Editorials: Supreme Court continues record of hostility to minor parties and independent candidates | Richard Winger/The Hill

Among the 50 most populous countries, the United States and Nigeria are the only nations in the world with exactly two political parties represented in the national legislative body. (For a list of the 50 most populous countries and the number of parties represented in their legislative bodies, click here.) Election laws and debate practices in the United States make it extremely difficult, almost impossible, for the voters to launch a new major party. Consequently, in election after election, there is no realistic chance for a new party to displace either the Republican or Democratic Parties. This state of affairs is partly because the U.S. Supreme Court, for the last 23 years, has fostered the status quo and upheld laws that protect the two major parties from competition. Starting in June 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear every case filed by minor party or independent candidates against restrictive laws that bar them from the ballot or debates or otherwise injure them, with only a single exception: a case from Georgia in which Libertarian Party candidates challenged the state law requiring all candidates for state office to be tested for illegal drugs. Setting aside that exception, there are now 54 examples when minor parties and independent candidates asked for help from the court, and were refused, during the period from 1992 to the present. (To see a list of such instances that occurred before 2012, click here.)

Alabama: License office closures alarms voting rights advocates ahead of 2016 | The Guardian

A series of recent government maneuvers in Alabama may prevent some citizens from voting across large swathes of the state, particularly in poverty-stricken Black Belt counties. The first of the moves happened a year ago, when Alabama enacted a law requiring voters to present government-issued identification at the polls. The second happened two weeks ago, when the state shut down dozens of driver’s license-issuing offices, leaving 28 counties with no means of issuing the most common form of ID. The Republican governor, Robert Bentley, says the office closures are a cost-cutting measure. Opponents say they are an effort toward disenfranchisement that harkens back to Alabama’s painful past. A half-century ago, Bloody Sunday in Selma led to the Voting Rights Act, removing obstacles for black voters. While politicians and activists squabble in the state capital, many residents in isolated, rural areas have not yet heard of the changes or grasped their impact.

Editorials: Alabama remains front line of voting rights battle | Hillary Clinton/AL.com

In Alabama, without an ID, you can’t vote. Yet Governor Bentley’s administration announced plans this month to close 31 driver’s license offices across the state, including in every single county where African Americans make up more than 75 percent of registered voters. The closings would make getting driver’s licenses and personal identification cards much harder for many African Americans. That would make voting much harder, too. As many Alabamians have said in recent days, that’s just dead wrong. Governor Bentley is insisting that the closings had nothing to do with race, but the facts tell a different story. Fifty years after Rosa Parks sat, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. marched, and John Lewis bled, it’s hard to believe Americans are still forced to fight for their right to vote—especially in places where the civil rights movement fought so hard all those years ago. The parallels are inescapable: Alabama is living through a blast from the Jim Crow past.

Arizona: Open primary group facing GOP challenge on financial disclosure | Arizona Daily Sun

A group working to change election laws and tighten up rules on “dark money” is facing a complaint that it is illegally hiding the source of its own cash. Tim LaSota, attorney for the Arizona Republican Party, said that former gubernatorial hopeful Paul Johnson is taking donations and spending money to craft an initiative for the 2016 ballot. LaSota said that means he needs to comply with campaign finance laws. But Johnson, who previously was the mayor of Phoenix, said he is doing nothing illegal. He said the requirement to report is triggered by actually coming up with specific language to put on the ballot, something that has not yet occurred. Only then, Johnson said, need he disclose who is financing the effort.

California: Here’s how California’s new voter registration law will work | Los Angeles Times

When people go to the DMV to obtain or renew a driver’s license, or to get a state identification card, they’ll be asked for the usual information in such transactions, such as their name, date of birth and address. They’ll also be asked to affirm their eligibility to vote and will be given the choice of opting out of registering at that time. Information about anyone who does not decline registration will be electronically transmitted from the DMV to the secretary of state’s office, where citizenship will be verified and names will be added to the voter rolls. … The law goes into place on Jan. 1, 2016, but the DMV said in a statement that it would not send information to the secretary of state until that office “develops regulations, completes a statewide database system and funding is secured to implement this program.” The regulations, which must be agreed upon between the DMV and the secretary of state, will have to settle basic procedural issues, such as how the “opt-out” question will be phrased and how often the DMV will transmit data.

Florida: Redistricting redux: Lawmakers return for Senate map session | Orlando Sentinel

Florida lawmakers are heading back to an expensive, well-worn drawing board. For the second time in three months, the Legislature will convene a special session Monday to redraw political boundaries. The task of redrawing congressional and legislative districts has already cost taxpayers $9.6 million over six years in litigation expenses alone. Lawmakers now face the task of redrawing 40 state Senate districts in a session scheduled to end Nov. 6. This time, legislative leaders are hoping to reach a consensus on new Senate maps that passes muster with the courts. Previous congressional redistricting efforts ended in a stalemate and a rebuke from the Florida Supreme Court for falling afoul of anti-gerrymandering provisions in the constitution.

Kansas: Kobach’s voter prosecutions draw scrutiny to proof-of-citzenship requirement | The Wichita Eagle

Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship law would have done nothing to prevent the type of voter fraud Secretary of State Kris Kobach alleges three people committed in recent elections. Kobach’s office announced three prosecutions last week of people he says double voted – casting ballots in more than one jurisdiction – after the Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback granted him prosecutorial power earlier this year. Kobach is the only secretary of state in the nation with such authority. The misdemeanor charges against a pair of Republican voters in Johnson County and a felony case against a Sherman County man, whom Kobach calls a serial double voter, come after several years of Kobach warning of the threat of voter fraud to Kansas elections and pushing for stricter voting laws. Kobach’s critics have argued, with a strong dose of derision, that the fact that he has filed only three cases is proof that the threat of voter fraud has been overstated. But Kobach has said that he plans to file more cases over the next two months.

Kansas: Statistician gets support for suit over voting machine tapes | Associated Press

A Wichita State University statistician seeking to audit voting machine tapes after finding statistical anomalies in election counts is garnering legal and other support as she pursues her lawsuit. Beth Clarkson had been pursuing the case herself, but now a Wichita lawyer has taken up her cause. Other supporters have helped set up a nonprofit foundation and an online crowdsourcing effort. A Sedgwick County judge is expected to set a trial date and filing deadlines on Monday. Clarkson, chief statistician for the university’s National Institute for Aviation Research, filed the open records lawsuit as part of her personal quest to find the answer to an unexplained pattern that transcends elections and states. She wants the tapes so she can establish a statistical model by checking the error rate on electronic voting machines used at a Sedgwick County voting station during the November 2014 general election. But top election officials for Kansas and Sedgwick County have asked the Sedgwick County District Court to block the release of voting machine tapes.

Maine: Ranked-choice voting could be headed for ballot | The Portland Press Herald

Maine could become the first state to swap its traditional election system for one in which the winning candidates for Congress and state offices are selected by ranked-choice voting. On Monday, the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, a state organization backed by national advocates, will submit signed petitions to the Secretary of State’s Office seeking to put the proposal on the November 2016 ballot. If the petition signatures are certified, the measure would appear alongside several other questions on legalizing marijuana, raising the minimum wage and a Maine Republican Party-led initiative to overhaul the state’s welfare system and reduce the income tax. In ranked-choice voting, voters rank candidates appearing on a ballot in order of preference, though they still have the option of picking one candidate. The system won’t affect a two-way race, but it could have a significant impact in multi-candidate contests.

Editorials: Governor should sign New Jersey Democracy Act | Times of Trenton

In a bold move last weekend, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that automatically registers Californians to vote when they obtain or renew their driver’s licenses or state-issued identification cards. California now joins Oregon in moving toward a more robust and inclusive electoral process by reaching out to voters through their motor vehicle departments. Will New Jersey be next? Regrettably, that’s doubtful, even as a bill to reform statewide voting procedures languishes on Gov. Chris Christie’s desk. At the end of June, the state Senate passed the New Jersey Democracy Act, a package of measures designed to broaden citizen participation through expanded early-voting opportunities, online voter registration and automatic voter registration at Motor Vehicle Commission offices.

North Carolina: Another redistricting case awaits verdict, this time over 2 congressional seats | Associated Press

Another panel of judges is considering whether some electoral districts drawn by North Carolina Republicans four years ago and used in the past two elections are illegal because too many black residents were placed inside of them. Three federal judges held a three-day trial in Greensboro this past week that examined the legality of a pair of congressional districts that have consistently elected black Democrats for more than 20 years. They didn’t immediately rule. An ultimate favorable decision — likely after more appeals — for voters who sued could require the General Assembly redraw the 1st and 12th Congressional Districts that are being challenged, and likely force adjustments to adjoining districts.

Ohio: Are Ohio voters about to fix politics? | Cincinnati Enquirer

Hate when politicians from the far left and far right fight over extreme proposals with little incentive to compromise? Then, Issue 1 is for you, a long list of proponents say. If voters approve the ballot initiative this November, Ohio could become a nationwide leader on how to draw lines for state lawmakers’ districts, said Michael Li, an elections expert at New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice. The much-maligned process of allowing lawmakers draw Rorschach test-like districts to ensure a win for their party could end — or at least become less egregious — with this first-of-its-kind proposal, he said. “People are really watching Ohio very closely,” Li said.

Texas: Redistricting fight could delay Texas primaries | Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

The month-long registration period for the March 1 Democratic and Republican primaries begins in four weeks but don’t bet the farm the election will be held on that day. If the primaries are delayed once or even twice — as it happened four years ago — blame it on the four-year redistricting fight. You see, as of Friday morning it was unclear whether candidates for congressional and Texas House seats would run under the “temporary” maps the Legislature and then a federal court in San Antonio approved two years ago. The same three-judge panel is expected to rule soon whether the 2014 maps can be used for the rest of this decade or if the boundaries of some districts must be redrawn to protect the voting rights of racial minorities, as the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 stipulates.

Wisconsin: UW-Madison administration supports separate IDs for school, voting | The Daily Cardinal

UW-Madison administration recently met with Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell to clarify the current voter ID process for students. The university has offered a separate, free voter ID card for UW-Madison students since 2012, Executive Director of University Communications at UW-Madison John Lucas said in a Sunday email. This was approved by the Government Accountability Board, a non-partisan six-member committee that enforces Wisconsin law pertaining to campaign finance, elections, ethics and lobbying. Currently UW-Madison students cannot use their Wiscards to be voter ID compliant, which Lucas said would bring “multiple concerns” to both students and the university if it were permissible.

Cambodia: No Voting Rights for Cambodians Abroad | Khmer Times

Ry Sovanna is a Cambodian citizen, but in 2013 he was not able to exercise one of his most basic rights – voting. Mr. Sovanna was living in Thailand at the time, and there was no way for him to file his ballot in the Cambodian elections. As a scholarship student in Bangkok with a heavy course load, he couldn’t make the trip back home to cast his vote. “I did not have a chance to vote…because based on Cambodia’s law there is no voting abroad,” he said. “I’m just an ordinary citizen. I just want to vote.” Mr. Sovanna, who has since returned to Phnom Penh, was just one of roughly one million Cambodians who live outside the country. Unless they come back to Cambodia during the election, under current laws these citizens do not have any way to participate in elections. There are no polling stations abroad, and there is no way to file votes by mail.

Canada: Expats still feel ‘a lot of bitterness’ over lack of vote | CBC

Pre-election buzz may feel strong in Canada, with officials announcing solid early-voter numbers. But for the estimated 1.4 million Canadian expats living abroad, the prospect of a change in government back home feels less intense. You don’t feel it very much in suburban Atlanta, where Toronto-born Marty Seed co-owns a pub that shows Blue Jays games for baseball-loving Canucks. Not too much in Phoenix, either, where Bob Keats, a Conservative-leaning tax adviser from Calgary, says he’ll have to catch the polling results via Twitter. And certainly not in the United Arab Emirates, where Montreal-born Aziz Mulay-Shah lectures as a politics and democracy professor at the Canadian University in Dubai.

Canada: Recounts could complicate close election result | iPolitics

With the parties neck-and-neck across the country ahead of Monday’s election, the stage is set for a number of races too close to call — and recounts that could throw the total result in doubt. “The election results could be so close in ridings that there potentially could be eight to fifteen election appeals,” estimates Adam Dodek of the University of Ottawa. When a riding contest is decided by a small margin — “less than one one-thousandth of the total votes cast,” according to Elections Canada, a judicial recount is required. Candidates may also request a recount if they otherwise feel the results are in error. A judicial recount, which, if granted, occurs within four days of the request being filed, involves a ballot-by-ballot re-tabulation under the supervision of a judge of a superior court of the province.

China: As Tibetan exiles vote, candidates discuss views on China | Associated Press

As Tibetans around the world voted Sunday in the first round of elections to choose a new government-in-exile, candidates were debating how to carry on their campaign to free their Himalayan homeland from Chinese rule. Hundreds of Tibetans, including monks and nuns wearing wine-colored robes, lined up behind voting kiosks in the north Indian hill town of Dharmsala, where the exiled government is based. One by one, they wrote the names of their favorite candidates on pieces of paper and slid them into green ballot boxes. It’s just the second time Tibetans are voting since the Dalai Lama stepped down as head of the government-in-exile in 2011 to focus on his role as Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader. “He wants us to stand on our own feet and decide about the future of Tibet,” said Tsering Tsomo, who heads the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Dharmsala. Tsering Tsomo noted that Tibetan democracy was still developing. “We have the institution, but not the culture,” she said.

Egypt: Turnout low in Egypt’s long-awaited parliamentary election | Reuters

Many Egyptian voters shunned the first phase of a parliamentary election on Sunday that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has hailed as a milestone on the road to democracy but his critics have branded as a sham. Polling stations visited by Reuters correspondents pointed to a turnout of around 10 percent, in sharp contrast to the long lines that formed in the 2012 election, suggesting that Sisi, who has enjoyed cult-like adulation, is losing popularity. Elderly supporters of Sisi comprised a large proportion of those turning out to vote, while younger Egyptians boycotted an election for a chamber they say will just rubber-stamp the president’s decisions.

Guinea: Country Divided as Conde Re-Elected | VoA News

Guinea’s incumbent President Alpha Conde won the country’s second democratic election, but Guinea’s opposition parties have rejected the results and called for demonstrations. Bakary Fofana Fofana, the head of Guinea’s Independent National Electoral Commission, announced President Alpha Conde’s re-election victory late Saturday. Fofana said before the constitutional court’s final validation of the results, the electoral commission proclaims Conde as the winner in the first round of voting held last Sunday. Before the results were announced, Guinea’s main opposition leader and former Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo announced he and the six other opposition candidates would reject them.

Switzerland: Far-right gains in election shadowed by migrant worries | Financial Times

Switzerland has swung further to the political right, with a surge in support for the ultraconservative Swiss People’s party in national elections that were overshadowed by Europe’s refugee crisis. The SVP won 29.5 per cent of the vote, up almost 3 percentage points compared with the last parliamentary election in 2011, according to projections based on official results by the SRF broadcaster. That put the SVP above its previous high of 28.9 per cent won in 2007. The strengthening support for the SVP as Switzerland’s biggest party provides an early indicator of the European political fallout triggered by asylum seekers fleeing wars in countries such as Syria, and could presage rising electoral support for far-right, anti-immigration parties in other countries.

Taiwan: Election Drama Is a Message to Beijing | Wall Street Journal

In an emergency congress convened on Friday, Taiwan’s ruling Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, or KMT) ousted Hung Hsiu-chu from its presidential ticket and formally endorsed Party Chairman Eric Chu for January’s presidential election. Ms. Hung, vice president of the legislature, suffered from low opinion polls and an ever-widening gap with the opposition candidate Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who was ahead by nearly 30 percentage points in September. Ms. Hung’s strongly China-leaning policy turned off voters and risked undermining the KMT effort to retain control of the legislature, which the party has held for more than a decade. Mr. Chu, a popular centrist figure, should improve the fortunes of the KMT’s legislative candidates. At 54 he is relatively young, with a reputation for clean government and focusing on economic development. He is currently the mayor of New Taipei City, which he was re-elected to last year in a tight race.

Tanzania: The tightest election race since independence? | Deutsche Welle

The front-runner in Tanzania’s presidential race appears to be John Magufuli, candidate for the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, which has dominated politics in the country since the 1960s. But he faces a stiff challenge from the main opposition parties who have rallied round former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, who recently defected from the CCM to the opposition CHADEMA. This is the first time the opposition have united behind a single candidate. The four parties in the opposition coalition are CHADEMA, NCCR-Mageuzi, Civic United Front (CUF) and the Union for the People’s Constitution.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for October 12-18 2015

long_line_260NPR and The New York Times examined concerns expressed by election officials across the nation about aging voting machines and the potential problems they might cause in the 2016 election. The governor of Alabama has partially reversed a decision to close more than 30 government offices that issue driver licenses and photo IDs, following weeks of criticism by civil rights advocates and Democratic lawmakers who say the action would make it harder for some black residents to get the identification needed to vote. Amid national anxiety about aging voting machines, Colorado elections officials are testing four types of new machines in elections next month as they move toward upgrades statewide. A federal court threw out a lawsuit filed by two Florida Republican Party officials who claimed the state’s anti-gerrymandering law violated the constitution because it had a “chilling effect” on their free speech and petition rights. In a move that has touched off a new battle over voter registration, county election officials in Kansas, under a new rule adopted by the secretary of state’s office, began to cull names from voter lists, removing people who had been on it at least 90 days. Guinean President Alpha Conde was re-elected, avoiding a runoff with his closest rival, who vowed to protest the results and with elections offering the chance for Myanmar to escape a half-century of military dictatorship, many fear the rug will be pulled from under at any moment as illustrated by the fatalistic reaction to Tuesday’s announcement that the long-awaited polls may be postponed because of widespread flooding and landslides. Within hours a statement from the Ministry of Information insisted the vote would proceed on Nov. 8 as planned.