Voting doesn’t begin for another two months but some presidential candidates have already failed their first big ballot test – actually getting on the ballot in all 50 states. The business of getting a candidate’s name on the ballot is a costly and complex endeavor, a major drain of money and manpower that threatens to weed out the most underfunded campaigns and strain the others in what remains a historically unwieldy Republican field. Some states require thousands of signatures to qualify; others charge tens of thousands of dollars. Nationally, the price tag for ballot access can soar well past $1 million – more money than some campaigns have left in the bank. “Right about now is the time when some desperation will set in,” said Ben Ginsberg, a veteran Republican political attorney who served as national counsel for Mitt Romney but is unaligned in 2016.Full Article: 2016 election: The ballot wars begin - POLITICO.
Benton County’s move to vote centers in place of traditional polling places has been approved by the secretary of state’s office — the final OK needed to carry out the plan. The Benton County Election Commission endorsed the plan and obtained Quorum Court approval before sending the plan to Little Rock. With Monday’s approval from the state, election officials will proceed with vote centers where any registered voter can cast a ballot on election day rather than being limited to a single polling place. Election officials were pleased with the quick decision on the plan. The county plan was sent to the secretary of state’s office in Little Rock twice Monday, with email problems prompting the need for it to be resent. The plan was approved less than two hours after it was resent.Full Article: Polling centers given state's OK.
The knock-down fight over the political future of the Florida Senate entered its third round this week as lawyers for the coalition of voting groups accused Republican lawmakers of conspiring again to protect incumbents, while the Legislature’s lawyers accused opponents of “operating in the shadows” to help Democrats. The Senate’s map “smacks of partisan intent” because it failed to maximize population and respect political boundaries, “while offering unmistakable benefits for the Republican Party and incumbents,” wrote the lawyers for the coalition plaintiffs, led by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause of Florida. But the lawyers for the Republican-led Senate and House blasted the plaintiffs for relying on map drawing experts who had ties to Democrats and therefore drew maps that “systematically” benefited Democrats.Full Article: Both sides make conspiracy accusations in Florida’s redistricting fight | Miami Herald.
Supporters of a Native Hawaiian election of delegates to a February convention are urging voters to submit their ballots by the Monday deadline, despite an order Friday by U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy temporarily halting the counting of ballots or certification of winners. Kennedy’s one-sentence order was terse, saying only “respondents are enjoined from counting the ballots cast in, and certifying the winners of, the election described in the application, pending further order of the undersigned or of the Court.” It’s not uncommon for a single justice, the one assigned to a specific circuit, to unilaterally issue an order, Todd Belt, a political science professor at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, said Friday. It’s much less common for the court to act so quickly, Belt said. He said a notable example was the case of Bush v. Gore, during the contested 2000 presidential election. “They’ve been known to take cases very quickly,” Belt said. “It’s happened in the past and generally it’s done if there’s some sort of inherent harm.”Full Article: U.S. Supreme Court justice temporarily halts Native Hawaiian election | West Hawaii Today.
Some of our friends are highly skeptical of the Independent Maps movement to restore fairness to Illinois political map making. “What good will it do?” “Voters are too turned off to get engaged again.” “Change is too hard and it takes too long.” Reasonable thoughts. Let’s start with the last statement. Nothing worth attaining ever comes easily or quickly. The best argument for change is whether you are satisfied with the political makeup of Illinois. Most people who don’t have a seat in government will tell you that they are not. The current budget stalemate is just one example of a dysfunctional state government. It’s going to take a long time to get the kind of change needed to get Illinois back on track, but if we don’t start now that change will never happen. Voters are turned off because they really don’t have a choice when they walk into their polling places. In 2014, about 60 percent of elections for the General Assembly were uncontested. Incumbents won 97 percent of the time.Full Article: Our View: Illinois redistricting fix has momentum; keep it going - Opinion - Rockford Register Star - Rockford, IL.
Michigan voters who with a single mark can vote Democratic or Republican for every partisan office on the ballot may no longer have the option in 2016. Republicans who control the Legislature want to make Michigan the latest state to eliminate straight-ticket, or straight-party, voting. It is still used in 10 states but has been abolished by nine others in the last 20 years, including nearby Wisconsin and Illinois. To its detractors, straight-party voting encourages ill-prepared voters to pick officeholders solely on party affiliation, not their qualifications, and is a relic of party machine politics. Proponents say it is a convenient, popular option whose removal would lengthen lines, particularly in urban polling precincts, in a state with the country’s sixth-longest average wait time. The GOP-controlled Senate this month approved legislation to end the straight-ticket option, and majority House Republicans may follow in December before adjourning for the year.Full Article: Michigan’s straight-ticket voting option may be eliminated | Associated Press.
We’ve long wondered what the legislature’s wrong-headed laws are costing North Carolina, both in reputation and in taxpayer dollars to defend them in court. It may be impossible to put a precise dollar figure on the state’s reputation, but we now know the legal cost: More than $8 million. The Associated Press reported last week that the Republican-led General Assembly has budgeted $4 million a year for the next two years to pay outside lawyers to defend controversial N.C. laws.Full Article: N.C.’s regrettable use of $8 million | The Charlotte Observer.
There was disturbing news from the Summit County Board of Elections last week. The absentee ballots of 861 voters who mailed their selections to the board were disqualified, even though they had done nothing wrong. What their ballots lacked was a postmark, or at least the kind required by Ohio law. The disqualified ballots from the Nov. 3 election represent 9 percent of the mailed-in absentee ballots in the county. No one familiar with Ohio’s role in presidential elections could ignore easily the thought that such a disqualification rate next year — multiplied across this battleground state — could throw the national results into controversy and lawsuits.Full Article: Other viewpoint: Tossed ballots show need to update law | The Columbus Dispatch.
A senior member of Afghanistan’s election commission survived an assassination attempt Saturday when a suicide bomber targeted his vehicle in Kabul, killing one of his employees and wounding two others, officials said. No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack on Awal Rehman Rodwal, the regional director at the Independent Election Commission, which comes after more than a month-long lull in Taliban raids on the capital.“This morning when Rodwal was leaving for work, there was an explosion before he got into his car,” Noor Mohmmad Noor, an IEC spokesman told AFP. “Rodwal escaped the attack unharmed.”Full Article: Suicide bomber targets Afghan election official in Kabul.
The Australian Electoral Commission will abolish 730 polling booths — about one in 10 — at the next federal election, partly due to the rapid growth in early voting, which has more than doubled since 2007. Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers revealed to The Australian that he would scrap 253 polling places across NSW, 197 in Victoria, 133 in Queensland, 51 in South Australia, 44 in Western Australia, 38 in Tasmania, 10 in the ACT and four in the Northern Territory. Mr Rogers said the decision to close 730 of the 7697 polling booths used at the last election had come after an audit to make better use of staff and resources and also because the number of votes cast before election day has risen from 1.1 million in 2007 to 2.5 million in 2013.Full Article: Australian Electoral Commission to close 1 in 10 polling booths.
Burkina Faso voted Sunday in the first election since mass protests last year forced Blaise Compaore to step down as president after ruling Africa’s fourth-biggest gold producer for almost three decades. About 5 million people were eligible to cast ballots in both presidential and legislative elections. Twelve hours of voting ended about 6 p.m. local time, and officials began counting the ballots Sunday night. Results could be announced in a few days. Most polling stations opened on time and no incidents were reported, Cecile Kyenge, head of the European Union observer mission, said in an interview.Full Article: Burkina Faso Begins Counting Ballots in Presidential Vote - Bloomberg Business.
Hundreds of Saudi women began campaigning for public office on Sunday, in a first for women in the conservative kingdom’s slow reform process – even as two activists were disqualified. More than 900 women are standing alongside thousands of men in the 12 December municipal ballot, which will also mark the first time that women inSaudi Arabia are allowed to vote. “I’ve been eliminated as a candidate for the municipal elections,” Loujain Hathloul said in a message on Twitter. “I will be filing my objection via the appropriate channels.” Saudi authorities detained Hathloul for more than two months after she tried to drive into the kingdom last December from the United Arab Emirates, in defiance of a Saudi ban on women driving. She could not immediately be reached but earlier told Agence France-Presse that she wanted to run “to increase the percentage of women’s participation”.Full Article: Two disqualified as first Saudi women begin campaign for election | The Guardian.
Seychelles: Supreme Court Dismisses Electoral Commission’s Petition to Re-Open Register to Fix Anomalies – Presidential Contenders Agree Supplementary Voters List | allAfrica.com
The Seychelles Electoral Commission has indicated that a supplementary list of voters will be prepared for the upcoming elections to be held from December 3 to 5, 2015, so as not to disenfranchise 44 Seychellois voters due to some anomalies found on the certified Register of Voters that will be used for the elections. The Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Hendrick Gappy said this during a press interview late this evening after meeting with members of the political parties; the presidential candidates themselves or their representatives to discuss the matter. The urgent meeting to discuss the preparation of a supplementary list came after the Seychelles Supreme Court dismissed a case brought by the Electoral Commission asking for the voters register to be re-opened to accommodate “clerical errors and oversights” discovered after the closure of the register.Full Article: Seychelles Supreme Court Dismisses Electoral Commission's Petition to Re-Open Register to Fix Anomalies - Presidential Contenders Agree Supplementary Voters List - allAfrica.com.
On Dec. 6 Venezuelans will go to the polls to elect their representatives in high-stakes legislative elections. The vote comes amid international scrutiny over the integrity of the country’s electoral process. The U.S. government, the Organization of American States (OAS) and human rights groups have all called for credible elections. Some in the U.S. media have already indicted the elections’ validity. But these critics ignore the fact that thousands of domestic observers and hundreds of international monitors from the Union of South American Nations and other groups have already signed on to oversee the elections. It is clear that much of the diplomatic posturing is not meant to protect Venezuela’s electoral integrity but to further delegitimize the government of President Nicolás Maduro. No election system is perfect, but Venezuela has one of the most efficient, secure and transparent electoral systems. “The election process in Venezuela is the best in the world,” said former President Jimmy Carter in 2012 — praise echoed by other neutral observers.Full Article: Venezuela’s Electoral System Unfairly Maligned | Al Jazeera America.
The Supreme Court’s docket is crowded with voter redistricting disputes this term, including a Texas case that could redefine the principle of “one person, one vote”. State redistricting battles continue in Florida and North Carolina. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp plans to hire top auditing agency Ernst & Young to review his technology department in the wake of a data breach that exposed private information of more than 6 million voters. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy ordered officials in Hawaii not to count ballots or name the winners of an election there in which only people of native Hawaiian ancestry could vote. Weeks before he leaves office, Kentucky Governor Steven Beshear issued an executive order that immediately granted the right to vote to about 140,000 nonviolent felons who have completed their sentences. Violent protest erupted in Haiti after results were announced for a run-off election that international observers say was marred by systemic fraud, voter confusion and intimidation, and in some areas disenfranchisement, while Pakistan has abandoned plans to offer internet voting to overseas voters.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s docket is crowded with voter redistricting disputes this term. The high court already heard a procedural redistricting dispute, Shapiro v. McManus, U.S., No. 14-990, argued, 11/4/15 (84 U.S.L.W. 615, 11/10/15), and the justices recently agreed to take a look at a racial gerrymandering challenge to Virginia’s latest voter map in Wittman v. Personhuballah, U.S., No. 14-1504, review granted, 11/13/15 (84 U.S.L.W. 663, 11/17/15). But on Dec. 8, the one-person, one-vote principle will take center stage at the high court in two separate redistricting cases: Evenwel v. Abbott, U.S., No. 14-940, oral argument scheduled, 12/8/15, and Harris v. Ariz. Indep. Redistricting Comm’n, U.S., No. 14-232, oral argument scheduled, 12/8/15. Where the justices ultimately land in these cases could have a national impact. The dispute in Evenwel—possibly the most consequential of the two one-person, one-vote challenges—centers on whether the one-person, one-vote principle announced in Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964), protects all persons, or just eligible voters.Full Article: Supreme Court Digs Into Redistricting | Bloomberg BNA.
A coalition of voting-rights organizations has withdrawn two state Senate redistricting proposals it had submitted to a Leon County judge, virtually ensuring that at least one district will cross Tampa Bay when the legal fight ends. The coalition, which includes the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause Florida, announced the move one day before the groups and the Legislature are set to file briefs with Circuit Court Judge George Reynolds objecting to each other’s maps. The state Senate has submitted a single map that would cross the bay. Reynolds is supposed to recommend one of the plans to the Florida Supreme Court as the best way to follow the anti-gerrymandering “Fair Districts” redistricting standards approved by voters in 2010, after the Legislature agreed in a legal settlement that the current map would be found in violation of those rules.Full Article: 2 redistricting proposals pulled.
Georgia: Improper release of voter data prompts outside audit of state agency | Atlanta Journal Constitution
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp plans to hire top auditing agency Ernst & Young to review his technology department in the wake of a data breach that exposed private information of more than 6 million voters. In a statement sent out after 6 p.m. Friday, Kemp also acknowledged a “similar but more limited” incident occurred in October 2012. According to emails obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution through an open records request about that incident, 12 voter registration lists containing sensitive personal data were sent out to people in 15 counties. But Kemp’s statement said “all of the information was recovered at the time.” News of the most recent incident became widely known Wednesday, when the AJC wrote about a class-action lawsuit alleging a massive data breach in the Secretary of State’s Office.Full Article: Improper release of voter data prompts outside audit of state... | www.myajc.com.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy on Friday ordered officials in Hawaii not to count ballots or name the winners of an election there in which only people of native Hawaiian ancestry could vote. The justice’s order was a response to an emergency application from Hawaii residents who said the election violated the 15th Amendment, which bars race discrimination in voting. The election is to end on Monday, and Justice Kennedy’s order did not stop the voting. He apparently acted on his own, and his order may mean only that he wanted to preserve the status quo over a holiday weekend until the full court could consider the matter. The election is for delegates to a convention that would prepare a document on self-governance by Native Hawaiians. Under a definition in a 2011 law, only descendants of “the aboriginal peoples who, before 1778, occupied and exercised sovereignty in the Hawaiian islands” are eligible to vote.Full Article: Supreme Court Justice Intervenes in Native Hawaiian Election - The New York Times.
Weeks before he leaves office, the governor of Kentucky on Tuesday issued an executive order that immediately granted the right to vote to about 140,000 nonviolent felons who have completed their sentences. The order by Gov. Steven L. Beshear, a Democrat, was cheered by advocates for criminal justice reform and civil rights, who said it would place Kentucky’s policy more in line with others across the nation and was consistent with a trend toward easing voting restrictions on former inmates. Kentucky had been one of just three states imposing a lifetime voting ban on felons unless they received a special exemption from the governor. Florida and Iowa still carry the lifetime ban.Full Article: Kentucky Governor Restores Voting Rights to Thousands of Felons - The New York Times.