The Republican presidential primary spectacle is the beginning of a brave new world of electoral anarchy. The same disruptive conditions and forces that are bedeviling Republicans this primary season are likely to discombobulate future Democratic presidential primaries and to morph inevitably into general election anarchy. Anarchy generally means no obedience to authority. In the electoral context, it means no accountable candidate selection process, no constraints on who or how many can run, no pretense of decorum among candidates, no rules for the media, and no party allegiance. Electoral anarchy means that if you have the personal money, the financial backers, the national celebrity and the unbridled gumption to go for it, you can throw your hat in the ring and run for President. There are no accepted, authoritative, intra-party barriers to entry. Electoral anarchy expands exponentially the number of candidates in the presidential primary process. It advantages the most flamboyant candidates and disadvantages the most contemplative in a crowded field. And, it increases the potential for splintering constituencies, spawning multiple independent general election candidates, and alienating the voters necessary to building winning general election coalitions.
Secretary of State Michele Reagan has joined with Republican interests in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to void the state’s legislative redistricting plan. In new filings with the high court, attorneys for Reagan point out the population differences among the 30 legislative districts created in 2011 by the Independent Redistricting Commission. They said this raises constitutional questions because it effectively gives voters in some districts more power than others. But what’s particularly problematic, they said, is that the disparity was done deliberately to achieve a result of improving the chances of Democrats getting elected to the Legislature. “It suggests, if not proves, a built-in bias in the IRC’s redistricting process,” her attorneys wrote.
California: San Francisco faces dilemma in planning for new voting machines | San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco is in the market for new voting machines, but the fast-changing landscape of California elections means the city might need a crystal ball to go alongside its purchase orders. With more and more voters casting ballots by mail, many of the city’s 597 precincts are lonely places on election day. Recognizing the new reality, state election officials already have authorized a test of mail-only elections in San Mateo and Yolo counties. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla also is sponsoring a bill, SB450, that would allow counties to send ballots to every voter and slash the required number of polling places to as few as 15 in a city the size of San Francisco. … The city also is asking that the new voting system operate using open-source software, which would allow the public to see and review the actual operating code that runs the voting machine, counts the ballots and releases the results. Currently, voting systems across the country rely on the proprietary software of the private companies that build them, which critics argue gives those companies the opportunity to game the system and influence or chance the final vote count. “Voting systems are at the heart of our political system and need the public’s complete confidence,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener, who last year backed a measure calling for a feasibility study on an open-source elections system for the city. Using open-source software “is definitely a new and innovative approach, but San Francisco is all about innovation and leading the United States.”
Colorado: Jefferson County recall ballot timeline draws concerns from Colorado Secretary of State | The Denver Post
Colorado’s secretary of state has concerns about how Jefferson County will pull off having a recall election on the regular November election ballot. After Jefferson County Clerk Faye Griffin announced Thursday that the recall of three school board members would be placed on the general election ballot Nov. 3, Secretary of State Wayne Williams sent a letter asking for more details. “Your limited window for setting the recall election date presents challenges no matter which date you choose,” Williams wrote. “Because of this timeline you will need near-optimal circumstances to place both recall and coordinated content on the same ballot and meet the ballot-mailing deadline for the coordinated election.”
The legal team that uncovered the shadow redistricting process that invalidated Florida’s congressional and Senate districts didn’t rely just on maps and cloak-and-dagger emails to prove that legislators broke the law. The best clues came in the form of data — millions of census blocks — delivered electronically and found in the files of political operatives who fought for two years to shield it. The Florida Supreme Court ruled 5-2 in July that lawmakers were guilty of violating the anti-gerrymandering provisions of the Florida Constitution and ordered them to redraw the congressional map. It was a landmark ruling that declared the entire process had been “tainted with improper political intent” — a verdict so broad that it prompted an admission from the state Senate that lawmakers had violated the Constitution when they drew the Senate redistricting plan in 2012. The Legislature has scheduled a special session in October to start over on that map. But the breakthrough for the legal team — lawyers for the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, a coalition of Democrat-leaning voters and their redistricting experts — came just days before the May 19, 2014, trial on the congressional map was set to begin.
Florida: State Supreme Court allows for another redistricting session, but orders trial court to take charge | Miami Herald
The Florida Supreme Court on Friday ordered the trial court to return to the redistricting drawing board, allowing it to review the rival maps submitted by the House and Senate and choose between them. The court rejected a request by the plaintiffs to take over the drawing of the congressional map after a two-week special session of the Legislature in August ended without an enacted map. But the high court opened the door to the state Senate’s request to conduct another special session on redistricting, as long as the work is completed by the deadline the court set in July — Oct. 17. The ruling orders Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis to hold a hearing on the “proposed remedial plans” from both the House and the Senate, as well as any amendments offered to them. “However, the Legislature is not precluded from enacting a remedial plan prior to the time the trial court sets for the hearing,” the court added.
The American Civil Liberties Union and Secretary of State Kris Kobach jockeyed for legal advantage Friday in a court case challenging Kobach’s implementation of the state’s voter proof-of-citizenship law. Representing Kansas voters who can cast ballots in federal races, but not state and local elections, the ACLU filed a motion for summary judgment that would strike down Kobach’s two-tier voting system without a trial. Nearly simultaneously, Kobach filed a motion that would allow him to immediately appeal a judge’s ruling that he overstepped his authority by dividing voters into two voting camps, those who registered using a state form and those who registered using a federal form. The case is important because it could let people work around a state law – authored by Kobach – that requires prospective registrants to show documents proving their citizenship before they are granted voting privileges. The proof-of-citizenship requirement is separate from the requirement that voters have to show photo ID when they cast a ballot. While a driver’s license is sufficient for Election Day voter ID, the state’s voter-registration form requires a higher level of documentation. That can usually be met only with a birth certificate, passport, or special papers issued to foreign-born and tribal citizens.
A little-noticed lawsuit brought by a Maryland man challenging the state’s contorted congressional districts will be heard this fall by the Supreme Court — where it has the potential to open a new line of constitutional attack for opponents of gerrymandering. Stephen M. Shapiro, a former federal worker from Bethesda, argues that the political map drawn by state Democrats after the 2010 census violated the First Amendment rights of Republicans by placing them in districts in which they were in the minority, marginalizing them based solely on their political views. The issue before the Supreme Court is whether a lower court judge had the authority to dismiss the suit before it was heard by a three-judge panel. But Shapiro hopes the justices will also take an interest in his underlying claim. Most redistricting court challenges are rooted in the 14th Amendment right to equal protection under the law. If Shapiro’s approach is endorsed by federal courts, supporters say, it could open a new approach to challenging partisan political maps.
New Jersey Democrats, anticipating a veto from Gov. Christie, are considering asking voters to amend the constitution to bring sweeping changes to the state’s voting laws. In doing so, they’re betting on a reliable but controversial strategy to advance policy initiatives that would otherwise stall under the Republican governor and presidential candidate. Democrats, who control both chambers in Trenton, have turned to the ballot box to skirt Christie on such measures as raising the minimum wage and dedicating funding for open space. “You would prefer to do it legislatively. It’s just that when left no options, you have to fight for the people,” Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) said in an interview Thursday. “If the administration is going to ignore the will of the people he represents for political, ideological reasons, well, look, we’re going to go to the people.”
Texas has asked the full bench of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to rehear civil rights plaintiffs’ case against the state’s voter ID law after a three-judge panel from the same court ruled that the law discriminates. Because the state’s request for a rehearing is pending, and since Texas may also seek a hearing at the U.S. Supreme Court, the Fifth Circuit in a Sept. 2 order rejected civil rights plaintiffs’ proposals to have the litigation remanded to the trial court, where a judge could have ordered Texas to immediately start changing how it identifies voters. “We will get those decisions pretty quickly,” Rolando Rios, of San Antonio’s Law Office of Rolando L. Rios, said about the rulings on the en banc Fifth Circuit and Supreme Court hearings. Rios represents the Texas Association of Hispanic County Judges and County Commissioners, which is an intervening plaintiff in the litigation.
A former television comic was heading for a runoff with either a wealthy businessman or a former first lady in voting for Guatemala’s next president, days after the Central American nation’s leader resigned over a corruption scandal. With about 79 percent of polling stations reporting early Monday, comedian Jimmy Morales, who has never held elective office, was leading with 26 percent of the vote. He was followed by businessman and longtime politician Manuel Baldizon, with 18.5 percent, and ex-first lady Sandra Torres, with 17.7 percent. Assuming no candidate in the field of 14 gets a majority, the top two finishers advance to a runoff to be held Oct. 25. “The people are showing that they do not want a group like that for the future,” Morales said, referring to Baldizon’s LIDER party.
With a smile, Myanmar’s most notorious monk boasts of the sleepless nights he endures on his self-appointed quest against the country’s Muslims – one that he claims has helped strip voting rights from hundreds of thousands of the religious minority. Wirathu, whose anti-Muslim campaign has stoked religious tensions in the Buddhist-majority nation, said he spends most nights at his tranquil Mandalay monastery glued to his computer screen, streaming images from some of the world’s most violent Islamic terrorist organizations. He then posts messages to his 91,000 Facebook followers, helping foment the idea that Buddhism is under threat. “Many days I don’t sleep at all,” the monk, who goes by one name, told AFP, adding his work is so arduous that he lacks the time enjoyed by President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to “have family meals and put on make-up.” Myanmar’s Muslims, who make up at least 5 percent of the 51-million population, have a long history of involvement in public life. But they have faced increasing marginalization under the current quasi-civilian government that replaced junta rule in 2011.
A proposal for 10 local authorities to move to online voting at next year’s elections is seriously flawed, an IT expert says. Five councils have already signed up to the trial, with a further five, including Christchurch, Wellington and Hamilton, yet to decide. Local body elections are currently carried out via postal voting. Local Government New Zealand, which proposed the trial, said online voting would future-proof elections from the eventual demise of postal services. President Lawrence Yule said an increasing number of activities were carried out safely online and there was no reason why voting should not be as well. “If we took the worry about fraud or hacking to its logical extreme, then nobody would use online banking for instance, and people do by their millions. So I think it’s a matter of balancing up the risks and the benefits of this.” An IT expert, who has previously advised the Government on security problems with online voting, said the trial carried a lot of risk in return for very few benefits. Dave Lane said there was currently no way to guarantee an online voting system would be safe from a hacking attack. “It is possible, for a trivial amount of money … to engage sufficient computing resources internationally to completely knock over any online or electronic voting system we have, just for fun.”
Just before Ilya Yashin launched into his second stump speech of the day, two sullen youths began to hand out fliers accusing him of being paid by the United States to destroy Russia from within. It was ten days before elections to the Kostroma region’s parliament, and the arrival of the young members of an organisation called “Patriots of Russia” – and a subsequent accusation of theft against one of Mr Yashin’s activists – was by now a routine part of the campaign trail. “That is small beer. They try something like it every day,” Mr Yashin said. “It’s a form of psychological pressure. But we got used to that a long time ago.” Fresh faced, short, and slight of build, Mr Yashin, 32, is already a veteran of Russian opposition politics – and he knows a thing or two about psychological pressure. During the 2000s, he campaigned for the once-popular democratic parties that have seen their share of the vote shrink with each election under Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian but popular rule. In late 2011, he was one of several leaders of a surge of anti-Kremlin protests – and endured the subsequent crackdown, which saw arrests, apartment searches, and several allies sent to prison.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has agreed to early parliamentary elections and to share some power with his opponents, a concession that may facilitate a broader international coalition against Islamic State, Russian President Vladimir Putin said. Russia would consider participating in the coalition and the Russian president has already discussed the issue with U.S. President Barack Obama, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, Putin told reporters in Vladivostok on Friday. Russia has been pushing for a wider campaign against Islamic State that would include Assad, something the U.S. and Europe have opposed. “There is a general understanding that joint efforts in the fight against terrorism should go hand by hand with the political process in Syria,” Putin said. Assad “agrees to this,” and has also agreed to early parliamentary elections and to include “healthy opposition” in the government, said Putin, a key ally of the Syrian president. Four Syrian lawmakers couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.