Reflecting on baseball attendance, the philosopher Yogi Berra observed that “if people don’t want to come to the ballpark, how are you going to stop them?” He could have said much the same thing about the American electorate. If voters don’t want to go to the polls, what is going to stop them, too? Often enough, nothing has. Across the decades, Americans have chosen not to exercise the franchise aerobically. The turnout rate in national elections, typically below 60 percent, ranks near the bottom among the world’s developed democracies. The share of Americans who even bother registering to vote — 64.6 percent, according to the most recent figures from the United States Census Bureau — does not come close to rates exceeding 90 percent in Western Europe and Canada. Even in a supposedly banner year like 2008, when Barack Obama’s candidacy generated plenty of excitement, the turnout was not quite 62 percent, a pace that countries like Belgium, Denmark and Sweden would regard as dismal.
Editorials: Money can’t buy Jeb Bush the White House, but it still skews politics | Rick Hasen/The Washington Post
It is easy to dismiss as overblown the concern about the outsize role of ultra-rich donors in the American political scene. Exhibit 1: Jeb Bush. Bush’s $100 million in super PAC fundraising was supposed to be part of a shock-and-awe campaign that would scare away competitors and give him a smooth path to the Republican presidential nomination. Well, it hasn’t worked out that way. Bush has been polling toward the bottom in the Republican race despite the war chest, and Donald Trump, who has spent little on his campaign despite his billionaire status, has been on top. “Hurrah for Citizens United ,” Politico’s Jack Shafer wrote in one representative piece. He asserted that worries about the 2010 Supreme Court ruling have been proved wrong. “Expectations that big money would float the best-financed candidate directly to the White House have yet to materialize this campaign season.” But this overly simplistic analysis misses the key role of money in contemporary American politics. In spite of the rhetoric of some campaign reformers, money doesn’t buy elections. Instead, it increases the odds of electoral victory and of getting one’s way on policies, tax breaks and government contracts. And the presidential race is the place we are least likely to see money’s effects. Looking to Congress and the states, though, we can see that the era of big money unleashed by the Supreme Court is hurtling us toward a plutocracy in which the people with the greatest economic power can wield great political power through campaign donations and lobbying.
A proposed state law that would prohibit taking someone else’s early ballot to a polling place is getting mixed reactions here, with some saying it would deny home-bound or disabled people their right to vote and others saying the measure would help prevent electoral fraud. In San Luis, it has been a practice for decades for campaign workers of candidates for city and county offices to collect early ballots from voters who presumably can’t get to the polls on election day, or who otherwise need help voting. But ballot collecting – sometimes called “ballot harvesting” – has also raised concerns that the practice leaves open the possibility that vote collectors could pressure voters to vote a certain way, or that the ballots could be trashed or altered before being delivered to the poll.
Colorado: Latest redistricting proposal bound to fail, say minority lawmakers | The Colorado Independent
Too little, too late. That’s how several minority lawmakers feel about the latest draft of a ballot measure that purports to outlaw gerrymandering in Colorado.
Initiative 107 was filed this morning by former Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, a Highlands Ranch Republican, and former lawmaker Kathleen Curry, who was a registered Democrat for years until switching to unaffiliated in 2010. The proposed ballot measure is the second effort by McNulty and others, including former Secretary of State Bernie Buescher, a Democrat, to change how the state draws the maps for Colorado’s seven congressional districts and 100 legislative seats. The first attempt, submitted in November, immediately drew howls of protest from voting rights activists and minority groups who claimed the ballot measure would have disenfranchised minority voters.
Editorials: After thorough process, Colorado chose best possible voting system | Wayne Williams/The Denver Post
Accessible. Accurate. Clean. Fair. Transparent. Integrity. These are key values that guide my decision-making as Colorado’s chief election official and that guided my selection of a new uniform voting system for our state. Colorado’s election equipment is at or near the end of its useful life. Operating systems are no longer supported by Microsoft. National studies have warned about the major risks of failing to replace election equipment. Continuing to use a hodgepodge of inconsistent and incompatible systems across the state poses a grave risk that jeopardizes Colorado elections. For more than three years Colorado has been engaged in the most open and thorough election equipment review in our nation’s history. This past November we tested four different vendors’ equipment in real elections. As noted by federal Elections Assistance Commissioner Matt Masterson: “Colorado has set a model for the nation with its voting system selection process. Requiring field demonstrations and an independent review board are best practices that the commission will share with other states.”
Republican U.S. Rep. Todd Young’s name is staying on the ballot for Indiana’s open U.S. Senate seat after a tie vote Friday by the state election commission. The board voted 2-2 along party lines after hearing arguments from attorneys for the state Democratic Party and tea party-backed GOP Rep. Marlin Stutzman that Young’s campaign didn’t submit enough petition signatures to meet state requirements to appear on the May primary ballot. The Indiana race could have national implications as Democrats seek a net gain of four Senate seats to retake the majority from Republicans. That would require the Democratic nominee for president to win in November and allow the vice president to break Senate ties. Until the issue over Young’s eligibility for the ballot emerged, Republicans were seen as having a good chance of holding onto the seat of GOP Sen. Dan Coats, who is retiring.
Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are on the Indiana ballot — for now. Two men who challenged the candidates’ eligibility, based on claims that neither man was a “natural-born citizen,” are contemplating possible next legal steps, following the state Election Commission’s decision Friday to put Rubio and Cruz on the May primary ballot. “This needs to go to a higher court,” said Bob Kern, an Indianapolis man who calls himself a Donald Trump-supporting Democrat. Both Rubio and Cruz have faced challenges in other states and from the billionaire mogul Trump on the campaign trail. But the arguments that they’re not eligible to run for president because of circumstances of their births have been routinely turned back by state election officials.
Kansas: Want to vote in this state? You have to have a passport or dig up a birth certificate. | The Washington Post
Ralph Ortiz served in the Air Force for 13 years. He was stationed on bases in the Middle East and in Kansas, where he decided to live after leaving the military. He registered to vote more than a year ago. But Ortiz was stunned to find out recently that his name was purged from the Kansas voting rolls because of a requirement he did not know about: He had to prove he was a U.S. citizen. Ortiz had gone to the Kansas Department of Motor Vehicles to renew his license, and he registered to vote at the same time. Ortiz did not have documents that prove his citizenship, and no one asked him for any. Last fall, he received a letter saying his voter registration was “in suspense” because he had not shown proof of citizenship documents, a state requirement to register in Kansas. His name is off the rolls. “I was shocked,” said Ortiz, a 35-year-old father of four who was born in New York. “I defended my country for 13 years. I own a home here in Kansas. I pay taxes in Kansas. I register my vehicles in Kansas. I’m a veteran who’s registered with the VA. There were many different avenues for them to figure out that I was a U.S. citizen. It was insulting.”
State Sen. Dean Kirby leases a vehicle, pays for auto insurance and gasoline, and buys Braves season tickets with money from his campaign account. He spends thousands a year on a campaign credit card, despite having no opponents for re-election for most of his 25 years in office. He says much of this spending is to cover expenses from serving as a lawmaker. But he also receives thousands of dollars a year from taxpayers for expenses. He received $19,440 last year to cover travel, food and other costs beyond the $23,575 considered salary for the part-time legislative job. Kirby lives in Pearl, just a short distance from the Capitol in Jackson. A Clarion-Ledger investigation shows that for many Mississippi politicians, campaign funds have become personal expense accounts or a second income — potentially tax free. The spending is largely paid for by lobbyists and special interests doing business with state government. They otherwise would not be allowed to lavish cash, gifts or a second income on politicians.
Democratic caucus-goers in Northern Nevada are reporting a wide range of problems from long lines and cards not being counted to being turned away and too few paper ballots. Michael and Diana Jones were turned away from participating this morning in the caucus in Gardnerville despite being registered Democratic voters in Douglas County. This is because they registered as “confidential voters,” meaning their names are not available as a public record to the Democratic Party, which runs the caucuses. Michael Jones said he talked to multiple volunteers and Democratic Party staff who were unfamiliar with the issue until he was finally turned away. “I was told I had to reregister (not confidential),” he said. “The whole point is not to put up with the 30, 40, 50 robocalls and three pounds of campaign literature in the mailbox.” He said his wife spoke with someone in line who was a confidential voter but planned to reregister so he could participate.
Convicted felons behind bars in New Hampshire could get the right to vote under a proposal that is heading for a full vote by the House. If passed, the measure would put the state in the ranks of Vermont and Maine — the only two states where felons never lose their right to vote, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But the bill, sponsored by four Democrats, faces an uphill battle after being deemed unworkable by the House Elections Law Committee on Thursday. The Department of Corrections took no position on the bill, but spokesman Jeff Lyons raised concerns about the impact on nearly 100 New Hampshire inmates incarcerated out of state and whether it would burden corrections staff. Currently, convicted felons in the Granite State are eligible to vote once released.
North Carolina: Legislators complete voting map redraw; congressional primaries pushed back | Associated Press
Legislators met a Friday deadline to complete a court-ordered rewrite of North Carolina’s illegally gerrymandered congressional voting map, all the while looking ahead to further legal challenges. One legal decision quickly went against the Republican lawmakers, who still defend the previous boundaries as fair and legal. The U.S. Supreme Court late Friday refused the state’s request to keep using district lines from the 2012 and 2014 elections while the lower-court order is appealed. The denial means the state is on track to hold congressional primaries June 7 under the new map. Had the Supreme Court sided with the state, the congressional primary would have remained March 15 as previously scheduled. The state House gave final approval to the new map dividing the state’s 13 U.S. House seats after federal judges earlier this month declared the old map was illegally gerrymandered by race. Challengers had complained that legislative Republicans drew the previous congressional lines to pack black voters in two districts, leaving the rest more white and more favorable to the GOP.
North Carolina: Poll worker training highlights voter ID, many Election Day tasks | Winston-Salem Journal
Poll worker training for the March primary kicked off last week in Forsyth County, and for seasoned precinct officials, most of the information is familiar. But one element is new for everyone: voter ID. By the end of the month, more than 300 precinct officials will have attended the class, which covers everything from voting machine setup and voter check-in to provisional ballots and photo identification requirements. The class is mandatory for chief judges and judges, the precinct officials who run the polling places on Election Day. In about two and a half hours, Forsyth elections office employees hit the highlights from the State Board of Elections’ voting site guide and the county’s poll worker manual, which contains about 100 pages of instructions and forms.
Lawmakers are starting the process to replace voting machines statewide that are near the end of their expected lives, and the next generation of voting could be a bit different. Instead of the current electronic touch-screen machines — which cost $30 million to buy statewide — the state is looking perhaps at using off-the-shelf scanners and programs that could count hand-marked ballots (which fit in nicely with by-mail voting). Or it might end up buying off-the-shelf tablets to allow electronic voting and printing of paper records. Or it may allow both, or something different — but likely not anything like the current expensive machines, said Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem. He says the methods being considered would be much cheaper, and cost an estimated $9.5 to $16 million.
Malcolm Turnbull is moving quickly to overhaul the Senate voting system before this year’s election, declaring the end of secretive preference deals that have allowed backroom operators to “game” the system. The prime minister said the legislation – introduced to the parliament on Monday with the backing of the Greens and the independent senator Nick Xenophon – would empower voters to decide how their preferences flowed in upper house elections. The bill has been referred to the joint standing committee on electoral matters with a reporting deadline of 2 March, paving the way for a debate and decision in the Senate before parliament rises for the pre-budget break.
Macedonia is not ready for fair elections on April 24, the EU and US said on Sunday, advising a postponement of the pre-term polls that are intended to end the country’s political crisis. US ambassador Jess Baily outlined the joint assessment in a letter delivered to the Macedonian interim Prime Minister Emil Dimitriev on Sunday evening, mentioning June 5 as a possible alternative election date. The letter says that although some progress has been made, “at this stage the necessary conditions for organizing credible elections on April 24 are not in place.” The joint assessment points out concerns regarding a credible clean-up of the electoral roll, including field checks, a still non-existent agreement on media reforms that would allow objective and unbiased reporting, as well as insufficient measures to separate state and political party activities. “We are also concerned at initial reports of pressure and intimidation of voters and others,” the letter says.
Counting has begun in Niger’s presidential and legislative elections after the polls closed Sunday. The results are not expected until sometime next week. Mahamadou Issoufou is running for a second five-year term with a promise to crush Islamist militants and develop one of the poorest countries in the world. “I hope that these elections proceed calmly and peacefully,” he had said. “In any case, there will only be one winner, and that is Niger.”
The Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) Director, Mr Salum Kassim Ali, has said preparations for the upcoming re-run elections on March 20 are on top gear. Mr Ali said here that they were prepared to make sure that the polls would be free and fair and past irregularities would not recur. “We have been moving on well and doing everything possible to ensure that the elections are free and fair. All the mistakes which led to the nullification of the October 2015 polls will be avoided,” he insisted.
The United States has criticized the handling of Uganda’s disputed presidential election and raised concerns about the house arrest of an opposition leader who failed to end President Yoweri Museveni’s 30-year rule. Museveni, one of Africa’s longest serving leaders and a U.S. ally, was declared winner on Saturday but opponents rejected the outcome of the election. European Union and Commonwealth observers have also criticized the handling of Thursday’s poll. Main opposition candidate Kizza Besigye was arrested three times this week and alleges the police have put him under house arrest and blocked his electronic communication. Besigye has described the election as a sham and another challenger, Amama Mbabazi, said the poll was “fundamentally flawed
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s security forces used strong-arm tactics in the middle of an election Friday, arresting the main opposition candidate, beating protesters and firing tear gas and stun grenades at them in the capital. The United States, which gives financial support to Uganda and helps train its military, was among those condemning the brutal actions. It occurred as voting from Thursday’s election continued in two main districts Friday because ballots and other election materials had not arrived on election day. Early returns Friday put Museveni ahead of opposition leader Kizza Besigye, but votes remained to be cast and counted in Besigye strongholds in this East African nation. With results from about 47 percent of polling stations across the country counted, Museveni had about 63 percent of the vote and Besigye had about 33 percent, the election commission said late Friday. Final results are expected on Saturday.