Time to get out your deerstalker hat. Somewhere out there is a publicly available database with approximately 191 million voting records, with details like names, birthdates, addresses, phone numbers, and political party affiliation. The problem? Nobody knows who owns the database, who set it up, how it got online, or why its information is public. According to CSO, which first reported on the story after being alerted to its existence by researcher Chris Vickery, it’s likely that the information in the database came from the political data firm NationBuilder, but it’s not necessarily the company’s fault that the information is live. A customer possibly purchased this information and made it public, but it’s unclear if they did so on purpose or by mistake. “NationBuilder is under no obligation to identify customers, and once the data has been obtained, they cannot control what happens to it,” writes CSO’s Steve Ragan. “In short, while they provided the data that’s in my newly leaked voter record, they’re not liable in any way for it being exposed.”
With three seats open on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and a chance to flip control of the judicial branch, a wave of campaign cash, independent expenditures and negative TV ads flooded the state in the weeks before the November election. Six candidates combined for $12.2 million in contributions, with two independent groups spending $3.5 million. The record sum for a state judicial election serves as a hint of what lies ahead when voters in two dozen states will cast ballots for state supreme court justices in 2016. The flow of money into state judicial races has been rising in recent years and shows no sign of slowing down. Races in a handful of states, including Ohio and North Carolina, are among those that will be watched closely.
At least for some Americans, it could be harder to vote in next year’s presidential election than in any for several decades. And yet, there are genuine reasons for new-found optimism about the state of U.S. voting rights. If that sounds hard to square, consider that perhaps for the first time this century, there’s now unquestionably more energy behind efforts to make voting easier than to make it harder. Continuing a trend that began after the 2012 election, numerous mostly blue states — with an important nudge from Hillary Clinton — have introduced, and sometimes passed, a slew of expansive bills, including one idea that could transform access to the ballot. Meanwhile, the march of major new GOP-backed restrictions that characterized the period from 2011 to 2014 essentially came to a halt. But voting rights advocates are a long way from celebrating. Nothing happened to undo existing restrictions, and the worst of them remain in place. And as 2016 approaches, the Roberts Court, with its conservative majority, looks likely to play the lead role in shaping the voting landscape going forward.
Reports of Republican officials convening a closed-door session over the possibility of a deadlocked convention are feeding speculation over what happens if 19 weeks of primaries, caucuses and conventions leave a muddled picture. The past nine Republican conventions began with a presumptive nominee. And the chances of delegates arriving at the convention in Cleveland next July with no clear nominee remain small. But the odds are no longer infinitesimal thanks to the multicandidate field, required early proportional voting, and the fact that only 16.2% of the delegates will have been chosen in decisive, winner-take-all contests. Three convention scenarios can emerge after 56 states and territories choose their delegates between Feb. 1 and June 7: There will be a clear winner, a bunched up field of several candidates, or a leader who can’t get a majority of delegates on the first ballot. The latter two scenarios would make Cleveland uncharted territory.
California: Low turnout prompts initiative extravaganza for November ballot | San Francisco Chronicle
Measures ranging from a $9 billion school bond to a condom requirement for actors in pornographic movies are set to join the presidential candidates on November’s California ballot, with plenty more still to come. Battle lines are being drawn in what could be one of the busiest — and most expensive — initiative seasons in California history. “It’s likely to be a very long ballot,” said Jamie Court of Consumer Watchdog, a progressive group that’s sponsored a number of consumer-oriented initiatives over the years. Besides the seven measures that have already qualified for the ballot — including one of nationwide interest that would cut prescription drug prices for state agencies — supporters of others are out on the streets, haranguing passersby in an effort to collect enough signatures to go before the voters next year.
Unless you’re a diehard political party member in Colorado, chances are low you’ve participated in the state’s early voting process. Frankly, to many, it’s baffling. And if you’re an unaffiliated voter who wants to get involved, act fast. You have until January 4 to join a party so you can help determine which candidate gets the nomination. Then what? Get ready for Super Tuesday. What you think might be a quick trip to a polling place is nothing of the sort in Colorado. Instead, it’s a night of discussion among your neighborhood party members where you’ll find yourself pitching for your favorite candidate, hearing from others about theirs, and maybe even having to fend off the aroma of home baked cookies luring you to another candidate’s side.
With a presidential primary right around the corner, many Florida voters are being told they must update their legal signatures to ensure that their absentee ballots will be counted. Hundreds of thousands of voters have received letters from county elections supervisors urging them to fill out new voter registration forms or risk having their ballots rejected. The practice of signature verification is becoming increasingly common as more Floridians vote by mail rather than at early voting sites or on Election Day. Now that the Legislature allows voting by mail for any reason, experts say it’s inevitable that it will become the preferred way of casting ballots in Florida. “You MUST complete the enclosed voter registration application and check the ‘signature update’ box so that we can update your voter registration record,” reads a letter from Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections Penelope Townsley. “If you plan to vote by absentee ballot in an upcoming election, be sure to submit your signature update at least 15 days prior to the election.”
On the face of it, Iowa’s online voter registration system, scheduled to launch next week, should make it easier to participate in elections. But legitimate concerns have been raised over the system’s potential impact on the rights of the disadvantaged, and so far the state has been slow to respond. The new system will enable only those individuals who have a driver’s license or non-operator identification card issued by the Iowa Department of Transportation to take advantage of online voter registration. That’s a problem because, according to the DOT’s own estimates, roughly 145,600 eligible Iowa voters don’t have a license or ID card. This new process is also inconsistent with state law, which doesn’t require Iowans to be a licensed driver or to possess a DOT-issued ID card to exercise their right to register and vote in an election.
New Mexicans should be able to register to vote online by the end of this week, as the Secretary of State’s Office is putting the final touches on new regulations that will allow the option for the first time in state history. Online voter registration has surged in popularity in recent years and is already available in 26 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. New Mexico is one of three additional states – Oklahoma and Florida are the others – implementing such a system. Gov. Susana Martinez signed a bill, approved by legislators during this year’s 60-day legislative session, that mandated online voter registration, among other changes, and officials in the Secretary of State’s Office have been working to have it ready to go by Friday – more than a year before their deadline.
Gov. John Kasich says he wants to change the way Ohio draws congressional districts, but other supporters of the idea say it will take a change of heart by Ohio’s federal lawmakers to make it happen. Ohio’s congressional districts are currently drawn by the legislature, which can gerrymander districts to favor the party that controls the chambers. The process has led to a number of districts that make little geographic sense, allow for few competitive races and have given Republicans 12 of 16 seats. “I support redistricting reform dramatically,” Kasich said last week. “This will be something I’m going to do whether I’m elected president or whether I’m here. We carve these safe districts, and then when you’re in a safe district you have to watch your extremes, and you keep moving to the extremes.”
Wisconsin: Federal judge’s ruling on evidence could fuel John Doe appeal to U.S. Supreme Court | Wisconsin State Journal
Investigators have asked a federal judge to overrule a state Supreme Court order that they turn over evidence from their secret criminal investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s recall campaign. Should U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman grant the request, it would set up a high-level clash between state and federal courts, perhaps giving the U.S. Supreme Court another reason to intervene, according to a former state Supreme Court justice. “The (Wisconsin) Supreme Court has created a hornets’ nest over this evidence and I don’t know how they get themselves out of it,” former Justice Janine Geske said in an interview Monday. “I suspect there are going to be some justices at the U.S. Supreme Court who say, ‘We’ve got to look at what’s going on in Wisconsin.’ ”
Central African Republic votes in a presidential election on Wednesday which many hope will signal the end of months of sectarian strife in which thousands have been killed and many more forced from their homes. Wednesday’s elections in Central African Republic have been postponed several times due to violence and logistical problems. Most recently, they were supposed to have taken place last Sunday but were called off partly because of clashes in regions of the country where armed gangs still hold sway. Roland Marchal, researcher with the Paris Institute of Political Sciences, told DW it was a matter for concern that the elections were going ahead before these groups, in the west and east and in parts of the capital Bangui, have been disarmed. “Potentially, it’s very possible for any armed group to keep its major weapons and be able to strike,” he said.
Haiti’s independent electoral commission was running out of time on Tuesday to study polling returns from October’s first round of presidential elections, threatening to further delay the process. In theory, the newly formed agency has until Wednesday to re-examine the first round of voting, which the opposition alleges was marred by widespread fraud, and to produce a report on the way forward. The second round had been due to go ahead on Sunday but has already been delayed indefinitely, and opposition flagbearer Jude Celestin had refused to campaign until the ballot-rigging is investigated.
One of the two Seychellois observer missions that monitored the run-off of the presidential elections earlier this month said Tuesday that civic and voter education needs to improve. The Citizenship Democracy Watch Seychelles (CDWS) said there is a need to improve voter education “to empower all eligible citizens to vote free from intimidation, threats, coercion and voter buying practices.” Seychelles held the second round of the presidential election this month. Incumbent president James Michel won 50.15 percent of the vote, winning a third and final five-year mandate.