This presidential primary season has exposed serious fault lines in our election system. One has been known for years. The voting rights of African Americans and Latinos continue to be compromised. Another has become the focus of widespread attention by the media and by ordinary Americans for the first time. There is a vast block of non-aligned voters who are systematically excluded from partisan primaries, where the decisions that effectively determine who will take office are often made. Independents have militantly protested their exclusion from a presidential nominating process organized around party primaries and caucuses. A look at the recent Arizona and New York presidential primaries helps us understand the interplay between these two voting rights issues.
Arizona: Glitch delays mailing guides to 400,000 voters ahead of special election | Associated Press
Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan’s office failed to send out publicity pamphlets for next week’s special election to more than 200,000 households with multiple voters in all but Pima and Maricopa counties, her spokesman said Monday. The error has prompted a Chandler attorney to prepare a request to the attorney general to postpone the May 17 election. Voters are being asked in Proposition 123 to boost withdraws from the state land trust to fund education and in Proposition 124 to overhaul the state police and firefighter pension system. Reagan spokesman Matt Roberts said the pamphlets should have reached voters 10 days before early voting started on April 20 and blamed a private vendor for the problem. By the time the mistake was discovered and new voter guides mailed and received, it was May 6.
California: Registered to vote at the DMV? Check again. Many who use the new process miss a vital step two | Los Angeles Times
If you’ve visited the DMV in the last few weeks, you may have noticed that you can now complete your voter registration at the same time you renew your driver’s license — without having to fill out a separate form. But it’s a little more complicated than that. Unless voters also stop to answer questions at a computer terminal in another room, they will be registered as having no party preference. Voter advocates say this two-step process could disenfranchise thousands of voters, especially those who still want to vote in the Republican Party’s closed presidential primary. Since the terminals were rolled out April 1, the Department of Motor Vehicles has registered more than 14,000 voters in its offices statewide. Of those, 4,747 people — more than one-third — did not complete questions posed at the touch screens.
Colorado: Presidential preference primary would replace caucusing if House bill is successful | Colorado Springs Gazette
Colorado would hold a presidential preference primary in 2020 instead of caucusing on the nominee under a bill that passed the state House of Representatives preliminarily Thursday evening. The bill was introduced with only a few weeks remaining in the 2016 General Assembly in response to discontent about how the March 1 caucuses for Republicans and Democrats were conducted. It passed on second reading Thursday and now heads to the Senate for consideration. But it is also an insurance policy against a handful of proposed ballot initiatives that would ask voters in November to change Colorado’s primary system. Some of those would get rid of caucuses, but some also propose opening up Colorado’s primary process so unaffiliated voters could participate. Under current law unaffiliated voters would have to change their party registration to participate in that party’s caucus.
Connecticut: Officials Tense, Tight-Lipped On Feds’ Probe Of State ‘Motor Voter’ Program | Hartford Courant
The U.S. Department of Justice’s April 15 threat to sue Connecticut over failures in its “motor voter” program — which is supposed to promote voter registration at Department of Motor Vehicles offices — resulted in a closed-door meeting this past Tuesday aimed at resolving the problem out of court. Under “motor voter” programs that federal law requires states to operate, when someone applies to the DMV for a driver’s license (or a license renewal), that application must also include an opportunity to register to vote. Also, requests to the DMV for a change of address must also be forwarded to voting officials in applicants’ hometowns for updating of voter-registration information.
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has responded to Democratic Party of Georgia claims that his office had “attracted the interest” of the federal Justice Department with a barb aimed at department. “The Department of Justice is like a yo-yo. Now they’re against something that they previously approved,” Kemp said Thursday in response to a request from The Albany Herald to comment on the Democratic Party’s statement. Kemp’s office drew the interest of Justice when that federal agency was asked to look into alleged violations of the National Voter Registration and Help America Vote acts by the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office. The charges centered on what the state Democratic Party claims is a purging of legitimate voters from Georgia’s voter rolls.
Oregon may have been first on the vote-by-mail train, but that doesn’t mean the system doesn’t have kinks. Each primary election, county clerks send out thousands of extra ballots to voters who wait until the last two weeks before the deadline to join a party or make other changes to their registration. This year has been no different. The problem? With more than 2 million ballots to send, clerks have to work ahead of time to package the ballots up for mailing. While the deadline to register, change parties or ask for an Independent Party ballot was April 26, clerks already had prepared millions of ballots, leading thousands statewide to receive a first ballot with their old information and a second ballot with the new. High interest during this presidential election has amplified the issue, as voters have flocked to join the major parties to vote in their primaries. County clerks and Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins say the system is working fine, and there’s no need to fear that votes will be counted twice.
A Kansas prosecutor is looking into allegations of misuse of public funds against a top U.S. election executive when he was a county election commissioner in the state, two county officials confirmed Monday. Johnson County spokeswoman Sharon Watson said that the county had concerns over the findings of an audit completed after Brian Newby left Kansas to take a job as executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission in November last year. The federal commission was created in part to help make voting easier but advocates have said Newby has worked for restrictions. “It was appropriate for us to inform the district attorney of what we were finding in the audit and provide him with that information,” Watson said.
A prominent good-government group says it’s strongly opposed to legislation that would allow military and overseas voters to send their ballots electronically in Pennsylvania elections. Barry Kauffman, executive director of Common Cause/PA, says the current state of the Internet does not make online voting practical. “Every credible Internet and computer security expert says don’t do this,” Kauffman said, “you cannot make a system secure for voting.” But the sponsor of the bill, Fayette County Senate Republican Patrick Stefano, says his measure is not an online voting bill. He says it merely allows overseas voters to submit their paper ballots electronically, by converting them to PDF files and sending them via email.
Virginia: Civic Groups Are Rushing To Register Newly Eligible Ex-Offenders In Virginia | Huffington Post
“I’m just overwhelmed,” John Barbee said, after he finished filling out a voter registration form in the basement of a Baptist church in Richmond Thursday. The 62-year-old, who was released from prison in 1972, had been trying to register for the past eight years but had been stymied repeatedly by Virginia’s strict felony disenfranchisement law. Barbee was able to register Thursday because Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order on April 22 restoring voting rights to over 200,000 people with past felony convictions who have completed their supervised probation or parole. Previously, ex-offenders had to individually petition the governor to be re-enfranchised. “I had just gave up on the system, period, for trying to help me get registered,” he told The Huffington Post. After he finished filling out the registration form, he turned to his wife. “I feel like a citizen now,” he told her.
More than 2 million Wisconsinites voted in the presidential primary election last month, but officials with the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin said the turnout could have been even greater if it weren’t for a lack of knowledge on the state’s voter ID law. Therefore, the nonpartisan organization is advising the Government Accountability Board to request for funding to educate people on Wisconsin’s new voter ID requirements. While Assembly Speaker Robin Vos recently said he wants to review the Government Accountability Board’s request for funding, another Republican state lawmaker has defended the measure and said the high turnout in the April presidential primary is verification that the law works and a voter ID education campaign is a waste of taxpayer dollars.
Australia: Voters urged to update enrolment details as 950,000 missing from electoral roll, AEC says | ABC
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has urged voters to check their enrolment details as the federal election campaign gets underway. The electoral rolls will close on May 23, ahead of a July 2 poll. About 15.5 million people are eligible to vote in the upcoming election, but 950,000 people are missing from the electoral roll. AEC spokesman Phil Diak said the number of young people who were yet to register was a concern. “In round terms, about one in two 18-year-olds and one in four 19-year-olds are not on the roll, so it’s very important that they take action now, and you can do this by going to the AEC’s website and you can enrol conveniently on a PC, smartphone or tablet,” he said.
Austria’s social democratic chancellor has resigned suddenly, becoming the first major political victim of Europe’s refugee crisis after accusations from within his own party that he had caved in to rightwing populist demands to build fences on the country’s borders. Werner Faymann, whose Social Democrats (SPÖ) suffered heavy losses in the first round of the presidential election last month, had initially taken a sympathetic approach to German chancellor Angela Merkel’s policy to support newcomers to Europe. But with opinion polls consistently showing that the Freedom party (FPÖ), a rightwing populist group whose success is built on anti-immigration views and and fears of Islamisation, was topping the popularity stakes, the 56-year-old did an abrupt U-turn. He joined his coalition partners from the centre-right People’s party (ÖVP) in deciding to erect fences on Austria’s borders and, working in tandem with Balkan states on the migrant routes, encouraged them to do the same.
Kenyan police on Monday tear-gassed Kenya’s main opposition leaders and hundreds of their supporters who were demanding the dissolution of the electoral authority because of alleged bias and corruption. Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and Senator Moses Wetangula staged a sit-in on the highway outside the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission in Nairobi along with their supporters. Some demonstrators pelted police with stones and police dispersed the demonstrators using tear gas. Kenya is to hold general elections in 15 months and the main opposition leaders have threatened to boycott them if the electoral authority is not reformed.
Rodrigo Duterte, whose outspoken commentary — including joking about the rape of a missionary — drew international attention to the Philippines’ national elections, appeared poised to win his country’s presidency Monday after a top rival conceded. Grace Poe made the concession Monday night, according to CNN Philippines, even though formal results will not be announced until June. Early exit polls had shown Duterte, the mayor of Davao City, leading with 38.92% of the votes counted, compared with Poe’s 22.14%, according to the Commission on Elections. “I congratulate Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, and I promise to join in the healing of our nation and to unify our countrymen for our country’s progress,” Poe said, according to CNN Philippines. Poe is a popular senator who was challenged over her citizenship.
The chief executive of Barnet council has left his post after an election-day blunder resulted in many people in the north London borough being unable to vote. Andrew Travers has left Barnet council by “mutual agreement” following the fiasco on 5 May, in which thousands of names were missing from electoral lists at the north London authority’s 155 polling stations. Many residents attempting to vote in the mayoral and London assembly elections were turned away, including the chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis. Mirvis was unable to vote and is yet to receive an apology. The council has been unable to say how many of the 236,196 registered voters were turned away. It has launched an investigation into what went wrong and to ensure arrangements for the EU referendum in June are appropriate.
Millions of Britons living abroad are being urged by the Electoral Commission to register to vote by 16 May so they can take part in the EU referendum on 23 June. About 5.5 million British citizens are estimated to live outside the UK, with at least 1.2 million of these living in other EU countries, but only a fraction are on the electoral roll. Anyone who was registered in a UK constituency during the past 15 years is entitled to vote in British elections, but half of British expats are not aware of this fact. A survey of eligible voters by the Electoral Commission, the non-partisan body that oversees elections, found that 30% of people were unsure about the rights of overseas voters, while 20% thought, wrongly, that they were not allowed to vote. The commission surveyed 4,700 people, but mostly those living in Europe, meaning the survey is not representative of all British overseas voters.