In 1963, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream that, to the joy of millions of African-Americans, Barack Obama redeemed by winning the presidency. As the youngest speaker at that March on Washington gathering, John Lewis identified another dream. It, too, has been redeemed by the American political system. But the blessing has been decidedly mixed. On that sweltering August day, Mr. Lewis, the 23-year-old champion of voting rights, lamented the absence of an unequivocal “party of principles” from the political scene. “The party of Kennedy is also the party of Eastland,” Mr. Lewis said. “The party of Javits is also the party of Goldwater.”
Editorials: Online Voting Is the Future — And It Could Lead to Absolute Disaster | Jack Smith IV/Mic
This year, we’re going to choose a new president. We’ll debate with disgruntled friends on Facebook, monitor every debate on Twitter and use Google to find polling places. And then, those of us who are willing to make the trek will drive, walk, carpool or take trains to small outposts in order to vote. It’s 2016. Why don’t we have an app on our smartphones that allows us to vote remotely and instantly? … What’s holding back online voting? In short, security risks. If we’ve learned anything from the past few years of cybersecurity scandals — like the Office of Personnel Management hack, the Sony Pictures Entertainment fiascoor the Ashley Madison breach — it’s that no digital system can be proven to be totally safe. There’s a common refrain that digital voting experts are tired of hearing: “If I can bank online, why can’t I vote online?” If the internet is safe enough to store our money, shop, file our taxes and perform other sensitive tasks, why can’t it be used to vote? The truth is, we don’t bank or shop safely online. Major retailers and banking systems deal with hacking, fraudulent charges and identity theft every day. Companies like Amazon are used to a small percentage of transactions being fraudulent. And when fraud occurs in a financial transaction, those problems can be fixed after the fact.
U.S. Rep. David Jolly has a big idea in a little four-page bill. The Indian Shores Republican wants to ban federal officeholders from directly seeking campaign contributions. It’s a long shot in an election-year Congress whose members are obsessed with raising money and self-preservation, but it is a serious proposal from a serious lawmaker that deserves careful consideration. Jolly takes a targeted, straightforward approach in the legislation he plans to roll out today. He argues that members of Congress spend far too much time raising money when they should be focused on governing, and there are plenty of statistics and examples that illustrate those skewed priorities. Incumbents from both parties calculate how many hours they have to spend on the phone raising money to keep their jobs, while this Congress has been one of the least productive in modern history.
A small group of Alabama officials is pushing for a clearer legal definition of “moral turpitude,” a change that could restore voting rights to some ex-felons. “When they’ve paid their fees and served their time, they ought to be integrated back into society,” said Secretary of State John Merrill. “Voting ought to be part of that.” Merrill on Wednesday will convene the last meeting of a task force he appointed to study voting rights of ex-felons, and the group is expected to vote on its recommendations for restoring the vote to some former prison inmates. Merrill can’t set the voting rules by himself, but he said he expects them to be filed as bills before the Alabama Legislature convenes next month.
District of Columbia: Old machines and missing dollars. Is D.C. ready for an election? | The Washington Post
Elections in the District have been handicapped by faulty voting machines, inadequate polling staff, inaccessible polling stations and delays in vote tallying. And yet it is unclear whether any of those problems will have been remedied by the time the District holds its next major election in six months. These are the concerns held by D.C. Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie and a handful of other close observers of the city’s election process who say the D.C. Board of Elections appears to have made no clear progress toward fixing its long-standing problems ahead of the June primary contests or addressed how the board has managed millions of dollars in federal funds. As of last week, a full month after board members testified before the D.C. Council that they were unaware of how much new voting machines would cost, the board still had not determined whether it can afford to purchase new ones or whether it will lease them. The potential lengthiness of the city’s procurement process also raises the question of whether the board will have enough time to test the machines and train election workers, if it does acquire new ones.
A state lawmaker is renewing his push for automatic voter registration for eligible citizens when they obtain or renew a driver’s license or state ID. State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, said the measure would remove barriers to the ballot box while saving money for state and local government. “There are many, many reasons to implement this in Illinois,” Manar said at a Statehouse news conference this week.
Kansas: Judge rules Kris Kobach can’t operate two-tier election system in Kansas | The Kansas City Star
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach can’t operate a two-tier voting system that allows him to count only votes cast in federal races for voters who registered using a federal form, a state judge ruled Friday. “There’s just no authority for the way the secretary of state has handled federal form registrants,” said Doug Bonney of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, which represented plaintiffs in the case. Kobach championed a 2013 Kansas law that requires those registering to vote to provide proof-of-citizenship documents, typically a birth certificate or passport. But the federal registration form only requires a sworn statement from the voter as proof of citizenship.
Maine: Municipal clerks’ offices swamped under flood of referendum petitions | The Portland Press Herald
Maine’s town clerks are keeping busy verifying signatures for petitions aimed at getting referendum proposals onto the November ballot. And soon state election officials will kick into high gear, as well, to validate the petitions. The campaigns have until Friday to get signatures delivered to local clerks. Then the petitions must be delivered to state election officials by Feb. 1. Signature-gathering has been taking place for a number of proposals, including for marijuana legalization, background checks for firearm purchases, ranked-choice voting, higher minimum wage, school funding and a GOP income tax cut/welfare reform proposal. Each proposal needs to have 61,123 valid signatures of registered voters to advance.
Maryland’s majority-Democrat House of Delegates will vote Wednesday on whether to overturn at least two of Gov. Larry Hogan’s vetoes, marking the first direct showdown between lawmakers and the Republican governor of the 2016 legislative session. The state Senate has delayed its override votes until Thursday, because two senators will be absent on Wednesday. Each chamber needs a three-fifths majority to override a veto. The House will decide whether to reinstate a bill that would require online hotel booking companies to collect sales tax for the entire cost of a hotel room in Howard County and give that full amount to the state, rather than keeping part of it as a service fee. It will also try to resurrect a measure that would provide $2 million for capital improvements to a performing arts hall in Annapolis.
Mississippians could register to vote online and begin voting 21 days before an election without an absentee excuse under a “complete revision” of election laws Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is proposing to the Legislature. “It is time to address outdated and inefficient election laws which have, in some cases, been on the books for decades,” Hosemann said on Tuesday, releasing his proposals with a Capitol press conference. “These proposals make it easier to cast your ballot, harder for someone to cheat the electorate and provide severe penalties for those who do.” Hosemann recommends tougher, consolidated penalties for election-law crimes, which he noted are almost never prosecuted in part because they are not clearly defined or understood. His proposal would consolidate all election crimes and penalties, making them either misdemeanors with a maximum fine of $1,000 and a year in jail, or felonies with maximum $3,000 fines and up to two years in jail.
A Senate panel on Tuesday heard testimony on a proposal that would require voters to show a photo ID at the polls. The measure is similar to a proposal passed out of committee in the House. The bill and a separate resolution, if passed, would pose the question to voters this year in the form of a proposed constitutional amendment. In 2006, the state Supreme Court struck down a photo voter ID law, saying it infringed on the rights of voters. Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit, is sponsoring the bill and accompanying resolution in the Senate. Kraus is running for secretary of state.
With presidential primary elections two months away, the U.S. Postal Service has yet to explain why nearly 9 percent of Summit County mail-in ballots were missing postmarks and had to be thrown out. And no one has come up with a solution for the future. The unusually high number of botched ballots led the Summit Board of Elections to subpoena postmasters to a hearing last month. While postal officials skipped the hearing, Ohio Secretary of State John Husted’s office has since taken up the issue statewide. During the last presidential election in 2012, more than one-third of Ohio voters mailed their ballots.
Bulgarian MPs are set to hold a debate on the introduction of online voting after a referendum in October showed strong support for the step. On Tuesday the Legal Affairs Committee with the Parliament backed a draft resolution according to which e-voting should only be enabled if vote secrecy, civic control on the electoral process and security of information systems are guaranteed under the law. Its decision leaves up to Parliament to discuss and decide on the introduction of online voting.
Stone-throwing protesters took to the streets of Haiti’s capital on Monday to demand the suspension of a Jan. 24 presidential election over alleged irregularities, while in provincial areas unknown attackers burned several electoral offices. Haiti is due to hold a run-off vote backed by international donors on Sunday, but tensions have risen since opposition candidate Jude Celestin said last week he would withdraw, on grounds that electoral authorities favored the ruling party. Swiss-trained engineer Celestin, 53, came second in an October first round in the poor Caribbean nation, beaten by banana exporter Jovenel Moise, 47, the ruling party candidate.
The Prime Minister of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, announced on Sunday evening that he would be calling early elections in Serbia, B92 reports. That is only two years since the last legislative elections in March 2014. Following a meeting with his party’s Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) executive committee, Vučić argued that elections were necessary to resolve the current impasse of reforms. In fighting against a political-criminal power conglomerate, Vučić argued, his administration needs a new mandate that is resisting change for over a decade. He vowed to turn Serbia into an EU member state in which rule of law prevails by 2020. In the current parliament, SNS holds 158 seats in Serbia’s 250-seat parliament. SNS began as a junior coalition partner of the Socialist Party, before withdrawing their support and heading for the polls. Since, they have dominated the Serbian political landscape, which was traditionally fragmented.
The Pacific island nation of Vanuatu goes to the polls Friday despite thousands of newly eligible voters being unable to cast a ballot in the snap election called after a corruption scandal rocked the government. A lack of time since the vote was called in late November meant the electoral rolls could not be updated, Electoral Commission chairman John Killion Taleo, told AFP Wednesday. Radio New Zealand reported Wednesday more than 3,000 young people were not on the electoral roll. Only the 200,159 people on the electoral roll last July will be allowed to cast a ballot. The 52-member parliament was dissolved in late November by President Baldwin Lonsdale after 14 lawmakers were jailed for bribery in the impoverished Pacific archipelago.