It’s become an accepted truth of modern politics that Republican electoral prospects go up as the number of voters goes down. Conservatives have known this for a long time, which helps explain their intensifying efforts to make it harder to vote, or to eliminate large numbers of people from political representation entirely. On Monday, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected one of the more extreme attempts — a lawsuit from Texas that aimed to reverse longstanding practice and require that only eligible voters be counted in the drawing of state legislative districts.
Ever since the Supreme Court poked a hole in the Voting Rights Act, activists have been warning of devastating effects on average voters showing up at the polls. Last month they got their case in Arizona, where some voters said they waited in lines longer than five hours to vote in the primary elections after Maricopa County, one of the most sprawling in the country, cut its number of polling places from more than 400 in 2008 down to 60 this year. Other voters said they had their registration secretly changed without their knowledge, locking them out of the “closed” primary, in which voters had to have declared their affiliation in advance to be able to vote in either party’s contest. Supporters of Sen. Bernard Sanders alleged dirty tricks, saying the vast majority of secret switches were those who were changed from Democrat to independent. “We made some horrendous mistakes, and I apologize for that. I can’t go back and undo it. I wish that I could, but I cannot,” Helen Purcell, the Maricopa County recorder, told a state legislative investigation last week. “I can only say we felt we were using the best information that we had available to us.”
California: Supreme Court rejects voting-district challenge that would have weakened Los Angeles’ clout | Los Angeles Times
For the second time in two weeks, a conservative bid to shift the law to the right fizzled at the Supreme Court, when the justices on Monday upheld the current, widely-used method of counting every person—not just voters—when drawing election districts. The unanimous ruling rejected a constitutional claim that states and municipalities may count only eligible voters when dividing up districts. Had the court accepted such an interpretation, it would have shifted power away from cities with fast-growing communities of immigrants, including Los Angeles, Houston and Phoenix, and given more clout to suburban and rural areas. Doing so would have generally strengthened Republicans and undercut Democrats.
Utah Supreme Court justices poked at the Utah Republican Party’s interpretation of a controversial new state election law in a hearing Monday as hundreds of candidates work to get on the primary ballot. Though lawyers for the GOP, Utah Democratic Party or the state didn’t want to read the tea leaves afterward, questions from Justices Deno Himonas and Christine Durham might signal where the court is headed. Republican Party attorney Marcus Mumford argued that the state can’t tell political parties how to select their nominees for public office. “This statute doesn’t do that,” Durham said. Under the law, organizations that register with the state as a “qualified political party” — which the Utah Republican Party did — must allow candidates to gather petition signatures, go through the party’s convention or both to secure a place on the primary election ballot.
West Virginia doesn’t have a whole lot in common with Oregon or California. The Mountain State is nestled in Appalachia, while the Beaver and the Golden states are on the Pacific coast, and would take about 35 hours to reach if you drove nonstop from Charleston, W.Va. They have different industries, vastly different heritages and wildly different demographic makeups – California is one of the most diverse states in the country, while West Virginia is one of the least. They also diverge politically: President Obama only took 35 percent of the vote in West Virginia during his successful 2012 re-election bid, while comfortably winning California and Oregon by 60 percent and 54 percent, respectively. West Virginia will almost certainly remain red in this year’s presidential contest, while it would take a seismic shift of epic proportions for either Oregon or California to take on a reddish hue.
Bernie Sanders’ backers worry Scott Walker’s new voter ID law could give Hillary Clinton a boost in Wisconsin by keeping enthusiastic college students away from the polls. The law, which Walker signed in 2011 and is just now being fully implemented after the conclusion of a court battle, requires that voters show a state-issued photo ID at the polls—a hurdle that can be especially tough for college students who don’t have drivers’ licenses. Progressives have long held that the Republican legislature made these changes as part of an effort to depress the votes of African-Americans, college students, and other core Democratic constituencies. But progressives say that on Tuesday, one of the law’s top benefactors may be Hillary Clinton. That’s because of the unique challenges it makes for college kids, who vote overwhelmingly for Sanders. U.S. citizens who have lived in Wisconsin for at least 28 days are eligible to vote there—but the I.D. rules are especially tricky for college students who moved there from other states.
A referendum on whether to have four-year fixed parliamentary terms in Queensland has officially passed, with the state’s Electoral Commission (ECQ) declaring the vote. Of the 80 per cent of ballots counted, 51 per cent of voters favoured the change compared to 46 per cent who opposed it. The informal vote for the March 19 poll was 3 per cent. Legislation will be introduced to Queensland Parliament that will change the current three-year variable terms to a fixed date, the last Saturday of October, every four years.
Iceland’s prime minister is this week expected to face calls in parliament for a snap election after the Panama Papers revealed he is among several leading politicians around the world with links to secretive companies in offshore tax havens. The financial affairs of Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson and his wife have come under scrutiny because of details revealed in documents from a Panamanian law firm that helps clients protect their wealth in secretive offshore tax regimes. The files from Mossack Fonseca form the biggest ever data leak to journalists. Opposition leaders have this weekend been discussing a motion calling for a general election – in effect a confidence vote in the prime minister. On Monday, Gunnlaugsson is expected to face allegations from opponents that he has hidden a major financial conflict of interest from voters ever since he was elected an MP seven years ago.
The dividing lines of the referendum are clearly drawn. Supporters say a yes vote will deliver security and trade; opponents see a chance to wrest back control from the so-called undemocratic forces of Brussels. Accusations of lies and spin are batted around on both sides. Many voters are confused or indifferent. This is not Britain, but the Netherlands. On Wednesday the Dutch will take part in the other referendum that is sending shivers through the EU establishment, a vote that has exposed bitter rifts in attitudes towards Brussels – and Moscow. It is the country’s first referendum since 2005, when voters rejected the EU constitution. This time, unlike their British counterparts, the Dutch will not be voting on whether to leave or remain in the EU, but on the more obscure issue of an association agreement with Ukraine that aims to deepen trade and cooperation.
The Electoral Commission of South Africa has postponed all by-elections in the light of continued uncertainty regarding the validity of the voters’ roll where voters’ addresses are not in the possession of the Electoral Commission. The Commission on Monday said this also includes by-elections scheduled for 6 April 2016. “The Electoral Commission made the decision in the interest of free and fair elections following the recent order by the Electoral Court to postpone by-elections in Tlokwe scheduled for 24 February 2016,” the Commission said. The Electoral Commission on 23 February 2016 postponed all 12 by-elections scheduled for the following day in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, North West and the Western Cape.
United Kingdom: Cameron’s purge of young voters from the electoral register could cost him the referendum | openDemocracy
David Cameron has spoken of his “fear” that Britain will vote to break with Brussels because of a low turnout. The Prime Minister’s sleep patterns will not have been helped then by Sunday’s Observer poll that put the Leave campaign ahead by 4 points. The poll also found that the group most supportive of remaining part of the EU are people in the 18-34 age group. Remain campaigns will say they have the future on their side. But as Freddie Sayers, YouGov’s editor-in-chief, says “the single most important driver of turnout is age.” And over 65s are more both more likely to be eurosceptic and more likely to vote. The Observer poll found 52 per cent of younger people were certain to vote, compared to 81 per cent of older voters. So Cameron now depends on the people least likely to have voted for his Conservative government to keep him in Downing Street. But crudely partisan attempts to make it more difficult for Labour and other left-wing parties to mobilise their supporters against the Conservatives may now come back to haunt him.
With the surge in data breaches over the past several years, the prevailing wisdom is that no online data is completely safe from hackers. Banks, governments, insurance companies and small businesses globally have lost billions of dollars to cybercrime. Last year, the top security breaches affected something more precious than personally identifiable information. Data breaches included the most intimate details and actions in life — with the loss of millions of records containing biometrics like fingerprints, career backgrounds, family relationships, secret liaisons, hospital records and much more. Which leads to the big question that’s being asked with renewed fervor: Could the 2016 presidential election be disrupted, or somehow manipulated, via unauthorized computer hacking or denial of service attacks?
The battle lines are already being drawn for the general election in November, and Democrats are eager to line up African-Americans, Latinos, women, senior citizens and young voters, all of whom the party believes could form a formidable team to thwart a potential Donald Trump presidency and wrest the Senate majority from the GOP. That is only, however, if all those people will be able to vote. And given the sweeping new regulations and restrictions a number of states have placed on voting, that’s not a given. In this year alone, ten states are implementing laws that usher in new restrictions or hurdles, ranging from cutting early voting to imposing cumbersome voter identification rules, according to tracking by the ACLU, which is battling many of the laws in the courts. Those ten states are home to over 80 million people and account for 129 of the 270 electoral votes necessary to win the presidency, the civil liberties group reports.
Steve Pacewicz of Madison, Wis., is such a political junkie that he can speak intelligently about Canadian pipeline proposals. His Facebook page is plastered with images of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Until recently, though, he didn’t think he was going be voting in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. He didn’t think he could afford it. Pacewicz, 56, is a homeless man who sleeps in his truck. Wisconsin has a new “voter ID” law that requires every voter to show specific kinds of photo identification to cast a ballot. If a voter wants to obtain that identification while keeping his driver’s licence, it costs money. Pacewicz, who works odd jobs, doesn’t have any. He only managed to get the card he needed — a duplicate of the licence he said he never received in the mail — when a non-profit group called VoteRiders paid the $14 fee for him. If it hadn’t, his only other option was surrendering his driving privileges in exchange for a free non-driver ID. He is still indignant. “I don’t have much in this world, but I know I’ve got rights,” he said. “I have to trade my driving privileges for my right to vote? That doesn’t make any sense. Isn’t that kind of like Jim Crow laws? The new version?”
Twin bills in the Alabama House and Senate would severely limit the First Amendment and the spirit of Citizens United, by limiting funds raised or spent on campaigns and issues. SB356 and HB404 Sponsored respectively by Sen. Arthur Orr and Rep. Mike Jones would, “regulate the disclosure, raising, and spending of money to influence elections and governmental actions.” Alabama’s own Shaun McCutcheon, a hero to many in the State and nation, fought the FEC over campaign giving and won in the 2014 US Supreme Court ruling “McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission,” believes full disclosure is right, but to limit how much money can be raised or spent is unacceptable.
Gracey Duncan seemed to be the type of Floridian a nonprofit voter-registration group wanted to get on the rolls to start participating in elections. But two problems stood in the way: Gracey is a cat. And she’s dead. “Why is my (dead)cat getting #voterregistration apps? This is #2,” Gracey’s confused former owner, Julie Duncan, asked her local election supervisor via Twitter. The easy answer to Duncan’s question is that a database mix-up or mismatch led the nonprofit Voter Participation Center to think “Gracey Duncan” was the type of person — a minority or single woman — the liberal-leaning group wants to register ahead of the presidential election.
Kansas: Outraged by Kansas Justices’ Rulings, Republicans Seek to Reshape Court | The New York Times
Washington is locked in partisan warfare over control of the Supreme Court. But it is hardly the only place. Look at the states, where political attacks on judicial decisions are common and well-financed attack ads are starting to jar the once-sleepy elections for State Supreme Court seats. Nowhere is the battle more fiery than here in Kansas. Gov. Sam Brownback and other conservative Republicans have expressed outrage over State Supreme Court decisions that overturned death penalty verdicts, blocked anti-abortion laws and hampered Mr. Brownback’s efforts to slash taxes and spending, and they are seeking to reshape a body they call unaccountable to the right-tilting public. At one point, the L egislature threatened to suspend all funding for the courts. The Supreme Court, in turn, ruled in February that the state’s public schools must shut down altogether if poorer districts do not get more money by June 30.
Editorials: Bromance between Kris Kobach and Brian Newby leads to attack on voting rights | The Kansas City Star
The essential voting rights of Americans are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and multiple laws across the land. But all of this means little to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and other Republicans who want to trample on those rights and keep legal immigrants, poor people and others out of the voting booth. Because laws can be changed. The Constitution can be skirted. New rules can be imposed from on high when like-minded people are in the right place. Which brings us to Brian Newby, the recently departed leader of the Johnson County Election Office. Late last year he accepted the job as the executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, a nonpartisan office that’s supposed to help make voting more accessible and promote good election practices throughout the country. Shortly after taking that work, Newby abruptly decided that people in Kansas, Alabama and Georgia could not register to vote by using a national form — one that doesn’t require providing proof of U.S. citizenship.
A federal judge has ruled that Kentucky cannot bar a corporation from contributing to political campaigns while no such restrictions apply to other organizations such as labor unions. The ruling stems from the heated battle over “right-to-work” legislation in the state: the labor unions that oppose those measures are allowed to make political donations, while a non-profit corporation that promotes them is not. U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove ruled on Thursday that Kentucky Registry of Election Finance officials cannot enforce the state’s constitutional prohibition on corporate contributions, finding the disparate treatment of corporations and unincorporated organizations violates the Constitutional right to equal protection under the law.
Missouri: St. Louis, St. Louis County voters can’t use touch-screen machines at Tuesday’s election | St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis and St. Louis County residents who like to cast their votes on a touch-screen machine won’t find one when they go to polling places for Tuesday’s election. Election authorities say the unusually short three-week period since the March 15 presidential primary didn’t provide enough time to reprogram and test each of the touch-screen devices without major difficulty. So all voters in the city and county will have to use paper ballots and feed them into optical-scan machines. Normally both optical-scan and touch-screen methods are available across the city and county. “In theory it would have been possible to do a complete turnaround, but my staff would have been run so ragged,” said Eric Fey, Democratic director at the county Election Board. “The possibility of mistakes and the cost just begins to increase exponentially.”
Missouri’s secretary of state would have the power to prosecute election crimes under a measure the Senate approved Thursday. Senators voted 25-4 to allow the secretary of state’s office to issue probable cause statements and take cases to court. The office’s election division currently investigates complaints, but any prosecution is left to local officials or the attorney general’s office. Sen. Will Kraus, a Republican from Lee’s Summit who sponsored the bill, said local prosecutors would still have the first opportunity to try a case. But often prosecutors focus on crimes in which someone was victimized, he said, so this bill would help ensure election cases have someone following through.
Missoula, Montana, is a beautiful city. There are mountains in the distance, tall, deep-green trees everywhere, old buildings – and a rocky, white-swirling river moving through it. No reasonable person seeing Missoula for the first time would think to focus on the city’s current robo-call election law controversy. This month, parents of students enrolled in Missoula’s schools received automated phone calls containing a message from Missoula’s mayor, John Engen. The content of the message is available on Youtube. In short, the message urges parents to vote on an upcoming bond, tells them where and how they can cast their ballot, and ends with this encouragement: “Thank you for everything you do to support your children, and to ensure a positive future for your family – and our wonderful community.”
North Dakota Republicans selected 25 national delegates Sunday, with results that looked good for Ted Cruz, but were far from certain because each delegate will be a free agent at the national convention. The North Dakota delegates include eight Republicans who have said they will vote for Cruz and one who is supporting Donald Trump. But just as many delegates were mum about their plans when questioned over the weekend. The delegates met Sunday evening, just as the convention ended, and selected State Party Chairman Kelly Armstrong to be chair their convention delegation and chose Republican National Committeeman Curly Haugland and RNC Committeewoman Sandy Boehler to serve on the powerful convention rules committee.
Trump’s announcement that he no longer stands by a pledge to support the GOP has thrown his hold on South Carolina’s 50 delegates in doubt. The Palmetto State was one of several that required candidates to pledge their loyalty to the party’s eventual nominee in order to secure a slot on the primary ballot. Though Trump won all of the state’s delegates in the Feb. 20 primary, anti-Trump forces are plotting to contest their binding to Trump because of his threat on the pledge Tuesday. The loyalty pledge is nothing new in South Carolina, where it has been required for decades, but took on new focus in light of Trump’s public musings about a third-party run or withdrawing his support from the eventual nominee if he is stopped at a contested convention.
A government computer system crash caused headaches for Wisconsin election clerks trying to access voter registration information on Friday, the last day residents could turn in absentee ballots. The Government Accountability Board, which oversees Wisconsin elections, said it also received calls from a handful of residents who said they couldn’t obtain a driver’s license or state identification card. Residents will be required to show a photo ID before voting during Tuesday’s primary elections. The GAB said the outage lasted roughly three hours, beginning at 8:45 a.m. The state Department of Transportation said it wasn’t clear how many people weren’t able to get IDs because of the computer problems. GAB attorney Mike Hass said his agency received several calls about the outage, but said only a handful of people were affected.
Chadian unions and rights groups on Friday pulled out of several state institutions, including the election commission, saying they felt “gagged” in the run-up to closely-watched presidential polls. The announcement of the groups’ withdrawal from Chad’s electoral commission and other bodies comes a day after the trial of four leading activists held on controversial charges of disturbing the peace was postponed, prolonging their detention. “Given the decision to maintain our comrades in detention, we have decided to withdraw” delegates from forums including the CENI (electoral commission), Goukouni Vaima, the deputy head of the UST labour federation, told a press conference.
A digital dark arts campaign by mercenary hackers helped Enrique Peña Nieto win Mexico’s 2012 presidential election, according to an imprisoned Colombian hacker who says he was involved. Andrés Sepúlveda, an online campaign strategist, claimed he had also helped to manipulate elections in nine countries across Latin America by stealing data, installing malware and creating fake waves of enthusiasm and derision on social media. In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, the Colombian – who is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence – boasted of his ability to hack into campaign networks and manipulate opinion. “My job was to do actions of dirty war and psychological operations, black propaganda, rumours – the whole dark side of politics that nobody knows exists but everyone can see,” the 31-year-old told Bloomberg.
Dutch voters are going to the polls on Wednesday — but the topic is Ukraine, not their own country. When Ukrainians rose up against their government in February 2014, the trigger for their anger was then-President Viktor Yanukovych’s refusal to sign an agreement fostering closer links between his country and the 28-nation European Union. After Yanukovych was toppled, his replacement, Petro Poroshenko, signed the Association Agreement with the EU, a broad free trade deal that — supporters say — also seeks to tackle corruption and improve human rights in the troubled former Soviet republic.
Half of the candidates in Peru’s presidential election have abandoned or been banned from next week’s polls and one of the leading contenders may follow, plunging the South American country into political uncertainty. An electoral law in force since January has ruled several candidates out of the running in the April 10 contest. One is even running his campaign from a jail cell. And further disruption could come if accusations of vote-buying lead to the elimination of banker and economist Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who is running second in the polls to the conservative Keiko Fujimori, daughter of Peru’s jailed ex-leader Alberto Fujimori. Their faces are already printed on 20 million ballot papers, but they have each been accused of handing out money or gifts to voters during their campaigns. The new law passed in January cracks down on such activities.
A Bill calling for internet voting for expats and the withdrawal of the 15-year time limit on their participation in UK elections was withdrawn after a short debate at Westminster. Chris Chope, MP for Christchurch, Dorset, withdrew a private members bill calling for the government to scrap the time limit. Constitutional Reform minister John Penrose told Parliament that he believed as many as 6 million expat voters could vote in British and European elections, but less than 2 million had signed up to the electoral roll and most of the rest were excluded by the time limit. The Tories promised in their election manifesto that the time limit would be scrapped, but have failed to do so in time for the UK Brexit referendum in June.