The vast majority of tech-savvy voters heading to the polls today across Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, are in for the shock of their lives: paper ballots. They’re not the kind of paper ballot that you fold in half and slip through a hole in a ballot box, but a semi-high-tech optical scan ballot that is first marked by the voter and then processed by the optical scanner to tabulate the votes. All of the states holding primaries Tuesday, with the exception of Delaware, use paper ballots or a combination of paper and electronic systems. This is the new reality facing elections in the United States. The most connected country in the world has connected so many devices that securing all of them—including the once highly touted electronic voting machine—is a near impossibility. Add to the security concerns real questions about transparency, reliability, and the ability to conduct fair and accurate recounts, and you have the makings for a mass move back to paper ballots. “Based on what I’m seeing and how slowly technology evolves in the elections world, we will still be on paper over the next five to 10 years,” said Matthew Davis, the chief information officer for the Virginia Department of Elections. Davis spoke to MeriTalk at the 2016 Akamai Government Forum in Washington, D.C.
Step 1: Participate in the political process, choose your future leaders, live out your democratic right as an American that countless men and women have literally died for. Step 2: Selfie. To many, there’s no better celebration of democracy than a voting booth photograph. It’s the moment political talk turns to political action, one younger voters are especially eager to record and share with friends. But in several states, the right of free speech has clashed with the question of whether allowing photographs in the voting booth, a typically private space, could compromise elections. Some states, like Pennsylvania, have banned the practice. Last year, a federal court in New Hampshire overturned a ban on such photos, a decision still being appealed.
Editorials: Demi Moore, George Wallace and Americans’ abused voting rights | David Horsey/Los Angeles Times
Back in 2012, prior to that year’s South Carolina presidential primary, I found myself in Charleston at a big rally for Mitt Romney. Sandwiched among voters waiting for their candidate to show up, I eavesdropped on an animated conversation between two vocally conservative men. One of them was happily detailing how various Republican-controlled legislatures were passing new voting restrictions that would hurt Democrats. The other man was trying to sound equally enthusiastic, but it was clear he felt some ambivalence. He wondered out loud if it was a good idea for government to be subverting the most fundamental right in a democracy. Then, realizing he was straying uncomfortably from the party line, he quickly dropped this errant thought and agreed with his friend that GOP legislators were right to stick it to the other team. It is a sad reflection on the state of our republic that the man in Charleston is far from alone in abandoning a sacred principle. Sometimes by nefarious design, sometimes through tired tradition and sometimes because of incompetence, political parties and state governments set up roadblocks to casting ballots instead of engaging as many people as possible in the political process.
Editorials: Bernie Sanders is right: poor people don’t vote and it’s a problem | Lucia Graves/The Guardian
Bernie Sanders said something he wasn’t supposed to say: that poor people don’t vote. Although it’s true that voter turnout is inversely correlated with income, all anyone wanted to comment on was that Sanders looked defensive and deflated on Meet the Press, where he made the statement on Sunday. Lost was the fact that this is a truth we should be struck by, ashamed of even, and should do more about. The impolitic remark came in response to a question about why the candidate had been losing so much in the places he should have been winning (he’s lost 16 of the 17 states with the highest levels of income inequality). The most straightforward thing for him to say would be to acknowledge that he hasn’t performed well with minority voters who tend to be less affluent. But he didn’t want to say that on television. Instead, he decided to talk about something else that’s actually more important than where he, personally, is up or down. He said: “Poor people don’t vote. I mean, that’s just a fact. That’s a sad reality of American society”. He also noted that “80% of poor people did not vote” in the 2014 election. On the airwaves he was chided for acting like an analyst rather than a candidate and for bringing his campaign down to reality in all the wrong ways. Fact-checkers immediately aimed to set the record straight only to discover that Sanders claim was “mostly true” or even, looked at comprehensively, totally correct.
Maricopa County taxpayers will have to fork over almost $400,000 to make up for a misprint on 2 million ballots in a May special election. Half of the money will come from the county recorder’s office budget, and the remainder will have to be approved by the County Board, recorder’s office spokeswoman Elizabeth Bartholomew told 12 News Monday. The botched ballots come in the wake of a presidential primary fiasco last month that saw hours-long waits in line. County Recorder Helen Purcell admited she “screwed up” by cutting the number of polling places by 70 percent from four years ago. The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating what happened. Separate lawsuits have been filed in county and federal courts, alleging citizens were deprived of their right to vote.
When the Florida Supreme Court considered a dramatic change to the shape of Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown’s district last year, she promised to “go all the way to the United States Supreme Court” if necessary to preserve her electoral territory. Brown has made good on her promise. On Monday, the 12-term congresswoman appealed to the nation’s highest court in an effort to unwind a plan to rotate her district from a north-south orientation that includes her power bases of Jacksonville and Orlando to an east-west seat that stretches from Jacksonville to Gadsden County, carving up Tallahassee along the way.
Georgia: Secretary of State ends 90-day “black-out” period for voter registration | Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office for years did not process voter forms submitted in the 90 days after a registration deadline, a practice meant to ensure that ineligible voters did not cast a ballot in an election. No more. The office is ending the practice immediately, saying the 90-day black-out period is no longer needed. The policy began in an era when voters registered only on paper, and was a way to prevent accidental voting by anyone who missed the deadline. But in an age of electronic record-keeping, the office says its current online system will prevent accidental voting from happening.
More than four decades after election oversight was stripped from the DuPage County clerk’s office to create the DuPage Election Commission, officials are working to develop plans to consolidate both offices to increase efficiency and reduce costs. “We are working toward consolidation of the election commission and the county clerk’s office, which will create a new hybrid providing our voters the most efficient, the most effective model for elections in DuPage County,” county board Chairman Dan Cronin announced during Tuesday’s county board meeting. Election commission officials have adopted a series of cost-saving measures since Cronin launched the DuPage Accountability, Consolidation and Transparency Initiative in May 2012. The initiative called on the commission and 23 other agencies to make structural and operational reforms.
Minnesota senators again went on record Tuesday in favor of restoring voting rights more quickly to felons no longer incarcerated, a plan that faces stiff opposition in the Republican-led House. Currently, felons must complete their parole and probation before regaining voting rights. Some 47,000 people would be affected by the proposal, supporters said. Voting by ex-inmates has been a prominent issue nationally, with Virginia’s governor using an executive order last week restoring voting rights for more than 200,000 felons in his state. Given resistance among House leadership, chances remain slim that the legislation will reach DFL Gov. Mark Dayton in the form the Senate approved it. Similar legislation won Senate approval last year but didn’t go any further.
North Carolina: How North Carolina became the epicenter of the voting rights battle | The Washington Post
Civil rights groups appealed a federal judge’s ruling in North Carolina upholding what they call a “monster voter suppression law,” while election experts said Tuesday that the closely watched case will have legal ramifications for voting across the country this presidential election year. North Carolina, a battleground state, is considered an epicenter for the nationwide battle over voting rights because its controversial 2013 election law is one of the strictest in the nation. “If North Carolina can get away with this kind of rollback, I suspect we will see other rollbacks in other states,” said Richard L. Hasen, an election-law expert at the University of California at Irvine and the author of “The Voting Wars: From Florida 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown.” After two trials, the voting law was upheld late Monday by federal judge Thomas D. Schroeder of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. His decision was praised by North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who said in a statement that “this ruling further affirms that requiring a photo ID in order to vote is not only common-sense, it’s constitutional.”
While still poring over a federal judge’s 485-page ruling upholding North Carolina’s recent election law overhaul on Tuesday, attorneys for the voters and civil rights organizations challenging the changes quickly filed notice of plans to appeal. Judge Thomas Schroeder’s opinion – one of the first to come down since the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a key provision of the Voting Rights Act – is being scrutinized by many as a test of what obligations states have to make sure their citizens have access to the ballot box. Schroeder’s ruling, which was released to the public Monday evening, upheld sweeping voting changes – requiring North Carolina voters to have one of six forms of photo identification, curbing the number of days for early voting, prohibiting voters from registering and casting a ballot the same day, and banning out-of-precinct voting. North Carolina Republicans, who shepherded the changes through the 2013 legislative session, describe the cutbacks, new prohibitions and ID provision as common sense measures designed to prevent voter fraud. There are few documented cases of voter fraud. Challengers of the law described the measures as designed and adopted to disenfranchise African-American, Latino and college-age voters – constituencies more likely to vote Democratic than Republican.
Editorials: Why a Judge Ruled North Carolina’s Voter-ID Law Constitutional | David Graham/The Atlantic
A judge in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, ruled Monday night that the state’s strict new voting law is constitutional, delivering a major win for conservatives who have sought to tighten laws across the country, and dealing a blow to efforts to stop those laws. Judge Thomas Schroeder’s opinion—included in a massive, 485-page ruling—upheld the full swath of HB 589. Passed by the Republican-dominated General Assembly in 2013, the law changed a slew of North Carolina’s voting rules, including reducing early voting, eliminating same-day registration, banning out-of-precinct voting, and ending pre-registration for 16-year-olds. Perhaps most prominently, the bill instituted a requirement that voters show photo ID to cast a ballot.
Few political issues have drawn as much starkly partisan rancor in recent years as the subject of voting rights. Since the Supreme Court’s historic 2013 ruling disabling key sections of the Voting Rights Act, Democrats have accused conservatives of pursing a nationwide strategy to implement ballot restrictions that effectively block minorities from the polls. Of these new measures, perhaps the most controversial are new state voter-ID laws, which Republican lawmakers have aggressively pushed under the guise of preventing election fraud. While most of these laws have been passed in places where Republicans hold strong majorities in the state government, there is one state that has bucked that trend. Rhode Island, a Democrat-controlled state which hosts its 2016 primary election on Tuesday, has been a rare exception in the partisan divide over voter ID laws, passing a law in July 2011 that requires residents to show photo identification before casting a regular ballot. The law, which was approved by amajority of Democrats in the state legislature, ran afoul of the national narrative about voter ID laws, and has since been trumpeted by conservatives as proof that such measures are simply good-government policy.
Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery served notice today that the state will appeal a U.S. District judge’s ruling requiring a recount on the vote in a successful 2014 state constitutional amendment that made it easier for the state Legislature to enact new abortion restrictions. “We obviously disagree with the federal court’s decision,” said Harlow B. Sumerford, Slatery’s spokesman, in a statement. “Simply put, deciding what vote is required to amend the Tennessee Constitution is a matter of state law to be determined by a Tennessee Court.” U.S. District Court Judge Kevin Sharp on Friday ruled in a case challenging the 2014 amendment approved by a majority of Tennesseans that the method used to tabulate votes on the amendment was “fundamentally unfair” to eight Tennesseans who filed a lawsuit.
Virginia: GOP wants a say on restoring voting rights to 200,000 Virginia felons | The Washington Post
Virginia’s legislature should have a say in whether more than 200,000 ex-convicts get their voting rights restored ahead of the fall presidential election, Republican leaders said Tuesday as they called on Gov. Terry McAuliffe to convene a special General Assembly session. The GOP leaders were reacting to an executive order that McAuliffe (D) announced Friday, which instantly restored the voting rights of felons who have completed their sentences and been released from supervised probation or parole. McAuliffe and supporters said the move would advance civil rights and help reintegrate former convicts.
The state elections board voted Tuesday to ask lawmakers for a quarter of a million dollars to revive its efforts to educate people about photo identification requirements at the polls ahead of the fall election season. The Government Accountability Board mothballed its voter ID outreach campaign in 2012 after a court challenge blocked the requirement. A federal appellate court ultimately upheld the law in 2014 and it was in effect for both this past February’s primary and the April 6 general election, which included the presidential primary. Democrats feared the voter ID law would prevent some people from voting, but the turnout was 47 percent in the April election, the highest since 1972. GAB officials have said things went smoothly for the most part, although some voters faced long lines and difficulties trying to obtain valid IDs, particularly college students. Most college IDs aren’t acceptable under the law, so University of Wisconsin schools provided students with free secondary IDs for voting.
Bulgaria: Governing coalition backtracks on some controversial election law changes | The Sofia Globe
An April 26 emergency meeting involving Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and representatives of parties in the country’s governing coalition has led to a backtrack on some of the more controversial changes to election law approved by Parliament. Negotiations and debate on revisions to the Electoral Code were continuing in the National Assembly in the afternoon, with the special sitting expected to be extended. The meeting involving Borissov and Roumyana Buchvarova, deputy prime minister in charge of coalition policy, went on for more than two hours on Tuesday morning. After the meeting, it emerged that some clauses in the Electoral Code, approved at second reading on April 21 and 22, would be changed. The fate of Parliament’s decision, taken in response to a proposal by governing coalition minority partner the nationalist Patriotic Front, that polling stations abroad may only be opened at diplomatic missions, remained unclear by mid-afternoon.
Tibetans in exile have re-elected a Harvard-educated lawyer as their political leader to spearhead a campaign to press China to grant Tibet autonomy, a Tibetan government-in-exile said on Wednesday. Lobsang Sangay, who has led the 150,000-odd Tibetan diaspora since 2011 when the Dalai Lama relinquished his political power, won 57 percent of the almost 60,000 votes cast, the electoral commission announced in the Indian hill town of Dharamsala, where the administration is based. The Dalai Lama, 81, has sought to build a democratic system of government for exiled Tibetans that is strong enough to hold the community together and negotiate with China after his death. Question marks over what happens when the spiritual leader and Nobel Peace Laureate dies, amid competing assertions over who should succeed him, have reinforced Tibetans’ need for a leader endowed with democratic legitimacy.
Equatorial Guinea: The world’s longest-serving president just won a sixth term with 99% of the vote | The Washington Post
Teodoro Obiang Nguema has never received less than 97 percent of the vote in an election. On Monday, with partial results indicating that 99.2 percent of the vote has gone in his favor, Equatorial Guinea’s leader was surely all set for another seven years in a seat that has no doubt molded to his figure. One-sixth of African countries have an executive who has been in power for more than 20 years — that’s nine out of 54. Obiang, who took power nearly 37 years ago in a bloody coup, is in the company of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe (who turned 92 in February), Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea and King Mswati III of Swaziland. But Obiang is most similar to — and most closely followed in terms of the number of years in office by — José Eduardo dos Santos of Angola.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is this week expected to brief Members of Parliament on its status of preparedness towards the General Election in 2017. The Commission Chairperson Issack Hassan and his Commissioners who have come under sustained pressure from the opposition and the clergy to resign are expected to appear before the Justice and Legal Affairs on Thursday. According to the IEBC, one of the failures in the 2013 election was the late delivery of Electronic Voter Identification Devices to polling stations. It says this time around, it will send out the EVIDs in good time. The commission also intends to conduct a mock election in August to test the transmission of the devices. The Commission will conduct another mass voter registration exercise in March 2017, five months to the General Election slated for August 8, 2017. IEBC Chief Executive and Secretary Ezra Chiloba is slated to appear on Tuesday regarding the same matter.
The Serb Progressive Party (SNS) announced on Tuesday it is requesting an election recount, and access to all electoral materials. This came only a day after a group of opposition parties formed its legal team to analyze the material from the April 24 elections, in which the SNS took nearly 50 percent of the vote. SNS leader Aleksandar Vucic confirmed on Tuesday that the party will review the entire election material and repeated his assessment that “somewhat strange things” had occurred after the closing of the polling stations. The Progressives soon afterwards announced that the party’s own newly-formed legal team had sent to relevant institutions an official request for an election recount.