The State of Alaska and the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) announced a settlement Thursday of a lawsuit claiming the State failed to provide translations of voting materials in Gwich’in or Yup’ik. Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) mandates that “Any registration or voting notices, forms, instructions, assistance, or other materials or information relating to the electoral process, including ballots,” must be provided in minority languages when five percent of the population speaks limited English. Mike Toyukak of Manakotak, Fred Augustine of Alakanuk, the Native Village of Hooper Bay, the Traditional Village of Togiak, the Arctic Village Council, and the Village of Venetie Council filed suit in 2013. Last September, U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason ruled that by failing to translate the Official Election Pamphlet into Gwich’in and Yup’ik, the State violates Section 203.
All of the parties involved in a legal fight over the shape of the state’s congressional districts have until Monday to submit maps they believe should be used in the looming 2016 elections, a Leon County judge ruled Friday. An order approved by Circuit Judge Terry Lewis lays out the timeline for the latest stage of the courtroom battle, now in its fourth year. The Legislature’s version of the congressional map was thrown out in July by the Florida Supreme Court, which said the plan violated the anti-gerrymandering “Fair Districts” standards approved by voters in 2010. The process for redrawing the map plunged into chaos when lawmakers emerged from a special session last month without a deal on what the state’s 27 U.S. House districts should look like. A hearing held Friday by Lewis followed another Supreme Court ruling last week on how to proceed.
Nearly half of Louisiana’s state lawmakers have won re-election to new four-year terms without having to campaign, when no one signed up this week to challenge them. Twenty of 39 senators and 49 of 105 House members drew no opponents during the three-day candidate registration period that ended Thursday. Their names won’t appear on the Oct. 24 ballot because they were deemed “elected unopposed.” One unopposed House candidate who will take office in January has never served in the Legislature. Secretary of State Tom Schedler said he was stunned how many officials around Louisiana were elected automatically when no one qualified to run against them, about 43 percent of the 1,150 offices on the ballot statewide. He called it an “astounding figure” and cited continued voter apathy, locally and nationally.
Maryland: Redistricting Reform Commission to hold first hearing Tuesday, schedules 4 more | Maryland Reporter
Gov. Larry Hogan’s recently formed Redistricting Reform Commission will hold the first of five regional meetings this Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., Sept. 15, in the Minnegan Room at Towson University’s Johnny Unitas Stadium. Hogan created 11-member commission by executive order Aug. 6, and gave it only till Nov. 3 to submit its report to him and the legislature. His executive order made clear he wants an independent, nonpartisan commission to replace the current process controlled by the governor and General Assembly leaders.
John McCain had the Straight Talk Express. Scott Brown had his pickup. Donald Trump has his helicopter – and plane. Some candidates are as well known for how they get around as the races they have run. But trucker Robert Gray and his light-blue big rig may be the most unconventional yet. Gray, whose soft-spoken approach earned him the CB handle “Silent Knight,” shocked Mississippi’s political establishment by winning the Democratic primary for governor this summer, beating two candidates with better funding and political organizations. Experts have offered varying theories as to what happened, from vote meddling to the country’s growing anti-establishment mood, to the possibility that voters simply ticked off the first name they saw on the ballot. … Vicki Slater, a longtime trial lawyer, was expected to win the Democratic nomination with relative ease. According to Slater, she and her staff of six did direct mail, made live and automated calls to voters, earned newspaper endorsements, visited 50 counties, and got the backing of local democratic groups. Even the state party chair, Rickey Cole, was at her announcement. In all, the campaign estimates they spent about $300,000. Robert Gray figures he spent about $50 on gas to go to a handful of events. He won 79 of 82 counties.
Nevada is set to figure big in the 2016 election. Not only might we be the deciding state in the presidential election, but who we elect in the Senate race to replace Sen. Harry Reid may determine the balance of power in Congress. And two ballot measures – on legalized marijuana and firearms background checks – will bring people to the polls in droves. Are we ready for this? Is our election system set to handle the influx of voters? On machines that were built more than 15 years ago? Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria is certain he can keep the voting machines healthy through the 2016 election, but he’s not sure how much magic he and his staff can work after this. “We definitely need to start that conversation and the time to plan is now,” Gloria told KNPR’s State of Nevada, “Nobody plans to fail, they fail to plan.”
The General Assembly’s secret haggling months past the deadline for a state budget frustrates school officials, teachers and state employees and could upset thousands more depending on how much new policy ends up in the new spending plan. But what really ought to outrage the public is that the leaders of the General Assembly have little reason to care about how the public feels. The legislative redistricting maps passed in 2011 after Republicans took control of the General Assembly were so aggressively gerrymandered it would take a pitch-fork rebellion by voters to end the GOP majority. How safe are the seats? Consider what happened in the 2014 General Assembly election. For 170 legislative seats, 78 had only one candidate. Of the 92 remaining races, fewer than 10 were competitive. In the end, three seats switched parties. Former Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker, along with former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot have led a statewide drive to have district lines drawn every 10 years by an independent commission or nonpartisan legislative staff. The proposal has gone nowhere in the General Assembly despite broad public support for an end to having politicians choose their voters.“Everywhere you go virtually everybody favors ending gerrymandering,” Meeker said last week. “It’s not even close. It’s 4 or 5 to 1.”
The Ohio Democratic Party today officially joined the chorus in favor of a ballot issue to overhaul Ohio’s inherently partisan process under which state legislative districts are redrawn every 10 years. The party stood on the sidelines for months while a majority of organizations usually allied with it stood with Republicans to promote Issue 1 on the Nov. 3 ballot. The party’s executive committee waited to run computer models to see how it might fare under the new system before jumping on board. “We weren’t looking for, and we didn’t find, any models that showed we could guarantee ourselves a majority,” party Chairman David Pepper said. “Frankly, that would be gerrymandering just like in the past. What it found, though, was that if Democrats were to win the apportionment board, we could draw many seats that would be likely Democrat seats. But the most important change is there would be many more competitive races.”
Elections Canada’s recent efforts to make the voting process more accessible across the country have addressed but not eliminated the challenges that disabled voters often encounter at the polls, observers say. The national electoral body has poured resources into improving accessibility protocols and procedures in the five years since it was taken to task by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. But advocacy groups and observers say disabled voters will likely still encounter some inaccessible polling stations, ballots that cannot be marked independently and a shortfall of election day supports on Oct. 19. James Hicks, national co-ordinator with the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, said Elections Canada has made accessibility an evident priority in the 18 months since it began consulting with disability organizations across the country.
The Kiwis do it. So do the Germans and Scots. Now Kelly Carmichael is hopeful that after years of study, debate and political promises, Canada may be on the brink of doing it, too. “It” is electoral reform, putting in place a voting system that ensures the makeup of Parliament better reflects the ballots cast. Indeed, the October election could be the last federal election using the first-past-the-post system as both Liberals and NDP have vowed changes to how Canadians elect their MPs. “I have to say we are pretty hopeful,” said Carmichael, the executive director of Fair Vote Canada, which advocates for electoral reform.
China: Strengthen your staffing to prevent vote-rigging, Hong Kong’s election watchdog told | South China Morning Post
Political parties and a scholar have called on the election watchdog to beef up its checks on “problematic” voter registration by significantly expanding its staff after more than 1,000 voter-related complaints were filed with the office ahead of the district council elections in November. They said it was the only way to prevent vote-rigging which could drastically hamper the fairness of the elections, given a tiny number of votes could alter poll results because the number of voters in each constituency is small. Over the past week, the city’s courts have processed around 1,500 complaints – many from political parties – about problematic registrations. Some cases pointed to residents of homes for the elderly being registered without their consent.
As Russians voted in local and regional elections on Sunday, democracy advocates in the only region where they were allowed to run accused the authorities of fraud and said the police had blockaded an apartment where opposition activists were tracking the vote. Although candidates from President Vladimir V. Putin’s United Russia Party were widely expected to win, Sunday’s vote was being viewed as a dress rehearsal for 2016 parliamentary elections and a test of voter turnout amid an economic downturn and Western sanctions. Results were expected on Monday. In the Kostroma region, about 200 miles northeast of Moscow, a coalition of opposition politicians, including Aleksei A. Navalny, fielded candidates under the banner of Parnas, or People’s Freedom Party. Boris Y. Nemtsov, a political reformer who was shot dead near the Kremlin in February, was the party’s co-founder. Kostroma’s electoral commission granted Parnas approval to run only last month, after several attempts to keep its candidates from running for the regional legislature.
Singapore’s governing People’s Action Party (PAP) has won a decisive victory in the general election. Results showed the PAP had secured 83 of 89 seats, winning nearly 70% of the ballots cast. The party has won every election since independence in 1965. Patriotic feeling over the death of long-term leader Lee Kuan Yew may have swelled the vote, analysts said. The opposition, running in all constituencies for the first time, had hoped to challenge the PAP’s dominance. But the results were a marked improvement over the 2011 vote for the PAP, when it took 80 of the 87 seats but saw its share of votes drop to an all-time low of 60%.