In just under a year, Americans will head to the polls to cast their ballots: Democrat or Republican? Carson or Clinton, perhaps Sanders or Trump? But even 12 months out, political and tech experts are starting to worry that current voting technology won’t be able to keep up with citizen demand. Worst case? A repeat of the 2000 election debacle in Florida, which is still under investigation today. Best case? The country gets on board with at least some electoral advancements to help safeguard the process. What options are available to current voters looking to cast their ballot in the upcoming election? USA.gov’s “Voting and Registering to Vote” page provides the basics: Citizens can turn up in person at their local polling station with applicable ID, or if they’re away from home, they may vote using a mail-in absentee ballot. Making the process more complicated is the fact that citizens must register to vote in federal elections at the state level, and all states have their own registration methods in place. For example, 23 states allow voters to register online, while others only accept a hard copy of the National Mail Voter Registration Form. But there’s a twist: Certain states like North Dakota and Wyoming, along with territories such as American Samoa, Guam and Puerto Rico, don’t accept the National Mail Voter Registration Form, meaning citizens must register in person at specific government offices.
Editorials: Despite the Voting Rights Act, right to vote under siege | Ari Berman/Philadelphia Inquirer
The Voting Rights Act of 1965, which turned 50 in August, is widely regarded as the crowning achievement of the civil rights movement and the most important civil rights law of the 20th century. When he signed the legislation at the U.S. Capitol, President Lyndon Johnson described the act as the final victory against America’s original sin of slavery. “Today we strike away the last major shackle of those fierce and ancient bonds,” Johnson said. The act had an immediate transformative impact. Literacy tests were suspended across the South, the attorney general filed lawsuits successfully challenging the poll tax, and government observers were sent to monitor elections in the South’s most segregated areas. Within days of the act’s signing, federal examiners were registering black voters at a rapid clip in places like Selma, Ala. The law has enfranchised millions of Americans over the last five decades and enabled the election of the country’s first black president. But the act didn’t end the debate over voting rights, as Johnson predicted. In recent years there has been a proliferation of new measures to tighten access to the ballot, such as requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote, shutting down voter-registration drives, curtailing early voting, disenfranchising ex-felons, purging the voter rolls, and mandating government-issued photo IDs to cast a ballot.
The Florida Senate on Wednesday recommended to a Leon County judge a plan for the chamber’s 40 districts that was never voted on by either the House or Senate during a recent special redistricting session. The proposal to Circuit Judge George Reynolds, who will ultimately decide which map to suggest to the Florida Supreme Court, would essentially combine two “base maps” that were drawn by legislative aides in the run-up to the special session. Legislative leaders say that process insulated the base maps from political pressures that could have led to violations of the anti-gerrymandering “Fair Districts” amendments approved by voters in 2010. The special redistricting session, prompted by a legal settlement between the Legislature and voting-rights organizations that challenged the current Senate map, ended in failure after lawmakers couldn’t agree on how to redraw the map to fix districts that violated the Fair Districts standards.
Iowa Democrats are increasingly worried the state party may not be prepared for the caucuses on 1 February, putting Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status at risk. With a little more than 80 days left, a number of top Democrats in the state expressed their concerns to the Guardian that the party has not done the work necessary to ensure that the caucuses, run solely by the Iowa Democratic party, will go smoothly. Iowa Democrats described growing anxiety over a state party they said was drifting and unprepared to organize in 1,681 precincts to ensure the result of the contest to pick Iowa’s choice for the Democratic presidential nomination is promptly reported.
Attorneys representing Ohio Democrats in a legal dispute over changes to the swing state’s voting laws said Monday that a federal judge should strike down the adjustments because their burden on voters outweighs any benefit to the state. But lawyers for the state claim the voting changes were minor and argue that Ohio offers many opportunities for its residents to vote. At issue in the case are a series of Republican-backed changes that Democrats allege disproportionately burden minority voters and those who lean Democratic. Among the policy changes was elimination of a week of early voting in which Ohioans also could register to vote, known as “golden week.” U.S. District Judge Michael Watson heard opening statements in the trial that began Monday and is expected to stretch into next week. The case is being tried before Watson instead of a jury. The case also challenges rules related to absentee and provisional ballots, and limitations to in-person, early voting locations. Democrats want Watson to block the policies from being enforced.
Wisconsin: Assembly GOP approves rewritten campaign finance laws, GAB overhaul | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
Assembly Republicans on Monday sent Gov. Scott Walker bills rewriting campaign finance laws and replacing the state’s ethics and elections board with two new commissions. The bills were prompted, in part, by ire over an investigation of Walker’s campaign that was terminated this summer by a state Supreme Court ruling. A provision of the campaign finance bill would put into law the court’s finding that candidates and issue groups can work closely together. The campaign finance bill would also double the amount donors can give candidates; allow corporations and unions to give money to political parties and campaign committees controlled by legislative leaders; and end the requirement that donors disclose their employers. That would make it harder for the public to find out which industries are funneling money to candidates. That measure passed 59-0, with all Republicans favoring it and all Democrats refusing to vote because they argued it was a conflict of interest for lawmakers to vote on changes to campaign finance laws that would take effect before the next election.
Haitian elections officials are rejecting requests to form an independent commission to verify the preliminary presidential election results, saying the law doesn’t grant them the authority to do so. The decision by the nine-member Provisional Electoral Council came after a meeting with eight presidential candidates Monday night and amid growing calls to put confidence in the electoral process. The candidates, including second-place finisher Jude Célestin, have rejected the results on the grounds that the vote was marred by “massive fraud” with ballot stuffing and political party monitors voting multiple times. The CEP’s position stands to deepen an ongoing electoral impasse while further casting doubt over the Dec. 27 runoff.
If Jeb Bush’s popularity ever catches on among fellow Republicans, he’ll find his campaign team has paved a smooth path to the ballot box in primary states. The former Florida governor, political newcomer Ben Carson and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz appear to lead the still-crowded GOP presidential field by one important measure: They’ve secured access to the greatest number of state presidential nomination ballots so far. Having the skill, money and will to accomplish that is a sign of a campaign’s seriousness and competence in the eyes of major donors and experienced political watchers.
With any luck, Colorado next year could join a growing list of states that have taken redistricting for Congress and the legislature out of the hands of partisan activists and their lawyers and put it with nonpartisan experts who draw competitive boundaries acceptable to the fair-minded everywhere. Goodbye gerrymandering — that centuries-old practice of rigging the political game by drawing district lines that guarantee single-party dominance. Every decade after the latest federal census, the two parties in Colorado lock horns in a contest to dominate and distort the redrawing of political maps. To halt this spectacle, a bipartisan group that includes former governors, secretaries of state, and speakers of the House released a ballot proposal this week that would create a 12-person redistricting commission comprised of four Republicans, four Democrats and four unaffiliated members.
Florida: Redistricting challenger file six new maps with variations on Miami and Tampa Bay | Tampa Bay Times
Leon County Circuit Court Judge George Reynolds was handed seven options for drawing the Senate maps on Wednesday, giving him the opportunity to be the “seamstress” he suggested might be needed to stitch together various pieces of the proposals. Six of the proposed maps come from challengers to the lawsuit, a coalition of voters and voting groups led by the League of Women Voters. Each of their proposals is a modification of what they presented to Florida Senate during the special redistricting session that ended two weeks ago but the variations offer the judge a menu of options to two district areas: Miami Dade County and Tampa Bay. The variations between the maps boil down to whether they create a fourth Hispanic district in Miami Dade County, or leave it at three, and whether they cross Tampa Bay to create an African American-majority district in Hillsborough.
A recent report identifies Florida, home of the 2000 Bush-Gore election fiasco, as one of the states at-risk of future voting problems due to the age of its voting equipment. According to theBrennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law, 30 out of Florida’s 67 counties have not updated their voting machines in more than a decade, increasing the possibilities of technology breakdowns and glitches on Election Day. At least a dozen of the 30 counties mentioned will have new equipment in-place in time for the 2016 presidential primaries, including Manatee County, which just received new equipment this week. That leaves Polk County as the only county in Greater Tampa Bay that has not replaced its equipment in more than a decade. In fact, its optical scan machines are the same machines the county used for the 2000 presidential election.
Georgia: 6 Million Georgians’ Private Information Exposed in Voter Record Breach | Government Technology
Data security experts say the security lapse that potentially exposed the Social Security numbers and other personal information of more than 6 million Georgia voters could cause significant damage to consumers if they were to fall into the wrong hands. The information, including dates of birth and driver’s license numbers, is far more valuable to criminals than the bank card information that has been stolen in several recent high-profile cyberattacks against retailers such as Target and Atlanta-based Home Depot. Personal identity information can be used over and over and fetch high prices among criminals, while bank cards aren’t as valuable because they can be quickly canceled after a theft. “When you get a Social Security number and a date of birth, you’ve got everything you need to do tremendous damage to these consumers,” said Stephen Coggeshall, the chief analytics and science officer for data security firms LifeLock and ID Analytics.
Votes cast in an ongoing election for Native Hawaiians can be counted as planned, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday. Native Hawaiians are voting to elect delegates for a convention next year to come up with a self-governance document to be ratified by Native Hawaiians. They are the last remaining indigenous group in the United States that hasn’t been allowed to establish its own government. A group of Native Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians are challenging the election. One of their arguments is that it’s unconstitutional for the state to be involved in a race-based election. A federal judge in Honolulu ruled last month that the election may proceed. The challengers appealed and also filed an emergency motion to block the votes from being counted.
Kansas: Lawyers in voter registration lawsuit against Kobach ask for class-action status | The Wichita Eagle
A court challenge by two Douglas County residents against Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach could become a class-action suit that represents many of the 36,000 people slated to have their incomplete voter registrations canceled. Lawyers for Cody Keener and Alder Cromwell filed an amendment Tuesday to make the change. Kobach has asked the federal court to dismiss the case because Keener and Cromwell are now registered to vote. His office registered them by obtaining proof-of-citizenship documents on their behalf, which is allowed by the registration statute. Will Lawrence, attorney for Cromwell and Keener, said their case remains valid despite Kobach’s subsequent action to register them. “But we also realize this case involves tens of thousands of Kansans who have ended up on the suspended voter list and are ultimately to be denied the right to vote,” Lawrence said. Craig McCullah, Kobach’s spokesman, said Thursday the office was reviewing the class-action request and had no comment yet.
Maine: Election officials certify ranked-choice voting proposal for 2016 ballot | The Portland Press Herald
A citizen-initiated ballot question that could change how Mainers elect their governors, members of congress and state lawmakers inched forward on Wednesday. The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting said that the Maine Secretary of State has certified the campaign’s signatures to appear on the 2016 ballot. If successful, the proposal would swap Maine’s current election system for one in which the winning candidates for Congress and state offices are selected by ranked-choice, or instant run-off, voting. Now that the petitions have been certified, the Legislature will have the opportunity to ratify the proposal when it reconvenes next year. However, lawmakers have traditionally rejected ranked-choice proposals and will likely let voters decide the issue at the ballot box next November.
In a hearing on a lawsuit to restrict Republican primary elections to party members only in Montana, a federal judge Thursday questioned whether non-Republican voters are actively crossing over to vote in and influence GOP legislative primaries here. “So, voters are going to give up their right to vote for the president, the U.S. Senate and congressional (candidates of their own party) … to vote to screw up the other guy’s legislative candidates?” asked U.S. District Judge Brian Morris. “You’re telling me that happens regularly?” Matthew Monforton, a lawyer representing numerous GOP central committees, told Morris it does happen – and that’s why Republicans should be allowed to close their primary elections to members only.
Montana is the latest state to overhaul its campaign-finance rules in an attempt to cast out dark money after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts in elections. The architect of the changes in Montana said the new rules will create a high level of transparency in the state with a history of election corruption, and will be effective because of Montana’s relatively small population of 1 million people. “You can put a lightbulb in a big cave and not see very far,” Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl said. “In Montana, you’re going to see a lot of corners.”
A law that was intended to expand voter participation in primary elections may have just the opposite effect. Elections officials told Democratic representatives that a recent ruling by a federal judge may mean that unaffiliated voters — those who are not registered with any political party — may no longer be able to cast ballots in Democratic primaries, which have traditionally been open to unaffiliated voters. There are roughly 616,000 unaffiliated voters in the state — making that the second biggest category, next to registered Republicans. The decision may also limit who can sign a candidate’s petition to get on the primary ballot because the law says that the signatures have to come from those eligible to vote in the party primary. If unaffiliated voters can’t vote in the primary, they can’t sign the petitions, either.
Four weeks ago, it was widely expected that the next president of Argentina would be the candidate of the ruling party. But in a first-round election that stunned the nation, opposition leader Mauricio Macri stole the momentum, and as voters return to the polls on Sunday the presidency looks like his to lose. Macri is the more market-friendly candidate and global companies are lining up to invest, persuaded that the country will reopen for business since he is leading the ruling Peronist party’s Daniel Scioli by 6 to 8 percentage points. Up to a tenth of voters remain undecided, however, and polls were off a month ago, so there is room for surprise.
On Oct. 24, Mostafa Abdelrahman stepped out of his home in al-Arish, the sandswept capital of Egypt’s North Sinai province. Within seconds, two men pulled up on a motorcycle and shot him dead. His campaign for parliament was over. The same day, five other candidates pulled out of the race. Abdelrahman’s death highlights the dangers of holding elections in a region where the Egyptian military is fighting militants affiliated to Islamic State who have killed hundreds of soldiers and police in the past two years. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi presents the vote as the last step towards restoring democracy, two years after he ousted Egypt’s first freely-elected president, Islamist Mohamed Mursi.
Alþingishúsið, The Parliament House, is a hulking grey stone building that sits on the edge of the sleepy Austurvöllur square in downtown Reykjavík. It’s the seat of Iceland’s Alþingi, an institution that was famously inaugurated in the year 930 by a coalition of chieftains who, in essence, founded the world’s first parliament, and began governing over what many claim to be the world’s oldest functioning democracy. One or two things have changed in Icelandic politics during the intervening millennium. For example, people no longer gather annually around Lögberg, the Law Rock, at Þingvellir national park, to hear the new laws of the land being read out. Blasphemy is now legal (thank fucking god). And you can’t kill Basque sailors on sight in the Westfjords these days. After more than a thousand years, though, democracy remains quite popular with the Icelanders, with around 80% of Icelanders voting in general elections.
Venezuela’s election board on Thursday banned advertisements by a small political party whose slogans mimic the main opposition coalition in what critics say is part of a campaign by the government to tilt next month’s parliamentary election. President Nicolas Maduro has said the Dec. 6 vote for a new National Assembly is the toughest the socialists have faced in their 17-year rule. The opposition believes the poll may mark the beginning of the end for the governing “Chavismo” movement. Controversy has swirled for weeks around the MIN Unity party, whose name, symbols and slogans are similar to the opposition coalition Democratic Unity, which says it is an obvious attempt to confuse voters.
United Kingdom: Supporters of giving the vote to the 16-plus population score victory in the Lords | Wales Online
The Lords has backed giving 16 and 17 year-olds the vote in the upcoming in-out EU referendum. The move was championed by Welsh Labour peer Eluned Morgan, the former MEP who was once the youngest member of the European Parliament. The latest defeat inflicted on the Government saw the Lords vote by 293 to 211 to approve the change. If the Government allows the move to stand it would see some 1.5 million 16 and 17 year-olds eligible to take part in the referendum due to take place by the end of 2017.