At first glance, this does not seem a season of political hope: With the November election still months away, voters’ patience already is frayed by negative, exhausting nominating fights. Those who had the stomach to go to the polls faced, in some places, hours-long lines and other hiccups just to cast a ballot as new voting restrictions take effect across the country. But breaking through the negativity comes encouraging news: Two weeks ago, Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a bipartisan bill making Vermont the fourth state in the country to enact automatic voter registration — a revolutionary policy that can help add millions of new voters nationwide. And it’s getting broad, bipartisan support. With outdated voting systems causing problems and confusion at the polls, automatic registration offers a new way out of the voting wars, and a much-needed reprieve from the partisan bickering plaguing our political debate.
During the 2012 presidential campaign, hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin famously complained that the wealthy have “insufficient influence” in politics, which is kind of like saying that a crocodile needs even more teeth, when the 24 it has do just fine, thank you very much. But as money pours into the 2016 campaign – where the issue of income inequality has been a powerful touchstone –the wealthy might be feeling a bit more empowered. No longer are donors bound by the strict contribution limits of just two years ago, when a mere $32,400 was the maximum amount you could annually contribute to either the Democratic or Republican national committee. Under new rules, that amount, which inflation pushed to $33,400, has increased tenfold: to $334,000. But wait. Among all the party outlets now available for contributions, a single donor over the course of the two-year election cycle can actually give more than $1.6 million. A couple, should they be feeling similarly generous, could write checks totaling more than $3 million.
On the last day of the legislative session last week, Alabama lawmakers passed a bill requiring the state to operate a driver’s license office in every county at least two days a week. The bill, by Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 99-1 on Wednesday. It had earlier passed the Senate by a vote of 24-3.There was no immediate word from Gov. Robert Bentley’s office on whether he will sign it into law. Bentley could let the bill die without his signature.
The state’s Division of Elections is required to translate ballots and create an elections glossary in six dialects of Yu’pik and also Gwich’in. Those are the terms of a lawsuit settled last year by Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott. But as Alaska Public Media’s Anne Hillman learned – that process isn’t easy. Think about these words – candidates for elected office are running for a seat. What image pops in your head? Retired Yup’ik professor Oscar Alexie says not a political event. “I’m thinking of people like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump and all those guys at the race line waiting for someone to say ‘Go!’” And whomever gets to the chair first is the boss, Alexie said. Alexie is part of the eight-person team that’s trying to translate election materials into Yup’ik. He said it’s not easy because the words need to mean something in Yup’ik, not just be literal translations from the English. So one word in English – like candidate – ends up being a phrase in Yup’ik. But technical ballot language in English is dense. Something like “candidate statement” isn’t straightforward.
Secretary of State Michele Reagan won’t cancel next week’s special election even though her office failed to mail out on time more than 200,000 pamphlets with details of what’s on the ballot. Reagan spokesman Matt Roberts conceded the law about when voters need to get the brochures was broken. And while saying the fault lies with an outside company that made up mailing lists, Roberts acknowledged the foul-up is Reagan’s responsibility. But Roberts rejected the contention by attorney Tom Ryan that her failure is fatal and the election for Propositions 123 and 124 cannot take place as scheduled this coming Tuesday. “There’s nothing in statute that we’re finding that would allow this office to not allow the election itself to move forward,’’ Robert said.
Arizona: Attorney seeks to delay special election, argues pamphlet error disenfranchised voters | Arizona Republic
Claiming thousands of voters have been disenfranchised ahead of the May 17 special election, an attorney filed complaints Tuesday with Arizona’s attorney general and secretary of state asking that the election be postponed. Attorney Tom Ryan, of Chandler, asked Attorney General Mark Brnovich to seek a court ruling to cancel next Tuesday’s election and reschedule…
California: San Francisco Supervisors OK ballot measure to lower SF voting age to 16 | San Francisco Chronicle
A charter amendment to lower the voting age to 16 that will appear on the November ballot would put San Francisco at the forefront of expanding voting rights at a time when some other governments around the country have implemented increasingly restrictive voting laws. “Regardless of whether this measure is approved or not, (San Francisco) is starting a trend that will happen across the country, where cities like ours will consider whether young people can vote,” Supervisor John Avalos, who championed the measure, said at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. The measure would allow people as young as 16 to vote in city elections.
Voter registration at the Department of Motor Vehicles was supposed to make democracy easier, not harder. The reality has been far more complicated. A wrinkle in the DMV’s current process has left many voters in the cold during this hotly contested primary season. As of April 1, the DMV has switched from a largely paper-based registration system to one using computer terminals. The change allows customers to complete their registration without having to fill out a separate form — but registering with a political party requires a second, separate terminal in a different room. More than a third of those who have registered at the DMV since April have not completed the questions at the separate computer terminal. The two-step process has resulted in many potential voters missing out on the chance to record their language, ballot and — crucially — party preferences. The Republican Party’s presidential primary is only open to Republican voters.
The state Senate approved Tuesday a bill that would allow felons to vote before they have paid all their fines and fees. The bill, which still must pass the House, is part of a larger package of legislation aimed at helping ex-offenders re-integrate into society after they get out of prison. There are some crimes for which a conviction means the revocation of voting rights, like murder, manslaughter, rape or abuse of office. For other crimes, voting rights can be restored once the person gets out of prison, but only after they’ve paid all the fines and fees the courts levied against them.
A Florida cybersecurity researcher has been arrested after he allegedly found security vulnerabilities in a local elections website that left usernames and passwords at risk and failed to report the flaws ethically. David Levin, who is the chief technology officer of pen-testing firm Vanguard Cybersecurity, was testing the Lee County elections website for SQL injection vulnerabilities in December. He was reportedly using Havij, a free SQL testing software. Levin claimed that the website was largely unencrypted and he could, if he wished, have stolen personal data that it had stored, including usernames and passwords, according to reports. Levin went on to publish a video online in January with local politician Dan Sinclair, who will be running for supervisor of elections in the county, where they revealed the vulnerabilities. Police subsequently issued a warrant for his arrest on three counts of third-degree felony property crimes. He turned himself in and was later released on $15,000 bail.
On February 16, 2000, Scott Favreau, then 17, committed a crime that shattered a family and shocked the state of Vermont. In the early hours of the morning, he walked up to his foster mother, who was up grading high school English papers at the kitchen table, and shot her in the head with a .22 caliber rifle, immediately killing her. After leading police on a high-speed car chase, Favreau and his accomplice, the foster mother’s stepdaughter who was later found to be implicated in the crime, were arrested. For the small community around West Burke, Favreau’s murder of his guardian, Victoria Campbell-Beer, represented a rare act of violence that robbed it of one of its beloved schoolteachers. For Favreau, the crime marked the deplorable end to a tumultuous childhood largely defined by neglect and abuse, both physical and sexual, allegedly at the hands of his biological father.
Wisconsin: Kevin Kennedy stepping down as head of embattled elections, ethics board | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The head of the state’s embattled ethics and elections board will retire June 29, one day before the agency is set to be replaced by two new commissions. Kevin Kennedy, 64, has served as the director of the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board since it was created in 2007. Before that, he was the longtime director of its predecessor, the state Elections Board. In all, he has worked on elections for the state for 37 years. In an interview Tuesday, Kennedy said he had wanted to retire in 2017 so he could preside over his 10th presidential election. But with the Legislature’s decision to dissolve the accountability board next month, Kennedy said he had decided to step down and told the board that on Sunday. “I’ve always lived, particularly with the GAB, with the knowledge that each day I’m auditioning for my job, that there’s a sword of Damocles hanging over my head,” said Kennedy. Lawmakers from both parties created the accountability board in response to a scandal in which lawmakers were convicted of campaigning using state resources. Critics said officials didn’t crack down on the practice sooner because ethics and campaign finance laws were overseen by separate agencies.
Wisconsin: Report: Voter ID caused some problems, mostly in student areas, on election day | Wisconsin State Journal
Wisconsin’s new voter ID law caused few problems for most voters, though it had “significant impact” in student-heavy areas, according to a new report. The report from the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin also found confusion among poll workers and voters about acceptable documents for same-day voter registration. “The new laws at least cause confusion, and at worst are misapplied by election officials and prevent eligible citizens from voting,” the report states. It recommends additional voter education, more poll workers to handle slow downs caused by the voter ID law and better training of elected officials.
Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev has said that his veto on recently adopted changes to election rules aim to remind to political parties that citizens have equal rights under the constitution. “Bulgarians, wherever in the world they are, should be able to exercise their rights. The state should not hamper them but rather make the process easier for them,” Plevneliev said at a meeting with students on occasion of Europe Day on Monday, according to a statement from the President’s Office.
Kenyan police have fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters who had gathered to demand the resignation of a body supervising next year’s presidential elections. Hundreds demonstrated on Monday in Nairobi near the office of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). They were demanding the resignation of the electoral body, saying it would rig the 2017 presidential elections. Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi, reporting from Nairobi, said security was tight in the Kenyan capital after the protesters – who have pledged to gather every Monday – were dispersed. “The protesters, led by opposition leader Raila Odinga, were demanding the resignation of the electoral commission as they believe there is already a plan to rig next year’s general elections in favour of the ruling party,” she said.
The camp of vice presidential candidate Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. played down yesterday the lead of his rival Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo as the senator expressed confidence that he would win. Marcos also urged the Comelec to terminate the ongoing unofficial count being conducted by the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) because it has reached the 90-percent mark. Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz, campaign adviser of Marcos, said the so-called updates in the unofficial count run counter to exit polls and their own internal survey. “It is unfortunate that while the whole country was asleep the glitch in the canvassing occurred and from then on we saw a progression of so-called ‘updates’ that showed an alarming and suspicious trend reducing our lead.”