In recent weeks Alabama has been in the news for passing a strict voter-ID law and then closing 31 DMV locations, particularly in majority-black counties where civil rights activists like Jimmie Lee Jackson and Jonathan Daniels died fighting for voting rights. This from the state that was the birthplace of the Voting Rights Act and currently ranks last in the nation in voter access. Over the weekend California moved in a dramatically different direction, becoming the second state–following Oregon–to automatically register citizens who request a driver’s license or state ID from the DMV unless they opt out. The law could add 6 million unregistered voters to the rolls, which would be the largest voter-registration drive in state history. Unlike Alabama, California is using the power of the government to bring millions of new voters into the political process– treating the vote as a fundamental right, rather than a special privilege.
A state with Alabama’s ugly racial history and vote suppression legacy should try hard to act like it’s better than that now. But our state government has made Alabama appear to the world as if we aren’t even trying. Looking at the implications of closing driver’s license offices in the Black Belt, we don’t buy the promises to mitigate the ill effects with other governmental remedy. We don’t buy the claims that race and poverty have nothing to do with this. But even if they were valid, the damage to Alabama’s image and reputation is as undeniable as it was foreseeable and avoidable. What’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong, and this is wrong on the facts. It’s also wrong because the economic damage done to Alabama — tourists who will bypass us, investors and job creators who will go elsewhere to avoid the taint — more than offsets the claimed benefit, the dubious economic argument that lies behind these decisions.
The nation’s high court will hear arguments in less than two months on the legality of the state’s 30 legislative districts, setting the stage for a ruling that could realign political lines for the 2016 election. Attorney Mark Hearne, representing Republicans challenging the current districts, said Monday the Dec. 8 hearing could portend a quick ruling by the Supreme Court. And he said if the justices side with him — and against the Independent Redistricting Commission — there is probably no excuse to keep the current lines in place for the next election. Mary O’Grady, who represents the commission, said she’s not sure the case can move that quickly. But if the case goes against the commission, it could send shock waves through the system, whether next year or in 2018.
It’s about three weeks from Election Day, but you may just now be hearing about the November ballot question to reform Maine’s program for taxpayer-funded political campaigns. Question 1 on the ballot aims to fortify the Maine Clean Election Act, a citizen-initiated effort passed by voters in 1996 to stem the influence of private money in state politics. It allows candidates to run for state office by accepting small-dollar campaign contributions, or “seed money,” that qualifies them for public money to run campaigns. Once they get it, they can’t raise private money. The law has been weakened in recent years, but Maine’s system is still one of the most progressive in the nation. Only 13 states provide public campaign financing; of those, just five open it to legislative hopefuls, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But Maine could take it further this Election Day.
Maryland’s process for redistricting both at the State and Federal levels has been difficult for many to understand. If it is determined by the Governor’s Redistricting Reform Commission that reform is necessary, then I hope that the following suggestions prove useful to you in your deliberations. The last sentence above is a critical first step. I believe that you must first determine whether reform is necessary or possible. Many would argue, on both sides of the political aisle, the system is broken beyond repair and reform is a foregone conclusion. That may very well be, but I would challenge you to actually make such a determination through careful analysis, and a review of the potential solutions.
Voting Blogs: Distance as Discrimination: Native Voting Rights in Rural Montana Litigated in Wandering Medicine v. McCulloch | The State of Elections
The seven Indian reservations that intersect with Montana’s massive counties face significant problems, including poverty, domestic violence, and obstacles to education. Native electoral representation, a tool essential for fixing these issues, is threatened by the thinly populated, hundred-mile distances between remote towns that stretch on bad roads through wild terrain. Distance motivated members of three tribes to file suit in U.S. District Court in Billings, Montana, in 2012. In their complaint, rural plaintiffs from the Fort Belknap, Crow, and Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservations alleged that three counties’ failure to create satellite offices allowing late registration and in-person absentee voting closer to Native population centers was unlawful discrimination under § 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Without satellite offices, plaintiffs argued, voting tribal members were forced to travel hundreds of miles round trip to the county seat, which constituted effective denial of the right to vote. Plaintiffs filed twenty-seven days before the 2012 general election, and requested a preliminary injunction requiring the counties to open satellite offices.
Proposed changes to the state Constitution expanding when school elections can be held and modernizing language about who can vote failed to get the required 75 percent of the vote statewide, so they weren’t adopted. Or were they? In an unusual court challenge, the League of Women Voters is asking the state Supreme Court to rule that amendments that won majority approval in 2008, 2010 and 2014 – but failed to hit the 75 percent mark – are actually in effect. Changing most sections of the state Constitution requires the approval of only a simple majority of voters. But four sections, dealing with elections and with the educational rights of Spanish-speaking children, require a 75 percent approval.
State legislators may hear a bipartisan agreement in the midst of rancor over changes to the state’s campaign finance regulations. Sen. Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, has introduced legislation that would allow Wisconsin voters to register online. While the legislation comes at a time when Republicans are attempting to rewrite campaign finance regulations and transform the Government Accountability Board into two separate partisan-appointed commissions, it also comes with rare bipartisan support. The bill was initially cosponsored by Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, and had the co-sponsorship of several other Democrats in the Legislature. However, LeMahieu said late Thursday that most Democratic sponsorship had dropped off the bill, due to concerns regarding other changes. The bill also includes language that would mandate that absentee ballots must be turned in by 8 p.m. on Election Day, rather than Friday after the election stated in current law.
An international observer mission has set down in Ottawa to monitor and report on the federal election — including whether controversial changes to Canada’s election law help or hurt the democratic process. The six-person mission, deployed by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), is the first to monitor a Canadian election in nearly a decade. It was prompted by widespread concern inside Canada over recent changes introduced by the Conservative government’s controversial Fair Elections Act. “The legislative framework is a key part of any election process. It’s the rules of the game,” said mission leader Hannah Roberts, a British national who has monitored elections in 30 countries. “As we know, there have been some changes here in Canada, and there are different views about those changes. So our job is in part to come and look at that legal framework and be looking at how it works in practice, to see what issues come up.”
The head of the authority in charge of elections in conflict-torn Central African Republic has resigned over pressure to hold national polls before the end of 2015, the authority said Saturday. Dieudonne Kombo Yaya handed in his resignation on Friday, the National Elections Authority (ANE) told AFP in Bangui. The ANE chief cited “pressure from CAR’s presidency and the international community” over the election timetable for his decision to quit.
The head of Democratic Republic of Congo’s elections commission has resigned, the presidency said in a surprise announcement on Saturday, adding to uncertainty over a presidential poll due to be held next year. President Joseph Kabila has ruled the vast Central African nation for 14 years but is barred by the constitution from standing for another term. However, critics and the opposition claim he is seeking to manipulate a packed elections calendar to prolong his rule. “The President of the Republic informs national and international opinion of the resignation of Father Apollinaire Malumalu … for health reasons,” the head of Kabila’s press office Jacques Mukaleng Makal announced on state-run television. He gave no further details of the decision.
All seven opposition leaders who contested Guinea’s presidential election against incumbent Alpha Conde said on Monday the result should be annulled because of fraud. Their declaration is likely to stoke tension in the West African country, which has a history of political violence, including at the 2010 election that brought Conde to power. Conde, who rose to power in a military coup, is favored to win a second term, although the result from Sunday’s vote may be close enough to require a second round. Early results announced by radio stations so far showed Conde in the lead. The opposition candidates, including the main opposition leader, Cellou Dalein Diallo, told a news conference that there were numerous examples of fraud in the election. Diallo said voters registered this year in the city of Labe in central Guinea received no voting cards and only those who voted in 2010 could cast their ballots on Sunday. “The election was a masquerade which started yesterday and still continues today at the central (election) commission level. In these conditions, we again demand that the election be scrapped because we cannot recognize results issued through this process,” Diallo said.
Myanmar’s election commission held a meeting on Tuesday with major political parties to discuss the postponement of a historic election set for Nov 8 due to flooding, a government official and a politician present at the meeting told Reuters. Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy is expected to win the poll, which marks a major shift in Myanmar’s political landscape, giving the platform to democracy activists shut out of public life during nearly half a century of strict military rule that ended in 2011. The election commission invited 10 parties to the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, on Tuesday morning and asked them whether they wanted to postpone the election due to the worst floods to hit the country in decades.
Myanmar on Tuesday cancelled voting across parts of its conflict-scarred north, as hopes receded for a nationwide ceasefire before historic polls in November. Election officials said they were “not capable” of holding the vote in areas of northern Shan and Kachin states bordering China because of ongoing fighting. The move had been anticipated and mainly affects areas battered by war or beyond the government’s writ, in a country where several ethnic minority armies still resist control by the state.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Sunday stressed the need for legitimate elections in the country’s separatist regions in order to eventually re-integrate the pro-Moscow strongholds. Poroshenko said in a televised address that “without elections in these occupied territories, a political solution will be in a deadlock”. The so-called Minsk peace deal between government troops and pro-Russia rebels in eastern Ukraine foresees the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the battlefield and calls for a vote to be held in the separatist regions under international auspices.