For most people, the 1963 March on Washington brings to mind the phrase “I have a dream.” Four simple words became the music that turned Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech into one of history’s greatest. But despite their elegance, they actually are not my favorite part of the speech. I love the beginning, where King defines the need for a civil rights movement in the first place. “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir,” King said. “. . . Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’ “But,” King added, “we refuse to believe . . . that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.” In this statement King speaks to the heart of black idealism and identifies the core of the American civil rights movement of the past 50 years. This vision of simple justice affirms that the rights and privileges of citizenship should not be reserved for some but should be available to all.
A settlement has been reached between the state and Alaska Native plaintiffs who sued in federal court over the translation of voting materials for voters with limited English proficiency. The proposed settlement filed Tuesday calls for the Alaska lieutenant governor’s office to hire a full-time employee to administer language assistance. Another significant provision in the agreement calls for the official state election pamphlet to include translations, plaintiffs’ attorney Natalie Landreth with the Native American Rights Funds said Thursday. It took the two sides about nine months to work out a settlement, she said. Landreth read a brief letter from one of the plaintiffs, Mike Toyukak of the village of Manokotak, thanking officials for working on resolving the case. “This is really a big deal for us, and we’re very happy that those who did not understand before will now be able to understand the voting ballots,” Landreth quoted Toyukak as writing.
In response to the record-low turnout in the last election, the state Senate on Thursday approved a bill that would automatically register to vote any eligible Californian who gets a driver’s license unless they opt out. The measure was prompted by the 42% turnout in the November election, as well as the turnout for March election in Los Angeles, in which only about 10% of eligible voters went to the polls. Nearly 7 million Californians, mostly young people, are eligible but not registered to vote. In an effort to boost the number, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) introduced a bill modeled on a new law in Oregon to get more people to the polls.
Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis gave the Florida House and Senate, and the two groups of redistricting challengers, until the end of the day on Monday to submit their proposals for him to choose from when he recommends Florida’s final congressional districts map. At a 30-minute hearing, the Tallahassee judge approved in concept a proposal that would also require that anyone who submits a map to disclose who drew it, why they drew the lines they choose and how it comports to the constitutional guidelines in Florida’s Fair Districts law. He is likely to receive four maps — one each from the House and Senate and one each from the two plaintiffs groups, the League of Women Voters and Common Cause and the coalition of Democrat-leaning voters known as the Romo plaintiffs. The Florida Supreme Court last week ordered Lewis to choose between the maps after the Legislature ended its special session in August without an agreement on a map. The court said that Lewis must accept proposals from the parties and choose among them to recommend which of them most adheres to the July 9 ruling that set guidelines for lawmakers to follow when redrawing the map.
On June 2015—the second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision gutting the Voting Rights Act (VRA)—congressional Democrats introduced ambitious new legislation to restore the VRA. Last night, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska became the first Republican to cosponsor the bill, known as the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015. The bill compels states with a well-documented history of recent voting discrimination to clear future voting changes with the federal government, requires federal approval for voter ID laws, and outlaws new efforts to suppress the growing minority vote. Murkowski explained her support for the legislation in a statement to The Nation:
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 brought an end to the ugly Jim Crow period in American history. It is fundamentally important in our system of government that every American be given the opportunity to vote, regardless of who they are, where they live, and what their race or national origin may be.
Voting Blogs: EAC-NIST Form Public Working Groups for New Voting System Guidelines | Matthew Masterson/EAC Blog
This week the EAC and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) provided information to the election community regarding the formation of public working groups to help inform the work of the EAC and its Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC) in creating a new version of the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG). We are very excited about the creation of these working groups and moving forward with the next VVSG. Public working groups are something that NIST successfully used in a variety of areas to help develop standards and receive broad based buy in from various communities as standards are being worked on as opposed to seeking that buy-in after the fact. The creation of the working groups was done as a direct response to feedback received from the Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA), EAC Standards Board as well as the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED).
Connecticut is launching a required registrar certification system Monday following missteps at polling places last Election Day. The certification program, as called for by legislation signed into law in July, is designed to standardize registrars’ practices concerning election law, voter registration and management. Secretary of State Denise Merrill says it’s a way to get all registrars, who are elected along party lines by voters in each town, on the same page. “There’s really been no direct way to train, particularly new people, except it’s a kind of buddy system where they’ll go to more established registrars and ask them how to do the job or perhaps the former one would teach them what the ropes were,” said Merrill. “But in many cases, there are 169 towns, and a lot of people are doing things different ways and sometimes have not have caught up with the law on some of these things particularly are record keeping.”
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach squared off Thursday in a debate with a Kansas University law professor over the pros and cons of restrictive voter identification laws. Kobach, who was the architect of Kansas’ 2011 law requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls and to show proof of U.S. citizenship to register, argued that such laws are needed to prevent voter fraud and protect the integrity of Kansas elections. The two men debated before about 100 people, most of them law students, in a lecture auditorium at the KU School of Law in Green Hall. The debate was sponsored by the KU Federalist Society and the Hispanic-American Law Students Association. “Election fraud occurs,” Kobach said. And while the number of such cases may be tiny compared to the total number of ballots cast in any given election, he said it only takes a small number of votes to “steal” an otherwise close election. … But KU law professor Mark Johnson, who teaches courses in elections and campaign finance, argued that the small number of allegedly fraudulent votes does not justify denying other people the right to vote simply because they cannot produce a photo ID or proof of citizensh
New Mexico House Speaker Don Tripp said Wednesday that a bipartisan committee has been created to investigate charges against Secretary of State Dianna Duran and to consider whether to recommend impeachment. Democrat Gail Chasey of Albuquerque and Republican Zach Cook of Ruidoso will serve as co-chairs of the 10-member special committee. Ms. Duran, a second-term Republican, faces a 64-count criminal indictment accusing her of funneling about $13,000 in campaign contributions to personal bank accounts and withdrawing large sums of money while frequenting casinos around the state.
Utah: Federal judge orders Utah and Republican Party to try to resolve election law lawsuit | Associated Press
A federal judge has ordered the Utah Republican Party and state officials to work to resolve a lawsuit over a new law changing how political parties nominate candidates. U.S. District Judge David Nuffer said this week that mediation will be faster and cheaper than waiting for the dispute play out in court as state officials prepare to run 2016 elections. At a court hearing Tuesday afternoon, Nuffer ordered the GOP and the state to pick a mediator by Sept. 18 and hold talks in late September and early October. The disputed law, approved in 2014 by Utah’s GOP governor and Republican-dominated Legislature, allows candidates to bypass a caucus and convention system and instead try to become a party’s nominee by gathering signatures and participating in primary elections.
Kansas: Kris Kobach’s dual voter registration system is illegal and should be dumped, ACLU says | The Kansas City Star
An odd repercussion has arisen over Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship requirement for residents who register to vote. So odd that the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas has asked a state court to put an end to the two-tiered voter registration system that Secretary of State Kris Kobach has created, a system that critics call the law’s “unintended consequence” or, less kindly, “collateral damage.” Kansas now requires residents to produce citizenship documents, typically a birth certificate or passport, to register to vote. That law, championed by Kobach, took effect in 2013. But citizens have long been allowed to use a federal form to register. That form requires registrants to sign a statement, under penalty of perjury, that they are U.S. citizens. No documents needed. So what to do about Kansas residents who complete the federal form, which courts have said must be accepted by states?
The three federal judges overseeing Virginia’s court-ordered redistricting plan wasted no time taking on their role as congressional district mapmakers. When the General Assembly failed to submit new district map by the Sept. 1 deadline, the panel quickly assumed the task. One of its first steps was to find an independent special master, a legal expert in mapping and demographics to draw up new district boundaries. A special master is commonly appointed in complicated matters in which certain legal expertise is needed. The court also is showing some transparency and openness by allowing citizen groups or individuals to submit proposals.
Democratic lawmakers are once again seeking to enact nonpartisan redistricting reform in Wisconsin, with legislation introduced Tuesday. State government in Wisconsin has been under one-party Republican rule since 2011. Democrats tried and failed to pass similar legislation in 2012. Asked why Democrats didn’t implement these reforms when they last held a majority in 2009 and 2010, Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, said, “Something should have been done,” adding that he was supportive of it at the time. “That was a mistake, and that’s a pox on our party and a pox on any party that doesn’t do the right thing,” Hansen said. “But it does not excuse the opportunity we have now.”
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara faces a fragmented opposition in his bid for re-election next month. No less than 33 candidates had applied to run, with the Constitutional Court clearing a final 10. Ten candidates, eight men and two women, will compete in the October 25th presidential election in Ivory Coast. One of the questions the country’s Constitutional Council had to answer was whether incumbent Alassane Ouattara was eligible to run again. Some of his opponents claimed he did not meet all the criteria, but the council president, Mamadou Kone, concluded he did. He said that after inspecting Ouattara’s application he found it to be in keeping with the electoral legal requirements, and his name will be added to the final list of candidates to run for the presidency.
On Sunday, the governors of 21 Russian regions and more than 1,300 heads of small city administrations will be elected, together with deputies for 11 regional parliaments and 25 city legislatures. The nationwide elections, known as unified election day, are considered by some analysts to be a final rehearsal for the State Duma elections in 2016 in which tactics and methods are being tested accordingly. The main question is whether the opposition will be able to gain any ground, but chances are slim, say pundits. “The Kremlin fears elections at all levels,” Dmitry Oreshkin, an independent political analyst, told The Moscow Times, commenting on vigorous efforts in some regions to eliminate the opposition at the candidate registration stage. The campaign has seen several tactics employed that have raised eyebrows among political commentators.
Singaporeans headed to the polls with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s People’s Action Party expected to handily win re-election even as it faces a contest in every district for the first time since independence. The party that has ruled Singapore for more than five decades will have an indication soon after 8 p.m. how it performed compared to 2011, when it won with its smallest share of the popular vote since 1965. The Elections Department will conduct a sample count, where 100 random ballot papers are counted in each polling station once voting ends. The poll gives Singaporeans a chance to assess how Lee’s administration has fared in tackling issues that hurt it in 2011, including living costs, public transport disruptions and immigration. The PAP moved after that vote to further boost spending on lower-income families and the elderly, and has sought to capitalize on the groundswell of patriotism that followed massive celebrations last month to mark the nation’s modern founding.
The UK Government now has no excuse to not give 16 and 17-year-olds the vote in all elections, after research into the independence referendum found young people going to the ballot box for the first time were motivated by the “same factors” as older voters. An international team analysing teen voter patterns observed the behaviour in young people going to the ballot box for the first time in 2014. The findings are based on a study of almost 600 youngsters from Dundee and Angus. In June, the Scottish Government passed a landmark Bill to allow this age group to vote in Scottish Parliament elections. Yesterday, the Electoral Reform Society said the research results are yet more evidence that the Westminster government must follow Holyrood’s lead and lower the voting age across the board.
The Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) has dismissed a claim by former prime minister Kamla Persad Bissessar that her coalition People’s Partnership had been denied victory in Monday’s general election as a result of the EBC’s decision to extend the time allotted for voting. The coalition said it was challenging the results based on the unilateral decision of the EBC to extend the voting period by one hour due to the inclement weather. “The rules which govern a general election are quite clear. Strict adherence to these rules is absolutely necessary to minimize and avoid irregularities. Failure to do so will result in allegations and perceptions of unfairness and favouritism.” Persad Bissessar said that the information and data received by the party “strongly suggested that the People’s Partnership was comfortably ahead in the polls at 6:00 pm. The march to victory adversely affected by the sudden unilateral decision by the EBC to extend hours of the poll from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm”.
Estonians can vote over the internet in their national elections. Brazilians vote using electronic terminals that have Braille on the keypads and that have cut the tabulation time from a month to six hours. Some local British elections have let people vote by text message. It’s the year 2015, after all. So why do Canadian elections still happen the centuries-old way — by marking paper ballots and depositing them in a box? Especially when advocates say higher-tech voting methods could make the process more accessible? “There’s a number of reasons,” said Nicole Goodman, research director at the Centre for E-Democracy and an assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s global-affairs school. Goodman has extensively researched internet voting at other levels of government in Canada, particularly municipal elections in Ontario, where in last year’s contests 97 local governments out of 414 offered online voting. At the municipal level, Canada is a world leader in voting via the internet, Goodman says. But so far, no province or federal electoral authority has attempted it even in a small trial. One reason? “Lack of political will,” Goodman said. Elections Canada, by law, has to takes its cues on how to run elections from Parliament, and no recent government has made it a priority to introduce potentially radical new voting methods — especially one such as internet balloting that might get whole new demographics, including traditionally non-voting youth, to suddenly take part. Another concern that has held back any internet voting system is security. “People want 100 per cent assurance that this cannot be tampered with,” said Jean-Pierre Kingsley, Canada’s former chief electoral officer. “I’m absolutely sure that we’ll be able to find something, but at this stage we’re not there yet.”
In the context of the struggle between the waves of revolution and counter-revolution in the MENA region Morocco witnessed local and regional elections this week, the first after the constitution amendments of 2011. The elections, held on 4 September, are also the first since 2011 in which political actors agreed on a final version of the regionalisation project, whereby each of the country’s 12 regions will be led by an elected council with wide economic, human, infrastructural, environmental and cultural development capacities. In a sense, the 2015 elections mark another step in the post-Arab spring Morocco and another opportunity to examine the outcome of the country’s “reform under stability” paradigm. The lesson for Morocco is that the potential failure of the paradigm will immediately tarnish the whole diplomatic, political and reform effort that started in 2011. In the run up to the elections, Morocco feared that foreign pressure would restrict the participation of Islamists in a free and fair way. That pressure was eventually diminished through a tandem of internal and external factors; while the former manifested itself in governmental reforms, the latter included the change in the Saudi leadership, the eruption of the war in Yemen and the signing of the Iran nuclear deal. These events pushed local actors to shift the focus away from curbing the outcome of the Arab Spring, especially since attempts to smother the post-Arab Spring nascent democracies has generated chaos across the region. The difficult lesson of the past four years has been that it is despotism that threatens stability in the region, not respecting public will.
Tech firms are courting campaigns ahead of the 2016 presidential election, where budgets for digital advertising are expected to reach new highs. The election will be tweeted, googled, snapped, liked on Facebook, and shared on numerous other social media platforms. And Silicon Valley is hoping to turn that engagement into big profits. While billions will be spent on political advertising over the next year, television remains the prime mover and budgets for digital ads trail traditional media. But even by one recent estimate from Borrell Associates, 9.5 percent of political media budgets could go towards digital media — a total of $1 billion.
Fears of voter fraud and security breaches have led the Christchurch City Council to ditch plans to participate in an online voting trial. The council had provisionally registered its interest in being part of an online voting trial the Government is proposing to run at next year’s local body elections, but councillors on Thursday decided they wanted no part of it. Their decision followed a deputation from a group of IT experts who told them the security risks with online voting were too high and could open the election up to fraud. … Group spokesman Jonathan Hunt, who has more than 25 years experience in the IT field, said online voting brought inherent risks compared with postal voting, such as hacking and phishing, and the risks to democracy were too great to attempt it. Overseas experiences with online voting had generally been disastrous and many of the countries that had trialled it had subsequently abandoned it. “Secure online voting is a tantalising mirage,” said Hunt.