Thousands gathered at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Sunday to rally and march in protest of voting laws they consider discriminatory and the role money plays in the country’s political system. A group called “Democracy Awakening” — a coalition of dozens of groups ranging from the National Organization for Women to the NAACP — coordinated Sunday’s effort, not to be confused with the like-named group called “Democracy Spring” that made headlines this week for a series of mass demonstrations that ended with more than 900 people arrested for civil disobedience. The assembled protesters called for Congress to confirm President Obama’s Supreme Court nomination as well as restore and update the powers of the Voting Rights Act, according to USA TODAY.
It’s November 6, 2016. The world is not in good shape. After years of historic lows, oil prices have rebounded—in fact, they have rebounded too well. Gas is now fast approaching $4 per gallon. High energy costs have kicked the Chinese economy into a depression, and the United States begins hemorrhaging workers. With fear spreading, the South China Sea is getting testier. What’s more, it’s been a terrible tropical-cyclone season, and southern cities are ailing. Miami and its suburbs, specifically, might take a decade to recover from Hurricane Paula. Amid this unease, some moderate, middle-aged white voters have started taking renewed interest in Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for president. To them, his once-ludicrous rhetoric is sounding more and more accurate. Their support still wouldn’t give him the popular vote, but it might let him take Ohio, Florida, and the electoral college. With the election two days away, younger and urban Americans are terrified. Some are arranging ways for their Muslim friends to leave the country. That’s the atmosphere in which two senior Facebook engineers approach Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s CEO, and tell him that this whole mess can be stopped right now. Could this happen? Would Facebook be able to single-handedly stop Donald Trump—or any other presidential candidate? It’s a question that some at Facebook appear to be asking.
Election commissioners from seven counties in Northwest Arkansas decided Wednesday to ask legislators to pay for new software and equipment before the November elections. Commissioners said they are worried upgrades won’t happen before the general election Nov. 8. Equipment and software are old and could break down, commissioners said during the Northwest Arkansas County Boards of Election Commissioners meeting. “We are in a dire situation,” said Bill Taylor, Crawford County commissioner. “The old stuff is gradually failing,” said John Lyon, Crawford County commission chairman.
District of Columbia: Mayor calls for citywide vote to make nation’s capital the 51st state | The Washington Post
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser on Friday called for a citywide vote in November on making the nation’s capital the 51st state, resurrecting a decades-old plan to thrust the issue before Congress and raise awareness across the country about District residents’ lack of full citizenship. “I propose we take another bold step toward democracy in the District of Columbia,” Bowser (D) said at a breakfast attracting hundreds of city residents, Democratic members of Congress and civil rights leaders marking the 154th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s emancipation of slaves in the nation’s capital. “It’s going to require that we send a bold message to the Congress and the rest of the country that we demand not only a vote in the House of Representatives,” she said. “We demand two senators — the full rights of citizenship in this great nation.” The mayor’s announcement appeared poised to ratchet up tension between the District’s Democratic majority and its federal overseers in a Republican-controlled Congress.
Gov. Matt Bevin signed a bill into law on April 13 that will make it easier for felons in Kentucky to have their records expunged and restore their full rights as citizens. Kentucky House Bill 40 will allow felons the opportunity to submit for expungement five years after probation or the end of their sentence, whichever is the longest. “It’s an honor and privilege to be able to sign House Bill 40 into law,” Bevin said at the signing. “It is critical that there is an opportunity for redemption and second chances because America is a land that was founded on these principles. The greatness, uniqueness, beauty and extraordinary nature of America is based on the fact that we do give people an opportunity for redemption.” The law comes after Kentucky’s previous governor, Steve Beshear, filed an executive order to allow released felons to vote shortly before he left office last year. That executive order differs significantly from the one signed last Wednesday.
Minnesota: Primary vs. caucus: State legislature, governor seem ready to make change | St, Paul Pioneer Press
After more than 321,000 Minnesotans stuffed themselves into schools, churches, fire halls, snowmobile groups and Lions Clubs across the state to take part in presidential picking last month, Capitol and party leaders, as well as many voters, decided it is time for a change. Within days of the March 1 caucuses, leaders and their constituents began clamoring for the state to move from a presidential caucus system to a presidential primary. The volume was too great, the lines were too long and the caucus sites too chaotic for the system to continue, supporters said. Despite bogging down on other issues, the Legislature and the governor appear ready to make the change. In both the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-Farmer-Labor controlled Senate, measures to change the 2020 presidential selection process into a primary are zipping along.
Gov. Pete Ricketts on Monday vetoed redistricting reform legislation designed to distance state senators from the politically volatile process of drawing new congressional and legislative districts following each U.S. census. His veto sets the stage for a day of confrontation in the Legislature on Wednesday, its 60th and final day in session this year. Already on the agenda is a motion to override the governor’s veto of a bill (LB947) to allow young undocumented immigrants who have been granted lawful presence in the United States to acquire professional and commercial licenses to work in Nebraska. In advance of that battle, the Lincoln, Greater Omaha and Nebraska chambers of commerce urged state senators to override Ricketts’ veto, arguing that the bill “makes economic sense … at a time when Nebraska is working hard to attract more skilled, educated workers.”
New York: 27 Percent of New York’s Registered Voters Won’t Be Able to Vote in the State’s Primary | The Nation
In June 2013, North Carolina passed the most sweeping voting restrictions in the country, requiring strict voter ID, cutting early voting and eliminating same-day registration, pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-olds, and out-of-precinct voting, among other political reforms. The state defended its cutbacks in court last summer by invoking, of all places, New York. “The state of New York has no early voting as opposed to North Carolina that has ten days of early voting,” lawyer Thomas Farr said. “The state of New York has no same-day registration. The state of New York has no out-of-precinct voting. The state of New York has no pre-registration.” It was a cynical defense of North Carolina’s law—North Carolinians don’t deserve to suffer because a state 500 miles away has different laws—but it was still unnerving to hear a Southern state invoke a progressive Northern state to rationalize making it harder to vote. The fact is, New York does have some of the worst voting laws in the country. New York has no early voting (unlike 37 states), no Election Day registration (the state constitution requires voters to register no later than 10 days before an election), and excuse-only absentee balloting (voters have to prove they’ll be out of town or have a disability.)
State Rep. Blake Filippi has introduced legislation that would give voters an opportunity in the next election to amend the Rhode Island constitution to replace the current plurality vote with instant runoff elections. A plurality is winning with the greatest number of votes, even if the candidate does not win more than 50 percent of the vote. Filippi cited examples of Gov. Gina Raimondo, who was elected with 40.8 percent of the vote, and former Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who received 36.1 percent. “The fact that we have a prior governor with 36 percent of the vote and our current governor has approximately 40 percent of the vote — I think it’s obvious there’s a problem,” said Filippi, I-Westerly. “Our elected officials can serve without the strong mandate needed to effectively govern and I think that people feel their will isn’t being represented when you have someone with just a mere plurality serving.”
A Utah county is crying foul over a lawsuit filed by members of the Navajo Nation who say a move to hold elections only by mail disenfranchises people who live on remote parts of the reservation where mail service is unreliable. San Juan County countered in a recent court filing that the Navajos fabricated the claim in an attempt to control local politics. The county said voter participation actually increased in 2014, in part because the mail-in voting allowed Navajos who work out of town or go away to college or the military to cast ballots. “Why would you want to do away with vote-by-mail when it allows more people to vote?” asked lawyer Jesse Trentadue, who represents the county. County officials also said the U.S. Department of Justice reviewed and signed off on the voting procedures and that improvements are being made for this year’s election.
The Virginia Senate has spent $180,000 in taxpayer dollars on a court battle over whether state election maps illegally protect incumbents from primary challenges, according to documents obtained under the state’s public records law by an advocacy group. The lawsuit, funded by a redistricting reform group, argues that 11 state Senate districts violate the constitutional requirement that districts be “compact.” Instead, many legislative districts zigzag across Virginia in odd shapes in an effort to capture the precise mix of voters to give an incumbent lawmaker the best chance for reelection, critics say. As part of the lawsuit, some lawmakers are trying to keep secret emails about the 2011 redistricting process sought by lawyers for OneVirginia2021, a nonprofit which says it wants to take the politics out of the process of drawing district boundaries. The lawsuit has taken unexpected turns, raising questions about conflict of interest and what politicians can and cannot hide from judicial scrutiny.
Editorials: From the front lines: A Wisconsin poll worker dreads the job | Carrie Scherpelz/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
‘m a Wisconsin poll worker. I’ve come to dread my job. After four years of experience at my busy polling place, I was surprised to find myself dreading Wisconsin’s primary election. Sadly, running elections has grown more daunting with every new voting law passed by the state Legislature, especially the new photo ID requirement and voter registration rules. The April 5 high-turnout election put even more new guidelines in place — added in the two months since the Feb. 16 election. Not surprisingly, both voters and poll workers are confused. That makes my job much harder and far less rewarding. I want voters to have confidence in my knowledge of ever more complex procedures. I want to serve them well so they enjoy exercising their right to vote. I don’t want them to stand in long lines or feel scrutinized as if they are passing through an airport security checkpoint. Most of all, I hate telling students that their student ID is not an approved voter ID. When I inform students of their options, I apologize and say, “Please promise me you’ll get the proper ID and come back. I want you to be able to vote.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to curb labor unions’ power, in a defeat set to trigger new elections just seven months after he took office. Mr. Turnbull had promised to invoke an election if lawmakers didn’t pass the bill, and he is now expected to formalize the threat after unveiling the national budget next month. Uncertainty over the election outcome and a potential shift in economic policy has already unsettled some of Australia’s biggest companies. Monday’s developments set in motion a risky path to an unusual election known as a double dissolution, which puts all seats in both legislative chambers to a vote. In a normal election, the lower house and just half the senate are chosen. The last such election—also aimed as resolving legislative deadlocks—was in 1987. “They’ve loaded the gun,” said Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce after the Senate vote. “We’ve always been pretty straight and we’ve always said we’d go to a double dissolution if it didn’t pass. It hasn’t passed.”
Austrian voters look set to shake the foundations of the centrist coalition government in a presidential election on Sunday and may give yet another boost to the anti-Islam Freedom Party as Europe’s migrant crisis rumbles on. The president plays a largely ceremonial role from offices in the imperial Hofburg palace. But he or she is head of state, swears in the chancellor, has the authority to dismiss the cabinet and is commander in chief of the military. Members of the centre-left Social Democrats and the conservative People’s Party have filled the job since it was first put to a popular vote in 1951. The two parties have ruled the nation of 8.7 million in tandem for most of the postwar era. But Austrians are fed up with political cockfighting, including bickering between Social Democrat Chancellor Werner Faymann and conservative Vice-Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner, and appear to be looking elsewhere for their new head of state.
Italian Premier Matteo Renzi says the jobs of oil workers have been preserved by the failure of a referendum that aimed to curtail the duration of existing drilling concessions in territorial waters. The referendum Sunday was headed to defeat after failing to reach a quorum of 50 percent plus one. Renzi had made clear before the vote of his intention to abstain, weakening the measure. After polls closed, Renzi said that “the government doesn’t see itself as the winner.” The winners, he said, were the workers “who tomorrow return to their place of work … aware of having a future and not just a past.”
Two councils that signed up to trial online voting at this year’s elections are disappointed at the Government’s decision to can it. Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston says more work needs to be done and there are “real concerns” about security and vote integrity. “Due to timing restrictions, preparations for the proposed trial have not yet met the legislative requirements and cannot guarantee public confidence in the election results. “Security testing has been planned but has not yet occurred. Without seeing the results of testing, we cannot be confident the systems are secure enough and the trial could not be authorised.”