that sometimes defines the tenor of the Legislature.
New voting machines are coming to Virginia Beach. City Council Tuesday is expected to approve spending money right away to get the machines in time for the June primary election. In a letter to council, General Registrar Donna Patterson reminded Council that several TSX machines had to be removed from service during the November 4, 2014 election. 13News Now reported on issues with 32 voting machines at 25 different precincts that showed signs of irregularities and had to be pulled out of service. The City used 820 machines that election.
Myanmar Wednesday said identity cards for people without full citizenship, including Muslim Rohingya, will expire within weeks, snatching away voting rights handed to them just a day earlier after nationalist protests at the move. The Rohingya along with hundreds of thousands of people in mainly ethnic minority border areas, who hold the documents ostensibly as part of a process of applying for citizenship, will see their ID cards expire at the end of March, according to a statement from the office of President Thein Sein late Wednesday. “Those who are holding temporary identity cards must give back the expired registration documents, the statement said, in a move that effectively overrides a clause giving them the right to vote in a constitutional referendum in a bill enacted with presidential approval on Tuesday. The dramatic about-face comes after dozens of protesters gathered in the commercial hub Rangoon Wednesday to call on the government not to allow people without full citizenship to vote in the proposed referendum.
A researcher looking at internet voting says older Sudburians were more likely to use the internet to cast a ballot in the last municipal elections. Sudbury was one of 47 Ontario municipalities to use the internet in the October vote for mayor and council. The research director at the Centre for E-Democracy in Toronto said the results of questionnaires show more than half of internet voters in Sudbury in October were older — between 45 and 64 years old. Only 15 per cent were 34 years old and younger.
Estonia: Parliament approves of lowering voting age to 16 at municipality elections | The Baltic Course
The Estonian Riigikogu approved on Wednesday a bill lowering the voting age at local municipality elections from 18 to 16 years; the law amendment that requires a change in the Constitution needs also the approval of the next Riigikogu, in order to come in force, LETA/Postimees Online reports. The bill, initiated by 41 MPs, provides that for the law amendment to take effect, the new composition of the parliament must approve of it with a three-fifths majority vote in favour, i.e. at least 61 deputies have to vote for it. The bill goes in the new parliament to the final vote at once and it must be included in the agenda as soon as possible. If the new Riigikogu adopts the law, then at the next local elections in 2017, 16 and 17 year-olds can also cast their votes.
The decision by Nigeria’s electoral commission to postpone the upcoming general election due to security concerns over the Boko Haram insurgency has brought the country closer to a political crisis. The Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) announced its decision Saturday based on the military’s assessment that it could not guarantee security at the polls amid newly announced military operations in Nigeria’s troubled northeastern states. The election were originally scheduled for this coming Saturday. Critics, however, say the delay is a political move by President Goodluck Jonathan, who is facing fierce competition from main opposition party candidate Muhammadu Buhari.
Editorials: ‘Election delay does not signal death of Nigeria’s democracy – yet’ | Simon Allison/The Guardian
So Nigerians will not be voting on Valentine’s Day after all. The new date is 28 March, the delay officially justified by the worsening Boko Haram-inspired insecurity in the north-east, and the military’s refusal to guarantee the safety of the poll. “The security agencies reiterated that they will be concentrating their attention to the insurgency and may not be able to play its traditional role in providing security during the elections,” said Attahiru Jega, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission. The announcement late on Saturday sparked a flurry of outrage both within Nigeria and abroad, with Nigeria’s democracy viewed as the main victim. Few bought Jega’s statement, seeing instead the underhand machinations of under-fire President Goodluck Jonathan and his ruling People’s Democratic Party.
A nationwide study of voters’ experiences during November’s midterm federal election found that approximately 40 percent of respondents cast their ballots early or by mail. The 2014 Survey of the Performance of American Elections (SPAE)—conducted by Charles Stewart III, the Kenan Sahin distinguished professor of political science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts—surveyed more than 10,000 registered voters nationwide. Among the findings:
41 percent of voters cast ballots before Election Day.
o 16 percent voted early in person or in-person absentee.
o 25 percent voted by mail.
o 59 percent voted in person on Election Day.
Voter turnout in the U.S. during the last midterm election hit the lowest point since the 1940s. The number of Americans heading to the polls each election has been declining for the last fifty years and lawmakers have recently been pushing efforts to keep even more people away from the polls. People do not exercise their right to vote for various reasons, some of which are easier to solve than others. According to a U.S. … Voters can already use their smartphones in some cities to simplify daily tasks like tracking how long they have to wait for a bus or train. So why shouldn’t information about polling places be available online? Joe Kiniry, the principal investigator with computer science company Galois, said that while he was working in Denmark, he helped to build a system voters could use to figure out the length of lines at polling places. “Of course it’s doing that by watching people’s cell phones as they walk into the polling place and figuring out how long it took you to get to the front of the line, how long it took you to leave,” he said. “So in the adoption of this cheap, easy technology… we’ve now traded off the cost and efficiency of an election with the privacy of voters.”
Currently, Pima and Maricopa counties must maintain daily updated lists of those who have turned in early ballots if requested by state or county party chairpersons. Rep. Brenda Barton, R-Payson, wants to expand that requirement to all counties, saying it can be difficult to obtain early ballot information in a timely manner from election officials in rural Arizona. Her bill, HB 2427, won a unanimous endorsement Monday from the House Elections Committee, despite a representative for counties saying the change would be burdensome. It was heading to the House floor by way of the Rules Committee.
If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. It is not a seagull. People will, understandably, refer to it as a duck. Deciding to call it a seagull does not cause it to cease being a duck and does not transform it into a seagull. With me so far? An election held by a California city is an “advisory election” if its purpose is to enable only the city’s registered voters to voice their opinions on substantive issues in a non-binding manner. City advisory elections are subject to the California Election Code’s general requirements and prohibitions.
Now consider the following scenario. A small California city’s leaders, and the elections system vendor they hire, plan an election that in all respects is described by California Elections Code section 9603. The city leaders and vendor publicly and consistently refer to the planned activity as an “advisory vote” and “advisory election.” The city is notified that the election will be illegal, both because it will use an Internet voting system, prohibited by the Elections Code, and because the system is not state-certified, as required by the Elections Code. With just two weeks to go, the city’s leaders and vendor respond by re-labeling the planned activity a “poll” or “community poll” but make no other changes.
District of Columbia: Audit: No-show poll workers, outdated equipment marred D.C. election | The Washington Post
The District’s Nov. 4 general election was marred by absent poll workers, outdated equipment and uneven access for disabled voters, the D.C. auditor’s office concludes in a new report that recommends replacing voting machines and improving worker training. At one polling place in November, people were asked to show identification to vote — which is not required by D.C. law — and some voters were turned away, according to the report. The audit came after a series of lapses from the D.C. Board of Elections in recent years — most recently, a technical breakdown that delayed the counting of votes for hours during the April 1 primary last year and the printing of a voter guide bearing an upside-down D.C. flag ahead of the general election. D.C. Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5) ordered the audit, which involved visits to a majority of the city’s 143 polling places on Election Day. McDuffie has been sharply critical of management at the elections board. … The auditors documented equipment problems at 57 of the 89 precincts they visited, affecting a wide range of the District’s Election Day technology — including paper ballot readers, electronic poll books and touch-screen voting machines.
Over 100 of the best public policy students from around the state of Florida will be gathering at the end of February to discuss and plan for the modernization of the state’s voter registration system. The Florida Future of Political Action Summit will take place Feb. 20-22 and is the second of its kind. Held at the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida, participants will study Florida’s electronic voting registration methods, as well as how other states have modernized registration. Katie Burnett, University of Florida senior and member of the event steering committee, says they will also be equipped with the tools to organize volunteer-run committees for their own public service efforts.
Sen. Mary Camacho Torres, R-Santa Rita, is leading a charge to increase voter turnout among island residents with multiple pieces of legislation aimed at amending voter registration laws. Last month, Torres introduced Bills 23-32, 24-32 and 25-32 to the Legislature with a public hearing scheduled for tomorrow morning. “What I’m trying to do is essentially facilitate the registration process,” Torres said.
More than 100 Hamilton County poll workers got fired Tuesday for failing to do the one thing that matters most on Election Day. They didn’t vote. The board of elections said goodbye to the 104 workers after learning they had not voted in either the 2013 or 2014 elections, despite spending most of those Election Days in a polling place, surrounded by voters and ballots. “I’m frankly kind of shocked by the number of people on that list,” said Tim Burke, chairman of the board and leader of Hamilton County’s Democratic Party. “We want everyone to vote. If we have poll workers who don’t vote, we’re not encouraging that.”
After hearing arguments Tuesday, a state judge said she would mull over a case that could transform New Mexico’s two-party primary system. State District Judge Denise Barela-Shepherd said she would soon issue an opinion in a lawsuit filed by Albuquerque resident David Crum on behalf of the state’s 250,000 independent voters. Crum is seeking to allow people the right to pick a party on the day of the primary so they can vote. Currently, only Republicans and Democrats can vote in primary elections — something critics say contributes to low voter turnout.
The North Dakota House voted Tuesday to allow voters to use a bill or bank statement to verify their residency at the polls. House Bill 1333, sponsored by Rep. Randy Boehning, R-Fargo, would allow those without an updated identification to use a bill, bank statement or U.S. Postal Service change of address form dated 30 days before the election to vote. The bill also does away with the student identification certificates that were used in the most recent election. The bill passed the House by a vote of 66-24.
Elected officials of Cedar Hills voted unanimously Feb. 3 to go with an all-by-mail voting system for the 2015 primary and general municipal elections. Cedar Hills will be the first city in Utah County to try out, being the guinea pig to test the latest trending vote process. “We are excited to lead the way with a vote-by-mail election,” said Jenney Rees, Cedar Hills councilwoman. “With other cities and counties already having successful outcomes, we anticipate seeing more Utah cities use this approach for the convenience of voters,” Rees said. Last year, 10 counties in Utah conducted their elections entirely by mail. These counties increased the percentage of their voters who cast a ballot before Election Day by 49 percent, according to a Utah Lieutenant Governor’s Office press release.
Lesotho will go ahead with early elections as planned at the end of this month despite recent renewed tensions, South Africa’s presidency announced at the end of crisis talks with the kingdom’s premier on Monday. “The meeting expressed its confidence that the climate for the holding of elections on 28 February remains on course,” President Jacob Zuma’s office said in a statement. Zuma hosted the Monday talks in his capacity as chairperson of the peace and security section of the regional bloc Southern African Development Community (SADC). The talks were attended by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and top officials from his troubled coalition government.
Last week, Victor, a carpenter, came to my Lagos home to fix a broken chair. I asked him whom he preferred as Nigeria’s next president: the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan, or his challenger, Muhammadu Buhari. “I don’t have a voter’s card, but if I did, I would vote for somebody I don’t like,” he said. “I don’t like Buhari. But Jonathan is not performing.” Victor sounded like many people I know: utterly unenthusiastic about the two major candidates in our upcoming election. Were Nigerians to vote on likeability alone, Jonathan would win. He is mild-mannered and genially unsophisticated, with a conventional sense of humor. Buhari has a severe, ascetic air about him, a rigid uprightness; it is easy to imagine him in 1984, leading a military government whose soldiers routinely beat up civil servants. Neither candidate is articulate. Jonathan is given to rambling; his unscripted speeches leave listeners vaguely confused. Buhari is thick-tongued, his words difficult to decipher. In public appearances, he seems uncomfortable not only with the melodrama of campaigning but also with the very idea of it. To be a democratic candidate is to implore and persuade, and his demeanor suggests a man who is not at ease with amiable consensus. Still, he is no stranger to campaigns. This is his third run as a presidential candidate; the last time, in 2011, he lost to Jonathan.
Editorials: The Future Of Voter Suppression Is Before The Supreme Court | Ian Millhiser/ThinkProgress
A petition asking the Supreme Court to consider the fate of Wisconsin’s voter ID law begins with a powerful quote: “There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.” Yet, this quote may prove more revealing than the authors of this petition may have intended, as these words do not come from a court decision upholding the right to vote. Rather, they are the opening line of Chief Justice John Roberts’ decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, a case which made it easier for wealthy donors to influence elections. The question facing the Supreme Court in Frank v. Walker, the Wisconsin voter ID case, cuts much closer to the “right to participate in electing our political leaders” than McCutcheon did. McCutcheon struck down a $123,200 cap on donations to federal candidates and political committees — a decision that, by its very nature, only benefited the very wealthy. Frank, by contrast, will consider to what extent illusionary concerns can justify restrictions on the right to vote itself. Yet, if the Roberts Court’s past is prologue, they are unlikely to pay the same regard for the actual right to vote that they do for the right of wealthy individuals to use their fortunes to influence elections. The plaintiffs’ petition asking the Court to hear Frank was filed last month. Wisconsin’s response to that petition is due to the justices on Monday.
Every registered voter in California would get a vote-by-mail ballot, whether they asked for one or not, under legislation being considered in Sacramento. State Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, says it might help reverse a slide in voter turnout. “Unless we find a way to increase voter participation statewide, nothing less than our democratic way of life is at risk,” says Mr. Hertzberg, author of the legislation known as SB 163. Voters would still have the option of voting in person at their designated polling location.
A Republican-sponsored bill in the Georgia House would shorten the number of early voting days from 21 to 12. Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming, said his bill is about creating a more uniform voting system. “Cities and counties all over the state have different days, different times … The purpose of this was really uniformity,” said Hamilton. Under the bill, polling locations would be open on the 12 consecutive days before elections.
Vote or be fined. It’s an idea moving through the legislature this year that’s got so many people fired up. “Hawaii should be embarrassed by itself. We’ve got the lowest voter turnout in the nation,” said Republican Re. Gene Ward, who represents Hawaii Kai. That’s why Ward says he’s introduced a bill requiring Hawaii residents to vote or be charged a $100 fine. That triggered thousands of hits and hundreds of comments on KITV4’s Facebook Page. The debate keeps on raging. “I think it’s one of the worst ideas I’ve ever heard. You have a bunch of people who don’t have a clue about what they’re voting about and they have no business voting,” said Waialua resident Chuck Vowell. “I would agree — some fine on their taxes, or on their driver’s license. And a small fee or penalty to encourage them to vote, because we should. It’s your civic duty,” said real estate agent David Bautista.
Indiana lawmakers are taking up Republican-backed proposals to eliminate straight party-line voting on state ballots and require the use of voter identification numbers for mail-in absentee ballots, moves that Democrats argue will make voting more difficult and could hurt turnout. State House and Senate committees could vote this week on advancing election bills that include those topics, along with a provision that some lawmakers worry could lead to confusion over whether university students are allowed to vote in their college towns. Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma and other legislative leaders are squarely behind the proposal to no longer allow straight party-line voting with one click or mark of an election ballot. Some Republican and Democratic officials, however, are leery of the change, with concerns including longer lines at polling sites if voters need more time to complete their ballots. The proposal would allow only votes for candidates for each specific office on the ballot. They still would be identified by their party affiliations.
Democratic state lawmakers are again hoping to allow no-reason absentee voting in Michigan. Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson has said recently that more people who have died or moved out of state must be removed from the state’s voter registration database before lawmakers will agree to stop putting conditions on who can vote absentee. The state Bureau of Elections says significant progress has been made to clean up Michigan’s voter files. “We are (removing people from the files) much more quickly than we did before and probably more thoroughly than we did before,”
During this year’s State of the State Address, Governor Chris Christie stated that whether or not he runs for President, he will remain governor and be back to give next year’s speech. However, let’s say, hypothetically, that the Governor decides to step down early. It’s happened before, most recently with former Governors Whitman and McGreevey. It could happen to future governors. If a gubernatorial vacancy occurs now, the Lieutenant Governor would assume the Office of Governor. But only under certain circumstances would the Lieutenant Governor serve the duration of the gubernatorial term. Unlike a vacancy in the office of the President, when the Vice President takes over for the remainder of the term, the Lieutenant Governor completes the term only when a little over a year is left on the term. In every other circumstance, a special election must be held.
A piece of legislation that would put the decennial redistricting in New Mexico in the hands of an independent redistricting commission instead of the state legislature and governor failed in a Senate committee. “This is big,” Sen. Bill O’Neill said in reference to the changes the legislation would make. “This is huge. This is seismic.” The Senate Rules Committee voted overwhelmingly to table the bill, but not all because they disagreed with the bill itself or the sentiments the sponsor said brought him to introduce the legislation. The legislation is that “both the legislature and the executive do not make the final determination on the lines when it comes to redistricting,” according to O’Neill. “Rather an independent commission makes that final decision.