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Editorials: How Jimmy Carter Pioneered Electoral Reform | Rick Perlstein/Washington Spectator

James Earl Carter is nearing the end. In an extraordinary press conference last week, the 39th president discussed his impending death from metastasizing liver cancer, with a grace, humor, and wisdom the rest of us can only hope to emulate when our own time comes. Soon will come the eulogies: then, the assessments. Forgive me if I jump the gun with a gust of affection. I’ve been grappling with his 1976 candidacy and presidency for most of my workdays for at least a year now for my next book on Ronald Reagan’s rise to the presidency. I want to loose some thoughts while they are fresh in my mind. … President Carter, concerned that America ranked 21st in voter participation among the world’s democracies, transmitted a package of proposed electoral reforms to Congress. He had studied the problem. Now he was ready to administer a solution. Everyone loved to talk about voter apathy, but the real problem, Carter said, was that “millions of Americans are prevented or discouraged from voting in every election by antiquated and overly restricted voter registration laws”—a fact proven, he pointed out, by record rates of participation in 1976 in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota, where voters were allowed to register on election day. So he proposed that election-day registration be adopted universally, tempering concerns that such measures might increase opportunities for fraud by also proposing five years in prison and a $10,000 fine as penalties for electoral fraud.

Full Article: The Prophetic President - Washington Spectator.

National: Deep in minority, Dems look to redistricting for hope | The Hill

Facing long odds at retaking the House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democrats are pushing hard for redistricting reform as a potential route back into control of the lower chamber. The legislation is not new –– many Democrats, including Pelosi, have been advocating for independent redistricting panels for at least a decade –– nor is it going anywhere in a Congress led by Republicans who are benefitting handsomely under the current process. But Pelosi’s co-sponsorship of this year’s reform proposal marks a rare move for a party leader who seldom lends an official signature to individual bills. Her formal endorsement is both an escalation of support for non-partisan redistricting and an indication that Democratic leaders want to rein in gerrymandering and lay the groundwork for reform heading into the 2016 elections.

Full Article: Deep in minority, Dems look to redistricting for hope | TheHill.

National: Bloated U.S. voter rolls could lead to lawsuits | Washington Times

America’s voter rolls are so bloated that dozens of counties have more people registered than there are adults living there, according to two new studies released Thursday that the authors said could lead to lawsuits forcing states to clean things up. True the Vote, a Texas group that works for clean elections, counted 136 counties with voter registration rates of more than 100 percent of their adult population. Meanwhile the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a public interest law firm based in Alexandria, used a slightly different methodology and counted 141 counties. And an increasing number are mid- and large-sized ones — the kind that should have enough resources to police their voter rolls, but just aren’t getting to it, said Logan Churchwell, research director for True the Vote.

Full Article: Bloated U.S. voter rolls could lead to lawsuits - Washington Times.

Florida: Coalition files suit to invalidate redistricting law in Florida | Tampa Bay Times

A bipartisan group of voters added to the list of redistricting lawsuits this week, filing a case in federal court challenging the Fair Districts amendments of the Florida Constitution as unconstitutional. The group, which includes some Alachua-based Republicans who call themselves the “Conservative Coalition for Free Speech and Association,” is suing Secretary of State Ken Detzner in an attempt to invalidate the anti-gerrymandering amendments approved by voters in 2010. Several members of the Alachua coalition fought the release of their private emails in pending redistricting lawsuits, claiming it violates their First Amendment rights. The court ordered the release of a limited number of those documents, which showed that many of them were political operatives engaged in what the court called a “shadow redistricting” process that aimed to influence the Legislature’s drawing of its maps in a way that favored Republicans.

Full Article: Coalition files suit to invalidate redistricting law in Florida | Tampa Bay Times.

Florida: Democrats push independent commission amid redistricting mess | Orlando Sentinel

With the Legislature having trouble redrawing new political districts, the job should be given to an independent commission as other states have done, Democrats argue. But Republicans, in charge of the Legislature and whose redistricting efforts have resulted in a legal quagmire, aren’t ready to give up the job. Although such commissions have been used in other states for years, only within the past two redistricting cycles have states pushed for more independence for them. But impartiality can be hard to achieve. “The catch is how you define independent,” said Tim Storey, state legislative elections expert for the National Conference of State Legislatures. “Some of these commissions are just as partisan as the Legislature.”

Full Article: Democrats push independent commission amid redistricting mess - Orlando Sentinel.

Kansas: Kris Kobach says voter registrations without ‘proof of citizenship’ need to go | The Kansas City Star

More than 30,000 incomplete voter registrations have piled up in Kansas — most waiting for applicants to submit the now-required “proof of citizenship” documents. Secretary of State Kris Kobach says he knows how to fix the problem. He wants a new rule that allows election officials to toss out uncompleted applications after 90 days. The proposal will be the topic of a hearing this week. Simple housekeeping, he says. The wholesale dumping of potential voters, critics say, and for no good reason. Even Hillary Clinton weighed in last week. A tweet from her presidential campaign account called Kobach’s proposal a “purging” and a “targeted attack on voting rights.” Kansas’ rules on voter ID and proof of citizenship championed by the Republican secretary of state have stirred up controversy nationally and close to home. Voting rights groups say the regulations muck up a system that wasn’t broken and, in the process, reduce voter participation.

Full Article: Kris Kobach says voter registrations without ‘proof of citizenship’ need to go | The Kansas City Star.

New Mexico: Secretary of state accused of fraud, money laundering | Albuquerque Journal

Secretary of State Dianna Duran was charged Friday in state District Court with fraud, embezzlement, money laundering and other crimes related to allegedly converting thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to her personal use in 2013 and 2014. At the same time, it appears she was frequenting casinos across the state and withdrawing hundreds of thousands of dollars at them from accounts in her name. Democratic Attorney General Hector Balderas alleged 64 violations in a criminal complaint and information that said Duran shifted money between campaign and personal accounts and withdrew sums at eight casinos. Duran is a Republican in her second term; she was elected in 2010 and re-elected last year. The secretary of state, who oversees elections and campaign finance, has the role of state government ethics regulator.

Full Article: Secretary of state accused of fraud, money laundering | Albuquerque Journal News.

North Carolina: Redistricting foes return to state Supreme Court as justices weigh Alabama case | Daily Journal

North Carolina’s boundaries for General Assembly and congressional seats were drawn four years ago by Republican legislators and have been used in the past two election cycles, helping bolster GOP electoral gains. Yet the initial litigation that called the role race played in forming the districts discriminatory and illegal remains unresolved. Combined lawsuits filed by election and civil rights groups and Democratic voters are back at the state Supreme Court. Justices will hear arguments Monday whether they should change their majority ruling from eight months ago that upheld the maps now that there’s a new U.S. Supreme Court decision. The nation’s highest court told North Carolina state judges in April to reconsider the case through the lens of its March decision. The U.S. justices found Alabama legislators relied too much on “mechanical” numerical percentages while drawing legislative districts in which blacks comprised a majority of the population.

Full Article: N. Carolina redistricting foes return to state Supreme Court as justices weigh Alabama case.

Ohio: Is Ohio the Next Home Of Hanging Chads? | Politico

In America’s quintessential swing state, aging voting machines and partisan battles are casting doubt over the fairness of the 2016 election. Immediately after the 2004 election, when tens of thousands of Ohioans waited hours to vote, the state enacted a series of reforms that began to address the worst of that year’s nightmares. But now much of that progress is in danger of being undone. The Buckeye State is far from alone. Politicians and advocates are waging similar battles across the country, but the stakes may be highest here, in perhaps the most important of swing states on the national electoral map. With voting laws in flux and funding a for better voting technology a constant struggle nationwide, two central questions remain just 14 months before Election Day: who will be able to vote, and will all their votes be counted accurately? In 2005, Ohio passed a sweeping bill that expanded early and absentee voting, and a series of legal settlements in the following years helped put in place some of the nation’s best electoral practices. But over the past few years, Republicans have been chipping away at many of those changes. GOP leaders say they’re simply trying to guarantee uniformity and prevent voter fraud, but voting rights advocacy groups say the recent changes threaten to bring back problems from the past, and may be driven by an effort to suppress voter turnout.

Full Article: Is Ohio the Next Home Of Hanging Chads?.

Pennsylvania: Voter registration enters digital age | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

You can bank online, chat with your friends over the Internet or buy virtually anything online and have it shipped to your door. As of Thursday, you also can register to vote online in Pennsylvania. Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro Cortes made the announcement Thursday at the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, flanked by voting advocates and county elections officials. “It will make registering more convenient and accessible for voters, while saving money and time for county voter registration staff,” Mr. Cortes said. As of the end of the day Thursday, 662 applications already had been submitted at register.votesPA.com. The online system will not replace traditional paper registration, officials said, but will supplement it.

Full Article: Pennsylvania voter registration enters digital age | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Texas: Attorney General asks full appeals court to reconsider voter ID ruling | Houston Chronicle

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is asking the full bench of a federal appeals court to reconsider a ruling that found the state’s strict voter ID law illegally hindered minorities from casting ballots. The state launched its legal salvo in the voter ID court fight with multiple filings late Friday, including a clear signal from Paxton’s office that it will take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. Earlier this month, a three-judge panel at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a complex ruling that was largely interpreted as a narrow win for civil rights groups suing the state. The panel upheld one portion of a decision from U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi that found the law obstructed black and Hispanic voters and instructed the lower court to fix what amounted to a violation of the Voting Rights Act. It tossed one ruling that deemed the voter ID law equivalent to a poll tax and rejected another judgment from the lower court that found the law was motivated by racial bias, though the panel ordered the lower court to reconsider that portion of the case.

Full Article: AG asks full appeals court to reconsider voter ID ruling - Houston Chronicle.

Utah: Low turnout has cities exploring by-mail ballots | The Spectrum

After another municipal primary in which very few people bothered to vote, more area officials have been talking about the possibility of moving to a by-mail balloting system the next time around. The Aug. 11 primary, which involved city and town council races in four Washington County municipalities, saw historically low voter turnout for some. St. George finished with a turnout of 10.2 percent, while Hurricane was 9.6 percent. Washington City finished comparatively high at 14.8 percent. The town of Virgin, where voters had been primed by a special election in June over a zone change request regarding a proposed RV resort, had by far the highest turnout, with 54 percent.

Full Article: Low turnout has cities exploring by-mail ballots.

Argentina: The quality of the vote | Buenos Aires Herald

From television studios, solemn newspaper columns, websites written with the help of TV news, reports on foreign media and research papers that pretend to be academic an interpretation of what happened this week in Tucumán has emerged: in the north of the country, politics is determined by a patronage system in which unscrupulous politicians take advantage of the needs of the poorest Argentines. These humble members of society, the thinking goes, suddenly find themselves placed in a position between the immorality of selling their vote to those who give them a social welfare plan and lack thought or ability to compare options. So they end up giving their support to leaders who hurt them.
That thesis, generally uttered from a trendy Buenos Aires City neighbourhood, attributes humble Northern voters the same intellectual capacity of a machine. In contrast to this barbarianism, there is a sophisticated, well-informed citizenry which supports candidates based not only on self-interest but also principles. Opposition lawmaker Elisa Carrió has been saying it clearly: “The urban middle classes must save the country’s poor.”

Full Article: The quality of the vote - BuenosAiresHerald.com.

Canada: Fringe parties fight to spread message, sway swing ridings | CBC

Depending on the party, they love pot, hate Stephen Harper or just want to have fun. Fringe parties are a perennial fixture in Canadian politics, and so far there are more than a dozen registered to run in this fall’s federal election. The best most can hope for is to scrape up a few thousand votes based on a niche platform or protest ballots from disenfranchised electors. So what drives them — and do they add or detract from the democratic process?  Sinclair Stevens, the 88-year-old leader of the Progressive Canadian Party, is mobilizing yet another campaign with one sole purpose: to defeat Stephen Harper. “He has an agenda that is just not Canadian,” he told CBC News.

See also: Rhinos and Pirates: A look at Canada’s federal fringe parties

Full Article: Fringe parties fight to spread message, sway swing ridings - Politics - CBC News.

Egypt: After three years without parliament, Egypt sets October election date | Reuters

Egypt will hold a long-awaited parliamentary election, starting on Oct. 18-19, the election commission said on Sunday, the final step in a process to bring back democracy that critics say has been tainted by widespread repression. Egypt has been without a parliament since June 2012 when a court dissolved the democratically elected main chamber, dominated by the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, reversing a major accomplishment of the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak. The election had been due to begin in March but was delayed after a court ruled part of the election law unconstitutional. A second round of voting in the two-phase election will take place on Nov. 22-23, the election commission told a news conference. Voting for Egyptians abroad will take place on Oct. 17-18.

Full Article: Egypt sets Oct election date, after three years without parliament | Reuters.

Japan: Changing residence registries seen as key for young voter turnout in Japan | The Japan Times

Getting youngsters to vote in next year’s Upper House election may mean coaxing them to be more independent-minded once they leave the nest. And with Japan welcoming 18- and 19-year-olds at ballot boxes next summer, the government is targeting high school students who leave home for university or other reasons to transfer their residence registries, so that they are able to vote in elections. “We want people to vote in the first election held after they turn 18 — and continue to vote in the future,” a senior Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry official said. “Relocating the registry to their current address is the first step.” Japanese citizens are given ballots by municipalities based on their resident registry, and the country’s basic resident register law requires people to transfer their registry when they move.

Full Article: Changing residence registries seen as key for young voter turnout in Japan | The Japan Times.

New Zealand: Auckland to miss out on online voting for council elections | New Zealand Herald

Aucklanders won’t be able to choose their next council at the click of a mouse. Local Government Associate Minister Louise Upston confirmed that the country’s biggest city wouldn’t feature in a trial of online voting for next year’s local body elections. Officials from the Super City are some of the biggest supporters of a digital voting revolution, but Auckland Council’s catchment has been deemed too big. “A trial that includes all of Auckland and its approximately 1 million electors is simply too large to adequately mitigate these risks,” she said. Stung by a dismal 36 per cent voter turnout in the 2013 elections, Auckland Council has lobbied hard to introduce internet voting. But its campaign has failed. Applications are now only being sought from smaller councils to provide a range of voting systems.

Full Article: Auckland to miss out on online voting for council elections.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for August 24-30 2015

wilson-suffrage-260As Saudi Arabia prepares to allow women to vote for the first time, the US marked the 95th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which guarantees all American women the right to vote. The Election Assistance Commission has ruled that states are free to use federal grant money intended to improve how elections are run in order to pay for criminal investigations of potential voter fraud. In Alabama a three-judge federal court today asked plaintiffs if they could draw a new redistricting map that would strike the delicate balance of protecting majority black districts while not using race as the main factor, while a Florida judge said he did not have the authority to resolve the map dispute without the approval of the state’s Supreme Court, which ruled in July that the current redistricting map was unconstitutional. Also this week, a judge in Kansas denied a move by Secretary of State Kris Kobach to quash a lawsuit challenging the state’s two-tier voter registration system and said Kobach has exceeded his authority with the way he runs elections. Pennsylvania has become the latest state to launch an online voter registration application. Canada’s upcoming election will be a test of the Fair Elections Act, the controversial and sweeping legislation that has introduced changes to how Canadians prove they are eligible to vote, the way elections are financed and how voting shenanigans are investigated and Golos, Russia’s only grassroots election-monitoring organization, has been fighting an exhausting battle to prove it does not receive foreign funding.

International: From the U.S. to Saudi Arabia, Women Had to Fight to Vote | National Geographic

Wednesday marks the 95th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the United States. At the same time, one of the last countries to deny women the vote is preparing to open its polls: this December, women will vote in Saudi Arabia for the first time. This achievement, like the ones that came before it, wasn’t handed to Saudi women, who have been pressuring their government for years. Around the world, women have only won suffrage because they’ve demanded it. “There’s no other movement for women’s rights that’s as international as votes for women,” says Ellen DuBois, distinguished professor of history and gender studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. A century ago, American women were deep into their own chapter of the movement—and closing in on victory. The first international votes for women came sporadically during the 19th century. Women in Sweden and Scotland won some local voting rights, and Great Britain opened local elections—but only to unmarried women who also owned property. Then, in 1893, women in New Zealand won the full right to vote.

Full Article: From the U.S. to Saudi Arabia, Women Had to Fight to Vote.

National: Election Assistance Commission says state’s can use federal election grants to pay for voter fraud investigation | Associated Press

States are free to use federal grant money intended to improve how elections are run in order to pay for criminal investigations of potential voter fraud, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission has ruled. The commission’s opinion is a relief to election officials in Iowa, who will not have to pay back $240,000 in federal money that was used for a voter fraud investigation that ended last year. But critics of Iowa’s investigation said they were surprised that the commission found that Help America Vote Act funding could be used for such a purpose, and worried that other states could follow suit. “It seems like a real stretch,” said Tom Courtney, an Iowa Democratic state senator who asked the commission’s inspector general to investigate the spending nearly three years ago. “But now with this ruling in their pocket, Iowa and other states might say, ‘all right.’ ” Months before the 2012 presidential election, then-Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz reached an agreement to pay the salary and expenses of a full-time Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agent for two years to look into “instances of potential criminal activity” related to voting and elections. The investigation led to charges against 10 non-U.S. citizens and 16 ex-felons accused of casting ballots despite not having voting rights.

Full Article: Ruling allows use of federal money to probe voting fraud - StarTribune.com.