The United States takes great pride in being one of the largest and longest running modern democracies in the world. Yet when it comes to having a good voter registration system, we have a long way to go. Today’s voter registration systems vary widely in terms of quality and effectiveness from state to state, according to a recent study by the Brennan Center for Justice. A dozen states still use paper forms to register voters, making their systems costly to run and prone to errors. The states that do use technology differ in how they use computers to register voters, often making the system less effective than it could be. Until Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, citizens had to seek out the necessary forms to register. The “Motor Voter” law, as it came to be called, made the process easier by putting the forms at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and requiring agency personnel to ask drivers if they wanted to register. But many countries — including Australia, Chile, France, Germany and Sweden — make it easier than that to sign up with automatic voter registration.
Editorials: Why Upgrading Election Infrastructure Is an Investment in Democracy | Seth Flaxman/Huffington Post
The presidential campaign is now upon us, and with it comes a nearly endless line of candidates and a wave of money that will crash over our democracy like we’ve never before experienced. You will read the now-routine media story of “how much the election costs” and stagger at the hugeness of the numbers. In 2012, presidential and congressional campaigns combined to spend more than $7 billion. The midterms of 2014 posted $3.7 billion all on their own.Yet, it would be wrong to assume these numbers represent the true cost of elections — these sensational numbers are the totals spent to get candidates into office. County, town and state governments pay for running an election, and it’s done on a shoestring budget. Campaigns spend countless time and energy focused on persuading exactly the right number of voters necessary to win. In contrast, election administrators across the country, strive to make our elections work better. They hope to build civic participation year-over-year and to increase voter access while making the process more user-friendly. Election administrators are the stewards of our democracy, and yet their budgets are often an afterthought.
District of Columbia: DC is Latest Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization Member | Huffington Post
At its 20th session in Brussels, Belgium, UNPO formally voted to accept the Nation’s Capital as a new member. The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) is an international, nonviolent and democratic membership organization. Its members are indigenous peoples, minorities and unrecognized or occupied territories who have joined together to protect and promote their human and cultural rights, to preserve their environments and to find nonviolent solutions to conflicts which affect them. The UNPO Presidency considered the application of the District of Columbia, alongside that of two other prospective members. Only the DC application met the formal requirements for membership. In recognition of its lack of self-determination, lack of voting representation in the national legislature, and potential unequal weight in Presidential elections, the District of Columbia was admitted as a member of UNPO through a vote by the Presidency Members. The UNPO found that the struggle for equal political representation in the Nation’s Capital clearly qualifies DC as an unrepresented territory.
Leon County Circuit Court Judge George Reynolds rejected a request by the Florida Senate to have the court hire a redistricting expert to redraw the Senate maps, saying “we just don’t have enough time left” to hire a newcomer to the process and get the boundaries set in time for the 2016 election. The quick decision after a 30-minute hearing Friday was a blow to the Florida Senate, whose lawyers argued that by hiring an expert to draw the maps instead of relying on the Legislature or challengers, they could streamline this litigation and reduce the burden to the parties and Florida’s taxpayers. “It appears to me we just don’t have enough time left to engage in any process, other than the one we are currently on,” Reynolds said in denying the Senate request. “I do that with some reluctance because I could use all the help that I can get in making this decision.”
While serving in the U.S. Army, Yona resident Luis Segovia spent an 18-month tour in Iraq, helping provide security during the country’s 2005 elections. He also served a 12-month tour in Afghanistan with the Illinois National Guard and another 10-month tour in Afghanistan with the Guam National Guard. Although collectively serving his country in both conflict areas for more than three years, Segovia, a former resident of Illinois and current staff sergeant for the Guam National Guard, can’t vote in presidential elections as a resident of Guam. “On Veterans Day, it’s hard to be treated like I am good enough to risk my life defending democracy, but not good enough to vote for my Commander-in-Chief,” Segovia said in an email.
Gov. Christie on Monday vetoed legislation that would have brought sweeping changes to the state’s voting laws, panning the bill as “thinly veiled political gamesmanship.” Christie, a Republican running for president, previously criticized the legislation as an effort by the Democratic National Committee to increase voter fraud. “Ultimately, New Jersey taxpayers deserve better than to have their hard-earned tax dollars spent on thinly veiled political gamesmanship, and the state must ensure that every eligible citizen’s vote counts and is not stolen by fraud,” Christie wrote in his veto message. “This 71-page bill, styled as ‘the Democracy Act,’ will not further democracy but endanger the state’s long-standing and proven election system,” he wrote.
Polling places mysteriously ran out of ballots when Mexican Americans showed up to vote. Ads on Spanish language radio threatened fines and imprisonment to those who voted without first properly registering to vote. Illiterate voters were not given assistance at the polls. These were just a few examples of tactics used to keep Mexican Americans from voting in elections after the Voting Rights Act was passed given by scholars and activists at a two-day conference in Texas on the struggle for Latino voting rights. The Voting Rights Act protections are weakened today after a 2013 ruling by the Supreme Court that gutted the act, experts said, and new tactics are taking their place to suppress Latino votes as the population grows and becomes more politically potent.
While it may feel like it has been going on forever, the 2016 election is one year from now. The presidency is at stake, of course. Control of the Senate, of state legislatures, and even (theoretically) of the House of Representatives is up in the air. But in basic ways, the very integrity of our electoral system is on the ballot, too, next year. Alarmingly, we don’t even know the basic rules that will be in place — and there is more in flux than in any recent presidential year. One other thing is certain, though: Voters are angry about the state of our democracy. And this is a critical time to yell about it. Start with the vote. We all know that Republican-controlled states passed dozens of new laws since 2011 to make it harder for many Americans to cast a ballot. Hardest hit: the poor, minorities, students, the elderly. These laws often have been delayed or tangled up in court. But 15 states will have new restrictions in effect for the first time in a high-turnout national election. And it is the first presidential election since the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, the nation’s most effective civil rights law.
The constitutionality of limits on Alaska campaign contributions is challenged in a new federal lawsuit filed on Wednesday. Three individuals and the local chapter of the Alaska Republican Party filed the lawsuit against the executive director and board of the Alaska Public Offices Commission, which enforces state political financing laws. The suit alleges that four aspects of campaign laws violate the U.S Constitution: a $500 limit on individual contributions to a candidate, a $500 limit on individual contributions to a group, the $3,000 limit on out-of-state contributions, and limits on political party contributions.
The liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is riding the rescue of beleaguered Republicans in the Democratic stronghold of Tucson. It doesn’t get much stranger. The issue is Tucson’s hybrid system of city elections. Primaries are ward-only events. The general elections are city-wide. The result is that Republicans who get nominated in GOP parts of the city lose in the general election. Sometimes, the Democrats who are elected citywide actually lost in their home ward. If their home ward was Republican. The mayor – who ran unopposed in the last election – and all six council members are Democrats.
After months of feuding, the Florida House and Senate reached a redistricting truce on Thursday and asked the court to hire an expert to draw a new map revising the state Senate boundaries instead of conducting a five-day trial next month. “The appointment of a consultant would streamline this litigation and reduce the burden to the parties and Florida’s taxpayers by eliminating the need for costly discovery and a five-day evidentiary hearing,” wrote the Senate lawyers to Leon County Circuit Court Judge George Reynolds. “It would also eliminate any suspicion that the adopted map was laden with improper intent.” Reynolds had asked the parties to submit a scheduling plan for the Senate redistricting trial by Thursday. But after receiving the call for an expert, Reynolds issued an order saying the trial would move ahead as scheduled, with maps submitted by next Wednesday. There was no mention of what he will do with the Senate’s request.
While serving in the U.S. Army, Yona resident Luis Segovia spent an 18-month tour in Iraq, helping provide security during the country’s 2005 elections. He also served a 12-month tour in Afghanistan with the Illinois National Guard and another 10-month tour in Afghanistan with the Guam National Guard. Although collectively serving his country in both conflict areas for more than three years, Segovia, a former resident of Illinois and current staff sergeant for the Guam National Guard, can’t vote in presidential elections as a resident of Guam.
When Maryland voters head to the polls next year, there will be two different systems in place for both early voting and the general election, including the use of paper ballots. The Baltimore City Board of Elections provided a first look at the new way of voting being rolled out across the state next year. Maryland is going back to a paper ballot for the general election, but early voting in April will involve paper and a computer. City election director Armstead Jones said the new system will help create oversight. “Several years ago people talked about wanting a receipt,” Jones said. “Unfortunately they still won’t have a receipt, but the paper will serve as a backup.”
Barely 26 hours after Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill intended to overhaul New Jersey’s voting system and boost voter participation, Democratic state lawmakers from both chambers met in a rare joint caucus to chart a new course. The bill, called the Democracy Act, would make voter registration automatic upon applying for a driver’s license and expand early voting. Among other provisions, the bill (A4613) would resolve the state’s contradictory U.S. Senate succession rules and require pre-election materials be printed in more languages. Democrats pushing the bill have said it will increase access to the ballot and boost voter participation. Nationally, Democrats have sought to enfranchise more voters, while Republicans have expressed concern about fraud.
New Jersey just had the lowest Election Day turnout in its history – with just one out of five voters bothering to show up – so the governor figures he might as well make it harder for people to vote. His veto of the Democracy Act Monday was another predictable strike in Gov. Christie’s campaign for voter suppression, and he even dusted off some old chestnuts about unreasonable costs and how the bill failed to “ensure that every eligible citizen’s vote counts and is not stolen by fraud.” It’s always amusing when politicians imply that voters cannot be trusted. And it’s special when a politician who spent $12 million on a special election – in a shameless attempt to hide from the electorate – claims he’s looking out for our wallets.
The Hamilton County Board of Elections is investigating difficulties a number of voters faced last week as they sought to weigh in on controversial local and state ballot issues. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted called for the investigation in light of hurdles voters faced Nov. 3. Those problems led to an order to keep polls in the county open an extra hour and a half. While the board’s investigation continues ahead of a Dec. 11 deadline, officials say the county’s new electronic voting system might have played a role. For some in Hamilton County, voting was arduous, with technical glitches forcing voters to cast provisional ballots and imprecise information given by poll workers sending other voters scrambling. At least some of these problems, officials say, were likely caused by a mistake involving an erroneous date entered into the electronic system that left it unable to recognize voters who registered after that date. The difficulties could spell trouble during next year’s sure-to-be-contentious presidential election, where Ohio will play a central role.
Backers of eight ballot measures ranging from allowing medical marijuana to instituting nonpartisan elections in South Dakota have submitted petitions to put the plans before voters next year. Secretary of State Shantel Krebs said in a statement Tuesday that it will likely take her office until Jan. 1 to review the proposals. The ballot questions include four initiated measures and four constitutional amendments that were submitted by the Monday deadline. Supporters had to provide at least 13,871 signatures for initiated measures and at least 27,741 for amendments. The office looks at signatures and petition completeness as part of its review before the measures appear on the ballot. Several other measures are already set to go before voters in 2016.
The ruling coalition of the Democratic Republic of Congo said a series of elections set to take place over the next year should be delayed by at least six months to allow the country to hold a national census. “The political class should have the courage to support the organization of a national census, if necessary” Andre-Alain Atundu Liongo, spokesman for the Presidential Majority, told reporters Thursday in the capital, Kinshasa. “If this means a delay of six months, eight months or more, the political class needs to be prepared.”
They cannot post their portraits on campaign ads. They won’t be driving to campaign rallies. And they will have to pitch to men from behind screens to comply with strict segregation laws. This is electoral campaigning for women, Saudi style. The municipal poll on December 12 is the first time that women will vote and stand in a nationwide election, which is only the third voting experiment ever to be held in the conservative kingdom. It is, moreover, a partial election, with only half the seats up for grabs, the rest appointed. And, to top it all, the councils have limited authority. And yet, instead of frustration, I saw excitement in the faces of women running in the elections. For Saudi suffragettes, change comes at such a slow pace that every little step helps.
The Indian Ocean archipelago of the Seychelles has approved six candidates including incumbent leader James Michel to run in presidential polls next month, the election commission has said. The commission’s approval on Wednesday formally opened nearly three weeks of campaigning, with voting to begin on December 3. Michel, of the Parti Lepep – “The People” in the local Seychellois Creole language – is hoping to win a third and final term, as permitted by the constitution.
Ruling and opposition parties failed to meet the legal deadline to redraw the electoral map Friday, causing trouble for political candidates planning to debut in next year’s general election. Talks on redrawing constituencies are likely to drag into next year due to the rival parties’ disagreements on whether to decrease the number of those elected under proportional representation. With four weeks before preliminary candidate registration on Dec. 15, potential newcomers may be put at a disadvantage in launching their campaigns, say critics. They are expected to have difficulty choosing their constituencies because they will not be sure where they should register for the election, scheduled for April 13, 2016.
Syrian MP Sharif Shehadeh, a member of the ruling Baath party, said there will be no presidential vote before Mr Assad’s latest term ends in 2021.
He added that parliamentary elections are an internal Syrian affair and that it was still too early to hold them. His comments came a day after Russia circulated a document on ending Syria’s conflict that calls for drafting a new constitution in up to 18 months. The charter would be put to a popular referendum and followed by an early presidential election.
Thousands of people aligned with the political opposition demonstrated in the Haitian capital on Wednesday against President Michel Martelly, accusing him of orchestrating an “electoral coup d’etat.” The protest comes after seven presidential candidates called Monday for an independent investigation of initial vote results that determined Jovenel Moise, backed by Martelly, drew 32 percent of the ballots on October 25. Moise will go into a runoff on December 27 against Jude Celestin, of the Lapeh party, who garnered 25 percent of the vote. The election is the latest attempt in the Americas’ poorest country to shed chronic political instability and work toward development.
The party of democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi has won a majority in Myanmar’s parliament, the election commission said on Friday, giving it enough seats to elect its chosen candidate to the presidency when the new legislature convenes next year. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) had been expected take control of parliament since Sunday’s nationwide vote, and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. President Barack Obama had already congratulated her on a landmark victory in the country’s first free election in 25 years. Obama and Ban also praised Myanmar President Thein Sein for successfully staging the historic poll, with the UN chief acknowledging his “courage and vision” to organise an election in which the ruling camp was trounced. Results have been trickling in since the weekend, and on Friday the election commission announced the latest batch of seats that pushed the NLD over the threshold to secure an absolute majority in parliament.
Russia, the United States and powers from Europe and the Middle East outlined a plan on Saturday for a political process in Syria leading to elections within two years, but differences remained on key issues such as President Bashar al-Assad’s fate. A day after gunmen and suicide bombers went on a rampage through Paris, killing at least 127 people, foreign ministers and senior officials from more than a dozen countries agreed to work for a ceasefire in Syria’s civil war, but U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said it would not apply to Islamic State. French President Francois Hollande pledged a “merciless response” to the attacks, which he said had been organized by the Islamist militant force. France is part of the U.S.-led coalition carrying out air strikes against the group in Syria and Iraq.