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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.