StateTech Magazine examined the reason behind the nationwide shift away from direct recording electronic voting machines to paper ballot system. The Canvass considered the traditionally low voter turnout among youger voters.The Washington Post posed the question of whether Arizona’s primary debacle was just a big mistake, or something more nefarious. The Iowa Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of a woman who is challenging the state law that permanently strips felons of their voting rights. Brian Newby, a Kansas county elections official used close ties to one of the nation’s leading advocates of voting restrictions to help secure the job of executive director of the Election Assistance Commission, a government agency entrusted with making voting more accessible, and then used the federal position to implement an obstacle to voter registration in three states. Civil rights groups challenging Texas’ voter identification law are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block the measure from being used during the 2016 general election. In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, Andrés Sepúlveda, an online campaign strategist, claimed he 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 and Uganda’s Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to the presidential election held in February, issuing a ruling on Thursday that secured President Yoweri Museveni a mandate for another five-year term.
On March 20, 38 percent of Senegalese voters participated in a constitutional referendum that President Macky Sall chose to initiate halfway through his first presidential term. Of those who voted, 63 percent approved proposed amendments to Senegal’s constitution that were promoted by the president and his ruling coalition as 15 major propositions “to modernize the political regime, reinforce good governance and consolidate rule of law.” The propositions included reducing the presidential term from seven to five years, lowering barriers to independent candidacy in all types of elections, designating the leader of the largest parliamentary party as “head of opposition” and increasing the number of Constitutional Council members while diversifying their mode of appointment. These amendments might further democratic consolidation in Senegal, which has long enjoyed a reputation as a beacon of democracy in the region. But the politics of the referendum have been more complex than a mere “up or down” vote on strengthening certain aspects of Senegalese democracy.
National: Paper-Based vs. Electronic Voting: States Move in Different Directions | StateTech Magazine
Although most Americans can summon a private car, order a drone and purchase international plane tickets using their smartphones and computers, many voters will find themselves using good old-fashioned pen-and-paper ballots as they vote this primary and general election season. This might be a surprise, given the increased push toward more digitized civic engagement, but there’s been strong pushback against electronic voting. Questions about reliability and security have been raised, and in some states, legislation is now forcing boards of elections to use paper-based voting machines. Maryland is one of those states. The state was actually a pioneer back in 2002 when it adopted touch-screen voting kiosks, but concerns about the accuracy and reliability of an electronic voting system without a paper trail led to the Maryland General Assembly passing a law in 2007 that saw the state roll back the push toward electronic voting. … There’s no denying that the average citizen would like to vote electronically. But the problem isn’t a technical question of being able to cast votes online, but more about being able to cast votes as safely and privately as happens with paper ballots.
It’s a refrain commonly heard in modern elections—“young people don’t vote.” And the truth of the matter is that youths are not voting at the same rates as their elders. In 2014, turnout for 18 to 29-year-olds reached record lows of 16 percent, according to the U.S. Elections Project. That’s compared to turnout for older age brackets consistently above 30 percent (youth hit record high turnout in 2008 of 48 percent). This begs the question: What can states do to engage young people in the electoral process? No silver bullet exists, but states have taken a variety of bipartisan steps to reach out to their younger residents. We’ll consider whether these legislative options really make a difference: Preregistration for youth, Allowing 17-year-olds to vote in primaries, Lowering the voting age. Preregistration for 16-and-17-year olds has gained traction recently. Preregistration involves permitting those under the age of 18 to register to vote. Typically, those youth are placed into a pending status in the voter registration database and then changed to active status when they turn 18. This definition, however, isn’t consistent across every state and the way states treat these voters varies greatly.
Arizona: The primary was an utter disaster. But was it just a big mistake, or something more nefarious? | The Washington Post
That’s the question many of the thousands who waited for hours in the Phoenix area to vote last week are asking. Their answer largely depends on their politics and how much latitude they’re willing to give Arizona’s voting rights record. The drama and finger-pointing about the much-maligned March 22 presidential primary in Arizona’s largest county isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. State officials are still investigating what went wrong and why it led to so much voter turmoil, and some are calling for a federal investigation. So let’s quickly go through the arguments on both sides. The woman in charge of running the election for Arizona’s Maricopa County said the decision to cut polling locations by 70 percent from 2012 was a miscalculation on her part about who would come out to vote and where. “I made a giant mistake,” Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell said in a heated hearing in Arizona’s statehouse Tuesday as she accepted blame — and peoples’ scorn — for what happened.
More than 20,000 Iowa felons could be poised to regain their voting rights as part of a landmark case that will be heard Wednesday by the state Supreme Court. Iowa justices will hear arguments in the case of a southeast Iowa woman who is challenging the Iowa law that permanently strips felons of their voting rights. Kelli Jo Griffin, 42, was convicted in 2008 of a felony cocaine delivery charge and had completed her sentence when she took her children in November 2013 to watch her vote in a municipal election, only to be charged with perjury for voting as a felon. A ruling in favor of Griffin and her lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa could radically alter what critics have long argued is one of the nation’s harshest felon disenfranchisement laws. But county prosecutors and auditors fear that such a ruling will make a mess of election procedures statewide.
A Kansas county elections official used close ties to one of the nation’s leading advocates of voting restrictions to help secure the top job at a government agency entrusted with making voting more accessible, and then used the federal position to implement an obstacle to voter registration in three states. An email provided to The Associated Press through open records requests offers a glimpse into the mindset of Brian Newby, executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, who decided — without public comment or approval from bosses — that residents of Alabama, Kansas and Georgia can no longer register to vote using a national form without providing proof of U.S. citizenship. As a finalist for the job of executive director, Newby said in a June email to his benefactor, Kansas’ Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach, that he was friends with two of the commissioners at the federal agency, and told Kobach: “I think I would enter the job empowered to lead the way I want to.” Voting rights advocates were stunned by Newby’s action once he got the job and have sued to overturn it. Activists say it flies in the face of the commission’s mission to provide a simple, easy form to encourage voter registration.
Texas: Civil rights groups ask U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in voter ID lawsuit | San Antonio Express-News
Civil rights groups challenging Texas’ voter identification law are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block the measure from being used during the 2016 general election. It’s the latest in a years-long court fight involving the state’s voter ID law, which is considered among the strictest in the country. The groups are arguing that time is running out to tweak or prevent the law from being used before the November elections. A Corpus Christi federal judge ruled in October 2014 the law was unconstitutional, in part, because it had a discriminatory effect that illegally hindered minorities from casting ballots. A three-judge panel from the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with that ruling last year and ordered the law to be fixed. But the Fifth Circuit has allowed the law to stay in effect without change following both rulings, and now the full appeals court has now agreed to rehear the case. Oral arguments are set for May 24.
Uganda’s Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to the presidential election held in February, issuing a ruling on Thursday that secured President Yoweri Museveni a mandate for another five-year term. He has been in office since 1986. The vote last month, seen as a pivotal moment in Uganda’s democracy as the last time Mr. Museveni will be legally allowed to appear on a presidential ballot, was marred with irregularities and widespread criticism. The legal challenge by the third-place finisher, Amama Mbabazi, argued that Mr. Museveni was not validly elected and that Uganda’s electoral commission had disseminated false results, among other allegations. It requested a recount in more than 40 districts.
It was just before midnight when Enrique Peña Nieto declared victory as the newly elected president of Mexico. Peña Nieto was a lawyer and a millionaire, from a family of mayors and governors. His wife was a telenovela star. He beamed as he was showered with red, green, and white confetti at the Mexico City headquarters of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which had ruled for more than 70 years before being forced out in 2000. Returning the party to power on that night in July 2012, Peña Nieto vowed to tame drug violence, fight corruption, and open a more transparent era in Mexican politics. Two thousand miles away, in an apartment in Bogotá’s upscale Chicó Navarra neighborhood, Andrés Sepúlveda sat before six computer screens. Sepúlveda is Colombian, bricklike, with a shaved head, goatee, and a tattoo of a QR code containing an encryption key on the back of his head. On his nape are the words “” and “” stacked atop each other, dark riffs on coding. He was watching a live feed of Peña Nieto’s victory party, waiting for an official declaration of the results. When Peña Nieto won, Sepúlveda began destroying evidence. He drilled holes in flash drives, hard drives, and cell phones, fried their circuits in a microwave, then broke them to shards with a hammer. He shredded documents and flushed them down the toilet and erased servers in Russia and Ukraine rented anonymously with Bitcoins. He was dismantling what he says was a secret history of one of the dirtiest Latin American campaigns in recent memory.
National: The Legal Battles Over the Status of Puerto Rico and Other Unites States Territories | The Atlantic
Why does America have territories, and why aren’t they governed the same way as states? Despite boasting a total population of around 4 million people, the legal fate of the five inhabited territories of the United States and the constitutional status of their residents have always occupied surprisingly little of the American legal imagination. However, that might be changing as the Supreme Court considers two cases directly involving Puerto Rico’s self-governing authority and as a number of legal challenges involving the other territories wind up in federal courts. Rulings in these cases may go a long way toward unwinding the complicated, confusing, and often contradictory relationship between the territories and the United States. In the process, they might also unravel some of the imperialist justifications for maintaining the status quo. Puerto Rico, the largest of the territories by far, is the subject of the bulk of the legal debate. It is also the territory that has most come up against the legal, governmental, and financial limits of its status. The island is in the midst of a decade-long economic contraction, which has led to hundreds of thousands fleeing to the mainland for jobs and opportunities.
The first page in any handbook for creating a government regulatory commission would lay out something fairly obvious: There has to be an odd number of members. Anything else could wind up looking a little like the current post-Scalia Supreme Court, which has issued several rulings that haven’t settled anything at all because the justices have evenly split. Decisions with any actual staying power must wait until another member is confirmed and ties can be broken. What if the regulatory commission’s membership is effectively controlled by the two biggest political parties, with each faction holding half the seats? And what if the commission’s job is to enforce campaign finance laws? Then it’s not really a regulatory and enforcement commission at all, but simply another arena for the eternal duel between Republicans and Democrats. As if we didn’t already have enough of those. And what if one of those parties just doesn’t like or respect the laws that the commission is supposed to enforce, and therefore won’t enforce them?
After an Upshot article about strategic voting — “You Say You Loathe Ted Cruz? You Still Might Want to Vote for Him”— one reader had a question: “How about the idea of being honest with your vote? Isn’t this strategy another form of telling a lie?” Perhaps Canada can offer neighborly advice, after recently living through a national debate over the ethics of voting for someone other than your first choice, as a means to an end. An article in The National Post set the scene last October. “As a Canada obsessed with strategic voting prepared to go to the polls, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May appeared on television to plead with voters to stop: ‘That’s slaughtering us; it’s disastrous. In a democracy, you should cast your ballot for what you want.’ ”
During my 10 years in the Wisconsin State Legislature, I spent significant time in Milwaukee’s majority black neighborhoods. I listened as constituents described obstructions to their constitutional right to vote. In those days I came to believe that we needed a strong Voting Rights Act. Our credibility as elected officials depends on the fairness of our elections. So after joining Congress, I supported the law’s reauthorization in 1982, and, as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, I led successful efforts to reauthorize it in 2006. In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down a portion of this most recent authorization. If Congress doesn’t act soon, 2016 will be the first time since 1964 that the United States will elect a president without the full protections of the law. Modernizing the act to address the Supreme Court’s concerns should be one of Congress’s highest priorities.
Editorials: Arizona Becomes Ground Zero in Fight Over Secret Political Spending | Justin Miller/The American Prospect
Arizona’s Republican-controlled legislature voted Tuesday to dismantle the state’s strict campaign-finance disclosure rules, a move critics say will unleash a flood of undisclosed political spending in an election already increasingly dominated by “dark” money. The fight over the Arizona bill, which could be signed into law as early as this week, has pitted good government activists against deep-pocketed corporate donors and political groups underwritten by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. It also spotlights a growing national debate over secret political spending, which is on pace to hit record levels in 2016. Federal enforcement agencies, most notably the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission, have done virtually nothing to police politically active tax-exempt groups that operate outside the disclosure rules. That’s prompted some states, including California, Montana, and Delaware, to pursue tougher political disclosure rules on their own.
The director of the Arkansas secretary of state’s Elections Division, Rob Hammons of Conway, has resigned, effective April 22. Hammons said Wednesday that he turned in his resignation last week to the secretary of state’s office, and “it was my decision.” His resignation letter to Republican Secretary of State Mark Martin doesn’t cite a reason. “I was kind of burned out from elections,” Hammons said. “I have been doing it for 18 years and I’m tired of it, to be honest.” He has served as the director of the Elections Division since Feb. 1, 2013, after briefly serving as interim director, and worked in the secretary of state’s office since July of 2003, according to his personnel file. He previously worked for the state Board of Election Commissioners from August 1999 to July of 2003.
A new law will increase salaries of supervisors of elections statewide. But the St. Johns County Supervisor of Elections Vicky Oakes said she’s not sure whether she will take the increase, though she said she supports her fellow supervisors. The legislation, signed Wednesday by Gov. Rick Scott, is expected to raise supervisors’ salaries by a per-county average of $18,450, according to a report by the News Service of Florida. That’s more than $1 million statewide. The law, set to take effect Oct. 1, would change numbers used for salary calculation for supervisors of elections to match those currently used for property appraiser, tax collector and clerk of courts, according to the bill and Florida statutes. The formula uses county population to determine salaries.
While the general election is still almost eight months away, straight-party voters might want to practice filling in a few extra bubbles. Under a bill that made it through the General Assembly and that will presumably be signed by Gov. Mike Pence, straight-party voters in November and future general elections will have to individually mark at-large candidates for those votes to count. For example, Porter County has three at-large Democratic candidates and three at-large Republic candidates running for the County Council in November. A straight-ticket voter for either party will have to individually mark those at-large candidates or those candidates won’t get that vote. The switch could affect tens of thousands of voters. In the 2012 Porter County general election, 32,000 people cast straight-ticket ballots. About 56 percent were Democrats, 42 percent were Republicans, and the rest were Libertarians.
Political observers have wondered for months whether Donald Trump’s unconventional, “political outsider” campaign would put him at a disadvantage if the Republican presidential race were to come down to the wire. Now, a fight stemming from the complicated process of selecting convention delegates suggests it has. The Trump campaign is currently in a tizzy over a development regarding Louisiana’s delegation to the Republican National Convention. While Trump narrowly defeated Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in the state’s primary earlier this month, a recent Wall Street Journal report suggested that Cruz will head to Cleveland with more Louisiana delegates than the real estate mogul, prompting Trump to accuse Cruz of trying to “steal” delegates. “It’s the first bit of concrete evidence that we’ve got that the Cruz campaign is organized and that the Trump campaign is playing catch-up,” said Josh Putnam, a lecturer at the University of Georgia who tracks delegate rules at the blog FrontloadingHQ. “This process is going to go on to other states where similar battles are going to be fought under different state party rules.”
Reps. Donna F. Edwards and Chris Van Hollen clashed Tuesday over the role of super PACs in their hard-fought Democratic primary race for a rare open Senate seat in Maryland. At a debate televised by WJLA (Channel 7), Van Hollen attacked Edwards for refusing last summer to sign a pledge barring super PAC involvement in the contest and again urged her to sign it — even though outside groups made possible by the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision have spent heavily on behalf of both candidates. “Why don’t you join me in putting your name to what you stand for?” asked Van Hollen, who like Edwards opposes the Citizens United decision. Edwards countered that she is “proud” to have the support of a super PAC run by Emily’s List, a group committed to electing female Democrats who support abortion rights and which has committed $2.4 million to the race so far.
New York: A $200,000 Ballot Error and Other Misprints at New York City’s Board of Elections | The New York Times
The New York City Board of Elections has a proofreading problem — and even small mistakes are turning out to be costly. The board was forced to spend more than $200,000 in overnight postage last month to send corrected absentee ballots for the coming presidential primary, after it discovered an error in the Spanish version of the ballot. The mistake was discovered around the same time the board realized it had made another error: A recent notice sent to 60,000 newly registered voters included the wrong date for a Sept. 13 primary election for state and local offices. The board then mailed out a correction that may have inadvertently confused voters about the date of the higher-profile presidential primary on April 19.
Peru’s smaller political parties continue to drop out of 2016 elections to avoid losing their legal registration for not garnering the minimum elections threshold. A new law establishing a tougher elections threshold cancels the legal status of political parties which do not obtain 5% of the national vote in 2016 elections. The new standard which took effect this year is prompting Peru’s smaller political parties, some of which are headed by high-profile veterans, are withdrawing their candidates from the ballot. Remaining a political party registered with the JNE electoral supervisory carries significant value, or at least being unregistered is a fatal punishment. If a party is unlisted, it has to go through the entire registration process from scratch. Of all the legal paperwork and hurdles, the most difficult requirement is collecting signatures from 3% of the country’s voters, which in 2011 amounted to 493,992. The new law allows parties to abstain from participating in one election cycle without losing its inscription. So the parties performing poorly in the polls are opting to sit out in 2016 in order to regroup for the next election season, as opposed to taking their chances now with an insurmountable downside.
No matter how disappointing or alarming the election results in Slovakia are, make no mistake, they cannot be treated as a real surprise. There are very few parallels, if any, between the rise of Marine Le Pen, UKIP, and AfD in Western Europe and the rise of far-right extremists in Slovakia. The root causes of…