Even on the nearly lawless frontier of bankrolling 2016 presidential campaigns, everyone agrees one important rule remains. Coordination is not allowed between a candidate’s official campaign organization and the mysterious entities dubbed super-PACs, or political-action committees that now fuel runs for the White House. There’s just one problem: Almost no one agrees exactly what coordination means. For example, leaders of John Kasich’s official campaign team and his super-PAC considered it legal to work together until virtually the minute the Ohio governor officially announced his presidential candidacy in July. But Jeb Bush’s super-PAC execs, fearful of violating the no-coordination rule, divorced themselves a week or two before the former Florida governor’s formal declaration.
Barely one year after Alabama’s voter-ID law went into effect, officials are planning to close 31 driver’s license offices across the state, including those in every county in which blacks make up more than 75 percent of registered voters. It’s ostensibly a cost-cutting effort, but coupled with the voter-ID law, these closings will make it even more difficult for many of the state’s most vulnerable voters to get one of the most common forms of identification now required to cast a vote. Like voter-ID laws elsewhere, Alabama’s version requires voters to bring a government-issued photo ID to the polls. The rationale is that these laws are necessary to stop voter fraud. The problem is that in-person fraud — the only kind that voter-ID laws could conceivably prevent — almost never happens. Still, these laws have proliferated around the country, nearly always enacted by Republican-controlled legislatures at the expense of minorities, the poor and other groups who tend to vote Democratic.
Targeting California’s recent record-low voter turnout, Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday signed a measure that would eventually allow Californians to be automatically registered to vote when they go the DMV to obtain or renew a driver’s license. The measure, which would also allow Californians to opt out of registering, was introduced in response to the dismal 42% turnout in the November 2014 statewide election. That bill and 13 others the governor signed Saturday, will “help improve elections and expand voter rights and access in California,” Brown’s office said in a statement. Some 6.6 million Californians who are eligible to register to vote have not registered, according to Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who supported the legislation as a way to increase voter participation.
Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis on Friday gave tentative approval to a new congressional redistricting map that has the potential to unseat at least three incumbent congressional candidates and opens the doors for others to enter the fray. Lewis rejected the Florida Legislature’s third attempt at redrawing its congressional districts and recommended a map proposed by the challengers to the Florida Supreme Court for its final review. His ruling adopted the bulk of the map approved by lawmakers in the northern and central portions of the state but specifically rejected the proposed boundaries for District 26 in Miami-Dade County, now held by Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo. The challengers, a coalition of League of Women Voters and Common Cause of Florida and a group of Democrat-leaning individuals, agreed with the Legislature’s configuration of 20 of the 27 districts proposed in a staff-drawn base map but asked the court to adopt their changes to the remaining districts. Lewis agreed.
Two leading Republican presidential candidates expressed divergent views on the Voting Rights Act on Thursday, setting up a split within a party that has been accused of seeking to suppress minority voter turnout in the name of combating fraud at the polls. Asked about the law at a forum in Des Moines, Mr. Bush said he was uncomfortable placing “regulations on top of states as though we’re living in 1960.” “There’s been dramatic improvement in access to voting,” he said, adding, “I don’t think there’s a role for the federal government in play in most places — there could be some — but in most places where they did have a constructive role in the ′60s.”
The Supreme Court this term could change how states meet the basic democratic goal of “one person, one vote.” Ironically, a victory for the conservative plaintiffs who brought the case may turn on a national survey that Republicans have tried to eliminate. In the Supreme Court case of Evenwel v. Abbott, the plaintiffs argue that the votes of eligible voters — like themselves — are unconstitutionally diluted because Texas counts non-voters when drawing its legislative districts. Specifically, Texas uses “total population” data, which include such non-voters as children, inmates, former felons who haven’t had their voting rights restored and non-citizen immigrants. The plaintiffs, backed by the activist nonprofit Project on Fair Representation, want the Supreme Court to rule that states must draw their legislative districts based instead on the number of voting-age citizens or registered voters. The likely outcome of that ruling would be to shift power away from cities — which tend to have more children, non-citizen immigrants and Democrats — and toward rural and suburban areas — which skew older, whiter, richer and Republican.
To promote democracy around the world, the United States spends hundreds of millions of dollars annually in developing nations. But when it comes to the mechanics of democracy itself in the United States, some don’t even want to pony up $9.6 million. That’s the budget for the obscure, 25-employee Election Assistance Commission (EAC). Created by Congress in 2002, the bipartisan EAC is meant to be a resource for states and localities on election administration. That means everything from designing ballots, to procedures and manuals on election administration, to maintaining voting machines. And lest anyone believe that this is the big hand of the federal government reaching down to something controlled by states and counties, all the EAC does is set guidelines and advise. It does not enforce laws.
t an event in Iowa today, Jeb Bush was asked whether he believed the Voting Rights Act (VRA) should be reauthorized by the Congress following the gutting of one of its most important provisions by the Supreme Court in 2013. Bush responded: “If it’s to reauthorize it to continue to provide regulations on top of states as though we’re living in 1960, because those were basically when many of those rules were put in place, I don’t believe we should do that. There’s been dramatic improvement in access to voting, exponentially better improvement, and I don’t think there’s a role for the federal government to play in most places.” Bush is wrong on multiple counts.
Voting Blogs: Online voter registration opens up access, but not always for all | electionlineWeekly
As of this week, 25 states and the District of Columbia have mechanisms in place to allow new voters to register to vote and existing voters to update their information all online — no printing, no stamps, no trek to the mailbox. By all accounts online voter registration has been wildly successful in the states where it has been introduced with statewide elections officials touting the large number of people registering and updating their information. While online voter registration has opened up access to the process to thousands — even hundreds of thousands — of people not previously engaged, one segment of the population is being left out of the online wave — voters with disabilities. A review by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Accessible Technology (CAT) found that of the 20 OVR sites they visited in May 2014, only one — California’s — was completely accessible in the eyes of the review.
State lawmakers are poised to debate a proposal next week that would automatically register Illinoisans to vote when they obtain or renew a driver’s license or state identification card. The measure, patterned after an Oregon law approved this year, would reverse the current system in which drivers are asked if they want to register. Instead, they would have to say they don’t want to be registered. “I think this would make the process a lot more streamlined,” said state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, who is sponsoring the legislation. “When you change your driver’s license when you move, your voting registration is automatically updated.”
Tired of flipping through pages and pages of names to sign in at your polling place on Election Day? There’s an app for that. Hamilton County, Ind., Elections Administrator Kathy Richardson wants the county to switch to an increasingly used electronic poll book system. But several Hamilton County Council members aren’t sure they’re ready to sign off on the idea. She is asking the council for about $414,000 to buy 220 iPads, polling software and related equipment. She also would need $30,500 in each of the next two years for software upgrades. If the request is approved, she hopes to have the system in place by May’s presidential primary.
County election officials in Kansas are likely to have canceled thousands of incomplete voter registrations when a federal judge has the next hearing in a lawsuit challenging the culling of records ordered by Secretary of State Kris Kobach. U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson on Wednesday set a Dec. 4 hearing on a request from two young northeast Kansas residents to block the cancellations while their suit goes forward. Their registrations are incomplete because they’ve failed to comply with a 2013 law requiring new voters to provide a birth certificate, passport or other papers documenting their U.S. citizenship when registering. The two also want Robinson to block enforcement of the proof-of-citizenship requirement — the reason behind most of the 37,700 registrations that were incomplete as of last week. Kobach imposed a rule that took effect Friday, directing counties to cancel more than 31,000 registrations that were incomplete for more than 90 days. Robinson set the hearing in December to allow the Republican secretary of state to file a written response to the lawsuit and to permit the attorneys representing the two prospective voters to follow with a written answer. Robinson said during a teleconference with the attorneys that she’ll interrupt an ongoing trial to have the hearing in Kansas City, Kan.
The year 2016 may be the last time Maine’s federal and state candidates can win with less than half of the popular vote. A non-partisan grassroots committee has amassed over 75,000 signatures to put ranked choice voting on next year’s referendum ballot. Ranked choice voting is a method of ensuring the winner receives a majority of the votes. Instead of voting only for their preferred candidate, voters rank them in order of preference. If the leading candidate receives less than a majority, the candidate who received the fewest votes has his or her votes redistributed to the remaining candidates. A winner is declared after a candidate receives more than half of the votes. Maine would be the first to adopt the measure on a statewide basis. Ranked Choice Voting Maine began working on placing the measure on the ballot in 2014.
Some Kansas counties expect to take at least several weeks to cancel incomplete voter registrations from residents who haven’t documented their U.S. citizenship, local election officials said Monday. Local officials also said even when they’re done culling the more than 31,000 records as required under a new rule from Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the canceled registrations still will be accessible in their voter registration databases. Kobach has directed counties to cancel incomplete registrations older than 90 days, with most from prospective voters who haven’t met the proof-of-citizenship requirement. A 2013 state law requires new voters to produce a birth certificate, passport or other citizenship papers when registering. Kansas is only one of four states with such a law, and its incomplete registrations ballooned to nearly 37,700 last week.
North Carolina’s primary election date will move to March, thanks to a new bill signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory last week. House Bill 373 shifts the date of North Carolina state and local primaries two months earlier—to March 15 from May 15, which is the same day as presidential primaries. Republicans, who formed the majority of support for the bill, have cited economic efficiency and the potential for increased voter turnout in local elections as benefits. Critics say, however, that the legislation gives incumbents an advantage and makes it harder for new candidates to run. “Putting all of the other primaries on March 15 does save a lot of money,” John Aldrich, Pfizer-Pratt University professor of political science, said. “It costs millions of dollars to run statewide elections, even if they are primaries. He noted that the increased turnout supporters cite as a benefit may help some parties more than others, depending on which has a competitive presidential primary.
Three state workers who will help an expert recommend new congressional boundaries for Virginia have signed confidentiality oaths and must destroy their working papers when they’re through. The three employees of the Division of Legislative Services signed the pledges in accord with a court order naming them to assist the expert, Bernard Grofman of the University of California-Irvine. On Sept. 25 the three-judge panel that will redraw Virginia’s congressional boundaries named Grofman as a “special master” who will consult with the court on a remedy. The federal judges have given Grofman until Oct. 30 to recommend a solution — by picking one of 11 proposed remedies submitted to the court, modifying a version or devising a plan of his own.
The judges plan to issue a new map “at the earliest practicable opportunity after Nov. 17.”
Last month, the New South Wales Electoral Commission’s ongoing battle to defend the integrity of its online voting system took chief information officer Ian Brightwell all the way to Switzerland — the last bastion of modern direct democracy. After requests from commissioner Colin Barry were knocked back by two other academic conferences, Brightwell finally got his chance to explain the NSW experience of implementing iVote in direct response to a pair of crusading academics who have doggedly attacked the online voting platform both in Australia and abroad. The organisers of the VoteID 2015 conference, held last month in Bern, Switzerland, deemed the claims and counter-claims interesting enough to design a special session around them. By now, most people who’ve heard about online voting in NSW would have also heard the persistent warnings of Vanessa Teague, a research fellow at the University of Melbourne, and J. Alex Halderman, an associate professor of computer science and engineering from the University of Michigan.
The crisis in Ukraine has been painful for nearly everyone involved. Russia finds itself under sanctions and at loggerheads abroad. NATO faces as grave a challenge as any since the cold war ended. And Ukraine itself, dismembered and drained by war, struggles to recover even as the fighting in the east of the country grinds to a halt. Yet one clear winner has emerged from the mess: Alexander Lukashenko, the mustachioed strongman of Belarus, to Ukraine’s north. Mr Lukashenko is a former collective- farm boss who has ruled Belarus for 21 years. He stands for his fifth consecutive presidential term on October 11th. To no one’s surprise, he will win. Known as “Europe’s last dictator”, he travels everywhere with his 11-year-old son, who packs a golden pistol and expects to be saluted by Belarusian generals. Elections in 2010 ended with a violent crackdown on protesters and the jailing of Mr Lukashenko’s rivals. The European Union imposed sanctions and travel bans for top officials, including Mr Lukashenko. Yet he approaches the vote feeling secure at home and enjoying a renaissance abroad. He has Ukraine to thank.
Canada will hold a federal election on Oct. 19, and if the polls are right, it might just tear the country apart. The majority left-leaning nation of 35 million people has been led since 2006 by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, of the Conservative Party. In very loose terms, he is Canada’s answer to George W. Bush, a center-right pol from an oil-rich province accused of being hostile to science and to dissent at large. Because Canada has a multi-party system with a unified right-leaning party, Harper has won two terms as prime minister with Conservatives getting 36 percent of the national vote in 2006 and 38 percent in 2011. Most of the other 60-plus percent of the Canadian electorate would just as soon see him get bounced. But they’re splitting their votes between other national parties: the center-left Liberal Party (think: Hillary Clinton), the further-left New Democratic Party (think: Bernie Sanders), and small but dedicated Green Party. Canada right now is like “America with one Republican Party and three Democratic parties,” University of Toronto political science professor Christopher Cochrane tells me. “And it just doesn’t work.”
Guinea’s opposition candidates said Tuesday they would participate in the first round of the October 11 presidential election, while cautioning that “dysfunctional” aspects of the voting process must be addressed. The country’s main opposition had called Thursday for the vote to be postponed until later in October to allow the election commission time to correct “anomalies” in the electoral roll. Clashes between supporters of Guinea’s ruling party and opposition activists left at least one dead and more than 80 wounded last week, as tension mounted ahead of the presidential election.
Cities and towns across Haiti are plastered with colorful campaign ads, leaving voters struggling to differentiate a swarm of candidates who grin from posters, banners and billboards slapped on nearly everything that doesn’t move and a few that do. Practically every public office is up for grabs in this year’s unprecedented three-round balloting that is picking the next president, two-thirds of the Senate, the entire 119-member Chamber of Deputies and all local offices. Even by Haiti’s rough-and-tumble standards, the parade of office-seekers and unpredictability of the elections is dizzying for many.
Ukraine will on Oct. 25 conduct the most procedurally complicated local elections it has ever seen. Voters can only hope the polls are not also the most chaotic and corrupt ever seen. The complex, multi-system voting procedure will inevitably cause problems with vote counts and distribution of seats, and will likely further reduce the trust of voters in election results, experts have told the Kyiv Post. “Even we don’t totally understand the logic of this law,” said Andriy Mahera, deputy head of Central Election Commission, adding the new election system is already causing some head scratching.
Taiwan’s governing party has called a special congress to consider the drastic step of dropping its unpopular presidential candidate just three months before an election that will set the tone for all-important relations with Beijing. In a rare race between two female leading contenders, Hung Hsiu-chu, a straight-talking legislator from the ruling Kuomintang or Nationalist party, has fallen more than 20 percentage points behind the frontrunner, opposition politician Tsai Ing-wen. The KMT, which has ruled Taiwan for much of the period since it fled mainland China after losing the civil war with the Communists in 1949, decided on Wednesday it would hold the extraordinary meeting to “gather consensus and unite for victory”.
North Carolina: State wants federal judge to rule on Voter ID before March primaries | Winston-Salem Journal
State attorneys want a federal judge to dismiss the legal challenge to North Carolina’s voter-identification law before the March 2016 presidential primary, according to court documents filed Wednesday. And though the plaintiffs, including the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, said they hoped to settle the matter before a trial, state attorneys said there’s no chance of that. A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 23 before U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder. The state NAACP, the U.S. Justice Department and others sued the state and Gov. Pat McCrory over 2013’s Voter Information Verification Act. The law’s most well-known provision is the photo ID requirement, but the law also reduced the number of early-voting days from 17 to 10, eliminated same-day voter registration and got rid of out-of-precinct provisional voting.
Wisconsin: GOP bills would hike contribution limits, split Government Accountability Board into two agencies | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
Assembly Republicans unveiled bills Wednesday to double political contribution limits, rewrite campaign financing rules and split the state’s elections and ethics board into two agencies and fill them with partisan appointees. One of the two bills would dissolve the state Government Accountability Board, which consists of six former judges who are responsible for running elections and overseeing the state’s laws on ethics, campaign finance and lobbying. It would create two new agencies — the Elections Commission and Ethics Commission — to oversee those duties. The six-member commissions are to be split evenly between Democrats and Republicans. Rep. Dean Knudson (R-Hudson) acknowledged an error in the way the legislation was written that would have allowed one party to control the commissions and said that would be promptly fixed. Daniel Tokaji, a professor at the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University who specializes in election law, called the accountability board a model for the nation and said it was ridiculous to turn elections over to partisans. He noted the Federal Election Commission routinely deadlocks because it is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. “Only a lunatic or a glutton for gridlock would want to copy the FEC,” Tokaji said. “I think what they want is a commission that will routinely gridlock and get nothing done.”
Europe: Voting ban on prisoners convicted of serious crimes is lawful, EU court rules | The Guardian
The European Union’s most senior court has ruled that it is lawful for countries such as Britain to impose a voting ban on prisoners convicted of serious crimes. The unexpected ruling by the European court of justice upholds a ban on a French convicted murderer who was serving a sentence of more than five years from taking part in the European elections. The European judges ruled that the ban on him voting did represent a breach of the EU charter of fundamental rights but that it was proportionate “in so far as it takes into account the nature and gravity of the criminal offence committed and the duration of the penalty”. The ruling, which has clear implications for Britain’s blanket ban on prisoner voting, went on: “The court concludes that it is possible to maintain a ban which, by operation of law, precludes persons convicted of a serious crime from voting in elections to the European parliament.”
A decision by pro-Russian separatists to postpone local elections that Ukraine had said were illegitimate was welcomed on Tuesday by Kiev, the European Union, Washington and Moscow – the rebels’ patron – as a sign of progress in the faltering peace process. The separatists said the elections, which they had set for Oct. 18 and Nov. 1 in two regions they control, would take place next February, potentially giving time for a compromise that would suit all sides. The concession by the separatists comes at a time when Russia has adopted a more constructive tone in talks over Ukraine, according to diplomats involved in the discussion who say Russia has influence over the rebels.