Republican officials and leading figures in the party’s establishment are preparing for the possibility of a brokered convention as businessman Donald Trump continues to sit atop the polls in the GOP presidential race. More than 20 of them convened Monday near the Capitol for a dinner held by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, and the prospect of Trump nearing next year’s nominating convention in Cleveland with a significant number of delegates dominated the discussion, according to five people familiar with the meeting. Weighing in on that scenario as Priebus and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) listened, several longtime Republican power brokers argued that if the controversial billionaire storms through the primaries, the party’s establishment must lay the groundwork for a floor fight in which the GOP’s mainstream wing could coalesce around an alternative, the people said.
Fifteen years after Bush vs. Gore, 15 years after the Supreme Court intervened in a presidential election, a single sentence in the majority opinion remains one of the great constitutional brainteasers in our history. If we take the sentence at face value, it’s nonsensical; if we ignore it, we might just be able to improve our dysfunctional election system, at least modestly. As we all know, the Supreme Court on Dec. 11, 2000, ordered an end to ballot-counting in Florida, effectively calling the election for the national popular vote loser, George W. Bush. And as most fair-minded legal experts agree, the rationale for leaving more than 100,000 ballots uncounted was convoluted — an extravagant and unprecedented twist on Equal Protection law.
The disputed presidential elections of 1876 and 2000 were not isolated, aberrational events in America’s political system. Instead, they are merely the two most prominent peaks in an entire range of disputed elections running through American history from the Founding Era to the present. Like geologists who can detect the plate tectonics that underlie a mountain range, we can employ the historian’s tool to see the structural forces that underlie the pattern of vote-counting disputes that have erupted periodically in the past. America’s difficulties in employing fair and predictable procedures to count ballots in close elections are rooted in beliefs held—and choices made—at the time of Founding. The Founders, as we know, abhorred political parties and they hoped to design a constitutional system that, by using separation of powers, would keep factionalism from developing into organized political parties. Well, we know the plan did not work out as intended.
Alaska: Anchorage-based group works to get voting registration attached to PFD application on 2016 ballot | Newsminer
A group of Alaskans is making its final push in an effort to get an initiative on the state ballot that would allow people to automatically register to vote while signing up for their Permanent Fund Dividend. The group, based in Anchorage, has been gathering signatures throughout the state throughout the fall. They need 28,500 signatures — 10 percent of voter turnout from 2014 — to make the ballot in 2016. The signatures must come from at least three-fourths of the state’s legislative districts. The group must submit its signatures before the start of the 2016 legislative session, which begins Jan. 19. That means the group has a little more than a month to complete its effort. If the group succeeds, the initiative would appear on either the primary election ballot in August or the general election ballot next November.
The latest battle in a four-year war over redistricting in Florida is poised to begin Monday in a Leon County courtroom, with Republican dominance in the state Senate possibly hanging in the balance. Palm Beach County’s four senators — three Democrats and a Republican — would see the area they represent changed significantly under district boundaries floated by a voters’ coalition, which has clashed steadily with the GOP-led Legislature. The proposed maps could even lead to two senators, Joe Abruzzo, D-Wellington, and Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, running against each other in a redrawn county district that stretches into Broward County. By contrast, a map submitted by the Senate would prove less disruptive to the county.
Voters in Maryland will be casting their votes with black pens and paper ballots in the upcoming presidential primary, nearly a decade after lawmakers decided to get rid of touch-screen machines that leave no paper trail. The search for new equipment was mired in delays and setbacks before the state finally approved a $28 million contract last December. And even with the new ballots and scanners in hand, Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration has raised questions in recent weeks about whether the state is headed for disaster in its rush to get them up and running. Rockville and College Park deployed the new machines without trouble in their fall municipal elections, but the April 26 primary election will be the first statewide test of the new system. Voters will be casting ballots in the presidential primary and in heated races to nominate candidates to succeed Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) in the U.S. Senate and to fill two open congressional seats.
Maryland Democrats plan to propose legislation next year that would automatically place eligible residents on state voter rolls, a move that would make Maryland the third state to adopt what advocates call a “universal registration” system. State Sen. Roger P. Manno (D-Montgomery) has pre-filed a bill for the 2016 legislative session to implement such a plan, and Del. Eric G. Luedtke (D-Montgomery) said he is drafting a similar measure to introduce in the House. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) have indicated that they might push for automatic registration next year as a way to increase voting accessibility.
Michigan: Detroit city clerk, voting rights advocates come out against “unnecessary” elections bills | Michigan Radio
Detroit city clerk Janice Winfrey and voting rights advocates are denouncing a pair of election bills in the Michigan Legislature right now. One is a state Senate bill that would restrict absentee voting hours, and ban absentee voting at satellite office locations. Winfrey says Detroit is one of just a few Michigan cities to use satellite voting, and it’s been “very successful” there. “So when you begin to impede that process, when you want to eliminate that process, now you’re affecting a particular group of people,” she said. Winfrey also criticized a bill to eliminate single-party, straight-ticket voting, saying that will make for longer lines and more confusion, disproportionately affecting urban voters.
Minnesota’s aging voting machines are wearing out and will soon need to be replaced. That’s the message Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said he heard “loud and clear” from local officials during his recently completed tour of all 87 Minnesota counties. Most cities, counties and townships use electronic election equipment that is at least 10 years old and getting close to its “10- to 15-year useful lifespan — and 15 is sort of a stretch,” Simon said in a recent interview. There’s a growing risk the voting machines will fail or crash, resulting in lost votes or long lines at polling places. “I’m hearing loudly and clearly from election administrators and others concerned about elections that this is an issue we need to address sooner rather than later and not wait until it becomes a crisis — and they need help,” Simon said.
Ohio’s elections chief is confident that glitches encountered in November’s elections will be corrected before the battleground state holds its high-stakes presidential primary in March, he said on Friday. Secretary of State Jon Husted said he plans a series of steps to ensure that problems with postmarks and poll books aren’t repeated. The remarks came on a day when he received reports related to snags in the Nov. 3 elections and met with U.S. Deputy Postmaster Ronald Stroman. Husted insisted that the pivotal swing state will be ready for 2016. “There’s no other option,” he said.
A battle has been brewing at the Board of Elections. It’s been a tumultuous year for the agency that’s charged with ensuring the integrity of the state’s electoral process. Its $143,131 executive director, Robert Kando, is set to be fired in January unless the board decides before then that he has made significant improvements. Since making that decision, however, the board — one of the few where the governor-appointed members are paid — has still struggled to get through the simplest of endeavors. Last week, shouting ensued over the mundane task of approving the meeting minutes, as board members said that Kando had drafted minutes intended to disparage board members who have taken issue with his performance.
Canada: Time will tell if Trudeau is free enough from party shackles to pursue electoral reform: Hébert | Toronto Star
It is not just Justin Trudeau’s opposition rivals who were — as the prime minister indelicately put it in a recent interview — left in the dust on election night, a generation of old-school Liberal insiders was, too. For most of the new Liberals in the House of Commons, the names of the party’s veteran power brokers ring only distant bells. Many party fixtures on Parliament Hill are unknown to the new movers-and-shakers of the Trudeau cabinet. The ghosts of a recent Liberal past still haunt the halls of Parliament but they are, for the most part, rattling their chains outside the corridors of power, with few or no IOUs to collect on. Some used to make themselves indispensable by smoothing the Liberal path to well-heeled donors. But such go-between services became obsolete after Jean Chrétien banned corporate donations a bit more than a decade ago.
Saudi women have won seats on municipal councils in a landmark election that allowed them to run for office and vote for the first time.
The official Saudi Press Agency said at least eight women who vied in Saturday’s election will be seated on local councils. Al Arabiya television reported at least 12. A total of 7,000 candidates, male and female, contested 2,100 seats. Official results are expected later Sunday. King Abdullah ordered the inclusion of women in municipal elections — the only nationwide vote in the absolute monarchy – before he died in January. He also named women to the 150-member Consultative Council and opened more areas of the labor market to them as part of a gradual easing of restrictions on their role in society and the economy.
Seychelles: Electoral Commission Outlines Changes to Second Round of Presidential Vote | allAfrica.com
Seychellois voters who cast ballots in the second round of the presidential vote next week may see more electoral workers at their polling station. The country’s electoral commission said Friday that it has discussed concerns after the first-round ballots were cast earlier this month. Election observers noted in their reports that some voters had to wait several hours in line before casting their ballots. The commission’s chief registration officer, Lorna Lepathy, said there would not be more polling stations for the second-round vote next week, but that more electoral officers would be placed at stations with a large number of voters.
In the main plaza of a wealthy suburban bastion of Spain’s ruling Popular Party, volunteers hand out campaign pamphlets trumpeting economic gains ahead of Sunday’s national election. Sipping an espresso nearby, toy company executive Miguel Sanchez describes the new Mercedes-Benz company car he’ll soon get, thanks to rising sales for his firm following years of tough times. Downtown in a trash-strewn blue-collar stronghold of the Socialist Party, unemployed lawyer Maria Uribe rails against sky-high joblessness, a seemingly endless string of political corruption cases, tax hikes and public service cutbacks pushed through Parliament in the past four years.
An election commissioner has defended the procurement of voting machines in the latest showdown between the commissioners and a former secretary general. The Election Commission (EC) decided on Dec 8 not to renew the employment contract of secretary general Puchong Nutrawong because his performance evaluation did not meet the requirement. Mr Puchong, who worked for the EC for 18 years, claimed his removal was not fair and that he could not do his job properly because the EC commissioners kept intervening with the administration.
United Kingdom: Electoral Commission hands Government a boost in bid to block votes for 16 year olds | Telegraph
The Electoral Commission has backed Conservative plans to block votes for 16 and 17 year olds in the European referendum, claiming the proposals put forward by Labour and the Liberal Democrats are not good enough. The powerful body has handed the Government a boost in the House of Lords ahead of a vote on Monday by publishing guidance stating some young voters could miss out if plans to extend the franchise were to go ahead. The opposition parties want to give young people the chance to vote on whether the UK should remain in the EU or leave, but Ministers are opposed to the plans.