For 10 years, the Election Assistance Commission, the bipartisan federal agency created after the 2000 election debacle to help make voting easier and more standardized, has made it clear that prospective voters do not need to prove that they are American citizens before they may register. Anyone registering to vote with the federal voter-registration form, which can be used for both federal and state elections, must already sign a statement swearing that he or she is a citizen. Congress rejected a proposal to require documented proof as well, finding that the threat of criminal prosecution for a false statement was enough to deter fraud. This did not satisfy some states, like Kansas and Arizona, where Republican officials have fought for years to block voting by anyone who cannot come up with a birth certificate or a passport.
When the Presidential Commission on Election Administration held hearings around the country, the future of the Election Commission Administration came up regularly in discussions and testimony. The EAC had no Commissioners, and the concern was chiefly that it could not attend to its responsibility for voting machine standards and certification. There was also a sense that the absence of the EAC—amid indications of neglect, partisan stand-off, or both—highlighted the weakness of a national commitment to progress in professional election administration. The EAC was an invaluable resource for administrators, and, if it could steer clear of partisan conflict, it could perform a valuable service to the election administration community—and to the voters. The EAC then got enough Commissioners for a quorum and full operations. This was a period of considerable promise, and those working in the field moved quickly to engage with the EAC. For example, early on Ben Ginsberg and I sent a letter urging that the newly functional Commission initiate steps to improve the standard-setting and certification process for voting machines. The Commission subsequently acted, and it did so unanimously. EAC-sponsored discussions in which former PCEA Commissioners and election administrators participated heightened the expectation that the Commission could help mark out the ground for professional administration even in a period of intense political and other conflict over voting rights. There were warm and encouraging words all around.
Alaska: First oral arguments as GOP supporters attempt to loosen campaign donation limits | Alaska Dispatch
A federal judge on Monday heard the first arguments in a case that challenges the state’s limits on donations to political candidates and groups, setting the stage for a seven-day trial set to begin later this month. The lawsuit against the state — brought by three supporters of Republican candidates and an Anchorage Republican district committee — has its roots in recent federal cases that have equated free speech with campaign contributions. The Alaska Republican Party District 18 in Anchorage and the three individual plaintiffs want U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess to strike down annual limits on contributions from political parties and nonresidents, as well as the $500 annual limit that individuals can make to candidates and to groups other than political parties. The trial is set to begin April 25 in Anchorage.
Bernie Sanders won one more delegate in Colorado than first projected after the Colorado Democratic Party admitted this week that it misreported the March 1 caucus results from 10 precinct locations. The party discovered the discrepancy a week after the caucus but did not correct the public record. Hillary Clinton’s campaign discussed the error with state party officials last week, but the Sanders campaign apparently didn’t realize the issue until being informed Monday evening by The Denver Post. The mistake is a minor shift with major implications. The new projection now shows the Vermont senator winning 39 delegates in Colorado, compared to 27 for Clinton.
Indiana lawmakers have enacted a significant change for anyone casting a straight-party ballot. A new state law requires that those opting for just one party on the ballot take the additional steps of selecting individual candidates in all at-large races, according to one of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. David Ober, R-Albion. No ballots will be cast in at-large races without taking these additional few steps, he said. The change was enacted because when those casting a straight-party ballot on electronic equipment chose to support candidates of the opposing party in at-large races, those latter changes were not being counted, Ober said.
For the second time in two elections, a “technical glitch” stalled the Ouachita Parish Clerk of Court’s Office in completing election returns Saturday night. Over 50 minutes elapsed before election results were updated on the Secretary of State’s website at about 10:15 p.m. At the time, less than 10 precincts remained out across three local elections. Ouachita Parish Clerk of Court Louise Bond said equipment including laptops and readers are brought in from the Secretary of State’s office for the election. “We have a computer that has a reader and sometimes they don’t read, and we had a glitch in it,” she said. Cartridges that register votes from each precinct are brought to the clerk’s office where they are electronically read. Bond said the reader was unable to extract information from a cartridge that came from western Ouachita Parish.
With the recent dismissal of a voter fraud case against a former Olathe woman, Secretary of State Kris Kobach has secured just one conviction in his effort to crack down on illegal voting in Kansas. But more convictions are coming, Kobach told The Star on Tuesday. He is expecting a guilty plea in a voter fraud case by Friday and another by the end of the month. The conservative Republican pushed for legislation last year that gave him the authority to prosecute voter fraud. Gov. Sam Brownback signed the measure last summer, making Kobach the only secretary of state in the nation with such power. At the time, Kobach said he had identified more than 100 potential instances of double voting, casting ballots in the same election in different jurisdictions. Kobach announced three voter fraud cases last October and three more in January. One of the October cases resulted in a guilty plea in December, and one was dismissed last Friday.
Editorials: Kris Kobach offers new, lame defense for his ineptitude on voter ‘fraud’ | Yael T. Abouhalkah/The Kansas City Star
Kris Kobach should be apologizing to former Olathe resident Betty Gaedtke instead of puffing himself up over his pursuit of voter fraud in Kansas. The secretary of state offered a laughable defense Tuesday of his so-far lame pursuit of unlawful voting in the Sunflower State. “Six prosecutions in nine months is actually moving at a pretty good pace, and more will be coming in the months ahead,” he told The Star. Actually, it’s one successful prosecution, one embarrassing total strikeout and four pending cases. Last Friday, Kobach meekly gave up his pursuit of Gaedtke, dismissing all charges against her. That canceled a trial set to start in Johnson County on Monday. Kobach wound up dragging Gaedtke’s name through the mud since last October — when he announced with great fanfare unlawful voting suits against three people, including Gaedtke and her husband.
A bill to allow no-excuse early voting in Kentucky is dead for this year. Legislation proposed by Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes cleared the House, but never came up for a vote in the Senate. The legislation was aimed at boosting voter turnout in Kentucky. Currently, voters must have a qualifying reason to vote early. Grimes was the leading supporter of the bill. She expressed frustration that the measure won’t be passed this year. “I’ve traveled the state and people feel it’s something that we should already have,” Grimes stated. “Much like online voter registration, it’s something they expect.”
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted went to court Monday to overturn a judge’s order last month that kept polls open an extra hour because of a traffic jam. It’s too late to do anything about that March 15 order, but Husted wants to keep it from happening again, especially in the presidential election this fall. The “notice of appeal” filed Monday in U.S. District Court doesn’t make any legal arguments. It is, however, a first step toward a full-blown appeal of the controversial order issued by U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott as polls were closing March 15. “We can’t change it at this point,” Husted spokesman Josh Eck said of Dlott’s order. “Our appeal is based on principle. We don’t want this to be a precedent going forward, that this kind of order is acceptable.”
A challenge to what 12 Democratic voters claim is “one of the worst partisan gerrymanders in American history” is headed to trial in Wisconsin next month. The voters sued the individual members of Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board in 2015, claiming that Republican lawmakers secretly crafted and hurriedly passed a redistricting plan that would give them overwhelming – and unfair – control of the state legislature. The Government Accountability Board oversees election activity in the state. However, the panel is in the process of being dismantled as the result of reforms signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker in December. In June it will be replaced with new elections and ethics commissions. On Dec. 17, 2015, a three-judge district court panel denied defendants’ motion to dismiss the case, concluding the plaintiffs’ allegations were sufficient to state a plausible claim. The defendants then filed a motion for summary judgment, which the three-judge panel denied (pdf) on Thursday.
The Internet remained mysteriously cut in Chad’s capital on Monday a day after elections held amid tight security, which are expected to see President Idriss Deby extend his 26-year rule. Some foreign television media, who had worked until Sunday evening, were meanwhile unable to cover the post-election situation because they had not received authorisation from the communications ministry, by the middle of the day. Mobile Internet was suspended from Sunday morning, while fixed Internet went out in the evening in N’Djamena, and text messages could not be sent over the local phone network. The online blackout, which occurred without official explanation, was preventing discussion about how the election had gone. The situation was reminiscent of that in Congo, where authorities cut all communications — Internet, phone and texts — for four days for presidential elections on March 20.
The Italian parliament passed Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s flagship constitutional reform on Tuesday, opening the way for a referendum later this year on an overhaul aimed at giving Italy more stable governments. Renzi says the reform will increase political stability and end decades of revolving-door governments that have made it difficult to revive the country’s debt-ridden economy. He has promised to resign if the referendum goes against him. The reform effectively abolishes the Senate as an elected chamber and sharply restricts its ability to veto legislation. In the current system, the upper and lower houses of parliament have equal powers.
Peru’s election, wrought with allegations of fraud and the questionable application of campaign rules that shrouded the final weeks before voting day in uncertainty, has garnered a stern report from observers, who have called for deep reforms to the country’s electoral system, local media reported Tuesday. The Organization of American States mission found that Sunday’s general elections were threatened by political insecurity for voters brought on by the last-minute disqualifications and lasting uncertainty about who would be on the ballot up to 48 hours before polls open. The mission called for an overhaul of the disqualifications system, arguing that in its current form, electoral authorities are not able to guarantee the political rights of voters or candidates.
South Korean voters went to the polls Wednesday to elect to representatives to the National Assembly. President Park Geun-hye’s ruling conservative Saenuri Party is expected to maintain a majority in the unicameral parliament. Recent polls have shown strong public support for Park’s tough policies to respond to the growing North Korean nuclear threat, including cutting the last cooperative inter-Korean tie by closing the jointly run Kaesong Industrial Project following the Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test in January, imposing increased sanctions, and increasing military readiness to respond to any provocations.
Syrians in government-controlled areas headed to polling stations Wednesday to elect a new 250-member parliament that is expected to serve as a rubber stamp for President Bashar al-Assad. Shortly after the stations opened at 7 a.m., people began turning up. Around 3,500 government-approved candidates are competing after more than 7,000 others dropped out. Parliament elections in Syria are held every four years, and Damascus says the vote is constitutional and separate from the peace talks in Geneva aimed at ending the war. But the opposition says it contributes to an unfavourable climate for negotiations amid fierce fighting that threatens an increasingly tenuous cease-fire engineered by the United States and Russia.