Editorials: All Quiet on the Voter Fraud Front – ACLU Offering Reward for Evidence of Voter Impersonation | Andrew Rosenthal/NYTimes.com

The Minnesota ACLU has offered a $1000 reward for an example of voter impersonation, which a proposed amendment requiring photo ID at the Minnesota polls would have prevented. Anyone looking to compete for the cash should know the following restriction:  the case must have been prosecuted in Minnesota within the last 10 years. I’m eager to see if the ACLU will have to start issuing checks. My guess is they won’t.

The proposed Minnesota amendment, and the ACLU challenge, is part of a larger story, which I’ve written about many times Let’s review this history so far. There is a campaign around the country to impose ID requirements on voters. Opponents of these measures, including me, say they are onerous and unconstitutional since they discriminate against the elderly, minorities, rural populations and poorer, less educated voters. It just so happens that many of these groups vote Democratic.

Editorials: Congress should kill the Republican and Democratic state caucuses and mandate primaries instead | Rick Hasen/Slate Magazine

In the last few weeks, the Keystone Kops have taken over the Republican presidential caucuses.  First Mitt Romney was declared the winner of the Iowa caucuses by a scant eight votes, and then Republican Party officials in Iowa said that there were so many local reporting problems that a winner could not be declared even though Rick Santorum was 34 votes ahead. Oops, they declared Santorum the winner anyway. In Nevada, Republican officials decided to hold a special late-night session of their Saturday caucus to accommodate Orthodox Jews and Seventh-day Adventists.  This caused an uproar when Ron Paul supporters objected to requiring the late-comers to sign a statement that their religious obligations prevented earlier attendance, saying that people who had to work during the day should have the right to vote at the late-night caucus, too.  Adding to the tumult, it took election officials in one Nevada county an extra day to count a small number of votes and deal with a “trouble box” of disputed ballots. Now comes news from Maine that Mitt Romney may not have won the Maine caucuses by 200 votes as initially reported, because some ballots have gone uncounted.

Editorials: Let’s Get Voter Registration Right – and Make it Universal | ACS

This November’s presidential election will present a stark choice between President Barack Obama and a Republican challenger, and voter turnout analysts predict a decline in voter turnout from our 62 percent turnout of eligible voters in 2008. Voter motivation is one reason why American turnout lags behind that of many nations. Most Americans experience limited choice and a relatively low chance of electing strongly favored candidates. For example, in 2010 only one in four eligible voters elected a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives (what we call “the Representation Index”). In contrast, in Denmark’s last elections, nearly five in six eligible voters elected representatives to its national legislature from an array of choices, voter turnout was more than 85 percent, and its system of proportional representation led to more than 95 percent of voters electing their preferred choice.

Editorials: Maine, Iowa Caucus Mishaps Prove It’s Time for a Better System | John Avlon/The Daily Beast

After the epic fail of Iowa’s caucuses—falsely naming Mitt Romney the winner for more than a month—now it looks like there’s trouble brewing in the Maine caucuses as well. Romney was named the narrow winner in Maine on Saturday over Ron Paul—gaining him a triumphant top-of-the-fold photo in the Sunday New York Times—but it now appears that several counties that held caucuses were not calculated in the “final” tally. According to the Bangor Daily News, there is growing pressure on the state GOP to reassess the votes and at least potentially declare a new winner. There’s got to be a better way to pick a presidential nominee.

Editorials: Montana and the Supreme Court | NYTimes.com

When the Montana Supreme Court upheld the state’s 1912 Corrupt Practices Act in December, the majority opinion described the lead plaintiff challenging the law, Western Tradition Partnership, as “a conduit of funds for persons and entities including corporations who want to spend money anonymously to influence Montana elections.” In upholding the law, the court ruled that the United States Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which struck down bans on campaign spending by corporations and unions, did not apply because the Montana law was tailored to meet a compelling state interest and any burden on speech was minimal.

Editorials: The Strange Career of Voter Suppression | NYTimes.com

The 2012 general election campaign is likely to be a fight for every last vote, which means that it will also be a fight over who gets to cast one. Partisan skirmishing over election procedures has been going on in state legislatures across the country for several years. Republicans have called for cutbacks in early voting, an end to same-day registration, higher hurdles for ex-felons, the presentation of proof-of-citizenship documents and regulations discouraging registration drives. The centerpiece of this effort has been a national campaign to require voters to present particular photo ID documents at the polls. Characterized as innocuous reforms to preserve election integrity, beefed-up ID requirements have passed in more than a dozen states since 2005 and are still being considered in more than 20 others. Opponents of the laws, mostly Democrats, claim that they are intended to reduce the participation of the young, of the poor and of minorities, who are most likely to lack government-issued IDs — and also most likely to vote Democratic.

Editorials: Assessing the Minnesota Caucuses – Final Thoughts On Why It is Times to Scrap Them | Schultz’s Take

Minnesota’s February 7, political caucuses meant something this year…sort of. This year they were part of a trifecta of non-binding events that included the Colorado caucus and the Missouri primary that awarded no delegates but nonetheless had a significant media impact in rendering Rick Santorum a viable challenger to Mitt Romney.  In winning these three states the political world heralded that the party activists had again repudiated Romney.  Thus, Minnesota’s caucuses had a signal effect even if no delegates were awarded. But there are real problems with the caucus process in Minnesota and across the country.  Criticism of the Iowa caucus is growing as arguments are again mounted that it should not be first int nation since no delegates are awarded and its demographics are not representative of the country.

Editorials: The Past is not Past – Why We Still Need Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act | Jonathan Brater/Boston Review

Today the state of South Carolina sued the Justice Department for blocking its new law requiring citizens to show government-issued photo identification to vote. This is just the latest broadside in what promises to be a protracted battle over the constitutionality of state voting laws and federal protections against discrimination. For decades, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has been a cornerstone of civil rights law. The provision requires certain jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination to get federal “preclearance” before enforcing new voting laws. Today, opponents of the law are trying to dismantle this foundation of our democracy, bringing several court challenges in recent months. They argue that, 50 years after the worst abuses of the Jim Crow era, the law should be struck down as unconstitutional, and that federal protection of minority rights in these jurisdictions is no longer needed. Do they have a point? To paraphrase William Faulkner, the past is not past.

Editorials: Foreign donations a risk in US presidential race | msnbc.com

Money pouring into the U.S. presidential election from new super political action committees and nonprofit campaign groups appears so far to be strictly American in origin, donated by U.S. companies, unions and millionaires. But it’s easier than ever to conceal the source of money and the identities of contributors, making conditions ripe for illegal donations from foreigners, overseas companies or governments attempting to help a favored candidate for the White House.

Editorials: Political parrying to blame for Pennsylvania reapportionment mess | Aaron Kaufer/The Times Leader

The recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision should teach us one thing about the reapportionment process: There is too much party control. Redistricting is supposed to be based on census data and population changes to help balance out uneven districts. Instead, it has become a political tool for the majority party to gain an upper hand over its opposition. Both parties are to blame for this mess. Democrats have done it in the past, and this year it’s the Republicans using reapportionment to their advantage. They sought to manipulate districts in order to strengthen Republicans’ re-election bids and challenge vulnerable Democrats. To do this, many Democratic municipalities got reapportioned out of these districts and placed into one heavily Democratic territory where Republicans already have conceded victory. This political chess match results in partisan districts, partisan politicians and partisan stalemate.

Editorials: Texas Redistricting: Deal or No Deal? | Roll Call

The Texas attorney general announced both parties reached a compromise map in the Texas redistricting case today — hours before the court-mandated deadline to keep the April 3 primary. But the majority of the plaintiffs say there’s no compromise yet, and a federal court in San Antonio suggested it agrees. Texas will pick up four House seats in 2012 because of population growth, mostly in the Hispanic community. Lone Star State GOP lawmakers passed an aggressive new Congressional map last year, but the plan has been stuck in court as the state seeks pre-clearance approval under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. State Attorney General Greg Abbott’s alleged compromise map is somewhat similar to the plan passed by the Texas GOP Legislature last year but includes an additional Hispanic-majority seat in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Editorials: Keeping Virginians from voting | The Washington Post

For decades Virginia has allowed residents who lack proof of identification or whose IDs have been lost or stolen to vote, provided they are listed in the voting rolls and sign sworn statements attesting to their identities. Now, in response to no known problem, Republicans are backing a change already approved by the House of Delegates that would allow such citizens to cast only provisional ballots, which would be counted only if their identities were subsequently verified with IDs. Given that 11 percent of voting-age citizens nationally lack photo IDs, that would place unmanageable burdens on thousands of would-be voters in the commonwealth. The bill’s chief sponsor is Del. Mark R. Cole (R-Fredericksburg), whose previous claim to fame was a bill in 2010 banning employers from planting microchips in their workers, on the grounds that doing so might enable a surreptitious incursion by the antichrist. Yes, really.

Editorials: Need for a paper trail | Daily Pioneer

It’s not fair to impose electronic voting machines as a substitute for paper ballots because there’s no way voters can verify which way their vote went. The Election Commission may have won the legal battle vis-à-vis the efficacy of electronic voting machines in view of the recent judgement of the Delhi High Court, but it has a lot of work to do if it wishes to remove the prevailing scepticism about these machines. Though Justice AK Sikri and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw, who heard Mr Subramanian Swamy’s petition, said they could not issue a mandamus directing the Election Commission to introduce the system of paper trail, they had advised it to take note of the apprehensions that EVMs may be vulnerable to fraud and that there could be security issues.

Editorials: Voter ID bill is an unfunded mandate | PennLive.com

It is ironic that in an era when certain elected officials rail against unfunded mandates, government waste and the lack of citizen participation in the civic life of the country, those same officials are spending their taxpayer-funded resources on wasteful, ineffective voter photo ID legislation. Every three or four years, voter photo ID legislation such as Pennsylvania House Bill 934 — introduced by Rep. Daryl Metcalfe — makes its way to the forefront of the legislative agenda, moving to the top of the queue over bills that could help taxpayers save money, create jobs or even improve schools. HB 934 offers to misuse dollars from the federal Help America Vote Act intended to remove barriers to voting for the explicit purpose of making it harder for Pennsylvanians without a photo ID to vote. The bill also calls for the waste of at least $4.3 million from the Motor License Fund.

Editorials: States are cracking down on political speech with burdensome laws | George Will/Washington Post

Dina Galassini does not seem to pose a threat to Arizona’s civic integrity. But the government of this desert community believes that you cannot be too careful. And state law empowers local governments to be vigilant against the lurking danger that political speech might occur before the speakers notify the government and comply with all the speech rules. Last October, Galassini became annoyed — like many Ron Paul supporters, she is easily annoyed by government — about the city’s plan to augment its spending with a $29.6 million bond issue, to be voted on by mail by Nov. 8. On Oct. 6, she sent e-mails to 23 friends and acquaintances, urging them to write letters to newspapers and join her in two demonstrations against the bond measure. On Oct. 12, before she could organize the demonstrations, she received a stern letter from the town clerk: “I would strongly encourage you to cease any campaign-related activities until the requirements of the law have been met.”

Editorials: Congress can fix the Super PAC problem | Salon.com

Election junkies circled January 31st on their calendars months ago — but not because of Florida’s primary today, no matter how important it is to Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Tuesday’s real significance deals with Super PACs — it’s the day “independent” groups, dominating the 2012 election, must file their financial disclosures for the last six months. Candidate-specific Super PACS — which can take unlimited sums from individuals and corporations, and likewise spend without limits — are like nothing seen in any previous election.  They’ve eviscerated the post-Watergate contribution limits that Congress enacted to curb corruption, and they’ve hit the presidential campaign with the force of a freight train.

Editorials: Editorial: Ex-felons’ voting rights in Kentucky | The Courier-Journal

In a list found on the website of the National Conference of State Legislatures, state after state after state is on the books as restoring the voting rights of felons upon the completion of their sentence, probation and/or parole. Kentucky is not — but it is time for the Bluegrass State to join the ranks of the fair and enlightened. House Bill 70 proposes to amend the Kentucky state constitution “to allow persons convicted of a felony other than treason, intentional killing, a sex crime or bribery the right to vote after expiration of probation, final discharge from parole, or maximum expiration of sentence.” The amendment would be placed before voters for ratification or rejection. At the very least, the people of Kentucky ought to have the opportunity to weigh in on whether to correct the state’s virtual disenfranchisement for ex-felons, even after they have served their prescribed sentences. To allow a governor’s restoration of civil rights as the only way back to citizenship is unfair and onerous.

Editorials: Florida’s voting fairness problem | Tampa Bay Times

As Republican primary voters go to the polls today, there is a cloud over the state’s voting process. Florida law imposes undue burdens on African-American, Hispanic and younger voters, according to witnesses at a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing in Tampa on Friday. The testimony adds to the mounting evidence that the election law changes Florida Republicans passed last spring to ostensibly address voter fraud — a nonexistent problem in this state — are designed to interfere with the voting rights of Democratic-leaning constituencies.

Editorials: International campaign finance: How do countries compare? | CNN.com

The world economy may be bracing for another grim year, but political donors in the United States are breaking out their checkbooks to finance what is expected to be the most expensive presidential election in American history. The Center for Responsive Politics estimates $6 billion will be spent in the U.S. elections by campaigns, political parties and corporations hoping to propel their candidates into the White House and what writer Mark Twain once called the “best Congress money can buy.” The projected price tag of the 2012 U.S. election dwarfs that of other nations, but corruption monitors from Transparency International (TI) say it’s not just how much will be spent but where the money is coming from that threatens the integrity of politics around the world.

Editorials: Messin’ with Texas (Redistricting) | Samuel Issacharoff/Boston Review

For the past 30 years, redistricting in Texas has provided great theater. As the state has gone from one-party Democratic to a Republican stronghold to renewed stirrings of bipartisan competition, the controlling party has exploited the decennial line drawing to lock in gains. And just as certainly, the courts have provided refuge for those on the outs. The Supreme Court has recognized the problem on a national scale but has been unable to see a solution. The justices have failed to find an easy definition of what is fair, what level of manipulation is permissible, how much greed is tolerable, how many districts should be assigned to this group or that group.

Editorials: In Saguache, a vote for voters | The Denver Post

The recall of Saguache County Clerk Melinda Myers offers some lessons about transparency and the good sense of voters. Myers, who oversaw a messy election in which she prevailed over a challenger, was booted out of office this week with a resounding 68 percent of the vote. We suspect voters were dismayed not only by the controversial outcome in the 2010 election, in which results were reversed days after the polls closed, but by the clerk’s fight to keep ballots secret. We supported a public recount of the ballots in an effort to build public trust in the process. And we think county clerks, who are pushing for legislative action this session to restrict public access to voted ballots after elections, ought to take note of the Saguache recall. Voters may not be as keen on their efforts as they think.

Editorials: Citizens United v. FEC decision proves justice is blind | Jeffrey Rosen/Politico.com

Last week, the Occupy movement came to the Supreme Court. To protest the second anniversary of the Citizens United decision, the group called Move to Amend organized demonstrations at courthouses around the country — including the steps of the high court itself. (The protests began peacefully but ended with 11 arrests.) Say what you will about the strategy of organizing political protests against controversial judicial decisions, which can be overturned only by constitutional amendment, but one thing is clear: The Supreme Court was spectacularly wrong in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission when it confidently predicted that the ruling would have no significant impact on Americans’ confidence in their political system. In this sense, the Citizens United decision has much in common with the ruling in Paula Corbin Jones v. William Jefferson Clinton, which allowed President Bill Clinton to be sued for sexual harassment while in office.

Editorials: FEC Chair Hunter: Sizing up the superPACs | Washington Times

Jan. 21 marked the second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in CitizensUnitedv. FederalElectionCommission. Already controversial at the time it was issued, the ruling has taken center stage in the debate over superPACs’ role in the race for the White House. Contrary to some suggestions that superPACs are acting under the radar and outside of any regulation, they are, in fact, subject to the same long-standing disclosure requirements and objective rules applicable to everyone else. To place superPACs in context, it is important to understand their origin. In CitizensUnited, the government was put in the unenviable position of defending a statute dictating who could speak, when they could speak and how they could speak. Specifically, the law prohibited corporations and labor unions from sponsoring broadcast advertisements that expressly advocate the election or defeat of candidates for federal office. Not only that, the law purported to impose a blackout period on certain ads that even mentioned candidates.

Editorials: Return voting rights to ex-felons | Kentucky.com

The Kentucky House of Representatives is once again acting favorably on a proposal (HB 70) by Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, D-Lexington, to amend the state constitution to automatically restore voting rights to non-violent felons who have paid their assigned debt to society. Remarkably, each time in recent years this measure has passed out of the House it has stopped dead in the Senate. This is a good year to change that pattern. We are, after all, witnessing one of the great political processes as the presidential campaign unfolds before our very eyes. There is a lot of debate these days about the role of government in our lives, but does anyone really think it should be government’s task to prevent people from voting?

Editorials: Kazakhstan’s Elections: Aspirations for Democracy amidst Expectations of Paternalism | Registan.net

The background to the January 15 Kazakhstan’s parliamentary elections has been most unfavorable. The image of stability that Kazakhstan’s government had carefully cultivated over the years has been tarnished with the outbreak of violence in an oil town of Zhanaozen. In neighboring Russia, on which Kazakhstan depends both culturally and politically, dozens of thousands of people protested in December against falsifications in the Russian Duma elections held on December 4. These combined events generated warning signs that the Kazakh authorities should brace themselves for a stormy political season. However, the elections went as planned with a high turn-out (lower than in the 2011 Presidential elections but still solid 75 %) and very few instances of protest or boycott; the expected rendering of the elections as undemocratic by the OSCE and the usual accusations by the losing parties managed to gather only about a couple of hundred protesters in the center of Almaty on January 17. The charges leveled by the OSCE were that the elections “though well administered, did not meet key democratic principles.” As the OSCE statement said, “the authorities did not provide the necessary conditions for the conduct of genuinely pluralistic elections.” The accusations of not facilitating a “genuine pluralism” and not allowing all aspiring candidates and parties to enter free competition for the parliament seats comes as no surprise. After all, in a widely-held view, the authoritarian regime in Kazakhstan has been faking democratic processes for quite a while. So, now, on top of the previous simulations, it began to fake a multi-party parliament with 83 seats in the lower chamber given to the ruling Nur Otan party, 8 seats to the “Ak Zhol” (translated as “bright path”), 7 seats to the KNPK (communist) party, and 9 seats reserved for the representatives of ethnic minorities through the Assembly of the People.

Editorials: Citizens United: How Did it Happen? | John Wellington Ennis/Huffington Post

Though the manifold problems of money pouring into our campaigns have become a source of daily news and mounting public backlash, the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission is an opportunity to review how this transformative decision was reached — the perfect storm of politicized jurisprudence, corporate entitlement, and a narrowly tilted bench. As Chief Justice John Roberts has expressed such concern over corporate rights, one might think he was found as a boy abandoned, taken in, and raised by some corporations. It was Roberts who directed the narrow issue of FEC penalties over ads for Hillary: The Movie to be rewritten and re-argued as a much broader debate over the right for corporations to spend money freely on third party advertisements.

Editorials: Science of elections: The problem with turnout | BBC

For veteran election-watcher Curtis Gans, who runs the Center for the Study of the American Electorate, this disenfranchisement is a major problem. “There are 50 million American citizens who aren’t registered to vote,” he says. “And there are 20 million names on registration lists that ought not to be there.” Alaska, Illinois, and South Dakota have more voters on their lists than there are citizens eligible to vote living there, Mr Gans has told Congress. And of 172 recognised democracies, the US is ranked 139th in voter participation, he says.

Editorials: Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown deserve major props for campaign finance truce | The Washington Post

This morning, Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown announced that they had hammered out an agreement to put up a dam against the flood of outside cash that’s expected to gush into their Senate race. Even if the dam ends up springing a few leaks, they deserve credit for trying. Good for them. The deal wasn’t easy to hammer out, because campaigns don’t have any power to restrict third-party-group spending. But the arrangement deals with this problem in an artful way:

Under the terms of the deal, each campaign would agree to donate half the cost of any third-party ad to charity if that ad either supports their candidacy or attacks their opponent by name.

Editorials: The electoral train wreck scenario | Martin Frost/Politico.com

Train wrecks don’t happen often in American politics. But there could be one in this presidential election. And if it occurs, it will be big. Consider. The Constitution has a specific provision regarding an Electoral College deadlock. The bottom line is that if no candidate receives a majority — 270 — of the 538 electoral votes, then the next president will be chosen by the House of Representatives, with each state having one vote. It has happened twice in our history — the election of 1800 and then 1824. But given Congress’s current low repute — 9 percent approval rating in one poll — all hell would break loose if the House wound up selecting the next president. This scenario can happen only if there is a viable third-party candidate who wins at least some electoral votes. Most states still decide their electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis, so the third-party candidate would need to win a state or two, and the election would otherwise need to be close.

Editorials: South Carolina’s gift to the Voting Rights Act | William Yeomans/Politico.com

When the Justice Department recently blocked implementation of South Carolina’s photo ID law, analysts were quick to suggest that the action was risky and could be the death of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. They were wrong to sound the alarm. Recent discriminatory actions by South Carolina and other covered states give Attorney General Eric Holder no choice but to block their implementation. In fact, the very actions that forced Holder’s hand may ultimately save the act from the daggers of Chief Justice John Roberts and his band of conservative justices, who seem ready to strike it down as unconstitutional.