Federal Election Commission employees — a generally unhappy lot for years — are even more unsatisfied with their jobs than before. That’s the bleak conclusion drawn from the 2015 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey’s satisfaction index, which places the election law enforcer and regulator near the bottom of 41 small agencies ranked. The FEC received an employee “global satisfaction” score of 43 out of 100, down a point from last year and 12 points from 2010, according to the annual survey released today by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Only the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (36) and African Development Foundation (18) received a lower score than the FEC among small agencies. The average score among small federal agencies is 62.
A group with ties to the tea party and a Koch brothers-founded organization is helping election officials in North Carolina to remove thousands of duplicate registrations from the voter rolls ahead of next year’s elections. And it says it wants to do the same thing nationally. The effort, announced early Monday by Houston-based True the Vote, is aimed at removing duplicates—when a voter’s name mistakenly appears twice. True the Vote has been accused by critics in the past of using intimidating tactics and stoking unwarranted fear about voter fraud. True the Vote said it sent each of North Carolina’s 10 largest counties lists of potential duplicate registrations, based on similarities in the names, ages or addresses listed. It said five of the counties have told them they’re processing the data, and one, Guilford, has already removed 655 names from its rolls. True the Vote said it’s currently compiling similar data for the 10 largest counties in two other 2016 swing states, Ohio and Colorado.
For the past six years, Volkswagen has been cheating on the emissions testing for its diesel cars. The cars’ computers were able to detect when they were being tested, and temporarily alter how their engines worked so they looked much cleaner than they actually were. When they weren’t being tested, they belched out 40 times the pollutants. Their CEO has resigned, and the company will face an expensive recall, enormous fines and worse. Cheating on regulatory testing has a long history in corporate America. It happens regularly in automobile emissions control and elsewhere. What’s important in the VW case is that the cheating was preprogrammed into the algorithm that controlled cars’ emissions. Computers allow people to cheat in ways that are new. Because the cheating is encapsulated in software, the malicious actions can happen at a far remove from the testing itself. Because the software is “smart” in ways that normal objects are not, the cheating can be subtler and harder to detect. We’ve already had examples of smartphone manufacturers cheating on processor benchmark testing: detecting when they’re being tested and artificially increasing their performance. We’re going to see this in other industries.
The Supreme Court on Monday afternoon told lawyers involved in a new case on the constitutionality of a congressional election district in Virginia to file new briefs on whether the case can go forward in the Court. In a one-paragraph order issued along with two other procedural orders after the first Conference in advance of the new Term, the Court questioned whether current and former members of the House had a legal right to pursue their appeal. The Court has not yet agreed to hear the case, but it is in a form that would require the Court to act on it if it were properly filed. At the core of the case of Wittman v. Personhuballah is whether a sprawling District 3 was designed unconstitutionally because of the role that race played in drawing its boundaries. The only House district in Virginia with a majority of minority population, it starts north of Richmond and skips various cities on its way southward into the area around Norfolk and Newport News. It is now represented by a black Democrat, Rep. Bobby Scott. Its form has been described as resembling a “grasping claw.”
Poll after poll shows Americans are dissatisfied with government. Last year, Congress’s job approval rating was at a near-record low of just 15 percent. In fact, dissatisfaction with government was named as the most important problem facing the country. And partisan gridlock was the number-one reason why. All this displeasure led to the lowest voter turnout in 72 years for the 2014 midterm election. It may also be why more and more Americans are calling themselves Independents.
According to the state of Alaska, there are 547,212 Alaskans 18 and older. Only 501,515 are registered to vote. A new campaign hopes to use the Permanent Fund Dividend as a tool to go after the other 45,697. Kimberly Reitmeier is chairwoman of PFD Voter Registration, a group gathering signatures to put a initiative on the 2016 primary election ballot. If organizers get the names and numbers they need, Alaskans will be asked to vote on a proposal that would make registering to vote as easy as registering for the PFD. “Increasing voter registration is our focus,” Reitmeier said. “We want to encourage that civic responsibility of voting.”
Sacramento County plans to hire a consultant to review its elections office following complaints from city clerks about the handling of last year’s elections. As reported by The Sacramento Bee last month, current and former clerks in Sacramento, Galt and Rancho Cordova said the elections office had become less reliable in the past 18 months. The office published inaccurate information about contests in Sacramento and Rancho Cordova in sample ballot guides and provided Galt’s clerk with wrong information about the ballot order of council races, among other things.
As the nation’s largest swing state heading into the 2016 presidential election, Florida’s election system will be tested again in a national spotlight. Florida’s electoral system drew unprecedented scrutiny and legal challenges with its decisive 537-vote edge for President George W. Bush in the 2000 election. In 2012, Florida became a national laughingstock when it was the last state to officially count its votes in the less contested re-election of President Barack Obama. Since then, Florida has made some changes to its voting system, but falls short in several key areas. And that’s a pattern common to many states, according to a report from the National Commission on Voting Rights. The report is the second from the NCVR, which conducted 25 state and regional hearings in 2013 and 2014, collecting testimony from voters, academics and activists, including a hearing in Miami.
Sen. Tom Lee, one of the Senate’s most powerful Republicans, took the stand Friday in the ongoing trial over how to configure Florida’s 27 congressional districts and said that he did not draw a district to benefit himself and he had no intention of running for Congress. It was a rare, personal moment in the unprecedented process that has reshaped how redistricting works in Florida. But, while the testimony was designed by the Senate to undercut attacks by the Republican-led House that the Senate map was drawn to benefit incumbent Republicans, it also exposed how the congressional trial is really just a practice run. Leaders in the House and Senate have concluded that the outcome of the trial will have a direct impact on the drawing of something more personal than congressional districts — the Senate map — because how the case is resolved could decide how much input legislators will have in shaping that plan.
In 2001, three Indiana senators represented portions of Madison County. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, had a majority of the county; Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, had the western portion; and Doug Eckerty, R-Yorktown, had just one township, Van Buren in the northeastern corner of the county. In 2011, after districts were redrawn using the 2010 census, the state senate districts changed dramatically. Lanane’s 25th district, which had been exclusively in Madison County, is now mostly a Delaware County district. Kenley’s district has retreated back across the Hamilton County line, and Eckerty now represents all of Madison County except Anderson. “When they brought me in to show me my district, I almost didn’t recognize it,” Lanane said. “It basically got turned on its side.”