People post selfies with their strawberry daiquiris and their calico kittens, with strangers and friends, with and without clothes. So it was inevitable, perhaps, that some might take photographs inside the voting booth to show off their completed ballots. Excited first-time voters; those proud to show that they voted for or against, say, President Obama; and those so disgusted that they wrote in the name of their dead dog have all been known to post snapshots of their ballots on Twitter or Facebook. Now, a legal fracas has erupted over whether the display of marked ballots is a constitutionally protected form of speech and political expression — as a federal court in New Hampshire declared this month, overturning a ban on such photographs — or a threat to the hallowed secret ballot that could bring a new era of vote-buying and voter intimidation. The New Hampshire case is unlikely to be the last to grapple with what are commonly called ballot selfies, whether they include an image of the phone user or not. Numerous states have laws to protect voter secrecy, drafted in an earlier era, that could be construed to ban ballot photographs, said Gilles Bissonnette, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire, which challenged the New Hampshire ban.
California: Elections summit takes stock of California’s nonpartisan top-two primary reform | California Forward
It’s been five years since voters approved “The Top Two Primary.” California has been taking stock of the open primary election reform, to see if it will be another case of “As California goes, so goes the nation” or a political flop. “I would never have entered this race and would never have won this race if there had not been the top-two primary,” Democratic State Senator Steve Glazer (D-Contra Costa), told the audience at the Nonpartisan Primary Summit. “One of the things the top-two did for me is it gave me some room for me to define what it meant to me to be a Democrat.” Glazer’s win over a more liberal Democrat was the most recent example of the influence this reform is having on California elections. But, is it resulting in reducing partisan bickering and gridlock while making elections more competitive and creating a more moderate and productive Legislature?
As Florida legislators dissolved their two-week redistricting session Friday without agreement on a congressional map, they acknowledged they were ready to repeat something they had done only once before in state history — turning over the complicated task of drawing maps to the courts. The year was 1992, when Bill Clinton and Ross Perot dominated national politics, Florida voters imposed term limits on politicians and Hurricane Andrew devastated Miami-Dade County. Then, as now, one party controlled government. Lawton Chiles was governor and the House and Senate were run by Democrats. And yet then, as now, political dominance was not enough to overcome the pressures of personal ambition and intra-party divides. The 1992 redistricting session ended in stalemate over a congressional map, and legislators turned the job over to a three-judge panel of federal judges. The court’s signature change was the creation of a sprawling, wishbone-shaped minority-majority seat that linked black communities in 14 counties from Jacksonville to Orlando and back through Gainesville.
The top election official in Kansas has asked a Sedgwick County judge to block the release of voting machine tapes sought by a Wichita mathematician who is researching statistical anomalies favoring Republicans in counts coming from large precincts in the November 2014 general election. Secretary of State Kris Kobach argued the records sought by Wichita State University mathematician Beth Clarkson aren’t subject to the Kansas open records act and their disclosure is prohibited by Kansas statute. His response, which was faxed Friday to the Sedgwick County District Court, was made public Monday. Clarkson, chief statistician for the university’s National Institute for Aviation Research, filed the open records lawsuit as part of her personal quest to find the answer to an unexplained pattern that transcends elections and states. She wants the hard copies to check the error rate on electronic voting machines that were used in a voting station in Sedgwick County to establish a statistical model.
A lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s voter identification requirement should be allowed to continue even after the legislature added exceptions this summer easing the mandate that goes into effect next year, lawyers fighting the law told a state judge Monday. But a state attorney said the changes made to the 2013 law have addressed the accusations made in the litigation, giving registered voters who lack a qualifying photo ID a way to cast ballots in person anyway. “There is no question that the General Assembly in what they enacted answered the questions of unconstitutionality that the plaintiffs have raised,” Special Deputy Attorney General Alec Peters told Superior Court Judge Michael Morgan in a Raleigh courtroom. Peters said the lawsuit is moot and should be dismissed.
While state officials haven’t said much publicly about the plan, Pennsylvania could soon be the 28th U.S. state to offer paperless, online voter registration, local officials confirmed Friday. The plan would open voter registration – currently carried out by mail – to the Internet, with state driver’s-licenseholders able to submit their signatures electronically. Those without licenses could sign up as well, though they’d still have to fill out some paperwork, officials said. “It is coming. Online voter registration is coming,” Bedford County Chief Clerk Jill Gordon said Friday. “I don’t know an exact rollout date.” Gordon said county-level election officers have been involved in phone conferences with state officials, including Secretary of State Pedro A. Cortes, to discuss the plan. Planners had initially hoped to roll out the new system by the end of August, she said.
Revelers arrived in cars sporting the American flag and wore clothes in red, white and blue as they celebrated the anniversary of Puerto Rico’s pro-statehood political party with deafening salsa music and speeches. Like many others worried about the U.S. territory’s future, those rallying Thursday night in the coastal town of Manati believe statehood can help pull it out of a nearly a decade of economic stagnation. “Puerto Rico has to become a state,” insisted 63-year-old celebrant Norma Candelario. With unemployment at 12 percent, and the public debt reaching $72 billion, advocates for making the Caribbean island the 51st state say the economic woes are strengthening their arguments. As a state, Puerto Rico’s municipalities and public utilities would no longer be prohibited from restructuring their debts through bankruptcy. It would also receive more of certain kinds of federal funding that other states get.
Voting Blogs: 5th Circuit Decision Could Leave Hundreds of Thousands Without Right to Vote in Texas | Brad Blog
The recent decision by a unanimous three judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeal in Veasey v. Abbott was greeted as “very good news.” After all, it marked the first occasion in which a federal appellate court made an express finding that a state-enacted polling place Photo ID law violated the provisions of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The appellate panel affirmed the lower U.S. District Court’s finding late last year that a Texas polling place Photo ID law (SB 14), which threatened to disenfranchise 608,470 already legally registered voters (and many others not already registered), disparately impacted minorities and the poor. “Hispanic registered voters and Black registered voters,” the 5th Circuit appellate panel observed in their recent ruling, “were respectively 195% and 305% more likely than their Anglo peers to lack [the requisite Photo] ID” now required to cast a vote at the polls under the Texas law.
Utah: Residents in some Utah County cities may be asked to vote twice on Nov. 3 | The Salt Lake Tribune
Chicago gangster Al Capone supposedly told corrupt friends to vote early and often. Now, officials may also ask some Utah County voters to do just that — but legally — in the upcoming Nov. 3 election. A fight between the county and five cities may force voters to cast one ballot by mail to choose their city leaders and then again in person at traditional polling places on a countywide proposal to raise sales taxes for transportation. Asking people to cast two different ballots in two ways in the same election “just doesn’t seem like it’s a smart thing, and frankly it’s not in the best interest of the voters,” complained Orem City Administrator Jamie Davidson. But Utah County Clerk-Auditor Bryan Thompson said the dual vote is needed to ensure fairness on the tax-hike proposal in a county where five cities vote by mail, but the rest of the county uses traditional in-person voting.
The General Assembly’s impasse over whether or not the Special Session on Redistricting is legally over shows no signs of abating. The Senate adjourned last week thanks to a ruling by Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam and the votes of the chamber’s Democrats and one Republican—but the House of Delegates has still not adjourned. The bone of contention is how to interpret Article 4, section 6 of the Virginia Constitution. The provision says: “Neither house shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn to another place, nor for more than three days.” GOP Senator Bill Stanley says the vote to adjourn defied both that and a federal court.
Many people have written about the financial cost of the 78-day campaign, but I haven’t seen anybody look at the human cost. What this is costing candidates, leaders, staff, and volunteers? To start figuring out the human cost we have to rewind back to 2013 when most political parties opened up nominations, the process by which candidates are selected to run in each of 338 ridings. Tens of thousands of hopefuls applied to the various parties to run in the 2015 election, starting in 2013, and were vetted by the internal parties and either accepted or rejected. Imagine that many people in each party who applied were told, after many weeks or months, that they were not suitable candidates for any number of reasons. Some prospective candidates signed up party members as they were told to do in anticipation of a nomination in their riding. Friends, family members, colleagues and acquaintances were asked to sign membership forms; usually a small fee is also involved. Dozens, hundreds, perhaps thousands of people signed and paid the fee, and their candidate was not even allowed to test themselves against other same party candidates in that riding. Of the lucky few who were accepted after the vetting process, still many thousands of potential candidates, they then had to compete against other hopefuls to win their party nomination. Although the spending limits for nominations are strict during the nomination process, many would spend untold fortunes in advance of the nomination on promotion, a campaign in itself involving handfuls of volunteers and in some cases dozens or hundreds of people. Many months can go by awaiting the official call of a nomination, and those lucky enough to be accepted sign up new members to vote for them. Nobody knows when the date will be called; there is no defined finish line for nominations.
Long Tway village is a long way from anywhere. The nearest city, Taunggyi, is a rough three-hour drive to the west of this small settlement of about 30 households, sitting high in a steep valley amid the vast Shan Hills in eastern Myanmar. In lowland areas of the country and the urban centers, anticipation is rising ahead of elections scheduled for Nov. 8. More than 6,000 candidates have applied to take part in the elections, and campaigning is likely to involve large-scale rallies and poster campaigns. But here in the hills, people have only a vague knowledge of the polls. “No one came here to tell us about the election,” local woman Nan Yon, 44, told ucanews.com recently. She had heard an election was coming, she said, but was surprised to learn that the vote was only months away.
United Kingdom: Jeremy Corbyn’s rivals to demand Labour reversal on stronger checks against infiltration | Telegraph
Jeremy Corbyn’s rivals will today demand that Labour reverses a decision not to weed out “infiltrators” with extra checks amid fears they could skew the result of the leadership contest. In a showdown meeting in Stevenage, Harriet Harman, the acting Labour leader, will be told to use election canvass returns to double-check the allegiance of new joiners. Failure to do so could trigger a slew of legal challenges from donors who funded campaigns in good faith or councillors who have been infuriated Tory infiltration, they will warn.
It is reasonable for the Labour party to exclude people who oppose its values and aims from the contest to elect a new leader. Conservatives infiltrating the process are committing not mischief but fraud and should be duly ashamed. Hovever, the numbers involved in that kind of chicanery are in all likelihood very small and the controversy around Labour’s vetting process for newly registered “supporters” involves a different phenomenon. Several would-be electors have been excluded on the basis of evidence – some compelling, some flimsy – that they have supported rivals on the left: Greens and fringe socialist groups. Labour is entitled to question these people’s loyalty. Endorsing a different party hardly implies stalwart support. Yet many of those who are being weeded out – or “purged” as they see it – in “Operation Icepick” see themselves as refugees of the anti-Blair left, alienated by the party under recent leaders, seeking a right of return as acolytes of Jeremy Corbyn. This is more a conceptual challenge to Labour than a technical one. The passionate Corbynites who may not have supported Labour in recent years claim nonetheless to be the authentic supporters of the party’s “aims and values” – more so even than the apparatchiks who would seek to exclude them. They challenge the authority of the machine to decide who is entitled to vote in the contest and, in so doing, say they are honouring the spirit of the new rules that offered them a vote at the bargain price of three pounds.
When he handily won a primary to run for the National Assembly, Enzo Scarano hoped to be part of a wave carrying the opposition to a legislative majority that would alter the political balance in Venezuela. But when a government agency stripped him of his right to hold public office, scuttling his candidacy, he found himself caught up in a different kind of wave — of government measures that appear aimed at weakening the opposition ahead of a make-or-break legislative election in December. “It was a message to the Venezuelan people: ‘Look, we can do whatever we want,’ ” Mr. Scarano said of the move to bar him and at least eight other prominent politicians and activists from running for office. He said the goal was “to discourage people from voting and to create an internal conflict” in the opposition’s Democratic Unity coalition.