President Obama’s call to renew the VRA is DOA on Capitol Hill—despite the best efforts of a conservative Republican congressman. Wisconsin Republican Jim Sensenbrenner is nobody’s idea of a pussycat. A combative conservative and former chair of the House Judiciary committee, he vowed more than a year ago to restore the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court in 2013 overturned a key section monitoring states that had been past offenders. He said the historic civil-rights legislation “is vital to our commitment to never again permit racial prejudices in our electoral process.” He promised action before the 2014 election. There’s no question that Sensenbrenner’s commitment is real, but the legislative fix that he fashioned is stalled in Congress and going nowhere. This is despite the fact that one of his principle co-sponsors is Democratic Rep. John Lewis, a civil-rights icon who marched in Selma last weekend to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the VRA.
Voting Blogs: New Paper Uses Google Web Search Data to Suggest EDR Could Have Added 3-4 Million Voters in 2012 | Election Academy
My friend and colleague Mike Alvarez of CalTech shared a new paper appearing in Political Analysis yesterday that not only has interesting conclusions about the effect of registration deadlines but also suggests that readily-available but under-appreciated data on web searches could help us get a better handle on how voters perceive the election process. The paper, “Estimating Voter Registration Deadline Effects with Web Search Data” by Alex Street, Thomas Murray, John Blitzer and Rajan Patel, dives into the search data available via the Google Trends website and examines when in 2012 people searched for voter registration in comparison to registration deadlines.
A state House committee postponed a vote Friday on a bill to do away with at-large city board seats in towns with a city manager form of government. This is the second time in recent years Rep. John Walker,D-Little Rock, proposed legislation eliminating at-large seats, which are elected through a citywide vote instead of by residents in a defined geographical zone. Walker filed a similar bill in 2011 that didn’t make it out of committee. The House Committee on City, County and Local Affairs ran out of time discussing House Bill 1952 on Friday and agreed to take up the bill again Wednesday. Walker said his legislation would ensure the “one-man, one-vote” principle “to make sure that each citizen’s vote counts equally.” He and other black activists have long argued having at-large positions on the Little Rock board disenfranchises black voters and candidates.
Alarmed by the dismal voter turnout in this month’s Los Angeles city election, California lawmakers are considering a massive expansion of vote-by-mail balloting and legalizing pop-up polling stations at shopping malls to help increase the convenience and appeal of voting. Opening polling stations weeks early and allowing teenagers to vote in primaries if they turn 18 by the general election, strategies already being used in Colorado and Oregon respectively, also are being debated. Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) said he felt compelled to take action after California saw a record low turnout in the November 2014 state election. His commitment to change the system took on new urgency after only about 10% of eligible voters in Los Angeles participated in the March 3 municipal election. “My heart sinks. It’s just horrible. It’s embarrassing,” Hertzberg said. “It just puts a lot less meaning on the democratic process. We’ve got to do something to change the game.” Hertzberg filed legislation to provide vote-by-mail ballots to all registered voters during elections, no longer requiring them to request one. It’s among the nearly 20 bills that have been introduced to encourage greater turnout.
Bills to change state campaign finance rules have passed each chamber of the Georgia Legislature. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Friday (http://bit.ly/1wFwfrE) that the Georgia House passed a bill loosening restrictions on campaign donations and the Senate passed a measure requiring a higher burden of proof when fining local politicians over late campaign finance reports.
Former Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s two-year, $250,000 witch hunt ended ignobly Friday. Schultz’s successor, Republican Paul Pate, dropped his office’s Iowa Supreme Court appeal of a lower court ruling that held Schultz overstepped his authority in a crackdown on immigrant voters. Schultz had broad-based GOP support as a candidate condemning what he suggested was widespread voter fraud, particularly by documented immigrants who were not citizens. Schultz’s exhaustive investigation compared voter registration lists with federal and state immigration lists, including the federal database used to verify entitlement benefits. So instead of targeting the behavior based on evidence of unlawful voting, Schultz went hunting for voters he suspected might be immigrants.
A panel with a Republican majority split along party lines on Friday to approve a bill requiring voters to present photo identification before casting election ballots. Similar requirements enacted in other states have ignited controversy and costly court battles; critics contend voter ID laws disenfranchise eligible voters from low-income and minority communities. The legislation now heads to the House floor. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, said HB 340 was drafted to safeguard the integrity of the elections process while also passing constitutional muster.
Aging voting machines have been a concern for election officials. Secretary of State Job Husted estimates it would cost $200 million to replace all the machines in the state, but the federal money that paid for them about a decade ago is gone. While there does not appear to be a crisis on the horizon, Assistant Public Affairs Editor Michelle Everhart notes that Husted expects isolated problems will occur. So what is the solution? Husted said punch-card ballots are the most cost-effective system for running elections, but those are illegal now. Then there is voting by mail only, which Oregon does, but Husted said, “We in Ohio seem to be wed to an all-of-the-above strategy, and there is a cost to that.”
With more than a third of Oklahoma’s eligible voters not even registered, lawmakers are considering allowing online registration to make the process more convenient and renew interest in elections. An online voter registration bill that received bipartisan support in the Senate is among several measures regarding Oklahoma’s election process that are pending as the session passed the deadline for proposed legislation to be considered in the chamber of origin.
Tennessee’s voter ID law may have its day in court now that a group of college students has filed a federal lawsuit alleging the state is violating rights guaranteed to them by the U.S. Constitution. At issue is the exclusion of student ID cards from the accepted list of voter IDs. Jon Sherman, an attorney with the Fair Elections Legal Network, is representing the students. “The state has discriminated against students and discriminated on the basis of age,” he states. “They’ve made it easier for older voters to cast ballots without showing ID and made it harder and harder for students to cast their votes.”
Lynchburg is test-driving new voting machines in hopes of replacing its current system’s machines that are nearing 10 to 20 years in age. The electoral board has assembled a focus group of precinct officials, disability community advocates and political party representatives to meet with the four vendors who’ve either been certified by the state or are in the process of being certified. The board has been making the case for a new citywide system for some time now, and City Manager Kimball Payne’s new budget proposal recommends earmarking $300,000 for the project. The new balloting system, if given the green light by City Council, would rely on paper ballots, as a 2007 state law bars the purchase of new touch screen voting machines.
While Pakistan’s opposition parties are still arguing about alleged rigging in the 2013 general elections, a former chief election commissioner (CEC) of India has revealed similar stories from the general elections held in his country last year. In his book An Undocumented Wonder: The Making of the Great Indian Election, which juxtaposes the electoral system of India and other countries, Dr SY Quraishi suggests some key electoral reforms to improve the electoral process. He said the 2014 polls had witnessed more violence, hate speeches and violations than the previous elections, adding that many senior leaders had launched a frontal attack on the Election Commission of India (ECI) for all this mess.
Kazakhstan is gearing up for presidential elections again, and in anticipation of this April 26 event, incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbayev, has accepted the nomination to contest from the nation’s ruling Nur Otan Party. Cutting across party lines, politicians and academicians have unanimously described him as a worthy candidate for the post, and in the last week, when the proposal was put to a vote, it was supported by all 1200 Congress delegates, which was indicative of the huge popularity he enjoys. Accepting the proposal to contest for the post of president again, Nazarbayev said that he had only one goal in his mind, and that was to tackle all new complex tasks for the benefit of the citizens of Kazakhstan. “Building on our successes, we must move forward,” he emphasized.
More than 30 percent out of around 2 millions Lithuanians eligible to vote cast their votes in the run-off of the first direct mayoral elections of Lithuania on Sunday. According to the Central Electoral Commission (CEC), voting activity amounted to 32.2 percent until 19:00 local time (1700 GMT), in comparison with almost 40 percent in the first round of elections held two weeks ago in conjunction with municipal elections to city and town councils. Voting stations closed at 20:00. During the early voting earlier this week, 5.13 percent of voters expressed their will, according to the data from the CEC.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) concluded its final meeting with all registered political parties Thursday ahead of the March 28 election. Nick Dazang, INEC’s deputy director for public affairs, told VOA, “We updated them about our preparations to conduct the 2015 general elections. We were able to explain to them the procedures and the guidelines for these elections. We were also able to explain to them the ballots and the colors of the ballots and the papers that would be used on Election Day.” Some political parties, including President Jonathan’s ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), expressed concern about the use of the voter card reader machines the election body plans to use during the poll. The parties said at the meeting the machines should not be used, arguing that millions of prospective voters could be disenfranchised during the poll.