Nearly half a million people registered to vote for the 2015 general election as the deadline closed yesterday, smashing the previous single-day 24 hour record by more than 300,000 people. A total of 469,047 people used the online system to add their name to the electoral roll with a further 15,965 people registering by post. The last-minute rush saw a record-breaking day for voter registrations — the previous record for single-day sign-ups was 166,000 on 5 February 2015.
Washington is gridlocked. But nothing in Washington is as gridlocked as the Federal Election Commission. That includes party planning. This year is the 40th anniversary of the FEC, which was founded in the wake of Watergate. In figuring out how to mark the occasion, officials past and present argued about whether to rent a theater, whether to publish a report, whether to serve bagels or doughnuts, and whether, in fact, the agency even had an anniversary worth noting. “Actually, the FEC isn’t really 40, having been declared unconstitutional not once but twice, first in 1976, and as recently as 1993,” said Don McGahn, who served as a Republican commissioner from 2008 to 2013. “So, having turned 21, it is barely old enough to drink.”
At almost the same time last week that a Florida mailman was landing a gyrocopter in front of the U.S. Capitol to protest the influence of the wealthy on politics, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was getting pressed about the same topic at a town hall meeting in Londonderry, N.H. “I think what is corrupting in this potentially is we don’t know where the money is coming from,” Christie (R) told Valerie Roman of Windham, N.H. The two moments, occurring 466 miles apart, crystallized how money in politics is unexpectedly a rising issue in the 2016 campaign.
When the Supreme Court struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, its main argument was that the law was outdated. Discrimination against minority voters may have been pervasive in the 1960s when the law was passed, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. wrote, but “nearly 50 years later, things have changed dramatically.” In this simplistic account, the law was still punishing states and local governments for sins they supposedly stopped committing years ago. The chief justice’s destructive cure for this was to throw out the formula Congress devised in 1965 that required all or parts of 16 states with long histories of overt racial discrimination in voting, most in the South, to get approval from the federal government for any proposed change to their voting laws. This process, known as preclearance, stopped hundreds of discriminatory new laws from taking effect, and deterred lawmakers from introducing countless more. But Chief Justice Roberts, writing for a 5-4 majority, invalidated the formula because “today’s statistics tell an entirely different story.” Well, do they?
The counting and recounting is over, and the legal challenge to the election of Chula Vista City Councilman John McCann that ended this week didn’t change the outcome — McCann won the seat by an incredibly narrow margin of two votes. But the implications of the race, and how a handful of provisional ballots were handled by election officials, may extend far beyond Chula Vista, and McCann’s defeat of challenger Steve Padilla. The legal challenge filed by attorney and Padilla supporter John Moot failed when San Diego Superior Court judge Eddie Sturgeon ruled county Registrar of Voters acted properly when he excluded a handful of votes.
Three months after being sworn in, Secretary of State Wayne Williams has mostly stayed out of the news, and that’s the way he likes it. It’s a marked contrast from Williams’s predecessor, fellow Republican Scott Gessler, an election law attorney who embraced the nickname “honey badger,” a varmint known for the relentlessness of its attack. Where Gessler seemingly courted controversy — and was the target of one complaint after another from Democrats — Williams is taking a more conciliatory approach, working closely with county clerks across the state and stressing his office’s mission providing services to voters, businesses and nonprofit groups. “The role, once you’re in there, isn’t about which party you’re in, it’s how you serve the citizens,” Williams said in an interview with The Colorado Statesman. “There are some things I might do differently than another individual, but I try to work very hard to make sure this government office operates the way we would if we were trying to attract customers.”
Despite opposition from the governor’s top elections official, legislation that would allow Floridians to register to vote online was sent to the Senate floor Thursday. Meanwhile, the House delayed a floor vote on a similar measure because of a question about $1.8 million that would be needed to fund creation of the new high-tech application. The Senate Appropriations Committee, in a 10-4 vote, backed a measure (SB 228) that would require the state Division of Elections to develop an online voter-registration application by Oct. 1, 2017, a year later than proposed earlier. “I admit I have some concerns about this bill, and they’re not concerns about the bill itself,” said Sen. Jeff Clemens, a Lake Worth Democrat who is sponsoring the bill. “It’s about whether or not the agency is actually going to do what we tell them to do, or find excuses to not do it again. And that’s concerns me.”
Online voting registration is an idea whose time has come. And why not? It’s favored by all 67 election supervisors in the state, most legislators and the League of Women Voters. Currently, Florida law says those registering to vote must mail or deliver a paper registration form to an elections office, or they can apply when getting a driver’s license at the Division of Motor Vehicles. After confirming eligibility to vote, the elections office then must manually transfer prospective voters’ information into its computer database — not a very nimble process. If Floridians could register online, the information could more easily and more accurately be transferred. But the idea is getting a lot of pushback from Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who also is the state’s elections chief. In the past two weeks, Mr. Detzner has testified before two state Senate committees. Each time, he offered up dire consequences for online voter registration.
Justice Department officials have reached an agreement with Illinois election officials to help ensure military members, their family members and U.S. citizens living overseas get their absentee ballots in time to vote in the upcoming special primary election and special election. The special election is being held to fill the vacant seat in the 18th congressional district resulting from the resignation of Republican Rep. Aaron Schock on March 31. The agreement establishes July 7 as the date for the special primary election; and Sept. 10 as the date for the special election. Under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Voting Act, election officials must transmit ballots to military and overseas voters at least 45 days before the upcoming election, including special elections.
After initially rejecting Secretary of State Jon Husted’s request for $1.25 million to mail absentee-ballot applications statewide in 2016, Ohio lawmakers will include the measure in the two-year budget. Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, said Wednesday that lawmakers were still “vetting” the budget rolled out by House Republicans the day before. But Rosenberger’s office announced yesterday the funding will be added. “We want to give Ohioans as much opportunity to vote as possible, and this amendment will help accomplish that,” Rosenberger said in a news release.
The delays in counting votes and the trouble handling party symbol votes that plagued the 2014 election will repeat themselves in 2016, unless the Legislature acts or a lawsuit is filed and won in the next several months, elections officials told the V.I. Legislature this week. The Legislature met as the Committee of the Whole on Tuesday evening to hear from elections officials. The territory purchased new vote tabulating machines after Adelbert Bryan, who was at the time the St. Croix Elections Board chairman, waged a campaign to get rid of the territory’s previous machines, alleging, without evidence, possible widespread conspiracies to rig the territory’s elections and making numerous dubious claims about the old machines. In a test run shortly before the general election in 2014, the brand new ES&S ballot tabulators counted votes in a surprising way, due to the unique V.I. electoral system where senators vie to be the top seven vote-getters in their district.
Editorials: Virginia lawmakers should have listened to the governor on voting machines | Richmond Times-Dispatch
In late December, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said the state should shell out $28 million to buy new voting machines for every locality in the commonwealth. The Republican-controlled General Assembly said no. That money sure would come in handy now, wouldn’t it? Last week, the State Board of Elections decreed that voting machines used by more than two dozen localities — including Richmond, Henrico and Fairfax — could no longer be used. The WinVote machines, some of which don’t work well because of age, are vulnerable to hacking. Quite vulnerable, apparently. The decision leaves localities scrambling to scrape up nearly $7 million so they can replace hundreds of machines before the June 9 primaries. Primaries tend to be low-turnout affairs, but you never know who might show up, so localities will have to open — and, for those affected, re-equip — all the precinct polling places in contested districts.
Two dissident candidates conceded defeat Sunday in Cuban local elections that offered them a chance to become the first officials elected from outside the Communist Party in 40 years. Hildebrando Chaviano and Yuniel Lopez had been chosen as candidates by a show of hands in Havana neighborhood nominating meetings and hoped to win two of the 12,589 seats at stake in 168 municipal councils. Both acknowledged they had no chance of winning after preliminary results showed Chaviano in last place of four candidates and one of Lopez’s pro-government opponent with twice his vote. Chaviano, 65, is a government attorney-turned-independent journalist and Lopez, 26, is an unemployed member of a dissident political party.
Finland’s opposition Centre Party came out on top in Sunday’s general election, far ahead of the parties in Prime Minister Alexander Stubb’s left-right coalition, partial results showed. If the results were to be confirmed, Centre Party leader Juha Sipila, a 53-year-old IT millionaire and newcomer to politics, would become Finland’s next prime minister. More than a third of the electorate cast their ballots in advance voting and with most of those counted, the Centre Party was seen taking 47 of 200 seats in parliament, a projection by public radio and television YLE showed. The Social Democrats were seen taking 38 seats, Stubb’s conservative National Coalition Party 37 seats, and the rightwing eurosceptic Finns Party 33 seats.
After three years of delayed polls and simmering political unrest, Haiti’s rusty electoral machinery is finally grinding into gear. By the end of the year, the impoverished Caribbean republic ought to have a newly elected president, parliament and local municipal governments — a test for any developing nation. Haitians have not been able to vote in an election since popular singer Michel Martelly won the presidency in a controversial 2011 poll. Since then, presidential nominees have replaced elected mayors in many towns and the Senate and House of Representatives have shrunk away. But the long delay has not dampened the ambition of Haiti’s political elite.
It may seem fairly obvious, but only those people who fulfil particular requirements are given voting rights in an election. In Japan, voters must be Japanese citizens aged 20 or over and have a registered address in a municipality within a relevant electoral district for more than three months. According to the Public Offices Elections Law, exploiting this requirement by moving one’s residential registration to another municipality — just on paper — for the purpose of voting, while continuing to reside in an original municipality, is illegal. But this kind of electoral fraud is a prevalent and deeply rooted problem in the Japanese electoral process.
Kazakhstani legislation governing elections should be improved, a Tengrinews correspondent reports from the international conference in Astana dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the Constitution of Kazakhstan referring to Aleksei Kartsov, an expert of the International Institute of Monitoring Democracy Development, Parliamentary and Electoral Rights of citizens at the auspices of the Interparliamentary Assembly of CIS. “The regulatory control of the election process in Kazakhstan has space for improvement to better comply with international obligations related to elections undertaken by the country,” Kartsov said.