Long lines and wait times at the polls are a voting rights issue. During recent presidential election years, horror stories have emerged across the South and the country about voters having to wait in line for several hours to cast a ballot. While such extreme stories are rare, in 2013 a bipartisan commission decried the fact that some 10 million voters had to wait at their polling place for half an hour or more, arguing that “no citizen should have to wait in line for more than 30 minutes to vote.” Some states and localities do a better job of cutting down on wait times than others. A report released this month [pdf] by the Caltech/MIT Voting Project finds that geography — where a voter lives — is the single biggest factor in determining wait times. Drawing on two large election data sets, the report found “average wait times in 2012 ranged from 1.7 minutes in Vermont to 42.3 minutes in Florida — a difference of a factor of 25 between these two states.”
Editorials: A lawsuit that chips aways at representation rights | Henry Flores/San Antonio Express-News
A case soon will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that may have far-reaching implications for how state legislatures should be redistricted. The political consequences of this case, Evenwel, et al v. Abbott, et al, however, reach even further. If the Supreme Court sides with the plaintiffs, the very fabric of political representation will change, voting rights of Latinos and African Americans will be diminished, and the axis of partisan political power will be irreparably transformed in Texas. The Evenwel plaintiffs argue that the way Texas draws its state senatorial districts violates the “equal protection clause” of the 14th Amendment because it contravenes the “one person, one vote” standard established in the landmark Baker v. Carr decision.
Alaska: GOP supporters file suit to loosen Alaska’s strict campaign donation limits | Alaska Dispatch News
A new lawsuit in federal court seeks to overturn Alaska’s strict limits on donations to political candidates and groups using a pair of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions as precedents. The suit, filed by an Anchorage Republican district and three supporters of Republican candidates, challenges the state’s $500 annual cap on individuals’ donations to candidates, as well as three other contribution limits. If the lawsuit prevails, it could reshape the political landscape for next year’s state legislative elections by allowing donors to spend more money on their favored candidates. A trial is tentatively scheduled for late April before U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess.
Coloradans achieved the important right to review voted ballots as open records through a costly legal battle culminating in a state court of appeals victory in 2011. And the legislature affirmed this critical citizen right to see voted ballots in a bill it passed the following year. But did the victory count for anything? Do citizens really possess the right to review the work of elected county clerks after elections are over? The answer seems to be they do if they’ve got a lot of money, and that’s unacceptable. Election integrity activist Harvie Branscomb found this out when he served open records requests to eight counties after the Nov. 3 elections, seeking to independently audit the accuracy of new voting equipment being tested as a part of a state pilot program.
Is eight years enough? For Hialeah Sen. Rene Garcia, a Republican, and West Palm Beach Rep. Mark Pafford, a Democrat, the answer is “no” — if Floridians want to diminish the influence of special interests in the Legislature. Rep. Mark Pafford, shown speaking to reporters during the 2015 AP Florida Legislative Planning Session in October, is a sponsor of a bill that would extend term limits to 12 years from 8.
Republican Sen. Rene Garcia of Hialeah, right, is a sponsor of a bill that would extend term limits to 12 years from 8. Rep. Mark Pafford, shown speaking to reporters during the 2015 AP Florida Legislative Planning Session in October, is a sponsor of a bill that would extend term limits to 12 years from 8. “We are a representative democracy and we should be making sure that it is the elected officials who move agendas forward, and not the lobbyists,” said Garcia, who was elected to the Senate unopposed in 2010 and 2012 after serving eight years in the House.
Georgia: Secretary of state fires employee after releasing info of more than 6 million voters | Associated Press
Georgia’s secretary of state said Thursday that he takes “full responsibility” for more than 6 million voters’ personal information being released to media and political parties and has fired an employee who he said is at fault. Secretary of State Brian Kemp said in a statement that as of Thursday morning, all 12 discs containing sensitive information had been retrieved or destroyed. “My staff has verified with the media outlets and political parties that received these discs that they have not copied or otherwise disseminated confidential voter data to outside sources,” he said. “I am confident that our voters’ personal information has not been compromised.”
Sometimes American politics is about ideas, powered by Jeffersons and Adamses and Reagans. Sometimes it is about strategy, with races determined by the chess-match machinations of Axelrods and Roves. But every once in a while, the fate of governments is determined by a considerably less eminent character, one usually found lurking in back-alley craps games and on the Vegas strip: Lady Luck. In Mississippi on Friday, luck smiled on a Democratic state representative, Blaine Eaton II, who had been forced, by state law, to draw straws for his seat after his race for re-election ended in a tie. On Friday afternoon, in a short, strange ceremony here presided over by Gov. Phil Bryant and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, Mr. Eaton and his Republican challenger, Mark Tullos, each removed a silver box from a bag. Mr. Eaton opened his box to reveal a long green straw. And with that, a mathematically improbable tie for the House District 79 seat — each candidate had received exactly 4,589 votes — had been broken, though not by the voters.
New York: Reform groups say Cuomo should include funds for early voting in 2016 budget | Auburn Citizen
A collection of good government groups is calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to insert funding in his 2016-17 executive budget for two election reform proposals. The New York Voters Coalition said the state should provide $5 million to help counties implement early voting and an additional $2 million for the development of electronic poll books and ballot on demand systems. According to the group, which includes representatives from Common Cause/NY, League of Women Voters New York State and the New York Public Interest Research Group, the measures could boost voter turnout in New York. “We note that 2016 is a particularly appropriate year to fund much-needed election administration reforms, with important election contests at the presidential, gubernatorial, congressional level and legislative levels,” they wrote.
Ohio: Postal Service to develop policy for postmarking absentee ballots after concerns raised about discounted ballots in Summit County | Akron Beacon Journal
The U.S. Postal Service will develop a policy on postmarking absentee ballots in light of concerns raised this week by Summit County elections officials about nearly 900 ballots discounted because they lacked postmarks. “We will be talking to the Ohio Secretary of State to reach a mutual understanding of acceptable postmarks for absentee ballots and develop a uniform policy addressing all concerns to help prevent this from happening again,” David Van Allen, a postal spokesman, said Thursday in a written statement.
Jackson County has decided to give up the fight about opening an in-person early voting center in Indian Country, making it the last county to do so. County officials signed an agreement with the state authorizing an in-person early voting station in Wanblee, which has a heavy Native American population. Various tribes and voting rights advocates have been asking counties to open voting stations in towns with large Native American populations, arguing that impoverished Indians couldn’t make the trip to county seats to cast early votes. Jackson County was the lone holdout, even after state officials had indicated that the county could use state Help America Vote Act funds to cover the expenses of opening a satellite voting station at Wanblee. The agreement means that the state will fund, and Jackson County will staff, an early voting station through the 2022 election.
After 12 years of leftist government, Argentina shifted towards the centre-right on Sunday by giving a presidential victory to Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri of the Cambiemos (Let’s Change) party. With 98.87% of the vote counted, the former chief executive of the Boca Juniors football club was on 51.44%, nearly three points ahead of his rival Daniel Scioli of the Peronist Victory Front who was on 48.56%. The result is likely to reverberate across Latin America.
Hong Kong went to the polls Sunday for the first time since huge pro-democracy protests gripped the city, in a key test of public sentiment. The spotlight is on the district elections to gauge whether support for the democracy movement can translate into votes and bring change to the political landscape. Hong Kong is semi-autonomous after being handed back by Britain to China in 1997, but there are fears that Beijing’s influence is growing. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets for more than two months at the end of last year demanding fully free elections for the city’s next leader, in what became known as the “Umbrella Movement”. The rallies were sparked after Beijing insisted candidates for the first public vote for Hong Kong’s leader in 2017 would first have to be vetted by a loyalist committee. Some voters said the democracy movement had motivated them to cast their ballot.
Egypt: Low turnout as Egyptians vote in parliamentary elections amid fears over terror, economy | Associated Press
Egyptians trickled into mostly empty polling centers as they voted Sunday in the second stage of parliamentary elections that will produce the country’s first legislature since a chamber dominated by Islamists was dissolved by a court ruling in 2012. Tens of thousands of troops and policemen were deployed to safeguard the two-day vote, reflecting growing security concerns less than a month after a Russian airliner crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board. Russia has said the crash was caused by an onboard bomb, and a local Islamic State affiliate claimed the Oct. 31 attack. The attack led Russia to suspend flights to and from Egypt and Britain to cancel routes to the popular Sharm el-Sheikh resort, where the flight originated, dealing a major blow to Egypt’s tourism industry, which was already hurting from years of unrest.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won 77% of seats in Myanmar’s landmark polls this month, according to final results released by the election commission. Myanmar voted on November 8 but results took days to arrive in the capital from remote corners of the country, wending their way from villages in dense jungle and townships in several regions beset by active conflict. Election workers carried ballots by foot from some mountainous areas and then loaded them into helicopters that were used to transport the sealed boxes to the capital Naypyitaw where the official Union Election Commission would count them. So cut-off are some villages in northern Myanmar that their inhabitants have more contact with their Chinese neighbours than with the central government.