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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.