Editorials: Wisconsin voter ID becomes law of unintended consequences | TwinCities.com

Ruthelle Frank was born Aug. 21, 1927, in her home in Brokaw. It was a hard birth; there were complications. A doctor had to come up from Wausau to see that she and her mother made it through. Frank ended up paralyzed on the left side of her body. To this day, she walks with a shuffle and doesn’t have much use of one arm.

Her mother recorded her birth in the family Bible. Frank still has it. A few months later, when Ruthelle was baptized, her mother got a notarized certificate of baptism. She still has that document, too. What she never had – and in 84 years, never needed – was a birth certificate.

But without a birth certificate, Frank cannot get a state ID card. And without a state ID card, according to Wisconsin’s new voter ID law, she won’t be able to vote next year. A diminutive, fiery woman who has voted in every election since 1948 and is an elected official herself, Frank finds the prospect of being turned away from the polls infuriating.

Editorials: Is it time to stop voting on Tuesdays? | CBS News

Ever wonder why Americans pick their president on a Tuesday? The short answer is that it’s the law: In 1845, Congress voted to standardize Election Day as the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. (They included that “after the first Monday” part to make sure the election wouldn’t be held on November 1, the date of the Catholic holy day known as All Saints Day.) Lawmakers chose Tuesday in order to give voters one travel day after the Sunday day of rest to get from their farms into town to vote.

It’s a system that is hopelessly outdated today, argues Jacob Soboroff, executive director of a group called “Why Tuesday,” which is trying to boost voter participation by moving Election Day to the weekend.

“In 2011, coming onto 2012, we will be voting on a day and in a way that was set for an agrarian society 160-something years ago,” he said in an interview with Hotsheet. (See at left.) “Frankly it literally is just silly that we’re still voting on this day when so many Americans are working two jobs, don’t necessarily have time to make it to the polls before or after work.”

Editorials: Will Foreigners Decide The 2012 Election? The Extreme Unintended Consequences Of Citizens United. | Rick Hasen/The New Republic

Let’s say that the leader of a foreign country, one with military or economic interests adverse to the United States, took a look at our 2012 elections and decided to spend millions of dollars in hopes of determining which party held control over the House, the Senate, or the White House. Most of us would consider that scenario highly distressing, to say the least.

In that way, it’s easy to understand why current federal law was designed to bar most foreign individuals, entities, and governments from spending money to influence U.S. elections and contributing to candidates. And this isn’t a law that inspires much opposition in Washington: Neither party asserts that foreigners have a First Amendment right to participate in our elections. But given the twisted logic of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Citizens United v. FEC, the law’s constitutionality is now in question.

Editorials: Public financing of presidential campaigns becomes divisive | Las Vegas Sun

You know that little box at the top of your tax form, the one that invites you to “check here” to donate $3 toward a presidential campaign fund? The one no one ever checks anyway? That too is turning into a partisan wedge issue in Washington, D.C.

Last week, the House of Representatives voted to do away with the box and shutter the Election Assistance Commission that handles the funds. Republican backers (no Democrats voted for the legislation) called it an effort to save money by eliminating a “bloated federal agency” that “has long outlived its purpose.” Sen. Harry Reid pre-emptively declared the bill dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate: Getting rid of the little $3 box, he explained, is really an act of voter suppression.

“Instead of making it so it’s easier for people to vote, they want to do everything they can to make it harder for people to vote,” Reid said of the Republican Party, complaining of efforts in certain states, including Nevada, to eliminate same-day registration at the polls. “They want as few people to vote as possible.”

Editorials: Voting Rights and Texas | NYTimes.com

Texas grew so much over the last decade that it qualified for four new House seats. Almost all of that growth — more than four million people — came from new Hispanic residents, but when the Republicans who control the State Legislature drew the new districts last summer, they reduced the number of districts where minorities could elect the candidate of their choice to 10 from 11.

Hispanics tend to vote Democratic, and under the Texas redistricting plan, the number of safe Republican seats would have risen to 26 from 21. This egregious violation of the Voting Rights Act prompted Hispanic groups to sue, and last month a federal court panel threw out the Legislature’s plan, which was also backed by Gov. Rick Perry. The court has drawn up a plan with three new districts in which minorities would be the majority, potentially giving the Democrats a gain of as many as four seats. Republicans immediately cried foul, demanding an end to judicial meddling.

Editorials: Our View: Texas Voter ID law battle wastes energy while pros, cons are questionable | Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

While Voter ID advocates rail against voter fraud and Voter ID foes warn of certain voter disenfranchisement, the rest of us are left to endure the faux crisis visited upon the sanctity of the ballot and the ballot box. Whether Texas’ law passed by the Republican-dominated Legislature this summer requiring voters to present photo identification to cast a ballot goes into effect depends on whether the U.S. Department of Justice gives its OK, which is required under the Voting Rights Act. And the DOJ appears more sympathetic to foes of the law than advocates.

Regardless of which way the DOJ goes, the matter will likely be appealed by the losing side — which means in addition to enduring the shrill partisan battle over a matter we’re not all that sure is worthy of waging, Texas taxpayers will pick up the tab for the ensuing courtroom showdowns.

Here far away from the frontline of this incivil tussle, it’s not all that clear Texas needs to require all voters present photo IDs to counter fraud, but it’s also not clear the new law requiring it is as onerous as foes claim it to be. Aside from stories of Lyndon Johnson’s having been the beneficiary in one case of ballot-box stuffing and the victim in another, the evidence of voter fraud in the Lone Star State is more the stuff of rumors and innuendo than credible evidence.

Editorials: As vote nears, Russians tiring of Putin and of his competitors | latimes.com

When Russian leader Vladimir Putin climbed into the martial arts ring in the Olimpiysky Palace in downtown Moscow recently to congratulate a Russian wrestler who had quite convincingly beaten his American opponent, he was greeted by an unfamiliar sound. The crowd, which, given the high ticket price, consisted mostly of wealthy and middle-class Russians, booed, with some shouting, “Go away!”

The prime minister’s press service later hurried to explain that it was a misunderstanding and that the audience last week was booing not Putin but American fighter Jeff Monson, who was being led away from the hall at the same time. “The booing was obviously aimed at Monson,” said Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman. “It is absurd to speak about some message sent to Putin!”

Editorials: Voting Rights Act’s time may be limited | TheHill.com

States all over the country are bringing or joining lawsuits that claim the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional. Against this backdrop, redistricting battles in states that are tinged with racial and ethnic overtones are beginning to spill into federal territory. There can no longer be any doubt: As the 2012 election season rolls around, the constitutional fate of the Voting Rights Act will have a considerable impact on the political playing field.

In the most dramatic episode thus far, Texas directly petitioned the Supreme Court this week to delay the implementation of a redistricting plan recently drawn up by three federal judges for temporary use as election season begins. The latest federal Census shows a sharp growth in Texas’s Hispanic population, thus making the redistricting politics there especially contentious.

Editorials: The Elections In South Ossetia Are Completely Terrifying | Business Insider

South Ossetia, a tiny central-Asian state, had a presidential election this weekend. If you are wondering why you’ve never heard of the country, its probably because most of the world doesn’t recognize it. After the Russian-Georgian conflict in 2008, breakaway Russian-dominated state South Ossetia was recognized by Russia and a few other countries, such as Venezuela, Nicaragua and the two Pacific island nations of Tuvalu and Nauru. The rest of the world still views it as a part of Georgia

And when we say an election, that word should be used with caution too. Time’s Simon Schuster does a good job setting the scene for the somewhat crazy situation before the election even started as pro-Kremlin groups tried to ensure the pro-Kremlin president remained in power:

“In June, a group of armed men, representing the South Ossetian army and the office of the presidential guard, walked into the parliament building and demanded that the lawmakers allow President Kokoity to stay for a third term in office. This would require changing the constitution, which the lawmakers refused to do. Several of them, barricaded inside the chamber by the armed intruders, called the press to complain of a “military coup,” and Kokoity quickly got nervous.

Editorials: For Citizens, Voting Rights and Responsibilities | NYTimes.com

This little essay is about voting rights, but let’s start by looking at this national population chart from the 2010 census. The chart shows that America is more and more a multiracial and multiethnic country. More than a quarter of Americans now say that they are something other than simply “white.” Blacks are no longer the largest minority group; Hispanics are.

Since the last census in 2000, the Hispanic population has grown by 43%, and the Asian population has grown by 43.3%. The black and white populations are growing much more slowly, at 12.3% and 5.7% respectively.

And it’s interesting that the number of Americans who identify themselves as belonging to “two or more races” has grown by 32%. That percentage doesn’t count those Americans who, like our president, are of more than one race but who for whatever reason declined to identify themselves in that way on the census form.

Editorials: Students hit by voter ID restrictions | Emily Schultheis/Politico.com

Tough new voter identification laws have shaken up college campuses around the country, where students — one of the groups most affected by the measures — are scrambling to comply.

The new laws could also put Republicans in a bind: Even as the party has ramped up its youth outreach efforts — hoping to siphon some of the youth vote from President Barack Obama — it has also backed state-level laws that make it harder for college students to vote. The College Democrats have spoken out against the laws, but so far the College Republicans seem unconcerned. The groups’ opposing views of the laws mirror their parties’ positions: Democrats believe the laws suppress legitimate votes; Republicans insist they’re necessary to combat voter fraud. “It’s not about being a Democrat or a Republican; it’s about wanting to be able to vote,” said Alejandra Salinas, president of the College Democrats of America.

Editorials: Opinion: Dems continue fight for voting rights | Will Crossley/Politico.com

With the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, our nation reached a critical juncture in its history – turning the page on a sad chapter of racial discrimination and voter suppression. In the nearly 50 years since, the United States has largely continued on a trajectory of reform and progress. Additional federal laws have streamlined and safeguarded the voter registration process; significantly expanded ballot box access, and increased political participation by traditionally underrepresented voters.

We witnessed the culmination of these positive changes in the 2008 presidential election – which had the largest and most demographically diverse electorate in U.S. history. There were record numbers of African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans and young voters, who overwhelmingly supported Sen. Barack Obama and Democratic candidates across the country.

Now, with the 2012 election fast approaching, Republicans are doing everything in their power to turn back the clock on this progress for political purposes.

Editorials: Reflections on Congo’s elections | CSMonitor.com

Elections have passed throughout most of the Congo – voters are now suspended in a weird limbo of several weeks as they wait for election results to be announced. Sitting in bars and living rooms, people in Bukavu send and receive dozens of text messages a day regarding the results seen outside voting offices and compilation centers – “Vital is ahead in 8 out of 32 centers in Goma!” “Tshisekedi takes a surprising lead in Beni territory!”

I won’t delve into too much speculation about the result yet. It is too early to do so; results just began trickling into the central compilation centers in Kinshasa yesterday. It looks like Tshisekedi did well, and that the race will be close, but beyond scattered results here and there, there is more speculation than anything else.

Editorials: Washington state political parties challenge top 2 primary in federal appeals court | Dave Ammons/Tukwila Reporter

Washington’s political parties are back in federal appeals court, continuing their six-year  challenge of the state’s popular voter-approved Top 2 Primary. The Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties of Washington asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday to throw out the system, which allows voters to choose their favorite for each office, without respect to party, with the two favorites advancing to the November General Election ballot.  Neither party is guaranteed a November runoff slot, and the Top 2 is not a nominating election, but rather a winnowing contest.

Jeff Even, deputy state solicitor general, representing Secretary of State Sam Reed and the voters, said the oral argument went well, and that he is optimistic that the state will be able to keep the Top 2 system in place.  California voters recently adopted the system. The three-judge panel gave no indication when they will rule, but Even said he would expect the state to know by next spring that it can run the big 2012 election system with the Top 2 in place.

Editorials: Virginia’s parody of democracy | The Washington Post

State Legislative elections in Virginia have come to bear a certain resemblance to what passed for voting in the old Soviet Union. There, candidates, unopposed and endorsed by the Communist Party, routinely ran up victories with 99 percent of the vote, although voters had the theoretical right to cast a “no” ballot. In Virginia’s elections this month, the competition wasn’t much tougher.

As we reported on the eve of the elections, just 27 of the 100 contests for Virginia’s House of Delegates featured a Democrat and a Republican. That was bad enough. In the election, the winner trounced the loser by a margin of about 10 percentage points or more in all but five races statewide. In other words, 95 percent of the state’s House races were either uncontested or blowouts.

Editorials: Render gerrymandering obsolete | Rob Richie/HamptonRoads.com

Virginia has become one of the few true swing states in presidential elections and, in recent years, has experienced divided partisan control of its state legislature. You’d think that this would have prompted hotly contested state legislative races on Election Day, but in fact only 52 of 140 races had candidates from both major parties – including just 27 percent of elections for the House of Delegates. Another round of largely uncontested races is just the latest evidence of the failure of winner-take-all, single-member district elections.

Winner-take-all inherently represents voters poorly and tempts partisans to gerrymander outcomes. Although we need other changes like independent redistricting, it’s time to look for a better way grounded in our electoral traditions: fair voting, which is an American form of proportional representation in elections taking place in larger “superdistricts.”

Editorials: Online voting lacks crucial transparency | Vancouver Sun

Elections BC is seeking permission to run pilot projects on online voting and other new technologies. It is generally known that voters are becoming increasingly alienated from politics. It is nevertheless ludicrous for Elections BC to attribute some of this apathy to outdated technology at the polling stations, or to imply that measures like online voting would somehow revive democracy.

A greater source of voter dissatisfaction is a creeping loss of faith in the system. An effective step in restoring that faith would be the evidence that the process is valued, cherished and, most importantly, safeguarded from ways in which it can be subverted.

Editorials: Opinion: A rogue convention? How GOP party rules may surprise in 2012 | Politico

The rules of a game often determine its winner. With the approach of the Republican Party’s first presidential nomination caucuses and primaries, party rules are already playing a key role — and just may lead Republicans on a wild nomination ride that won’t end until the last day of its convention in Tampa.

The Republican Party is an association rather than a government entity, making its national rules the equivalent of a constitution when it comes to its nomination process. To be sure, states may want to change the dates of a primary, state parties may change the manner of their nomination contests and members of Congress may pontificate about the process. But for the final word, it’s the Rules of the Republican Party.

Editorials: Look elsewhere for voter fraud | The Santa Fe New Mexican

If nothing else, Secretary of State Dianna Duran deserves credit for getting to the bottom of that age-old, oft-repeated New Mexico folk tale about dead people voting. Not so much, it turns out.

And Duran can prove it, too. Once in office, she and her staff have taken the state’s voter list, torn it apart, put it back together and in the end, found almost no voter fraud in New Mexico. From the 64,000 voter registration records she once referred to state police as possible cases of voter fraud, we are down to 100-plus voters apparently registered illegally. Of those “illegally” registered, 19 possible non-citizens might have cast a ballot they should not have. Another 641 people, now believed to be deceased, remain on the rolls, although there is scant evidence they are voting. That’s out of 1.1 million registered voters, by the way.

Editorials: Maurice Emmer and Harvie Branscomb: Why insist on secrecy but dismiss anonymity? | AspenTimes.com

We both write repeatedly about the importance of election transparency. We present facts. We don’t make things up. Stories about revealing ballot “secrets” often sound like scary tales told to children. They are designed to frighten, not inform. Jack Johnson’s scary story recently published in another paper might trigger your instinct to fight, but that’s what fiction and political propaganda are intended to do.

Johnson’s column, and recent announcements by the city of Aspen, misconstrue election and open-records law as well as misrepresent the Marks v. Koch case and the Court of Appeals’ unanimous opinion in favor of ballot transparency. As untrue assertions have become Aspen’s norm, here we try to separate fact from fiction.

Editorials: How Many Primaries in New York Next Year? | NYTimes.com

New York State, which will struggle with a deficit projected to be more than $3 billion in 2012, is facing the ridiculous and costly possibility of holding three primaries next year instead of the usual two in presidential election years.
Related in Opinion.

This particular lunacy is possible because state lawmakers have failed to comply with a 2009 federal law that requires military personnel overseas to get ballots 45 days before a federal election. New York officials got the Defense Department to give them a one-time exemption from the law to hold Congressional primaries, along with state legislative primaries, in September 2010.

Editorials: Who’s behind Americans Elect and what they want | Los Angeles Times

A few weeks ago I wrote about an effort to put a centrist “third party” candidate on the presidential ballot next year, launched by an organization called Americans Elect. The privately funded group plans to stage a wide-open primary on the Internet, to enable voters to choose a ticket drawn from the middle of the political spectrum. Voters can propose anyone they like, but the process is designed for potential centrist candidates such as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.

That column provoked a torrent of questions from readers. Some asked: Isn’t this just a Republican plot to seduce independents away from President Obama? Others asked: Isn’t this just a Democratic plot to seduce moderates away from the GOP? These are fair questions in an age in which seemingly benign proposals sometimes conceal hidden agendas. So I did some more digging to find out who is behind Americans Elect and what it’s really after.

Editorials: Disenfranchise No More | NYTimes.com

Mississippi voters just approved a new law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. But that law will not go into effect immediately, thanks to the Voting Rights Act. Instead Mississippi will get in line behind Texas and South Carolina as the Department of Justice examines each state’s voter ID laws, in a process known as “preclearance.”

The Justice Department will allow each law to go into effect only if the state can show its law will not have a racially discriminatory purpose or effect. Such proof may be hard to come by: a recent study by The Associated Press found that African-American voters in South Carolina would be much harder hit by that state’s ID law than white voters because they often don’t have the right kind of identification.

Editorials: San Francisco Ranked-Choice Voting Draws Critics After Mayoral Race | Huffington Post

Ranked-choice voting was the cure for what ails American politics, boosters said. Now in use in four California cities, this new voting system was supposed to increase voter turnout, stanch the flow of special interest money and encourage high-minded, positive campaigns.

But it didn’t play out that way in the biggest ranked-choice election yet – the 2011 San Francisco mayoral race. Turnout was down, the worst in a competitive race in about 35 years, as the San Francisco Chronicle noted.

Editorials: On dangers of a Biometric Verification System for 2012 Elections in Ghana | Forum For Governance And Justice

The Forum for Governance and Justice (FGJ) wishes to point out some potential dangers associated with the biometric verification system (machine) being suggested for adoption by the National Electoral Commission of Ghana for voter verification in the upcoming general election.

Off the bat, we ask that the independence of the Electoral Commission be respected by all members of our society; especially the political parties. As a nation, we cannot honestly fault the Electoral Commission in its conduct of our national elections since the inception of the fourth republic.

Editorials: Maine Republicans Want to Get There (Vote Suppression) From Here (Vote Turnout) | NYTimes.com

Earlier this year, Maine’s governor, Paul LePage, a Tea Party favorite, helped Republican legislators enact a law eliminating Maine’s 38-year-old same-day voter registration policy. They offered the standard excuse Republicans have been using around the country to hinder turnout by Democratic-leaning groups – it was necessary to prevent voter fraud.

Never mind that voter fraud – people trying to vote when they are not entitled to – is no bigger a problem in Maine than in the rest of the country, which is to say it’s not much of a problem at all. Maine has reported two cases in 38 years.

Editorials: Adding to election costs | Recordnet.com

San Joaquin Supervisor Larry Ruhstaller last month took a stand for common sense. OK, his vote against a lease agreement to store the county’s unused and unusable electronic voting machines was Quixotesque. But at least he voiced his outrage.

The county spends $12,400 a month – $148,800 a year – to rent a warehouse to store the machines. The machines aren’t good enough for the general public. They’ve been decertified because it’s feared they can be hacked. So why does the county keep the 1,625 machines around?

Editorials: 2011 year of unprecedented GOP attack on voting rights of average Americans | TCPalm.com

2011 maybe remembered for the mean-spirited and extremely undemocratic GOP assault upon the voting rights of Americans. Over the history of our great nation there always has been positive momentum to expand the voting franchise.

The original tea partiers pointed to the lack of voting rights with their motto, “No taxation without representation.” Eventually the limitation of voting rights to property owners slowly ended state by state. After the Civil War three important constitutional amendments were passed to ensure the rights of newly freed, former slaves, including the right to vote. The original voting franchise in America had empowered only white men to vote, and in many instances only white men who owned property.

Editorials: GOP needs to pay counties fully for presidential primary | Aiken Standard

I’ve never liked the idea of taxpayers picking up the tab for a partisan beauty contest that won’t actually nominate anyone and whose timing and cost the state has no control over. Unlike state and local primaries, the purpose of South Carolina’s presidential primaries is to give direction to delegates to the parties’ national conventions – direction that those delegates are free to ignore.

The idea is even less appealing since the state Republican Party put its delegates in jeopardy by defying Republican National Committee rules and moving the primary to Jan. 21. Although that was done to keep our state’s first-in-the-South status after Florida defied those same rules, it still underscores the wide gulf between the primaries that actually decide which candidates’ names go on the fall ballots and these presidential “preference” primaries.

Editorials: Controversy over voting rules and security | CNN

About a year from now, Americans will cast votes for the candidates of their choice. Or at least they will think that’s what they’ve done, having little awareness of concerns about the security of electronic voting machines, a “national security issue” in the view of scientists who easily hacked a widely-used device.

Others, even before they get the chance to vote, will discover that the rules for registering and voting itself have changed in their state; changes so controversial that the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School recently proclaimed that a “War on Voting Rages Nationwide.”

There is debate over the extent of voter fraud, arguments about whether there is a greater problem with accurately registering people than in people actually voting who should not. Nonetheless, 13 states last year amended their voting rules and another two dozen are at various stages of doing likewise. Chief among the changes are photo identification requirements, reduced opportunities to vote early and restrictions on how and when voter registration is conducted.