When the Affordable Care Act’s new enrollment season begins next month, people seeking health insurance through the online federal exchange will also be offered something they may not expect: a chance to register to vote. But voting rights groups say the offer — a link to a voter registration form that they can print and mail, deep inside the application for health coverage — does not go far enough. This week, the groups accused the Obama administration of violating federal law by not doing more to ensure opportunities for voter registration through the exchange, HealthCare.gov, which serves 38 states. In a letter to President Obama, the groups said that in contrast, most of the 13 state-based insurance exchanges have worked to comply with the National Voter Registration Act. The act, also known as the “motor voter” law, requires states to offer voter registration to people applying for a driver’s license or public assistance.
One corner of the world of “dark money” just got a little brighter, and it doesn’t bode well for the 2016 election. A recent tax filing by Carolina Rising, a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, shows that in 2014 the group spent $4.7 million on ads that had one thing in common: touting the legislative accomplishments of Thom Tillis, who was then North Carolina’s speaker of the House. That year, Mr. Tillis also happened to be trying to unseat Kay Hagan, the incumbent Democratic senator. Carolina Rising spent the money in a three-month blitz leading up to Election Day, but we may never learn where these millions came from. The partial disclosure required of 501(c)(4) outfits means that while we do know that 98.7 percent of the group’s revenue came from a single donor and that virtually every penny of it was used to further the cause of Mr. Tillis’s campaign, we don’t know who Carolina Rising’s secret benefactor was.
The personal and political conflicts that have divided Florida Senate Republicans for months reached the boiling point on Wednesday as the Senate narrowly approved a redrawn redistricting map 22-18 and two powerful senators used the opportunity to point to each other for the chamber’s mistakes. Democrats united against the map, predicting it would be struck down by the court as a violation of the anti-gerrymandering rules of the Florida Constitution. They were joined by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and three other Republicans. The vote came halfway through the three-week special session the Legislature called to redraw the Senate map after agreeing in July that it had violated the constitutional Fair Districts standards when approving the redistricting map in 2012.
A bipartisan group of former members of Congress and ex-governors is banding together to put a new spin on a long-standing cause: reducing the influence of big money in American elections. The ReFormers Caucus, as the group of more than 100 former officeholders is known, plans to kick off its effort Nov. 5 with an event on Capitol Hill. It’s all part of a push by a group called Issue One to put the spotlight on overhauling the system. Goals include boosting small donations to campaigns, finding ways to restrict political contributions from lobbyists and unmasking secret contributions made to tax-exempt groups that are active in politics.
National: Federal Election Commission Panel Delays a Decision on Spending in ’16 Races | The New York Times
The Federal Election Commission put off a decision Thursday on just how far so-called super PACs — a dominant force so far in the 2016 campaign — can go in raising millions of dollars for politicians. The inaction was not surprising for a commission often gridlocked by partisan divisions. Still, it frustrated Democratic lawyers, who had asked the commission last month for an “emergency” ruling on whether a dozen fund-raising tactics used by super PACs and politicians should be considered legal. A number of the tactics, like having super PACs host lavish fund-raisers for politicians before they actually announce their candidacies, have become common this election season, particularly among Republicans. A super PAC supporting Jeb Bush hosted him at several dozen events earlier this year before he declared himself a candidate, raising more than $100 million to support his now-flagging campaign.
Voting Blogs: Plenty to watch during ‘off-year’ election – U.S. Postal Service may play biggest role in 2015 | electionlineWeekly
While the focus of many Americans — well, at least the American media — seems to be on the election that is still more than year away, elections officials across the country are gearing up for state and local elections next week on November 3. Just because this isn’t the big show 2016 will be doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty to keep an eye on as voters in more than half of the states will head to the polls in some capacity on Tuesday. We’ve been watching the news in the months leading up to November 3 and these are some of the stories we think are worth watching. By far, we think the biggest story for the 2015 elections will be voting by mail—whether it’s casting an absentee ballot or a vote-by-mail ballot. In the days leading up to the election, the U.S. Postal Service and elections officials in numerous states have urged voters to get their mail ballots posted even before this newsletter hits your inbox.
As if our state did not look bad enough after the widely criticized decision to close driver license offices, there now comes the report that Alabama faces a lawsuit from the Department of Justice because it is not in compliance with the National Voter Registration Act – and never has been. That law, commonly referred to as the “Motor Voter Act,” was enacted in May 1993. Politically, that’s a lifetime ago. Jim Folsom Jr. was governor of Alabama. Bill Clinton was president of the United States. The purpose of the law was simple – to make voter registration easier by allowing people to register when obtaining or renewing driver licenses or when visiting state offices that provide public assistance. It was supposed to be a seamless process; individuals did not have to make a special request for registration. But Alabama has essentially ignored the act in many cases, acting as though it were some sort of optional proposal rather than the law of the land. Thus Vanita Gupta, principal deputy assistant attorney general, has warned the state that a lawsuit looms.
Maryland: Redistricting reform commission reaches consensus on new independent process | Maryland Reporter
The Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission met Tuesday to craft recommendations for ways to fix gerrymandering in Maryland, focusing on establishing an independent group to redistrict both congressional and legislative districts. The commission hashed out intricate rules to limit partisan influence and ensure the independence of the new panel. The commission will recommend that any new independent commission apply current state standards for legislative districts to congressional redistricting. When drawing congressional boundaries in the current system, Maryland’s governor leads the process, which follows a more general federal standard.
Tired of talking about how Democrats in Illinois rigged the legislative maps to elect more Democrats? Let’s talk about how Republicans in Ohio rigged the legislative maps to elect more Republicans. And about how Ohio voters are trying to fix it. In the 2012 election — the first using new maps based on the 2010 U.S. Census numbers — Republican candidates for the Ohio House of Representatives got 49 percent of the vote and won 60 percent of the seats. Republicans running for Senate got 68 percent of the vote and won 83 percent of the seats. Those maps weren’t drawn to ensure that voters had their say. They were drawn to benefit the politicians who controlled the redistricting process. Using sophisticated software and voter history data, Republicans drew grossly misshapen districts, surrounding their allies with friendly voters and busting up communities to disadvantage their enemies. It worked.
The days of blatant and direct disenfranchisement — literacy tests, poll taxes, etc. — might be in the past, but there are still countless Americans who struggle to have their voices heard on Election Day. Indiana’s prison population, which was near 28,000 people as of July 1, 2015, according to the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC), is one group unable to cast a ballot. Indiana could be considered moderate compared to the rest of the country in terms of voting rights for felons. According to ProCon.org, Indiana is among 13 states (and Washington, D.C.) that restore a felon’s voting rights after the offender has served their full prison term.
The League of Women Voters has been holding a series of forums on redistricting reform. Everyone who has studied the issue and has any sense of fairness knows that our present system of gerrymandering has badly crippled democracy in this state. Peoples are frustrated, angry, disillusioned, and less and less likely to vote, because they think their votes don’t matter and nothing they can do will have any effect. What’s even worse, they are mostly right. In Michigan their votes mostly don’t matter, not for state government, anyway. Though more voters chose Democratic candidates for Congress and the state house of representatives last year, Republicans once again won huge majorities. Twenty-five years ago, that would have meant a government that might have been unrepresentative, but which would at least been able to get things done. We don’t even have that. The combination of term limits and one-party districts has resulted in a legislature full of craven extremists who have no interest in bipartisan cooperation or solving long-term problems.
King County Elections Director Sherill Huff acknowledged Friday that she approved use of a temporary, cardboard ballot box for a recent “voting party.” The box was used during a party, attended by the governor, mayor and political candidates and hosted by “The Stranger.” Huff says the agency supplied the box, which was not handled by elections staffers, after “The Stranger” asked for it. She says it is an effort to encourage more people to get out to vote. The boxes, as shown by Huff, include protective straps. Huff added that the ballots were delivered properly to her agency and believes it could be a tool to build turnout in the future. “We’re encouraging people to vote, people to have their friends and neighbors vote and this was a part of that effort, that I believed would be a start for that,” said Huff. “It turned out it was a wonderful event.”
Armenia: ID Debate: Issue of voting by identification cards comes up ahead of Dec. 6 referendum | Armenia Now
This week the debate in Parliament over making addenda in the Election Code and in the law on Identity Cards ahead of the December 6 constitutional referendum has given rise to new concerns among opposition parties that believe that identification cards are a loophole for multiple voting because it will not be possible to put stamps on ID cards like in passports which is done to prove that a person has already voted. With the changes in the law proposed by the government people will be allowed to vote with identification cards. A total of 500,000 people in Armenia have ID cards, of whom 176 are without passports. The National Assembly has already rejected the draft law of parliamentarian Tigran Urikhanyan, who offered not only to give those half a million people, who have ID cards, a chance to vote, but also through special devices to prevent possible multiple voting. The Republicans’ refusal is grounded by the fact that it would not be technically possible to purchase and install the appropriate equipment by the time the referendum is to be held.
The first round of Egyptian parliamentary elections, held Oct. 18-19, opened the floodgates once again for religious and political fatwas. Clerics from Egypt’s official religious institutions were at the forefront of these fatwas, which continue to be strongly condemned by the political Islam movement. The Egyptian Ministry of Awqaf dedicated the Oct. 16 Friday sermon to call upon citizens to vote in the coming elections. On Oct. 19, Minister of Local Development Ahmed Zaki Bader even insinuated that those who were registered but refrained from voting without a valid excuse could be fined 500 Egyptian pounds ($62) in accordance with the Law on the Exercise of Political Rights. Yet nothing seems to be working, with voter turnout in the first round of elections, held in 14 of the country’s 27 provinces, coming in at less than 27%.
Transnistria is currently in the throes of a parliamentary and local election campaign. The main candidates talk of their loyalty to Russia and accuse their opponents of impoverishing the population of this unrecognised post-Soviet republic—the region is on the brink of an economic collapse. The elections are due to take place on 29 November. As usual, electoral observers from Russia and fellow de facto states Nagorno Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia are expected to take part. Taking the lead from Russia, the Transnistrian authorities will conduct a single day of voting, whereby city councils, village council heads and the parliament will be elected on the same day. But, unlike Russia, Transnistria is hosting a real election for parliamentary seats, and not just imitating one. Transnistria, a thin strip of land between Moldova and Ukraine, is the only territory in the world whose national symbol is still the Soviet hammer and sickle. State holidays include 7 November (the date of the October Revolution) and orthodox Easter. The republic’s principal symbol is Alexander Suvorov, the 18th century Russian military commander who founded Tiraspol (and now features on the republic’s currency).
A United Nations rights investigator has questioned whether Myanmar’s elections in November can be considered free and fair because dozens of candidates had been disqualified and hundreds of thousands of people denied the right to vote. Yanghee Lee, UN special rapporteur on rights in Myanmar, said restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association – including arrests and excessive use of force against protesters – put genuine elections at risk. “The credibility of the elections will be judged by the environment in which they are conducted and the extent to which all sectors of Myanmar society have been allowed to freely participate in the political process,” Lee told a UN general assembly committee in a report on Wednesday.
While most of the nation got results from the Oct. 25 election, Mariupol got a criminal investigation. Ukrainians want to know who is to blame for the cancellation of the elections in the strategic Azov Sea port city of 500,000 people, whose voters were deprived of the right to choose their mayor and city council. The cancelled election has triggered a spate of conspiracy theories, claims and counter-claims and criticism. Parliament has not yet set a date for a new election. What’s clear is that Mariupol voters were the victims of a power struggle between the traditional powers in the region, represented by the Opposition Bloc party and billionaire oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, and the post-EuroMaidan Revolution forces, including Donetsk Oblast Governor Pavlo Zhebrivsky. Anyone found guilty of obstructing the electoral process – in this case, leaving 215 city polling stations without ballots – could face up to seven years in prison if convicted, according to a statement released on Oct. 27 by the Donetsk Oblast Interior Ministry.
Government-owned Swiss Post has become the latest player to enter the electronic voting market, announcing that it will work with Neuchâtel to offer an e-voting system next year. But its partnership with Spanish firm Scytl has some questioning whether the use of foreign voting systems could leave the Swiss exposed to security concerns. The move by Swiss Post follows the government’s decision, on security grounds, to reject the use by a consortium of nine cantons of a voting system developed by American company Unisys during the October 18 parliamentary elections. Since the first trials at electronic voting in 2003, Swiss cantons have been wrestling with the development of secure e-voting systems. To date, canton Geneva has been the most successful in rolling out an approved system, due in large part to the platform being 100% publicly funded and locally developed. The model has so far been adopted by three other cantons: Lucerne, Basel City and Bern. Aside from the failed attempt by the consortium of nine cantons to introduce the use of an American e-voting system, Neuchâtel has been the only other canton to enter the fray. In partnership with Syctl, a global leader in the field, it has developed a unique online voting platform that offers the possibility of voting directly from a computer keyboard. Having eyed the market for some time, it is this system Swiss Post is banking on to provide its entry into the world of e-voting.
Charlottesville resident Paul Jacob has been rocking the vote since he was 18. He’s been voting for nearly 60 years now and he’s seen quite a few changes. “From marking X’s, to punching holes,” said Jacob. “To the computers.” At Tuesday’s election, he’ll see one more. The city registrars office is taking people back to the future when it comes to voting. Touch screens are now a thing of the past and paper is back in style. One reason for the change is because of problems with voting machines in previous years. Another reason is computer hacking. Hacks have occurred across the United States, including Washington, D.C. To prevent that, Rick Sincere from the Electoral Board says the Commonwealth is steering away from computer voting statewide.
Wisconsin: Senate Republicans take cautious tack on Government Accountability Board, campaign finance bills | Wisconsin State Journal
Undecided Senate Republicans are grappling with pressure from groups on opposing sides of bills to replace the state’s Government Accountability Board and rewrite state campaign finance law. The GOP-controlled Assembly voted largely on party lines to pass the bills last week, less than two weeks after they were introduced. But the Senate, also under Republican control, isn’t rushing to get the bills to the desk of Gov. Scott Walker. “I don’t think there’s any sense of urgency, at least on my part,” Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, said Tuesday. “I’m still studying the options.”
We are the pioneers of the secret ballot electoral system, but when it comes to electronic voting, Australia has long been behind the pack. Kazakhstan, India, Brazil and Estonia are among the countries who long ago swapped pencil-and-paper ballots for e-voting at polling stations or over the internet. Meanwhile, in Australia, most of us continue to bemoan the chore of queuing for hours at the polling booth. … During the NSW state election in March, residents who were vision impaired, disabled or out of town on election day were able to cast their vote with the remote voting system, iVote, in what was the biggest-ever test of e-voting in the country. … But the success of iVote was marred by reports two security experts had exposed a major security hole that could potentially affect huge numbers of ballots and maybe even change the election outcome. University of Melbourne research fellow Vanessa Teague said she and Prof Alex Halderman from the University of Michigan found iVote had a vulnerability to what’s called a man-in-the-middle attack when they tested the system with a practice server in the lead-up to the election. “We could expose how the person intended to vote, we could manipulate that vote, and we could interfere with the return of the receipt number and thus prevent the person from logging into the verification server afterwards,” she told news.com.au.
Tanzania’s ruling party candidate has been declared the winner of a controversial presidential election marred by claims of vote rigging and fears of violence. John Magufuli, nicknamed “the bulldozer” for his track record as works minister, won 58.46% of the vote, compared with 39.97% for his main rival, Edward Lowassa. “I duly declare John Pombe Magufuli to have been duly elected president of the United Republic of Tanzania,” the head of the electoral commission, Damian Lubuva, said on Thursday. Lowassa has refused to recognise the result, alleging that the electronic system used to count the votes had been manipulated. “We refuse to accept this attempt to rob the citizens of Tanzania of their democratic rights, which is being done by the national electoral commission by announcing results which are not the actual results.
Colorado: County clerks worry about mail-ballot delays, urge voters to use dropoff boxes | The Gazette
Delays by the U.S. Postal Service trapped some El Paso County election ballots in a cycle between Denver and Colorado Springs this month, with some ballots reaching voters days after they were sent. Issues with barcoding delayed roughly 10,000 ballots statewide, and prompted Secretary of State Wayne Williams on Tuesday to issue a plea to voters to not drop their mail-in ballots in a Postal Service box, less they get lost in a similar cycle. The El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s Office joined the state by instructing voters to bring their ballots straight to the ballot box to make sure they get counted. But a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service said on Tuesday that voters should have no concerns about dropping their completed ballots in the mail. Spokesman David Rupert said that the delays were minor, and ultimately millions of ballots were delivered on time – a statistic that bodes well for return ballots, he added.
“Let them have gun laws! Let them have weed! Let them decide the things that they need!” You may remember those lyrics from John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight segment on D.C. statehood that broadcast in early August. The HBO host brought national attention to an issue that has plagued District residents for centuries: Without full voting representation in Congress, D.C. denizens are largely powerless to advocate for their interests at the federal level. Oliver was able to tap into residents’ frustration over the status quo by appealing to civil rights, and in part thanks to social media; local merriment and momentum ensued. Almost three months later, a campaign spearheaded by At-Large D.C. Councilmember Vincent Orange seeking to highlight the issue of D.C. statehood on the national stage may be gaining traction. Called “Statehood or Else,” it proposes to collect one million signatures on a petition that would be delivered to the president, all 535 members of Congress, and party leaders at the Democratic and Republican conventions being held next July in Philadelphia and Cleveland, respectively. The Council’s Committee of the Whole held a public hearing on the measure this morning, during which a few witnesses questioned the outward presentation of the campaign and found an opportunity to call for greater funding for D.C.’s congressional delegation. Still, most speakers present testified that they supported it.
A sharply divided Florida Senate approved a redistricting map Wednesday that left critics predicting it will be rejected by a wary House or struck down by courts. The 22-18 vote included unanimous opposition from Senate Democrats, along with four Republicans. The proposed boundaries, which cut one seat from Palm Beach County, head to the House, which won’t review the plan until next week but has condemned maps earlier drawn by senators. Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, said the plan is doomed on similar grounds, arguing it was designed to protect incumbents and favor ruling Republicans.
To some politicians and pundits, the governor’s Redistricting Reform Commission is a waste of time. Certainly covering its hearings and deliberations as much as MarylandReporter.com has done is seen as a huge waste of time and space. These stories are not widely read, although Todd Eberly’s testimony to the commission on how “Redistricting should restore representative democracy” was read by almost 5,000 people, one of our top stories of the past two months. Probably anything the redistricting reform commission proposes will not pass the legislature next year or the year after that. It will probably not pass until the first year of a Hogan second term — a reelection Democrats will do their damnedest to prevent from occurring.
Michigan: Slower mail delivery may prevent some absentee ballots from being counted | Michigan Radio
Time’s running out faster than you may think to mail an absentee ballot for next week’s election. Roughly half of the votes in some of next week’s elections are predicted to be cast absentee. But some absentee votes won’t be counted. Lansing city clerk Chris Swope says changes in the way the post office processes the mail is adding a day to the delivery of absentee ballots.
Utah Republican Party leaders claimed victory Tuesday, believing the party has gutted an overhaul to state election law and found a way to keep out of the GOP those candidates who try to win office by gathering signatures to get on the ballot. Meanwhile, a federal judge indicated he will likely strike down a provision of the law that sought to open primaries, letting members of any party or unaffiliated voters cast ballots in any primary election they choose. “Honestly, that’s how I think I’m ruling,” U.S. District Judge David Nuffer said Tuesday during a three-hour hearing. Nuffer reasoned that forcing a party to accept votes from people who are not party members amounts to “forced association” and violates the organization’s First Amendment rights. He said to let the open primaries go forward, only to have the provision ruled unconstitutional later, would be like standing by and watching a wreck happen, then saying there should have been a guard. “I don’t want to let an election happen that is invalid,” Nuffer said.
Clear Ballot, in partnership with the Adams County Clerk and Recorder’s Office, will be piloting its ClearVote voting system Monday, November 2, at 10:00 am. The system has been certified for use in the evaluation process for Colorado’s Uniform Voting System, an ongoing project that the Secretary of State’s office began in 2014. Clear Ballot’s ClearVote certification was the result of an extensive and successful testing campaign at Pro V&V, a federally accredited voting systems test laboratory. “We are excited to work with Clear Ballot as part of the state’s efforts to bring innovative technology to Colorado,” said Adams County Clerk Stan Martin. “New technology like ClearVote demonstrates how transparency will transform the election results process in Colorado and, most importantly, increase voter confidence.”
The slit decision last week upholding the constitutionality of certain Virginia House of Delegates districts is hardly confirmation of good government in action. The federal court panel’s decision does, however, stand in contrast to a ruling more than a year ago that declared Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District boundaries illegal. That determination, ultimately upheld after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a similar case from Alabama, has led the judicial branch to assume responsibility for crafting congressional boundaries that pass constitutional muster. A court-appointed special master has spent weeks considering alternate plans and is scheduled to submit his remedy to the 3rd District’s lines – and others’ – by Friday.