National: Election Assistance Commission Hires New Executive Director and General Counsel |

The United States Election Assistance Commission (EAC) announced the hiring of a new Executive Director and General Counsel for the agency today. Brian D. Newby is the agency’s new Executive Director. Mr. Newby served as the Election Commissioner in Johnson County, Kansas for the last eleven years. Newby serves on the Election Center Legislative Committee, is a member of the International Association of Clerks, Recorders, and Election Officials and is a former board member of the National Association of County Records, Election Officials, and Clerks. A Kansas City, Missouri native, Newby holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and a bachelor’s degree in communications studies from the same school.

In addition, the EAC announced the hiring of Cliff Tatum of Washington, DC as its new General Counsel today. Mr. Tatum spent the last four years at the DC Board of Elections serving as Executive Director. Tatum previously served as the Interim Director of the Georgia State Elections Division and as an Assistant Director of Legal Affairs for the Georgia Secretary of State. Previously, Tatum was an active trial attorney practicing commercial and general litigation in Atlanta, Georgia. He also served as Deputy Solicitor General for the City of East Point in the State of Georgia. Tatum is an alumnus of Thomas M. Cooley Law School and has a degree in Administration of Justice from Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina.

National: Three Ballot Initiatives That Could Change How Americans Vote |

While everyone is paying attention to the 2016 primary battles unfolding in both parties, its easy to forget that we have another election coming up this Tuesday, Nov. 3. And while we won’t be choosing our next president, in three places — Maine, Seattle and Ohio — voters will be able to weigh in directly, through ballot initiatives, on how their future elections will work. Both Maine and Seattle’s ballot initiatives are aimed at limiting the power that special-interest donors wield in the political process. For over a decade, Maine has been cited as a prime example that publicly financing elections can work. The state’s Clean Elections Act offers public financing to any candidate who collects enough small donations to demonstrate widespread support, and who swears off large contributions. Passed in 1996 and implemented in 2000, the system worked, with the majority of Maine’s legislators opting in. But the system was undermined by two Supreme Court decisions — Citizens United and Arizona Free Enterprise v. Bennett, the latter of which went after public financing direct

Editorials: A Feasible Roadmap to Compulsory Voting | Nicholas Stephanopoulos/The Atlantic

Not enough people vote. It’s a perennial source of concern in American politics. There’s no shortage of reforms designed to address the problem, but one idea that seems particularly promising, at least in theory, is compulsory voting. It would produce much higher turnout for the obvious reason that it requires people to vote. It’s long been dismissed, though, as an impossible pipe dream, unlikely to ever happen in the United States. But if reformers were to start at the municipal level, they could set into motion forces that might lead to its nationwide adoption. Start with some statistics: In years with presidential elections, voter turnout peaks at just above 60 percent. In off-year elections, turnout dips to 40 percent or less. In November 2014, only 36 percent of eligible voters went to the polls—the lowest share in more than 70 years. Participation this paltry calls into question the political system’s legitimacy. It also hints that election outcomes might be quite different if more people bothered to show up.

Editorials: The toxic erosion of voter rights in Alabama | The Washington Post

Alabama is one of many states with unnecessary voter ID laws, voter-suppression policies passed on the pretext of preventing virtually nonexistent forms of voter fraud. Last month, the state government made things even worse. Its new budget will make it harder to get a driver’s license in Alabama, particularly in majority-black, poor and rural areas. After an initial round of uproar, Gov. Robert Bentley (R) tried to scale back and downplay the toxic interaction between these two policies. But it is too little, too late: Unless state leaders fully reverse both, they will be guilty of eroding the fundamental principle of one person, one vote, and they will deserve condemnation. State examiners used to issue driver’s licenses in satellite offices around the state. Under the new budget, 31 of these satellite offices were slated to close. After a national outcry, Mr. Bentley partially reversed that plan, promising that state workers will travel into remote counties once a month. That’s better than never, but it is still a massive reduction in access.

Arizona: Redistricting panel disputes GOP bias claim | Arizona Daily Sun

A Republican claim of bias in the legislative redistricting process does not stand up under scrutiny, according to an attorney for the Independent Redistricting Commission. In legal briefs filed at the U.S. Supreme Court, Mary O’Grady points out that challengers to the maps drawn by the five-member commission claim it purposely created unequal districts for partisan purposes. They charge that the panel “packed” Republicans into some districts in a deliberate effort to give Democrats an edge. O’Grady said that was not the primary purpose, a conclusion backed by the majority of a three-judge panel in a ruling last year. She said the real aim was to protect minority voting strength as required by the federal Voting Rights Act. Anyway, she said, if commissioners really intended to boost Democrat representation in the Legislature, they failed.

Colorado: Break It Down: Colorado’s Voting Machine Trials | 5280

The race to the 2016 presidential primary is heating up, but on a state level, Colorado voters have a pressing political deadline. On Tuesday, an estimated 40 percent of Colorado’s registered voters will head to the polls, according to Jerome Lovato, voting systems specialist for the state of Colorado. But this year, voters will also have a hand in deciding the future of Colorado’s elections by helping test new voting machines. The upcoming elections are a trial period for four different vote-counting machines, each of which will be tested in both a large Front Range county, as well as a smaller rural county. The test counties include Adams, Denver, Douglas, Garfield, Gilpin, Jefferson, Mesa, and Teller. Secretary of State Wayne Williams plans to authorize one of these machines for use in future elections statewide, starting in 2016. The winning machine will be chosen for its security, usability, accuracy, and user feedback, among other criteria, according to Lovato. By streamlining Colorado votes on one system, the department hopes to start moving away from the current, outdated mix of direct-record electronic voting machines—a process that’s long overdue. So what do you need to know about our current (and upcoming) voting systems before heading to the polls? Read on to find out why Colorado’s antiquated voting system is in desperate need of an upgrade.

District of Columbia: With Elections Looming, Head Of D.C. Elections Board Announces Departure | WAMU

The head of the D.C. Board of Elections is departing the agency charged with managing the city’s voter rolls and elections, leaving just as preparations ramp up for an upcoming election year that will feature both local races and the presidential contest. Clifford Tatum, who took over the elections board in October 2011, is heading to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, where he will serve as general counsel. The commission was created in the wake of the contested 2000 presidential election, and provides technical information and assistance to state and local election administrators. Since Tatum took the helm of the elections board, he’s managed elections every year: two primaries, two general elections and four special elections. He also oversaw a controversial change in the city’s primary date from September to April; in 2016 it will move to June.

Florida: House panel tweaks Senate districts, sets up another redistricting clash | Orlando Sentinel

The House and Senate are again poised to clash over redrawing political boundaries after a House redistricting committee Monday changed a plan passed by the Senate last week to redraw 40 Senate districts. The most significant changes shift district lines in Miami-Dade County. Sen. Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, amended a “base map” drawn by legislative staffers that drew more compact districts there but that also kept him out of a district that included fellow incumbent Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami. House redistricting chairman, Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, said he redrew the Senate map to include some changes sought by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause, the voters rights groups who brought the redistricting lawsuit. Because his map includes much of the Senate version and parts of the voters groups’ preferred map, he doesn’t see another “collision course” with the Senate.

Florida: House Redistricting Lines Veer Away From Senate Plan | News Service of Florida

The House redistricting committee voted along party lines Monday to approve its version of new districts for the state Senate, potentially setting up a battle with the upper chamber as a special session on the map entered its final week. On a 9-4 vote, the Select Committee on Redistricting’s Republican majority pushed through a proposal by Chairman Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, that sets aside a compromise on South Florida seats struck in the Senate last week. That compromise, which supporters say protected Hispanic voting strength but opponents said was a crass political move, helped boost a plan that passed the Senate on a narrow 22-18 margin.

Editorials: Criticisms of Maryland redistricting reform fall short | Baltimore Sun

Gov. Larry Hogan’s redistricting commission may have been doomed from the start — its intent to reduce or eliminate gerrymandering of congressional and legislative districts running at odds with the intent of the Democratic majority within the General Assembly to keep that particular weapon in their political arsenal. But at least opponents should have the decency to offer intellectually honest critiques. Sen. Joan Carter Conway’s complaint voiced during Tuesday’s meeting of the Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission, as reported by the Capital News Service, failed to meet that standard. To put it in a nutshell, Senator Conway, a commission member, said a proposed nine-member panel that would be created to draw legislative boundaries — a group chosen at random from applicants vetted by randomly-selected state judges and with balance given to party affiliation so that no one party would dominate — would be “as far from independent” as legislators are. Really? To paraphrase a popular NFL pregame show, “Come on, ma’am.”

Ohio: Voters Set to Rein In Gerrymandering | Wall Street Journal

Ohio voters are expected to overhaul how election maps are drawn as states look for ways to make congressional and legislative districts more competitive and less confusing after decades of partisan gerrymandering. The Midwestern state will vote Tuesday on a constitutional amendment to change how Ohio is carved up into state House and Senate districts. Congressional districts won’t be affected by the changes, but advocates say they could be next. Attempts to change the map-drawing process have failed before in Ohio. But the amendment on the ballot Tuesday passed the Legislature with bipartisan support and has no organized opposition. The redistricting process, which takes place once a decade to account for population shifts, is criticized in many states for being used by elected officials to boost the chances of incumbents and expand the reach of the political party in power. “When you have more competitive districts, you have more collaboration, more compromise—and we feel better government,” said Vernon Sykes, a former Democratic state representative who pushed for the Ohio constitutional amendment with a Republican colleague.

Editorials: Bill puts veil over campaign funding in Wisconsin | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

A bill that has passed the Assembly and could be considered by the state Senate as early as Tuesday would make it much harder for citizens to learn the background of who is financing candidates’ campaigns and codify a recent Wisconsin Supreme Court decision allowing candidates to work closely with issue groups that don’t have to disclose where they get their money. The Republican legislation would also allow unions and corporations to give money to political parties and campaign committees controlled by legislative leaders. And wealthy donors would be free to give as much as they wanted to those entities, which could then pass them on to candidates. As passed by the Assembly, the bill includes a provision championed by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) that would end a requirement that donors disclose where they work, making it harder for the public to know when companies are investing heavily in certain politicians.

Editorials: Lowering voting age to 16 just one step to restore public trust in politics | Judith Bessant/The Age

Labor leader Bill Shorten announced he plans to reduce the voting age to 16 if elected. He offers three arguments for this.
One relates to consistency and fairness. If young people have the right and capacity to join the armed services, pay taxes or make their own choices about medical treatment, then why can’t they vote? His second argument is that the young are disengaged politically and from civic life generally. This seems to rely on the stereotype of narcissistic young people (the me generation) who are too self-absorbed to become responsible citizens. He also thinks lowering the voting age to 16 will help to “correct democracy’s participation problem”. Much of the criticism of this plan points to Shorten’s deficiencies. While Shorten is generally proving to be an ineffectual leader, his plan to lower the voting age to 16 should be supported. For a society to be considered democratic as many people as possible ought to be able to vote. There is an old ethical and democratic principle that says for any policy, law, or decision to be legitimate everyone affected by it ought to have a say about its adoption.

Azerbaijan: Ruling Party Claims Win In Poll Boycotted By Opposition | RFERL

President Ilham Aliyev’s ruling New Azerbaijan Party (YAP) has claimed a landslide victory in the country’s November 1 parliamentary elections — a vote that was boycotted by Europe’s largest monitoring agency and all of Azerbaijan’s established opposition parties. Aliyev’s ruling party was widely expected to maintain its dominance as a result of the election, which came in the midst of a persistent government clampdown on dissent that shows few signs of being lifted. The former Soviet republic’s 5,547 polling stations closed at 7 p.m.local time and some 5 million Azerbaijanis were eligible to vote.

Congo: Opposition Sees Electoral-Body Departures Delaying Poll | Bloomberg

Opposition politicians in the Democratic Republic of Congo warned recent upheaval at the national electoral commission may delay elections and undermine stability in Africa’s biggest copper producer, after the vice president of the body resigned at the weekend. The resignation of Andre Pungwe from the Independent National Electoral Commission came after its president, Abbe Apollinaire Malu Malu, quit in October because of ill-health. “If we are not careful, the crisis situation at the CENI, which the ruling Presidential Majority is in the process of creating, will soon undermine the organization of elections and the stability of Congo,” the opposition group, known as the G7, said in an e-mailed statement. The G7 said Pungwe’s resignation was a result of political pressure placed on the independent body by the government, which it says intends to delay a series of elections over the next 12 months that will culminate in a presidential vote in 2016. Pungwe’s decision to leave was personal and unrelated to his work at the CENI, government spokesman Lambert Mende said Monday by phone from Kinshasa, the capital.

Myanmar: Voter list issues continue for at least another day | Myanmar Times

Myanmar’s first final, nationwide voter list was slated to go on public display yesterday, but after months of outraged political parties and voters calling election officials to task, most will have to wait at least another day to see the final roll. The Union Election Commission had initially planned on publicly posting the final list on November 2. The schedule was revised and extended to a last-minute, staggered release that would start at the local election office and progress to the township, state and Union level, where it would be combined and cross-checked. The relevant lists were also supposed to be posted at each polling station on November 6 and 7. Widespread voter list omissions, redundancies and inaccurate data plaguing the last two lists have proven a contentious and central obstacle in the coming election. While the final, corrected renditions were supposed to start rolling out yesterday, Myanmar Times reporters posted around the country found varying degrees to which local offices succeeded in meeting the deadline.

Tanzania: Zanzibar Bombings May Be Related to a Disputed Election | The New York Times

A string of small bombings on the island of Zanzibar has residents there fearing that the explosions could be related to last month’s disputed election and that more trouble could be coming. Early Sunday, a small homemade bomb exploded near Stone Town, a popular tourist destination known for its labyrinthine streets and teeming bazaars. On Saturday, two similar bombs went off. On Friday, an undetonated bomb was found with a cellphone. The police said there were no injuries from any of the explosives. Still, many residents and foreign embassies were concerned. Britain issued a travel advisory that read: “Violence could escalate quickly. If you’re in Zanzibar, avoid being out on the streets and avoid traveling into the center of Stone Town.”