While issues like early voting, voter registration and voter ID have certainly grabbed the headlines of late, another elections issue will literally be in front thousands of voters in 2016, new voting systems. Nationwide many states and counties will have to move to new voting systems for the first time in more than a decade in advance of the 2016 election cycle. For some jurisdictions the switch to a new voting system was mandated by state legislatures that wanted to move to paper-based systems. For others, it’s a matter of age. Many states and counties replaced their voting machines following the 2002 election and in a world where people replace their phones every two years and personal computers almost as frequently, 10+-year old voting machines are, well, old. Although budgeting and procurement are certainly taking center stage now, soon enough it will be training and voter education. It’s a lot to get done with an election calendar that grows shorter as more and more states jockey for position with their elections calendars.
The agency instructed to treat corporations as people – at least when it comes to their right to spend money on political speech – isn’t sure if its own commissioners are. During a fraught exchange at Thursday’s Federal Election Commission monthly meeting, a Republican commissioner said none of the six panel members should be counted as a “person” when it comes to petitioning their own agency. This led to a strange back and forth between Matthew Petersen, a Republican, and Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat, over her personhood. “First of all, let me say I cannot believe that you are actually going to take the position that I am not a person…a corporation is a person, but I’m not a person?” Weintraub fired back. “That’s how bad it has gotten. My colleagues will not admit that I am a person. That’s really striking.”
Why force citizens to register in order to vote?Secretary of State Alex Padilla raised that question this year when he proposed a law that would automatically register every eligible voter with a driver’s license. “One of the biggest barriers to citizen participation is the voter registration process,” he said. “A new, enhanced California motor-voter law would strengthen our democracy.”Many Democrats in Sacramento — and beyond — agree.Oregon’s governor recently signed an automatic voter registration bill. And this month, Hillary Rodham Clinton called for automatic, universal voter registration as well as a 20-day early voting window. She also accused her Republican rivals of “a sweeping effort to disempower and disenfranchise people of color, poor people and young people from one end of our country to the other.” It is generally thought that automatic voter registration would benefit Democrats and hurt Republicans. So it’s safe to assume that politicians on both sides of the aisle are biased by that knowledge. Still, it’s possible to set partisan considerations aside and have an apolitical, substantive debate on the issue.
Arkansas must be more aggressive in replacing antiquated ballot counters and touch-screen voting machines or risk delayed results and equipment problems in the 2016 elections, election officials said Wednesday. Election commissioners and coordinators from Benton, Carroll, Crawford, Madison and Washington counties met with several state legislators for a roundtable covering voting equipment, election schedules and other issues. Those from Benton, Crawford and Washington counties in particular said the plan to replace all 75 counties’ decade-old equipment doesn’t have the needed urgency. “We need answers,” said Bill Taylor, a commissioner for Crawford County. “If we’re going to do it, we need to just do it. We need to proceed.”
New Jersey Democrats are pushing a set of measures to increase voter registration and expand access to the polls, citing new lows in turnout in recent elections. The proposed overhaul, announced Monday by Democratic leaders in the Senate and Assembly, would allow for early in-person voting for two weeks, through the Sunday before the Tuesday election – similar to a measure Gov. Christie previously vetoed. To increase the ranks of registered voters, lawmakers propose measures that include same-day and online registration, and automatic registration for people receiving driver’s licenses or state identification cards from the Motor Vehicle Commission unless they opt out. “I’m curious to see who’s going to oppose this,” Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) said at a Statehouse news conference, where he was joined by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D., Hudson) and others. “It’s about giving everybody a shot.”
Nearly two weeks before a federal trial is set to begin on the constitutionality of North Carolina’s voter ID rule and other election law changes made in 2013, the General Assembly has changed the rules. The N.C. Senate voted 44-2 Thursday to soften voter ID requirements set to go into effect next year, approving legislation that allows voters without photo IDs to cast provisional ballots. The House also approved the bill a few hours later in a 104-3 vote, sending it to Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk. The bill, similar to a South Carolina law that was allowed to take effect in 2013, sets up a process for voters to use a “reasonable impediment declaration” outlining why they couldn’t provide a photo ID at the polls. Voters could claim one of eight reasons, including a lack of transportation, disability or illness, lost or stolen photo ID, or a lack of a birth certificate or other documents to obtain a photo ID.
Republican Jeb Bush and Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton are asking donors to write the checks to get their campaigns started. Yet these “new” candidates have been fueling their presidential ambitions for months — years, in Clinton’s case — thanks to outside groups that will continue serving as big-money bank accounts throughout the race. In the 2016 presidential field, creative financing abounds. While donors can give a maximum $2,700 apiece per election to their favorite candidatdte’s campaign, the presidential contenders offer generous supporters plenty of other options. Outside groups that can accept checks of unlimited size include personalized super PACs that, while barred from directly coordinating with candidates, are often filled with their trusted friends. There are also “dark money” nonprofit policy groups that keep contributors’ names secret.
Sharon Harrington, Lee County supervisor of elections, rescinded her $890,000 request Wednesday to fix the issue of incompatible iPads. Harrington also said she would ask the county to audit her office following controversial purchases that nearly caused taxpayers to foot a bill of $1.6 million in incompatible iPads. The audit by Linda Doggett, Lee clerk of court, could start as soon as two weeks and take between two and three months at a cost of about $20,000. The audit will review the purchases, procedures and policies of Harrington.
Another Illinois county voted to ask former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock to pay for costs associated with electing his replacement in the 18th District. The McLean County Board approved sending a letter to the Peoria Republican asking him to pay $200,000 for the July 7 primary and Sept. 10 election, WJBC radio reported. Early voting has already started. The board noted that Schock’s congressional campaign committee had $3.3 million on hand when Schock resigned in March amid questions about his spending, including having his Washington office decorated in the style of the TV show “Downton Abbey.”
Michigan: With ‘stamp of security,’ no-reason absentee voting would require in-person ID | MLive.com
More Michigan residents could vote by mail — but they’d have to apply in person — under a new no-reason absentee ballot bill backed by Secretary of State Ruth Johnson. Johnson, testifying before the House Elections Committee on Tuesday, said the state is ready to join 27 others that allow no-reason absentee voting, “but with Michigan’s stamp of security.” House Bill 4724 would allow a registered voter who doesn’t otherwise qualify for an absentee ballot to obtain one by visiting his or her local clerk, filling out an application and showing a state identification card. A potential amendment would allow voters without an ID to sign an affidavit of identity.
Addressing hundreds of supporters while campaigning in Keene, N.H., last month, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) declared: “Let me tell you a secret: We’re going to win New Hampshire!” He has some reason to feel confident, given that a new poll put him just 10 percentage points behind front-runner Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary in the Granite State. But before he pops the champagne corks, I have a secret of my own to share with the senator: He may not qualify for the New Hampshire ballot as a Democrat. To understand why, let’s step back a bit. The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to set the time of federal elections but not the manner in which political parties choose their nominees. That process is left to the states. The New Hampshire Constitution empowers the legislature to determine the qualifications for those being elected to office (something in which I was closely involved when I chaired the committee with jurisdiction over state election law while a member of the state Senate). Pursuant to that power, state law makes clear that candidates must be registered members of the party on whose ballot line they wish to appear.
The laundry list of bills headed for final consideration on Smith Hill is mounting as lawmakers march toward a recess of the six-month legislative session as soon as next week. After swiftly passing the $8.7-billion budget unanimously Tuesday night, the House of Representatives turned its attention Wednesday to everything from electronic voter registration to powdered alcohol and chickens. That’s right, chickens. One bill that passed the House specifically requires that hens have at least 216 square inches of usable floor space in their cages. Meanwhile, the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday quickly approved the state’s spending plan for the year beginning July 1 with little discussion. It will head to the full Senate for a vote Tuesday.
The Davidson County Election Commission has reinstated all early voting sites for the August Metro election. On Thursday, the election commission approved its original early voting plan. The unanimous decision was the final step in a compromise between the commission and Metro Council that ensures the 11 early voting sites stay open.
Lawmakers may not be able to come up with a proposal during the legislative interim to prevent a candidate from winning a primary election without a majority vote, a co-chairman of a committee studying the issue said Wednesday. “This one is an interesting one because we could do nothing and just see how things shake out in 2016,” Rep. Jack Draxler, R-North Logan, said after the Government Operations Interim Committee’s first hearing on the possibly of plurality. Draxler, the committee’s House chairman, said he’d be surprised if members can come to a consensus on how to handle the issue created by SB54, the compromise reached to stop the Count My Vote initiative that sought a direct primary.
Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza swore in two new members of the National Independent Electoral Commission, a month before he seeks a third term. Annonciate Niyonkuru was appointed vice president of the electoral body, while Alice Nijimbere will become a commissioner for finance, according to a statement published on the president’s website. They replace Spes Caritas Ndironkeye and Illuminata Ndabahagamye, who resigned earlier this month, according to the statement.
China: Attitudes on Hong Kong’s electoral reform plan split in the city and on China’s mainland | South China Morning Post
As lawmakers kicked off the debate over the government’s reform package at the Legislative Council yesterday, both Hongkongers and mainlanders appeared split over whether the proposal should be passed. Local residents contacted in person, as well as people on the mainland speaking online or via telephone, expressed a broad range of opinions on the controversial package. While some opposed it as too rigid and undemocratic, others tentatively approved of it as a first step towards democracy. However, none offered full-throated support for Hong Kong’s first proposal to hold an election by “one man, one vote”.
Denmark’s center-right-led opposition won parliamentary elections on Thursday, denying the Social Democrat Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt a second term in office after a campaign dominated by the immigration issue. The opposition Liberal Party leader Lars Lokke Rasmussen, who promised tighter immigration rules and tougher demands on new arrivals in the country, looked set to be the Nordic state’s new leader. With all of the results counted, the opposition bloc had won 52.3% of the vote or 90 seats in the 179 seat parliament. Ms. Thorning-Schmidt and her allies had secured 47.7% support or 85 seats.
Russia’s former finance minister, Alexei Kudrin, came up with an interesting idea for turning Russia’s recent economic woes to the country’s advantage: moving up the scheduled 2017 presidential election. The problem with this suggestion — which may have been floated as a trial balloon with the Kremlin’s approval — is that President Vladimir Putin could use it to take Russia further into the past. Kudrin, who built up the international reserves that are now helping Russia ride out a second economic crisis, lost the finance minister’s job in 2011 and has since made liberal statements that went against Putin’s line. The president, however, still counts him among his loyalists. During a carefully choreographed call-in session with voters in April, Kudrin asked the president about creating a new growth model for Russia. In response, Putin called their relationship “very good, practically a friendship,” and said he would stick to the policies Kudrin helped formulate during his tenure: “If you and I failed to envision something, that is probably our fault, and yours, too.”
The Hong Kong government’s controversial Beijing-backed election reforms were defeated in the legislature Thursday but the crucial vote came to a confusing anticlimax as pro-establishment lawmakers accidentally failed to vote for it. After a lengthy debate, 28 lawmakers voted against the proposals, which sparked huge street protests in the southern Chinese city last year. Eight others voted in favor. However, in a bizarre scene moments before the vote took place, most of the pro-establishment lawmakers walked out of the legislature chamber and ended up not casting their votes.
United Kingdom: Electoral reform campaigners urge UK-wide voting for 16- and 17-year-olds | The Guardian
Electoral reform campaigners are to step up demands for 16- and 17-year-olds to be given full voting rights across the UK, after parties at Holyrood backed the measure for Scottish parliament and council elections. The Scottish parliament voted unanimously in favour of allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in local elections late on Thursday, barely 4o minutes after the Commons rejected cross-party moves to do so for the European Union referendum. Katie Ghose, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said those contradictory votes by the two parliaments would increase the democratic deficit for younger voters within the UK, particularly for English and Northern Irish teenagers.