Voting by mail — and only by mail — has become an option in the United States. Will it spread? According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, all states will mail an absentee ballot to voters who request one. While 20 states require a reason, 27 states permit “no-excuse” absentee voting. And three states now use mail-only voting. Oregon’s Ballot Measure 60 kicked off in 1998, making Oregon the first state to conduct its elections exclusively by mail. In 2011, Washington’s legislature moved the state to an entirely vote-by-mail system. Colorado joined in during the 2014 general election. In 2015, California launched a limited all-mail pilot as a test run. Lawmakers will use that pilot to learn how such an election would work in California. Supporters hope that voting by mail means more citizens will vote. Is it so? Generally, the answer is both “no” and “yes,” but with important qualification
Service members will get their first reminder about registering to vote on Jan. 15, when a Defense Department message will go out to everyone with a dot.mil email address. The 2016 general election is almost a year away, but the primaries start in February, and the Federal Voting Assistance Program has been gearing up for months to fulfill its mission of helping voters vote. “I want to make it loud and clear: the Defense Department is ready for election season,” said Matt Boehmer, director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program. “We want to make sure everyone who wants to participate, can.”
Editorials: Supporting Universal Voter Registration Should Be a Bipartisan Effort | Colin Curtis/Huffington Post
Regardless of where on the political spectrum you fall, we, as Americans who love and believe in democracy, can all agree that voting should be as easy as possible to do, right? Obviously I’m being sarcastic here because it doesn’t take more than a moment of searching on the Internet for anyone to find an article about an elected official in a state like Kansas *cough* Kris Kobach *cough* doing everything they possibly can to make it harder for people to take part in the voting process. It also won’t take anyone very long to find a few articles about the idea of automatic universal voter registration. As a native Kansan the idea of just automatically registering people to vote without making them submit a form and then jump through additional burdensome hoops seems as imaginary as a Hippogriff. However, Oregon and California have both done exactly that, and other states such as Maryland are looking to follow suit. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, implementing national automatic universal voter registration would add up to 50 million eligible voters to current voting rolls, save money, increase the accuracy of elections, and curb the potential for fraud and protect the integrity of our elections. While that sentence is likely to make Kris Kobach’s head explode, it provides four good reasons as to why we should have a national universal automatic voter registration system but since Congress is… well, Congress, this is unlikely to ever happen and it provides four good reasons as to why states should do it themselves.
Editorials: How to Block Minority Representation, Yesterday and Today | David A. Graham/The Atlantic
The ongoing battle over voter rights—or, depending on your partisan persuasion, voter fraud—is on one level a struggle over whether it’s more important to ensure that the most people possible can vote, and that voting laws don’t have a disparate racial impact; or whether it’s more important to ensure the sanctity of the ballot box against errors, regardless of how that might inconvenience minorities, young people, or other groups. (One salient point here is that most restrictions—reducing early voting, closing polling locations, requiring specific photo ID—hurt minority turnout, while evidence of fraud is practically nonexistent.) On another level, though, it’s a battle about history: whether the restrictions being enacted in red states are part of a new struggle over civil rights, or whether the struggle for racial equality is completed and these news laws are totally different. Proponents of voter-ID laws understandably wish to distance themselves from their segregation-era predecessors, for both moral and political reasons. Officials in Shelby County v. Holder didn’t argue that racist voter suppression never happened; they argued that strenuous protections were no longer necessary. The Court agreed and struck down a requirement that certain jurisdictions submit any changes in voting laws to the Department of Justice to assess whether they were discriminatory.
Voting Blogs: EAC Wants YOU to Help Develop New Voting System Guidelines! | Matthew Masterson/EAC Blog
Recently, the EAC and NIST rolled out a new approach to developing the next set of Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG). Since the creation of the public working groups, EAC and NIST have been working to recruit as many election officials, information technologists, accessibility professionals and virtually anyone else ready, willing and able to help to join the working groups. Earlier this month, we introduced the next phase of the project with a kick-off conference call and the creation of the public working group Twiki site. We were overwhelmed with the response as over two hundred people participated in the call.
Illinois: Proposal to use independent redistricting commission brings cheers, jeers | Rockford Register Star
To proponents taking their third shot in five years at getting a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would change the way Illinois legislative districts are drawn, their proposal can be the fix that makes all the other fixes to state government possible.
An independent commission crafting legislative districts would create more competitive races, making legislators in Springfield truly responsive to voters and more likely to tackle the state’s long-unmet needs, reformers with the Independent Map Amendment coalition argue. Opponents, however, see this attempt as one that would remove accountability from the process, disadvantage minorities and tamper with a system that isn’t necessarily broken. The idea of an independent body redrawing the boundaries of districts isn’t new. But only a few examples across the country show voters what might occur if a constitutional amendment makes it onto the ballot and is passed by Illinois voters.
Over the objections of Republican members and with the reservations of several Senate Democrats, a bill to change New Jersey’s redistricting process passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday. The bill would introduce a constitutional amendment to make redistricting occur based on averaged polling data from statewide elections, rather than by population changes recorded during the national census. Though the bill would mandate that 10 of New Jersey’s districts be competitive at all times, critics say it would favor Democrats and permanently tip the scales in their favor. Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean (R-21) reiterated objections first raised by Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-39) during the Assembly’s hearing on the bill last week, saying that the Democratic sponsors had rushed the bill into committee without adequate notice and with a view to force it through with two two-thirds votes rather than one three-fifths vote before the end of lame duck.
North Carolina’s highest court on Friday again upheld maps drawn by Republicans for General Assembly and congressional districts, months after the U.S. Supreme Court told state judges to review boundaries through the lens of its Alabama redistricting decision. A majority on the state Supreme Court reaffirmed its December 2014 decision upholding the boundaries, finding that they still withstood the scrutiny of federal and state constitutional and redistricting guidelines. This latest legal inspection also included the U.S. Supreme Court’s majority opinion in March that Alabama lawmakers had relied too much on “mechanical” numerical percentages while drawing legislative districts in which blacks comprised a majority of the population. The federal justices threw out the first North Carolina Supreme Court ruling and told the state court to try again.
Secretary of State Al Jaeger says North Dakota needs new voting machines. Jaeger says the state is using voting technology developed when Congress passed the “Help America Vote Act” in 2001. And he says federal money was available to the states to implement that act. But Jaeger says that federal money won’t be available this time around.
Hamilton County elections need your help. That’s the obvious takeaway from the county Board of Elections’ recent post-mortem of the snafu-filled Nov. 3 election. The board found that 84 percent of its polling stations had problems on Election Day. Among other issues, many poll workers struggled with the setup for electronic poll site equipment. Some local high school seniors assisting at the polls played hero by adroitly dealing with electronic issues. Clearly, Hamilton County needs more poll workers comfortable with troubleshooting a wi-fi router connection. It takes about 2,600 workers to operate the county’s polls on Election Day, and while the Board of Election has done well making sure polling locations are staffed, it needs workers who are fluent in using technology.
Oregonians who get their first driver’s license or renew an existing one next year will automatically be registered to vote. Officials from the secretary of state’s office said Monday that they’re ready to begin implementing a law approved by the Legislature earlier this year. Beginning Jan. 1, people who are issued a driver’s license, are U.S. citizens and are old enough to vote will receive a postcard in the mail that lets them choose to join a political party or opt out of registration. If they don’t opt out within three weeks, they’ll automatically join the voter rolls and will receive a ballot in the next election.
Millions of ballots will be cast in South Carolina next year on voting machines that are wearing out after a decade of use. Anderson County voters will use 464 of the machines at 80 polling places in presidential primaries in February, state primaries in June and the November general election. Some of the iVotronic machines have needed new touch screens and batteries, said Katy Smith, Anderson County’s elections director. It’s also getting harder to find replacement parts for the machines, which are no longer manufactured, she said.
Egypt has just completed the second and final round of parliamentary elections, including runoffs. It is, unfortunately, a legislature of, by, and for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. For example, every single one of the sixty winners of the runoff on the party list competition was from “for Love of Egypt,” the vehemently pro-Sisi coalition. 6.2 million voters took part in runoff elections of the 2d round. Certainly, turnout in Egyptian elections has dropped precipitously. In 2011, the last parliamentary poll drew 62 percent of the registered voters. For the second round’s runoff, d turnout was under 22%. Looking at the exclusion of candidates, these elections were undemocratic.
Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council on Monday postponed until January this Sunday’s scheduled presidential run-off election amid accusations by the opposition candidate of fraud and irregularities. “The Provisional Electoral Council informs the general public, political parties and candidates in particular, that the elections of local authorities as well as the partial legislative and presidential elections that were to be held December 27, 2015 are postponed,” the council said in a statement. Ruling party candidate Jovenel Moïse and former government executive Jude Célestin were due to face each other on Sunday. Instead, the vote will take place in January, possibly on Jan. 10, two of the council members said.
Rwandans voted overwhelmingly to support changes to the constitution that would allow President Paul Kagame to extend his term in office, possibly until 2034, provisional results showed on Saturday. Kagame, 58, would be able to run again in 2017 after his second term ends. He has been president since 2000 but effectively in control since his rebel force marched into Kigali in 1994 to end a genocide. “The electoral commission declares in public that 98.3 percent of voting Rwandans accepted the constitution as amended in 2015,” National Electoral Commission chairman Kalisa Mbanda told a news conference after Friday’s vote. Mbanda rejected a statement issued on Friday by the local European Union delegation that there was no independent monitoring in place during the vote.
The opposition leader in the Seychelles said today he will appeal to the constitutional court to overturn election results after President James Michel won a second-round vote by the slimmest of margins. The announcement comes a day after Michel was sworn back into office for a third term at the presidential residence in Victoria, the capital on the Indian Ocean archipelago’s main island of Mahe, alongside his vice-president Danny Faure. The electoral commission said Saturday that Michel, 71, had won the second round of the election by just 193 votes — with 50.15 percent support against 49.85 percent for his rival Wavel Ramkalawan.
Slovenia rejected on Sunday a law that would give same-sex couples the right to marry and adopt children in its second vote on gay rights in four years. About 63.4 percent of voters rejected the law in a referendum while 36.6 percent supported it, a preliminary result of the State Electoral Commission showed after 99 percent of votes were counted. Parliament passed a law in March giving same-sex couples the right to marry and adopt children but the measures have not been enforced because a civil society group called For Children appealed to the top court, calling for a referendum.
Spain is set for a period of difficult coalition-building after Sunday’s elections in which Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy‘s conservatives came first, but were far short of a majority and with no obvious coalition partner after the centrist Ciudadanos (Citizens) did worse than expected, finishing fourth. With 99.6 percent of votes counted, Rajoy’s Popular Party had 123 seats in the 350-seat national parliament, way beneath the 186-seat majority they secured in 2011. The Socialists (PSOE), who have alternated in power with the PP for nearly four decades, were second with 90 seats, while far-left Podemos (We Can) had 69 seats — including the regional coalitions they have forged in Catalonia, Galicia and Valencia — and the centrist Ciudadanos came fourth with 40. “We are about to begin a period that won’t be easy,” said 60-year-old Rajoy, who was first elected in 2011 and has earned the approval of the euro zone’s most powerful country, Germany, for tightening the reins on Spain’s spendthrift economy..