Earlier this month, Oregon became the first state in the nation to automatically register voters using data from the Department of Motor Vehicles, a move that stands in contrast to voting restrictions many states have enacted in recent years. “I challenge every other state in this nation to examine their policies and find ways to ensure that there are as few barriers as possible in the way of a citizen’s right to vote,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) said at the bill’s signing ceremony. Most Americans are in favor of enacting a similar proposal in their own state, a new survey finds. A 54 percent majority of Americans say they’d favor an automatic registration law in their state, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds, while 55 percent favor allowing eligible citizens to register on the day of an election.
Voting rights, according to Harvard Kennedy School assistant professor of public policy Maya Sen, are fundamentally a question of numbers: How many people were eligible to vote? What number actually registered? And who, among those who registered, ended up casting a ballot? Though this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), the celebration is somewhat subdued for many: in the 2013 decision Shelby County v. Holder, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key part of the VRA. Using data to argue for what the act had already achieved, Chief Justice John Roberts ’76, J.D. ’79, writing for the majority, invalidated a portion of the law that used a formula based on historical voting patterns to determine which counties and states needed to be monitored more closely. “All of these questions”—of the history, efficacy, and continued necessity of the Voting Rights Act—“turn on data collection and analysis,” Sen explained at a Thursday event hosted by the Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. At the event, part of the center’s Challenges to Democracy series, Sen spoke with two fellow political scientists—professor of government Stephen Ansolabehere, and Indiana University assistant professor Bernard Fraga, Ph.D. ’13—and New York Times data journalist Nate Cohn.
Midway into a three-and-a-half-hour congressional hearing this week featuring Mary Jo White, the chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, none of the legislators had bothered to ask if or when her agency would require that corporations disclose their political spending. The bipartisan silence testified to the growing importance to both parties of anonymous campaign donations. With each passing year since 2010, when the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United opened the floodgates to secretive political giving, politicians appear to value so-called dark money more and value disclosure of unnamed donors less.
A change in voting equipment across the state may be on the horizon, according to discussion at Friday’s meeting of the Mississippi County Election Commission. Tom Wiktorek, who was voted chairman of the commission Friday, said because of security concerns, discussion at the March 19 Arkansas County Election Commissions Associations conference centered around the possibility of returning to a paper ballot voting system.
Hartford’s registrar has filed a complaint in court as the city moves forward with plans to remove her after issues at the polls this past election, according to her attorney. Olga Vazquez filed a complaint against the city of Hartford and the Court of Common Council, including Kyle Anderson, Alexander Aponte, Joel Cruz, Jr., Raul de Jesus Jr., Cynthia Renee Jennings, Kenneth H. Kennedy Jr., David MacDonald and Shawn T. Wooden, arguing that a section in Hartford’s charter allowing the removal of elected officials defies Connecticut’s constitution and is therefore illegal, according to the complaint filed March 28. The provision is in Section 3a, Chapter IV of the city’s 2002 charter revision.
A Democratic state lawmaker in Maine urged his colleagues on Monday to support a proposal that would strip the governor of his power to fill vacancies in the U.S. Senate. If one of the U.S. senators representing Maine — Republican Susan Collins and Independent Angus King — were to step down this month, Republican Gov. Paul LePage could appoint a replacement until voters choose a new senator in November 2016. But Democratic Rep. Matt Moonen wants to require that a special primary election is held no later than 100 days after a vacancy occurs, followed by a special general election.
A Nevada state Senate committee has introduced legislation that would eliminate early voting on Sundays and restrict counties’ abilities to set their own voting hours, in the latest move to reshape how elections are held in the state. Senate Bill 433 was introduced on Monday by the Nevada Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections. Under the terms of the bill, voting on Sundays during the early voting period ahead of next year’s elections would no longer be allowed, and counties would no longer be able to keep their polls open beyond 7 p.m. Previously, polling sites in areas like Clark County, which contains Las Vegas, had kept polls open until 9 p.m. State Sen. Patricia Farley (R), who chairs the committee that introduced the early voting legislation, and state Sen. James Settelmeyer (R), the committee’s vice chair, did not respond to a request for comment from The Huffington Post about why they introduced the bill.
New Hampshire voters would be required to live in the state for 30 days prior to voting if a bill passed by the state Senate on Thursday goes into effect. Supporters called it a reasonable effort to avoid ‘‘drive-by’’ voting and other voter fraud, but opponents said the bill will disenfranchise some. ‘‘We always say if you didn’t vote you don’t have any right to complain,’’ said state Senator Lou D’Allesandro, a Democrat. ‘‘Well, if we don’t allow you to vote then you have every right to complain.’’ The Republican-controlled Senate passed the measure along party lines.
North Carolina lawmakers now have one more reason to revisit the state’s discriminatory legislative and congressional maps: The U.S. Supreme Court seems inclined to eventually make them do so. The Court ruled 5-4 last week that Alabama wrongly packs black voters into too few legislative districts, diluting their votes. It’s a decision that might be instructive to N.C. Republicans, who like Democrats before them have drawn legislative districts that give their party the best chance of staying in power. Republicans, however, have taken the tactic to a new level of distastefulness, and the state’s 2011 map is being challenged on similar grounds as the Alabama case. The N.C. challenge is pending before the Supreme Court. In Alabama, like North Carolina, lawmakers have insisted that their districts are lawful. In fact, Alabama’s attorneys argued to the Supreme Court that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 required those who drew the voting maps to maintain certain percentages of black voters in majority black districts. That, attorneys said, forced lawmakers to cluster minorities into fewer districts.
The transportation budget bill that the General Assembly has sent Gov. John Kasich includes a noxious amendment that would discourage out-of-state college students from voting in Ohio. The governor should veto this irresponsible provision before he signs the bill. The Republican-controlled state Senate inserted the provision without public hearings or much debate. It would require people who want to vote in Ohio to get in-state driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations no later than 30 days after they register to vote. That mandate requires would-be voters to incur costs of $75 or more; violators could face criminal charges. The provision would particularly affect the 100,000-plus out-of-state students who attend Ohio colleges and universities.
With South Carolina poised to acquire a new election system to replace the mid-2000s system bought with federal funds, now is the time for citizens to get involved in what should be an open, transparent acquisition process. I recently chaired the annual conference of the Election Verification Network, which focused on the similar choices that local election officials face the nation over. The usual vendors are offering very few options, but virtually all jurisdictions are abandoning direct recording electronic systems like South Carolina’s and again adopting paper ballots that can be viewed by the voter, sampled and audited afterward, and provide a simpler system for poll workers.
Virginia: Supreme Court asks Virginia panel to reexamine redistricting decision | The Washington Post
The Supreme Court Monday told a federal judicial panel in Virginia to take another look at its decision that lawmakers improperly packed minority voters into one congressional district.The court without comment sent the case back following its decision last week in a similar case from Alabama.In that case, the court ruled 5 to 4 that lower court judges should look more closely at whether lawmakers made race the predominate factor in drawing new district lines after the 2010 census.
Australia: NSW state election 2015: Legal challenge looms over upper house iVote error | Sydney Morning Herald
A micro-party that is gunning for the final spot in the NSW upper house is likely to mount a legal challenge if it loses, potentially sending voters back to the ballot box. The Animal Justice Party is battling it out with the No Land Tax Party, and the three major parties, for the last of 21 upper house seats being contested at Saturday’s election. However an early hiccup with the state’s electronic voting system, iVote, saw AJP and another party left off the “above the line” section of the ballot paper. About 19,000 votes were cast before iVote was suspended and the problem, which was due to human error, was fixed.
Election officials worked into the night Monday counting the results from Nigeria’s tight presidential vote, while the U.S. and Britain warned of “disturbing indications” the tally could be subject to political interference. Early returns gave former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari seven states while incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan had five, including the Federal Capital Territory. But results from another 25 states were still to be tallied, and 22 states had not yet delivered their results to the counting center in Abuja, indicating a winner could not be announced before Tuesday. As expected, Buhari swept two major northern states of Kano and Kaduna, delivering crushing defeats to Jonathan there. In Kano, the state with the second-largest number of voters, Buhari had 1.9 million votes to Jonathan’s 216,000.
We do everything online – book doctors’ appointments, manage our bank accounts and find dates – but we still can’t yet vote from our PCs or smartphones. By 2020 that should be set to change, with a government report calling for online voting to be trialled again by that year. But critics continue to call for caution, saying electronic voting isn’t secure enough to trust for the basis of our democracy – and may never be. The UK has run trials for local elections before – in 2002, 2003 and 2007 – and Estonia famously became the first to offer online voting for its general election for parliament in 2007. However, Meg Hillier, Labour MP and member of the digital commission that wrote the 2020 report, admitted that the team was “not set up to investigate in detail the issues of security and the mechanisms for delivering that,” hoping that the Electoral Commission “and others will take that on”. … Despite spending years developing GNU.FREE, an open-source online voting system, Jason Kitcat – leader of Brighton and Hove City Council – isn’t a fan of e-voting (nor is his party). “Through working on this I came to the conclusion, now shared by most computer scientists, that e-voting cannot be delivered securely and reliably with current technology. So I stopped developing the system but continued to campaign on and research the issues,” he said. That includes observing e-voting and e-counting systems used in the UK and Estonia. His reports don’t make for encouraging reading.
Uzbek strongman Islam Karimov cruised to a new five-year term Monday after facing a minimal challenge, prompting withering criticism from Western observers. The election commission in the tightly controlled Central Asian state said Karimov, 77, won more than 90 percent of the vote in Sunday’s presidential election to extend his 25 years in power, with voter turnout reaching 91 percent. None of the three challengers — all fielded by parties that are openly supportive of Karimov’s rule — troubled the incumbent, scoring in the single digits.
Rep. Susan Davis has re-introduced two of her election reform bills to “restore integrity to federal elections and end constraints placed on voters who want to vote by mail, known as absentee,” her office said Thursday. Rep. Susan Davis, who represents California’s 53rd District. The Universal Right to Vote by Mail Act would end restrictions many states impose on a person’s ability to vote absentee, such as requiring a doctor’s note, the details of a religious obligation, latest pregnancy status or details of a vacation destination.
The Commissioners have had a very busy couple of weeks hosting and visiting important members of the election community and listening to ideas, priorities and the appropriate role of the EAC now that it is reconstituted. At our recent Next Steps roundtable, we solicited opinions from a range of stakeholders: local and state election administrators, officials, legislative representatives, vendors, technology advisors, the accessibility community, advocacy and interest groups, and commissioners from the Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA). The Co-Chairs of the PCEA kicked off our event with some encouraging, and, frankly, sobering, words on how the EAC is now positioned to follow up on the PCEA’s work. Bob Bauer set a very high standard for the EAC by saying, “The newly invigorated Election Assistance Commission will provide for a new beginning here in the United States about how to improve the voting experience for millions of voters.” Ben Ginsburg told us that he believes “the work the EAC does is tremendously important; the EAC will play a major role in finding solutions to impending crises in voting technology” in addition to its clearinghouse and research functions. Both Co-Chairs stressed that a bipartisan approach to election administration is critical. All the EAC Commissioners agree and we are committed to operating in a friendly, bipartisan manner.
The Alabama Legislature will probably get another chance to draw the state’s House and Senate maps if a lower court rules against the current one, and special elections in at least a handful of districts are at least possible. But how many elections; when they will take place and what the final map will look like will largely depend on how the legal and political processes play out, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling Wednesday that reversed a lower court decision upholding the state’s 2012 redistricting plan. At least a handful of districts will likely need new boundaries. “It creates a domino effect, because you can’t change the boundaries of one district without changing boundaries of a another district,” said Michael Li, redistricting counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, in a phone interview Thursday. “The normal pattern would be to give the Legislature the chance to fix it themselves.”
Every eligible Californian with a driver’s license would be automatically registered to vote under a proposal Thursday by Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who estimated it would add millions of people to the voter rolls. Padilla and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) are modeling their legislation on a “motor voter” law signed last week by the governor of Oregon in an attempt to boost voter turnout. The California proposal is partly in response to the 42% record low turnout in California’s November election, as well as this month’s Los Angeles election, which saw about 10% of eligible voters go to the polls.
Due to a recent episode of John Oliver’s political satire HBO series “Last Week Tonight,” there has been renewed discussion about how the American president is elected. The episode’s premise, a premise supported by many on Guam, is that U.S. territories are not equal to the U.S. mainland because U.S. citizens in the territories are denied the right to vote for president. That premise is completely wrong and needs to be corrected. When it comes to voting for president, Guam is very much equal to the U.S. mainland in that even citizens on the mainland do not have the right to vote for the president. The U.S. Constitution has never given the people at large the right to vote for president. The only people in the U.S. who possess the constitutional right to vote for president are the people chosen to be electors (see the U.S. Constitution, Article II, section 1, clause 2, and the 12th Amendment ratified in 1804).
Marilyn Watkins of McComb was convicted of shoplifting in 1999 and sentenced to three years of probation. She never had been charged with a crime prior to the shoplifting conviction and hasn’t been accused of any criminal activity since. The one thing her shoplifting conviction cost her is the right to vote. Last week, restoring the right to vote to Watkins was one of four such bills the House Judiciary B Committee voted to send to the full House. “It will mean everything to me to be able to vote again,” Watkins said in a phone interview. “I drive people to the polls to vote, and it hurts that I can’t vote myself. It has been weighing on my shoulders for a long time.”
One last-minute ballot measure affecting utility rates was introduced Wednesday, while backers decided not to pursue another referendum for “top-two” primary elections that was drafted and ready to go. Wednesday was the deadline for legislators to introduce statutory referendums or constitutional initiatives. A dozen bills have been introduced to ask voters in 2016 to approve laws or constitutional amendments, and they remain alive at the Legislature. Rep. Tom Woods, D-Bozeman, introduced House Bill 638. It’s a statutory referendum to deny a electric utility automatic rate changes to cover costs of a plant outage. Senate Republicans decided not to proceed with a referendum drafted for Sen. Fred Thomas, R-Stevensville, which would have created the “top-two” primary election for certain offices.
If county boards of elections are mandated by the state to use electronic pollbooks as part of future elections then most elections officials want the state to provide funding to purchase the equipment or provide reimbursement for previously purchased systems. The Ohio Association of Elections Officials District 8 met March 25 at Classic Park in Eastlake to discuss common concerns about issues, share best practices, meet with Ohio Secretary of State Office staff, and to network with their peers. District 8 consists of representatives from Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina and Summit counties were in attendance.
Legislation that would remove Texas judges from the straight-ticket voting process garnered a mostly cool reception Tuesday at a Texas House committee hearing, as both Democrats and Republicans said that tinkering with the ballot turns off voters. House Bill 25, authored by state Rep. Kenneth Sheets, R-Dallas, would only impact partisan elections in judicial races. Sheets, an attorney, told his fellow House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee members that good judges are being unfairly ousted when a Republican or Democratic wave occurs during a general election. “We’re not eliminating straight-ticketing voting,” Sheets said Tuesday. “We’re just making it so voters would have to manually select, and the thought process is that more people would select the judicial candidate [based] on the individual.”
Australia: There’s a huge design flaw in the NSW online voting system which Labor wouldn’t be happy about | Business Insider
New South Wales goes to the polls today and despite incumbent Liberal Premier Mike Baird being the clear favourite there’s a huge design flaw on the online voting platform which could cost the Labor government votes. It’s all got to do with the user experience of the NSW Electoral Commission’s online iVote system which is clunky to start with. After registering to use the platform and figuring out how to commence the voting process the ballot paper for the lower house appears on the screen, all candidates can be viewed, you can scroll up and down, fine. The problem becomes apparent when voting above or below the line. Even when the paper is enlarged on a 24 inch monitor, it doesn’t render to fit so this is what voters see. However, to the right of that are all the other options (including the Labor party). And while there are big red arrows at the top, that’s not where a user usually focusses their attention, a user experience designer, who wished to not be named, told Business Insider.
One month after polls took place, El Salvador’s rival parties are still disputing the results of the Central American country’s national elections. On Wednesday, March 25, the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) began opening more than 200 ballot boxes in the San Salvador department to determine which party obtained the final seat. The Democratic Change (CD) party challenged an initial vote count after the results in the race for congress in the department were published on Sunday, March 22, almost one month after the election date. “The review in San Salvador could impact” the results, TSE Judge Fernando Argüello Téllez told press.
Tensions were building in Nigeria on Sunday as partial results from presidential elections, posted unofficially on the internet, raised expectations of an unprecedented opposition victory for former military ruler, Muhammadu Buhari. Aides to President Goodluck Jonathan insisted the incumbent was still on course to secure the result and cautioned against numbers that had yet to be given a final stamp of approval by the Independent National Electoral Commission. “There is lots of hype and both sides are selectively putting up things on line. But we have been collecting results from units across the country,” said Deameari Von Kemedi, a lead campaigner for Mr Jonathan. “According to our own internal projections, although we do not have the complete picture yet, we project a Jonathan victory.”
The Nigerian presidential elections are in full swing. And as if the Independent Nigerian Electoral Commission doesn’t have enough things to worry about, their website just got hacked by some people calling themselves the Nigerian Cyber Army. As is customary, there is a rambling signature left by the hackers, in place of the usual website. It’s not like the website is essential to the elections or anything. Their software and servers are likely not pointed to that url. This, as far as I can tell, has absolutely no bearing on the outcome of the election, which is more physical than digital. It’s more of egg on their face. We are reaching out to INEC for comment. “Sorry x0 Your Site has been STAMPED by TeaM Nigerian Cyber Army. FEEL SOME SHAME ADMIN!!”, the hackers said on the defaced site.
There’s still hope for automated elections in 2016. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said that if it pushed through with the bidding for the lease of 23,000 optical mark reader (OMR) machines, the 2016 balloting could still be automated even if the Supreme Court junked with finality its deal with longtime technology partner Smartmatic to repair the 80,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) units. “If we push through with the bidding now, we will have 23,000 (OMR) machines. So we can do it. It can be done. It’s really just a question of how you’re going to marshal your resources,” said Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez in an interview with reporters on Friday. The Comelec is currently conducting a public bidding for the lease of the 23,000 OMR units set to be used to supplement the 81,000 PCOS machines, whose repair by Smartmatic under a P268.8-million contract with the election body has been stopped by the Supreme Court last week.