In the 2014 U.S. midterm elections, the Republican and Democratic Party candidates for one of North Carolina’s Senate seats, together with the various political action committees backing and attacking them, spent a combined total of $111-million (U.S.). That’s more than Canada’s three main political parties, including 900-plus candidates, spent in the 2011 federal election. Canada’s system of political finance isn’t perfect, and it has grown slightly worse in the past year. Thanks to the Fair Elections Act, the current election’s spending limits are more than double 2011’s. Canada’s process of figuring out who gets to vote has also become a little less perfect, again courtesy of the Fair Elections Act. But compared to the way elections are run in the United States, Canada’s system is still awfully close to nirvana. Which explains why, if you’re an American hoping to fix what’s wrong with America’s broken democratic process, you end up proposing reforms that look a lot like, well, Canada.
Three federal judges will hear arguments Tuesday on whether the Alabama Legislature tried to reduce the voice of minority voters with a new district map? Attorneys for black legislators say yes and want to have the districts thrown out completely. “We’re hoping that the court will declare all of the majority black districts to be unconstitutional,” said James Blacksher, an attorney for the plaintiffs, in a phone interview Friday. “And then give the legislature a deadline for producing new plans. We hope in time for elections to be held under new plans in 2016.” The state says the plaintiffs have no proof that race was the predominant factor in the maps’ creation. “As the case comes back home to Montgomery, we continue to work hard to defend the constitutionality of Alabama’s legislative districts and look forward to Tuesday’s oral arguments,” Mike Lewis, a spokesman for Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, said in a statement.
Arizona: Secretary of State to elections panel: ‘Tread lightly’ on dark money rules | Arizona Republic
The turf war between the Arizona Secretary of State and the Clean Elections Commission is continuing, but on a slower timetable and with softer, yet stern, rhetoric. On Thursday, Secretary of State Michele Reagan told the five commissioners to “tread lightly” as they consider a rule that could force disclosure of so-called “dark-money” contributors. “I believe you have noble intentions,” Reagan said. “You want to be able to rein in groups if they corrupt our election system.” But, she continued, the way the commission is trying to do that would set a precedent that she called “extremely troubling.”
The battle is over. Nobody won. Florida lawmakers on Friday conceded defeat on redrawing the state’s congressional district map and headed home. Unless the legislature calls another special session, or the governor orders one, it will likely fall to the courts to draw the map. The legislature had until Aug. 25 to come up with a map, which the Florida Supreme Court was scheduled to review on Sept. 25. Now, the most likely scenario is that lawyers for the House and Senate will each present their versions of a map to the court, which will either approve one or draw something different. The dispute between the two chambers centered on the Senate’s desire to shift district lines in Central Florida, a move that the House did not believe would stand up to the court’s scrutiny. Both maps largely agreed on South Florida, with districts 21 and 22 in Broward and Palm Beach counties being stacked on top of one another, rather than the current side-by-side configuration. If another special session is to occur, it would have to happen before Sept. 25.
Florida: Legislature ends special session with no agreement on new congressional districts | Miami Herald
A special legislative session to fix Florida’s flawed congressional district lines ended in chaos Friday as senators staged a walkout and the House rejected Senate requests to extend the session into a third week. Lawmakers ended the session on time but with no agreement on a new map. As a result, legislators have turned over the job of redrawing the 27 districts to a trial judge, who can choose a House or Senate map, solicit other options or create his own to comply with a Florida Supreme Court decision ordering lawmakers to fix eight districts that it said were illegally gerrymandered. “That should make everybody nervous,” said Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando.
Following weeks of intense negotiations, the Florida Department of State has agreed to release funds obtained under the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to purchase a new state-of-the art voting tabulation system for a 12-county consortium that includes Franklin County. In an article published in late 2014, Secretary of State Ken Detzner expressed concerns with aging voting equipment being utilized in many Florida counties. His remarks mirrored conclusions found in a non-partisan presidential commission on the voting experience that was released last year. When emerging technology and “mileage” are factored, experts generally estimate the useful shelf life of tabulation hardware and software to be about 10 years. Franklin County is utilizing tabulation equipment that while has proven to be reliable to date, was purchased nearly 15 years ago.
Opponents of a proposed regulation that would allow Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to purge the names of more than 34,000 prospective voters will protest at a public hearing next month, but concede there is little else they can do. The architect behind some of the nation’s strictest voter ID requirements, Kobach is pushing an administrative rule that would allow him to throw out any incomplete voter registration forms after 90 days, most of which lack proof-of-citizenship documentation such as a birth certificate, passport or naturalization papers. Purging the suspension list, which had 34,454 names as of Wednesday, would leave just 4,202 names. … A hearing is set for Sept. 2 over the purge, but Kobach and his opponents agree that, as secretary of state, he has the power to unilaterally change the rules. “These are just formalities he has to go through before he can do it,” said state Rep. Jim Ward, a Democrat.
A Wichita State University mathematician suing Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman isn’t optimistic that she’ll win her case. Beth Clarkson, a WSU mathematician, says she has identified anomalies with election results in Sedgwick County in the 2014 election and wants an opportunity to perform an audit. To that end, she is suing the county and the state’s top election officers. Clarkson, who filed an unsuccessful suit in 2013, told supporters in an Aug. 19 newsletter that she was not optimistic about her chances of winning in court this time.
Kentucky: GOP rule change allows Paul to run for Senate amid his White House bid | The Washington Post
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) avoided a major headache Saturday after the Kentucky Republican Party approved a rule change that will allow him to run for president while seeking reelection to his Senate seat. “I applaud the Republican Party of Kentucky on their decision to hold a caucus in the upcoming Republican presidential cycle,” Paul said in a statement. “The people of Kentucky deserve a voice as the GOP chooses their next nominee, and holding a caucus will ensure that Kentucky is relevant and participates early in the process.” State law in Kentucky bars a person from appearing on an election ballot as a candidate for two different offices. So if Kentucky Republicans were to choose their nominees for president and Senate in a primary election, Paul could not run for both. By approving a caucus to select a presidential nominee, the Republican Party has cleared the way for him.
New Hampshire: Dixville Notch and the midnight vote will not die without a fight | The Washington Post
Tom Tillotson lives beside a closed-down ski mountain in a town that doesn’t exist. He doesn’t miss the chairlift that used to be out back. He has strong legs and likes hiking the slopes. And he doesn’t really miss the people who used to vacation at his late father’s hotel — the now-crumbling Balsams Resort. His three Labradors and his wife are company enough. He does, however, miss the visits from presidential candidates. “They don’t call anymore,” Tillotson said in the reclaimed barn he calls his home. He’s stocky, with a strawberry-shaped nose and flat light brown hair that rests like an A-frame house atop his head. “They used to come by all the time, but that’s just not happening now.”
If a bill to move up the date of North Carolina’s presidential primary wins approval from both houses and the governor this legislative session, North Carolina voters could go to the polls as soon as March 15 in 2016. As that scheduling uncertainty hangs over the state, so does the constitutionality of a voter ID requirement set to go into effect in 2016. On Monday morning, a Wake County judge is scheduled to hold a hearing on whether to dismiss a challenge in state court to the 2013 change in election law that requires voters to show one of seven state-approved forms of photo identification before casting a ballot. Attorneys for state lawmakers and the governor contend that a legislative amendment to the requirement earlier this summer – offering voters without an approved ID the option of using a provisional ballot – made the lawsuit moot. Attorneys for the challengers disagree.
Ohio: Secretary of State advises counties on electronic pollbooks | The Jackson County Times-Journal
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted recently advised county boards of elections on the amount of funding available to each board for the implementation of new electronic pollbooks. “E-Pollbooks are a great advancement in voter technology that will make elections simpler for both Ohio voters and the staff and volunteers who assist them on Election Day,” explained Husted. The state legislature appropriated $12.7 million to aid county governments in covering the cost of upgrading to e-pollbooks during the biennial budget (Am. Sub. H.B. 64) enacted on June 30.
Texas: Justice Department to 5th Circuit: Texas voter ID law needs to be fixed ASAP | San Antonio Express-News
The Obama administration and several civil rights groups are urging a federal appeals court to fast track the process of temporarily fixing Texas’ voter ID law in time for the upcoming Nov. 3 elections. In court filings Thursday, the Justice Department and civil rights groups asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to allow a lower court to start getting to work immediately on an interim remedy to the law passed in 2011 by the state’s Republican-led Legislature. A three-judge panel at the 5th Circuit ruled in part earlier this month that Texas’ strict voter ID measure violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
Wisconsin: Audit finds no major problems with Wisconsin elections board | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
An audit released Thursday looking into how Wisconsin’s nonpartisan elections and ethics board handles complaints found no major problems, leading the panel’s director to say it should put to rest concerns about its operations even as Republicans and Gov. Scott Walker plan major overhauls. The nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau report was limited to previously confidential records related to nearly 1,900 complaints filed with the Government Accountability Board between 2010 and 2013. The audit had two recommendations: that the board consistently resolve complaints in a timely manner and that staff consistently provide the board with the names of three people who can be hired to work as special investigators. Board director Kevin Kennedy, under fire by Republican lawmakers, said the recommendations were minor and consistent with the agency’s existing practices.
As an elected lawmaker and member of Myanmar’s governing party, U Shwe Maung attended dinners with the president and made speeches from the floor of Parliament. But this weekend, the country’s election commission ruled that despite more than four years in office, he was not a citizen and thus was ineligible to run for re-election in landmark voting in November. “I was approved and considered a full citizen in 2010,” he said in an interview on Saturday. “Now, after five years, how could I not be eligible?” Mr. Shwe Maung’s plight is but one example of what appears to be the mass disenfranchisement of the Rohingya, a persecuted Muslim minority who number around one million in Myanmar.
News this week that women are registering to vote in elections in Saudi Arabia has garnered plenty of attention. The move, described by the kingdom as a “significant milestone in progress” is in keeping with a 2011 royal decree permitting women to run and vote in municipal polls to be held in December. But before we celebrate a step toward equality in one of the world’s most notoriously misogynist countries, it is important to look a little closer at this supposed reform. The reality is that when you view this change in the wider context of Saudi Arabia’s extreme and expanding political repression, it is clear that it is an advance on paper only. Indeed, the right to vote in thoroughly closed political systems is essentially meaningless — what do you vote for in a system that effectively forbids meaningful political opposition of any kind?
The Swiss Post is developing a new e-voting system with the Spanish company Scytl. Flüeler Oliver, a spokesman for the Swiss Post, told the NZZ am Sonntag on Sunday that the company hopes to compete with current cantonal e-voting projects, and is currently in talks with some, though no individual cantons were named. Two weeks ago, a system developed in the United States was rejected by the Swiss cabinet when it was proposed by nine cantons in an attempt to introduce e-voting for the parliamentary elections in October. Security flaws were cited as the reason for the rejection.