What happens when an election is declared unlawful? That’s exactly what voters in North Carolina and Wisconsin will soon find out, after courts found multiple congressional and state legislative districts in North Carolina to be racial gerrymanders, and several state legislative districts in Wisconsin to be political ones. The rulings in essence mean North Carolina’s 2012 and 2014 congressional elections were conducted using unconstitutional districts; though its 2016 elections were conducted under redrawn districts, the lines will need rethinking for 2018. And in both states, the rulings mean that the past three state legislative elections were partly unconstitutional, including ones held last month. But these court decisions hardly mean the voting issues in these two states are settled. The complex legal and political fights over voting there have been ongoing over the past six years, and will continue. And those battles have consequences outside the state borders, too. Both states’ cases could soon be argued in front of the Supreme Court, and have the potential to set precedent ahead of a partisan redefinition of electoral laws that appears likely nationwide over the next few years. The Court will consider a number of cases in these states that might reinterpret the Voting Rights Act, redefine gerrymandering, and change the way voting works. So what’s next?
A Supreme Court majority on Monday appeared to lean in favor of Democrats in Virginia and North Carolina seeking to rein in what they call racial gerrymandering by Republican-controlled legislatures in those states. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who is likely to hold the deciding vote, said he was troubled that Republican leaders drew new election maps by moving more black voters into districts that already had a majority of African-American residents and usually favored black candidates. “I have problems with that,” Kennedy said, suggesting he would question such districts if the “tipping point, the principal motivating factor was race.” If the court’s majority agrees, the ruling would put states, counties and cities on notice that they may not concentrate more black and Latino voters into districts that already routinely elect minority representatives.
This recent tweet from Professor Larry Tribe caught my eye: “Call it what you like, but the # of voters turned away for not having required forms of ID exceeded margin of T’s victory in MI, Pa & Wis” As soon as I read it, I said to myself, “That can’t be right.” First of all, no voter ever should be “turned away” for lack of ID. Instead, the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) requires that voters lacking required ID receive a provisional ballot. To be sure, some poll workers may fail to enforce the mandates of HAVA, but in volumes exceeding Trump’s margins of victory in Michigan (about 11,000), Wisconsin (about 23,000), and Pennsylvania (about 44,000)??? If there had been a massive failure of election administration on that scale, which could have accounted for the outcome of the presidential election, presumably we would have heard news reports of it by now. Just because voters cast provisional ballots does not mean, of course, that those provisional ballots will be counted. In some states, a voter who casts a provisional ballot because the voter lacked a required form of ID is not permitted simply to sign an affidavit to get the ballot counted, but instead within a limited period of time must find a way to get the required ID and show it to local election officials.
Editorials: Trump’s Lies About Voter Fraud Are Already Leading to New GOP Voter-Suppression Efforts | Ari Berman/The Nation
Less than a month after Donald Trump unexpectedly carried Michigan by 10,000 votes, Republicans in the state legislature are already pushing to make it harder to vote. The presidential recount hasn’t even finished yet and Michigan Republicans are trying to pass a strict voter-ID law through the lame-duck legislative session before the end of this year. Under current Michigan law, a voter who does not present photo ID at the polls can sign an affidavit confirming their identify, under penalty of perjury, and cast a regular ballot. Under the new bill, which passed the House Elections Commission on a 5-3 party-line vote on December 1, voters without strict ID would have to cast a provisional ballot and then return to their local clerk’s office within 10 days of the election with photo ID to have their votes counted. This change to Michigan’s election laws could make a big difference in future elections: 18,339 people without strict photo ID used the affidavit option to vote in 2016—8,000 votes greater than Trump’s margin of victory. One-third of the affidavits came from Detroit, where Hillary Clinton won 67 percent of the vote in Wayne County. Already, Trump’s discredited lie that “millions” voted illegally in 2016 seems to be impacting Republican actions. “A multitude of candidates have raised the concerns about the integrity of elections,” said GOP Representative Lisa Lyons, who sponsored the bill. “We need to respond to those questions. We are going to make sure that we’re protecting you—all voters—and the integrity of the election.”
Illinois: With automatic voter registration bill dead, many eyes turn to GOP alternative | Illinois News Network
After legislation on voting that would have automatically registered people who visit any one of several state agencies could not survive Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto, a Republican state senator’s bill may be the best option. On one of the last scheduled sessions of the year, lawmakers in Springfield didn’t have the votes to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a bill that would have automatically added millions to the state’s voter rolls. While Rauner agreed with the concept of the bill, his central objection was that it would have left the state vulnerable to voter fraud. State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, said her bill addresses that while still automatically registering voters at agencies such as the DMV. “This bill would give individuals a clear opportunity to opt out of the registration application and would be required at that time to testify by signature that they meet voter registration requirements on the front end,” Rezin said.
Jill Stein could be on the hook for millions of dollars to cover the cost of a Michigan election recount if a Republican-sponsored bill is enacted into law. HB 6097 would require candidates more than 5 percent of the vote behind the winner to pay the entire actual cost of a statewide recount, and it would be retroactive to the beginning of 2016. It would only apply to statewide and federal offices. House Elections Committee Chair Lisa Lyons, R-Alto, introduced the bill last week and it passed out of that committee on Tuesday, Dec. 6. All five Republicans on the committee approved moving the bill forward. Democrats Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, and Jon Hoadley, D-Kalamazoo, voted against it and Democrat Gretchen Driskell, D-Saline, abstained. A recount of Michigan’s vote in the Nov. 8 presidential election began Monday. Stein, the Green Party’s presidential candidate, is paying a required fee of $973,250, but Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson has said the actual cost could be $2 million or more.
Dueling court rulings left the fate of a presidential vote recount in Michigan uncertain on Tuesday night, and elections officials in the state said they were “seeking clarity about the next steps.” A recount of last month’s election had already begun in parts of Michigan, one of three closely contested states where Jill Stein, the Green Party’s presidential nominee, had called for new counts, when the seemingly conflicting legal decisions emerged late Tuesday from state and federal courts in Michigan. Ms. Stein has cited concerns about computer hacking and the reliability of voting machines, setting off legal fights with lawyers for President-elect Donald J. Trump, his campaign and his allies, who view the recounts as a needless and expensive tactic. A panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals found that Ms. Stein, who finished a distant fourth to Mr. Trump in the election, had not met the state’s requirements for a recount because she had no chance of winning. The panel concluded that the Michigan Board of State Canvassers ought not to have permitted a recount to go forward because Ms. Stein, given the size of the vote for her, could not be deemed “aggrieved,” as required for a recount under state election law.
A Michigan court and a federal court of appeals on Tuesday issued dueling orders on Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein’s recount push in the state. The dueling ruling resulted in Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette taking the recount case back to U.S. District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith, who on Monday issued an order that started the recount on that day at noon. On Tuesday evening the Michigan Court of Appeals directed the state’s Board of Canvassers to deny a recount petition by Stein. Meanwhile, in an order issued Tuesday evening, the 6th Circuit panel split, 2-1, along partisan lines in declining to temporarily lift the order that required the recount to begin by noon Monday in order to meet a target next week for states to name Electoral College electors. The Michigan Republican Party and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette had both asked the appeals court to step in.
A federal appeals court upheld the Michigan recount that’s been under way since Monday in an opinion issued late Tuesday, just moments before a state appeals court issued an opinion saying the recount should never have been allowed to begin. The dueling appellate opinions set up further proceedings before U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith, who ordered the recount to begin Monday, two days before state officials had scheduled it to start. In a 2-1 opinion, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals said Goldsmith “did not abuse (his) discretion” in ruling that the start of the recount should be accelerated to Monday, from a planned start date of Wednesday. Though that’s a blow to the Michigan Republican Party, which sought to stop the recount, the ruling also contained hope for state Republicans, because it was limited to Goldsmith’s action in doing away with a planned two business-day delay in starting the recount in Michigan. It didn’t address whether the recount itself was lawful.
The recount of the Michigan’s 2016 presidential election expanded across the state Tuesday and continued to uncover problems that made dozens of precincts ineligible for recount under state law. At issue are discrepancies between the number of voters who cast ballots and the number of ballots found in the ballot box on election night. In Wayne County, officials must decide what to do with 610 precincts, including 392 in Detroit, where the numbers don’t match. Oakland County has concluded that at least 17 precincts can’t be recounted and in Macomb, at least seven are ineligible. What that means is the election night returns will stand (for those precincts),” Chis Thomas, director of elections for the state of Michigan.
Michigan: Most states would recount Michigan’s mismatched ballots despite flaws | Detroit Free Press
Michigan’s recount law is more restrictive than most states, which would typically recount precincts with minor discrepancies if they appeared to be caused by poll worker error, experts said today. Michigan’s law, which dates to 1954, excludes from recount precincts where “the number of ballots to be recounted and the number of ballots issued on election day as shown on the poll list or the computer printout do not match and the difference is not explained to the satisfaction of the board of canvassers.” In those cases, the vote total approved by the November canvass stands. In Oakland County, which is slightly ahead of the other counties because it began its recount Monday, officials said at least 17 precincts can’t be recounted because of a discrepancy in the numbers. In Macomb, where the recount got underway Tuesday, there were at least seven. In some cases, the discrepancy was only one ballot. In other cases, it was as high as 11.
New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Tuesday that flawed election procedures and laws led to what he called an unprecedented number of voting complaints during the state’s April presidential primary. In announcing the results of his inquiry into voting complaints, Mr. Schneiderman said his office’s voter hotline received 1,500 calls around the primary, “10 times the previous high mark.” About two-thirds of the complaints stemmed from barriers created by voter-registration rules and practices, he said. Twenty percent of the complaints involved rules or laws related to the voting process, such as reduced poll hours in some counties and voters confused about polling places that had moved. He said 12 counties, including the five that make up New York City, account for more than 80% of the complaints statewide. “The voting issues we uncovered during the April primary were widespread, systemic and unacceptable,” said Mr. Schneiderman, a Democrat. He said 2.9 million New Yorkers, or about a fifth of those eligible to vote in the state, cast ballots in the primary. The New York State Board of Elections didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The Green Party-backed push for a recount of Pennsylvania’s presidential election results will get its day in federal court. U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond on Tuesday ordered a Friday hearing to consider the party’s request for a forensic examination of voting machines used across the state and a statewide recount of paper ballots. The proceeding will take place just days before the Dec. 13 federal deadline for the state to certify its votes, setting up a tight window for the examination should the judge allow it to proceed. “This is a step toward ensuring that voters of this state know their voices are heard,” said Ilann Maazel, a lawyer for former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. “We hope the court grants this injunction immediately, to allow the timely completion of this effort.” Stein has spearheaded the recount effort in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, Rust Belt states that provided crucial and narrow victories to President-elect Donald Trump on his march to the White House.
Pennsylvania: ‘Count every vote!’: Pennsylvania recount supporters take case to the Capitol | PennLive
Chants of “count every vote” echoed through the Capitol Rotunda as Green Party members rallied Monday in support of Jill Stein’s effort to force a Pennsylvania recount. “Shame on you, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” said Pat LaMarche, of an appellate court’s decision last week requiring petitioners to front a $1 million bond in order to move forward with the process. Earlier in the day, attorneys for Stein filed a federal lawsuit in an attempt to secure a forensic audit of votes cast in November’s presidential election that resulted in a narrow victory by President-elect Donald Trump against Democrat Hillary Clinton. Trump currently holds a 47,000-vote edge against Clinton, although the margin is not close enough to trigger an automatic recount. Stein drew less than 1 percent of the votes cast.
Day six of the presidential recount has several counties crossing the finish line in Wisconsin. President-elect Donald Trump’s lead continues to grow as 23 counties complete the process. He has picked up 143 votes on Hillary Clinton. In southeastern Wisconsin, Dodge County, Ozaukee County, Sheboygan County, Walworth County and Washington County recounted their last ballots by Tuesday afternoon. Sheboygan County recounted their 58,000 by hand. More than 100 votes shifted, netting a 13 vote gain for Trump. Dobson said the changes were mainly caused by voter errors. “Someone will take a ballot and either circle the candidates name and not connect the ends of the arrow,” he explained.
Congo: Electoral commission shares budget troubles as cost estimated to soar 60% | International Business Times
The electoral commission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has said the nation may struggle to afford the cost of upcoming elections it believes would soar by nearly 60% to $1.8bn (£1.42bn). President Joseph Kabila has been in power since 2001 and served two full terms, as permitted by the Congolese constitution. Kabila is due to stand down in less than a fortnight, but he has been accused of manoeuvring to ensure he can remain in power indefinitely. Diplomats during a UN Security Council briefing on the DRC on 5 December warned of the urgent need to prevent a deadly conflict from blowing up if Kabila does not step down.
Ghana’s electoral commission has assured the public that everything is in place for the December 7 general elections scheduled to begin at 0700 GMT. 15,712,499 registered voters are expected to vote for seven presidential candidates and 1,158 parliamentary candidates at 28,992 polling stations nationwide on Wednesday. “Barring any unforeseen circumstances, we expect election materials to arrive early at all polling stations and we expect the polls to open at exactly 7am and close at 5pm. If you are in the queue at 5pm, you will be allowed to vote no matter how long it takes,” Charlotte Osei, chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Ghana announced on Tuesday evening.
Ireland: Calls strengthen for voting rights for Irish in Northern Ireland and living abroad | Irish Central
Pressure is growing on the Irish government to extend voting rights in Irish presidential elections to Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland and across the globe. Newry, Mourne and Down Council is the latest local authority to add its voice to the call for northerners and the diaspora to participate in future Presidential votes. Last month, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams criticized Enda Kenny after the taoiseach rejected a proposed referendum in 2017 on the right of Irish citizens in Northern Ireland and in the diaspora to vote for the next President. The Taoiseach said the delay in holding a referendum was due to the need for officials to determine who would be included in a new franchise as well as the cost of the venture. Mr. Adams described the decision as “unacceptable and deeply disappointing.”
Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella wants parliament to draft a new electoral law before any ballot is held, a source close to the president said on Tuesday, a move likely to delay any vote after Prime Minister Matteo Renzi resigns. Renzi said he would step down after losing a referendum on constitutional reform on Sunday, but Mattarella asked him to stay on until parliament passes the 2017 budget, a vote scheduled for Wednesday. The next parliamentary election is not scheduled until 2018 but on Tuesday there was growing consensus among party leaders for it to be held a year earlier. Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said the vote should be held in February. Senior members of Renzi’s Democratic Party (PD) will meet on Wednesday to discuss the referendum defeat and the party’s future strategy.
The election monitoring coalition We Decide! (Nie Odlucuvame!), which is running an SOS hotline for reporting electoral irregularities and offers legal help to voters, warned at a press conference on Tuesday that the authorities have failed to fully clean up the electoral roll. We Decide! said it had received repeated reports from voters about bogus names being listed as residents at their addresses. The initiative, launched by over 20 NGOs including the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, the Foundation Open Society – Macedonia and the Macedonian Centre for European Training, said it had received some 30 reports of election irregularities, most of which were about non-existent voters, and all the problems it has encountered remain unaddressed. “We are five days ahead of the early general elections. Our conclusion is that the electoral roll has not been cleared of non-existent voters, also known as phantom voters,” Maja Velickova, a legal expert from the initiative, told Tuesday’s press conference.