What is the logic behind state laws that deny the vote to people who have been convicted of a felony, even after they are released from prison? The short and easy answer is: there isn’t any. For a longer, nonsensical answer, ask Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, who on May 22 thwarted strong majorities in both houses of the state legislature to veto a bill that would have restored voting rights to about 40,000 Maryland residents currently on probation or parole.
When I cast my first ballot, I voted on a paper ballot for Daniel R. McLeod, who was elected attorney general and served for the next 24 years. At that time, voting machines in South Carolina were limited to several urban counties. As I recall, election security consisted of a padlocked plywood ballot box, the key to which was attached to a modest chain connected to the padlock. I did not give much thought to the mechanics of elections, or how the poll managers tabulated the election results from the paper ballots cast. Though no election is perfectly conducted, most of us engage in faith-based voting, meaning that we as voters have faith that, for the most part, our election procedures work properly. We have faith that when we cast our ballots, our votes are recorded as intended. Sometimes, we must stop to examine that faith. Recently, I viewed a documentary film titled “I Voted?” by filmmaker Jason Grant Smith. His film opened my eyes to our systemic voting challenges.
Vermont will allow voters to cast ballots the same day they register to vote, effective January 2017. It used to be that voters would need to register close to a week before casting a ballot. “For the greatest democracy in the world, the number of people who vote in elections is too low, and it hurts our democracy because it’s so low,” said Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vt. Shumlin authorized the so-called same-day voter registration law Monday in Montpelier, making Vermont the fourteenth state to have such a law. Other states that allow same-day voter registration include New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Maine, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Hillary Rodham Clinton’s top campaign lawyer has filed a second voter-access lawsuit accusing a Republican-led state of trying to suppress the vote — this time in Wisconsin, home to Scott Walker, the governor and likely Republican 2016 presidential candidate. Marc Elias, the general counsel for the Clinton campaign and an election law expert, filed the…
Editorials: Lowering the voting age to 16 would be good for Australian democracy | Sydney Morning Herald
Momentum is building around the world to lower the voting age to 16 years. A similar shift occurred in the 1970s when the age was reduced from 21 to 18. Some nations have already made the shift, with voting in national or local elections occurring at age 16 in Austria, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, the Philippines, Argentina, Nicaragua, Brazil and Ecuador. Others are in the process of debating this. At the recent British election, the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats committed to lowering the voting age to 16. This followed the successful experiment of granting 16-year-olds the right to vote in the referendum on Scottish independence. It is expected that the vote will soon be extended to them generally for elections to the Scottish Parliament.
Burundi’s government on Monday held out the possibility of a postponement of elections which have led to weeks of protests and bloodshed. President Pierre Nkurunziza said in April he would run for another term in a June 26 vote. More than 20 people have been killed by security forces in protests decrying his move as a violation of the constitution. Parliamentary and local council elections are also slated for June 5. A summit of leaders of the East African Community – comprising Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda – and South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma on Sunday called for postponement of the elections for at least a month and a half. Presidential spokesman Gervais Abayeho said the electoral commission was looking into the request and would advise the government.
United Kingdom: Prisoners may be given vote because of human rights climbdown, Tory adviser warns | Telegraph
Prisoners in Britain may be given the vote because of David Cameron’s refusal to pull out of the European Convention on Human Rights, a leading QC and adviser to the Conservative Party has warned. Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, has confirmed that pulling out of the convention is not “on the table” despite objections from both Theresa May, the Home Secretary, and Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary. Jonathan Fisher QC, who has advised the Conservatives on a British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act, said it means that when “push comes to shove” the party will have to give way to Strasbourg judges on prisoner voting.
There’s a new political battleground in 2016: your phone. Next year’s election presents a new opportunity for politicians to harness a slew of technologies — from video to demographic data — that will help them reach voters. The drive toward connecting with potential voters on their smartphones is playing out, in part, because so many people have one this election cycle. About two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone today, compared with just 35% in the spring of 2011, according to the Pew Research Center. For about 10% of Americans, their smartphone is the only form of high-speed Internet they have access to at home.
For many Americans, the idea of technology that can block automated telephone calls sounds like a solution to all those annoying “robocalls” and interrupted family dinners. But to the nation’s pollsters and campaign professionals, many of whom are gearing up for the 2016 election cycle, a federal government proposal circulated Wednesday to encourage phone companies to embrace the technology feels like an existential threat. As a result, they say, Americans might soon know much less about what they think about everything from which candidates are gaining or losing ground to what issues voters care about most. And political campaigns might be forced to abandon tools they currently use to reach large numbers of voters in a short period of time.
Five decades after the Supreme Court ruled that legislative districts must be drawn on the basis of “one person, one vote,” the justices have agreed to consider a claim that representation should reflect the number of eligible voters in a district, not the overall population. They should reject such a radical interpretation, which would undermine the principle that legislators must be attentive to the needs of all of the people living in the areas they represent. That includes children and the noncitizens who in many parts of this country — including Southern California — form a significant and productive part of the population.
Editorials: Two Supreme Court cases threaten to unravel California election reforms | Contra Costa Times
For more than two decades, Californians have struggled to reform the state’s electoral process, to make it less partisan and public officials more responsive. After fits and starts beginning in 1990, state voters approved an independent redistricting commission, open primaries and term limits that now allow state legislators to serve up to 12 years. Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court could significantly undermine the reform effort with its review of two redistricting cases, one out of Arizona, the other out of Texas, and both with profound implications for California and the nation.
Connecticut: Senate Responds To Election Day Problems With Bill Giving More Oversight To Secretary Of State | Hartford Courant
The state Senate on Thursday responded to last Election Day’s polling place problems with unanimous approval of a bill that gives the Secretary of the State more control over elections officials and establishes a training and certification process for registrars of voters. Due in large part to office politics and poor personal relationships between election officials, Hartford’s registrars of voters failed in last fall’s statewide elections to adequately prepare and open several polling places on time, to properly tally votes and to properly account for absentee ballots, according to a investigative report released in January that outlined “multiple, serious errors.”
In his first term, Gov. Phil Bryant has allowed eight bills to become law without his signature. All have been suffrage bills. Mississippians convicted of certain felonies lose the right to vote. Those who lose their vote have to be pardoned by the governor or go to the Legislature, where it takes a two-thirds majority to restore a person’s suffrage. The Mississippi Constitution lists 21 crimes that take away a convict’s right to vote: arson, armed robbery, bigamy, bribery, embezzlement, extortion, felony bad check, felony shoplifting, forgery, larceny, murder, obtaining money or goods under false pretense, perjury, rape, receiving stolen property, robbery, theft, timber larceny, unlawful taking of a motor vehicle, statutory rape and carjacking.
Just a few months after announcing a task force to overhaul campaign finance practices in New Mexico, state officials are still not clear on how many violations are being investigated. “We are currently in the process of compiling our list of candidates still out of compliance for referral to the Attorney General at this time,” Ken Ortiz, chief of staff and spokesman for Secretary of State Dianna Duran’s office, said in an email Friday. Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office released one violation referral from Duran on Friday. More are expected to be disclosed by June 10, the Daily Times in Farmington reported.
Senator Bernie Sanders, who is challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, will face a significant legal barrier if he attempts to run in next year’s New York primary while remaining unaffiliated with a party. A section of state election law commonly known as Wilson-Pakula prohibits candidates from appearing on the ballot in a party’s primary unless they are either enrolled members or receive the approval of the party’s committee.
Ohio lawmakers set the table for Gov. John Kasich to potentially take all of the Buckeye State’s GOP presidential delegates in one swoop next year. By moving the state’s 2016 primary election back a week — from March 8 to March 15 — Ohio’s Republican vote will be a winner-take-all contest. The Senate gave the legislature’s final approval on Wednesday, 23-10. The measure becomes law with Kasich’s signature.
This week, the law firm of Waters and Kraus LLP sent a demand letter to the Texas Secretary of State, informing him of his failure to meet the legal requirements of the National Voter Registration Act, and of his legal liabilities under that federal law. The law in question is Section 20504(a) of Title 52, Chapter 205, United States Code (text taken from uscode.house.gov):
(1) Each State motor vehicle driver’s license application (including any renewal application) submitted to the appropriate State motor vehicle authority under State law shall serve as an application for voter registration with respect to elections for Federal office unless the applicant fails to sign the voter registration application.
(2) An application for voter registration submitted under paragraph (1) shall be considered as updating any previous voter registration by the applicant.
Easy enough to understand, right? If you get a driver’s license, or renew a driver’s license, you get registered to vote, or you get your registration updated, assuming that you are legally eligible to vote.
Elections in Burundi should be delayed by at least a month and a half and all violence must stop, East African leaders said on Sunday after a regional summit on the crisis. The leaders, however, stopped short of calling for Burundian president Pierre Nkurunziza to abandon his controversial bid for a third consecutive term, which has sparked weeks of civil unrest, a coup attempt and a refugee crisis. “The summit, concerned at the impasse in Burundi, strongly calls for a long postponement of the elections not less than a month and a half,” the East African Community (EAC) said in a statement read out by Richard Sezibera, its secretary general, after the meeting of regional leaders in Tanzania.
Wearing his trademark flat cap, Lars Aslan Rasmussen was full of optimism as he began canvassing in Nørrebro, a volatile Copenhagen enclave that epitomises the two dominant issues of the Danish election, immigration and welfare. But the mood swiftly changed. Aslan Rasmussen was surrounded by a group of extreme Islamists as he distributed leaflets at the suburban train station, a labyrinth of dark passages, cracked windows, graffiti and very un-Danish litter. “They said I should leave their territory and that Muslims are not allowed to vote. They were very aggressive and told me that you don’t go to paradise when you participate in democracy.”
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi suffered a setback in local elections on Sunday, with a weaker-than-expected showing by his centre-left bloc and a marked rise in support for the right-wing Northern League and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement. With 22 million Italians eligible to vote in the biggest test for Renzi since last year’s European elections, projections showed centre-left candidates well ahead in the central regions of Tuscany and Marche and the southern region of Puglia. The centre-left also led more narrowly in the Campania region around Naples and in Umbria, one of its traditional strongholds. However, in a blow for the 40-year-old premier, who had been accustomed to steamrollering his political rivals since seizing power after a party coup last year, the northwestern region of Liguria looked set to fall to centre-right after a leftist anti-Renzi candidate split the centre-left vote.
A prominent opposition leader says Ugandans will no longer tolerate rigged elections, after what he says have been years of voter irregularities and polls that are skewed in favor of President Yoweri Museveni and his ruling National Resistance Movement. Kizza Besigye says there is a need for electoral reforms to ensure an equal playing field for opponents of the NRM before elections are held. Uganda is scheduled to hold a general election next year. But opposition and civil society groups have called for a postponement of the poll until the electoral reforms are implemented to ensure transparent, free, fair and credible future elections.
United Kingdom: EU referendum: In-out vote in May 2016 too soon, says electoral commission | The Independent
David Cameron has been warned by Britain’s elections watchdog to avoid going for an early EU referendum because it is such an “important constitutional issue”, as Nicola Sturgeon prepares to tell the Prime Minister that Scotland will not be dragged out of Europe “against our will”. Allies of the PM are urging him to hold the vote on the same day as the local and European elections on 5 May 2016, to use the momentum for reform in Brussels and capitalise on his post-election honeymoon. But a report by the Electoral Commission warns that holding the plebiscite on the same day as other elections would confuse voters and fail to allow enough time to debate the issues of the referendum. It also says there should be a period of at least six months between the referendum legislation being finalised and the date of the poll.