Editorials: Voting Requires Vigilance. Popular Isn’t Always Prudent | CT News Junkie

One third of Americans vote on machines, without the paper ballots we use in Connecticut. Our president is chosen based on faith in those unverifiable machines, vote accounting, and unequal enfranchisement in 50 independent states and the District of Columbia. In 2000, we witnessed the precarious underpinnings of this state-by-state voting system combined with the flawed mechanism of the 12th Amendment and the Electoral Accounting Act. The Supreme Court ruled votes could not be recounted in Florida, because even that single state did not have uniform recount procedures. What could possibly make this system riskier? The National Popular Vote Compact now being considered in states, including Connecticut, would have such states award their electoral votes to a purported national popular vote winner. The Compact would take effect once enough states signed on, equaling more than one-half the Electoral College. Then the President elected would be the one with the most purported popular votes. Sounds good and fair at first glance. Looking at the touted benefits and none of the risks many legislators, advocates, and media influence the public to make the Compact popular in some polls. Popular is not always prudent. Voting requires vigilance.

Editorials: Make it easier to vote in Maryland | baltimoresun.com

Expanding the opportunity for qualified residents to vote in an election is seldom, if ever, a bad thing, so Gov. Martin O’Malley’s decision to expand early voting and seek same-day registration in Maryland is a welcome development. Too bad that Republicans in Annapolis are already lining up against the measures on purely partisan grounds. One of the more notable features of the 2012 General Election was the high early-voter turnout in Maryland. Some people waited for hours, particularly in Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties, to cast a ballot before Election Day. Altogether, more than 430,000 Marylanders took advantage of early voting (about 16 percent of the total votes cast) despite Hurricane Sandy and the loss of one early voting day (two were actually canceled, but an additional day was added). Governor O’Malley has proposed that more days of early voting be added — three days in the general election of a presidential election year and two days in all other elections — and that more early voting centers be established, chiefly in the suburban counties. Rural counties, where early voting was not so popular, and Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County would be unaffected. Frederick, Harford, Howard, Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties would be required to open two to three more centers, depending on the number of voters living there.

Editorials: 48 years after MLK march, voting rights still vulnerable | Nicolaus Mills/CNN.com

I carry in my mind a picture of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at the beginning of the Selma to Montgomery voting rights march on March 21, 1965. What makes that picture so vivid to me 48 years later, as we prepare to celebrate his 84th birthday this month, is that voting rights issues I once imagined were over have resurfaced on a national scale. The biggest difference between then and now is that today’s voter suppression operations are highly sophisticated, compared with the crude, racist ones conducted by Southern sheriffs and voter registrars through the middle 1960s. Before the 2012 elections, well-funded efforts in state after state tried to curtail the participation of poor and minority voters by introducing burdensome voter ID requirements, despite a record showing individual voter fraud is virtually nonexistent in the United States.
A five-year, nationwide investigation into voter fraud by the George W. Bush administration resulted in just 86 convictions.

Editorials: On Voting Rights, MLK’s Work Continues | Hartford Courant

One would think that the inauguration Monday of Barack Obama for a second term as president of the United States would forever stamp as successful the heroic, historic voting rights work nearly a half-century ago of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday is also being celebrated Monday as a national holiday. Yes, Mr. Obama, the first African American president, was not only elected but re-elected. That should prove that Dr. King’s legacy is secure, that the impediments to minority voting swept away by the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 exist only in the dark recesses of history, right? Wrong. It would appear that for some Americans, especially minorities, the right to vote — consecrated in the blood of the Selma to Montgomery march — can never be taken for granted, that it must always be contested.

Editorials: Legislature should restore Kentucky felons’ voting rights | Evansville Courier & Press

State Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, D-Lexington, has prefiled a bill for consideration by the 2013 General Assembly that would automatically restore the voting rights of most convicted felons upon completion of their sentences and probation. It is a sensible idea that already exists in 46 states, but has been repeatedly rejected by the Republican majority in the state Senate. Here’s hoping the pattern of broad bipartisan approval by the House of Representatives and no action by the Senate will end in 2013 and Kentucky will finally join 46 other states in assuring individuals are not denied the right to vote for the rest of their lives for relatively minor felonies they may have committed as teenagers.

Editorials: Go slow on internet voting | therecord

One thing to be said for internet voting, it would thwart the kind of robocalls shenanigans that played out in Guelph during the May 2011 federal election. In that still mysterious episode, hundreds of voters were directed through recorded phone messages to the wrong polling station in what appears to have been a clear voter suppression strategy. Online voters, of course, don’t have to attend a physical polling station to exercise their franchise, and there’s no waiting in line. But a push to get more Ontario communities involved in online and telephone voting in the 2014 municipal elections should, for now at least, stay on a waiting list.

Editorials: Virginia GOP blocks path to easier voting | The Washington Post

More than two-thirds of the states now allow voters to cast ballots before Election Day and to vote absentee for any reason, including convenience. But Virginia Republicans are refusing to follow suit, despite the scandal of four-hour waits to vote at overwhelmed polling places last November. Perhaps GOP lawmakers in Richmond equate easier voting with unpalatable election results. If so, that’s a flimsy foundation on which to build a political future — and it may not even be true. This week, bills sponsored by Democrats to expand absentee voting, and allow early voting, failed in the face of almost uniform Republican opposition. GOP lawmakers rejected no-fault absentee voting, which would dispense with the need for an explanation. They also refused to add parents of young children to the list of those allowed to vote absentee, which includes people traveling for business or pleasure, military service members and those suffering from illness or disability.

Editorials: Is Israel’s electoral system just fine the way it is? | The Times of Israel

About 10 years ago, when Einat Wilf was Shimon Peres’s foreign policy adviser, she witnessed countless conversations he had with world leaders. They all had enormous respect for Israel’s elder statesman, who at the time was vice prime minister, and enjoyed his analysis of international and Middle East affairs. But for one particular issue he routinely failed to arouse his guests’ sympathies: when he complained about Israel’s flawed electoral system. “Imagine having to try to get anything done with 12 parties in parliament; it’s impossible!” Peres once told Francois Hollande, who today is president of France, Wilf recalls in her new book. The situation in Paris wasn’t much better, Hollande retorted. “Nothing ever gets done in France without a revolution! The only way we are ever able to accomplish anything is by placing guillotines in our town squares,” the French socialist leader said.

Editorials: Identity and the Jordanian Elections | Foreign Policy

The period of Arab uprisings that began in winter 2010 to 2011 has brought myriad changes to the region. However, one perennial constant is the willingness of official and semi-official elements in Jordan to manipulate identity issues in order to stymie meaningful reform. Indeed, given the past history of the Jordanian government, the most recent developments could be viewed as simply boring, were they not so deeply cynical and destructive. The newest chapter in this ongoing saga of who is a Jordanian — native East Bankers, certainly; Jordanians of Palestinian origin, not so much or perhaps not at all — has come in response to the upcoming parliamentary elections. With only a few exceptions, most notably in 1956 and 1989, elections in Jordan have been highly controlled affairs, in which the outcomes have been largely cooked beforehand, either through changes in the electoral law (as in 1993), or through outright fraud (most notably, but certainly not exclusively, in 1997 and 2007). On occasion, when it is argued that “regional conditions” are problematic, elections have been postponed, as in the early 2000s, and in many cases some of the most significant opposition forces, most recently the Muslim Brotherhood, have decided to boycott rather than play the palace’s or security forces’ game.

Editorials: The cost of South Carolina’s ‘Voter ID’ law | Rock Hill Herald

South Carolina apparently will recoup “tens of thousands of dollars” spent to sue the federal government over the state’s voter ID law. But before we break out the champagne and noisemakers, we need to note that the total bill came to $3.5 million, and for what? During the 2011 legislative session, the state passed a law that ostensibly required anyone hoping to vote to produce an official photo ID of some kind. In December 2011, the U.S. Attorney General’s Office blocked the law from going into effect, saying it would disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of South Carolina voters – mostly minorities and elderly residents who don’t have photo IDs. S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson then sued the government at a cost of $3.5 million, most of which was used to pay for outside lawyers to argue the case. That was roughly three times Wilson’s original estimate of what the case would cost.

Editorials: Use your brains, Waterloo: rethink electronic voting | therecord

The city of Waterloo has got to let go of the idea of itself as the world’s most intelligent community. The concept appears to have gone to the heads of city councillors, and they’re making bad decisions as a result. Six years ago, a New York-based organization named Waterloo as the world’s most intelligent community, in part because of its high concentration of research institutions, such as its two universities, the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and the Centre for International Governance Innovation. … Of course, it’s hard to give back the tiara. Earlier this week, Waterloo city councillors were urged to investigate online voting in local elections. “As the most intelligent community in the world, it’s almost a given that we should be embracing the concept of electronic voting,” said Tim Jackson, a local entrepreneur, community leader and a vice-president at the University of Waterloo.

Editorials: Rigging Democracy | In These Times

Many center-left political analysts tout Barack Obama’s re-election as affirmation that the unfolding demographic changes in the United States will inevitably vanquish the Republican Party as we know it. But before progressives sit back on their heels and wait for history’s just rewards, a deeper look at the 2012 election results is in order. Obama’s victory overshadowed the fact that Republicans maintain control of the House of Representatives and won dramatic victories at the state level that seem almost mathematically miraculous in how they flout majority rule. Most strikingly, Republican congressional candidates were able to convert their national 49 percent of the major-party House vote into 54 percent of seats. (Democrats received 51 percent of the major-party House vote and 46 percent of seats.) Republicans also increased the number of states over which they have monopoly control, securing the governorship and both legislative bodies of 26 states. This has national implications. The fact that Republicans have firm control over 13 Southern legislatures that make up more than one-quarter of states gives them veto power over any proposed constitutional amendment. Consequently, those seeking to overturn Citizens United by amending the constitution will need the support of at least one Republican-run legislature in the South.

Editorials: GOP Embraces Nuclear Gerrymandering | TPM

It wasn’t so long ago, coming off a bruising presidential election, that Republicans were looking at ways to increase vote percentages among younger and minority voters to remain a contender in national elections. But it appears professional Republicans have decided that’s either impossible, unnecessary or perhaps just too hard. Because now they’re going for another possibility: rig the electoral college to insure Republican presidential victories with a decreasing voter base. In other words, nuclear gerrymandering. The plan is to game the electoral college to rig the system for Republicans. It works like this. Because of big victories in the 2010 midterm — and defending majorities in 2012 — Republicans now enjoy complete control of a number of midwestern states that usually vote Democratic in national (and increasingly in senatorial) elections. It may be temporary control but for now it’s total. Use that unified control in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania to change the system of electoral vote allocation from winner-take-all to proportional allotment. So if you win Ohio by one percent you get about half the electoral votes and just a smidge more as opposed to winning everything.

Editorials: The House GOP can’t be beat: It’s worse than gerrymandering | Salon.com

Congress is broken, and everyone knows it. Its approval ratings hover around 10 percent, and a recent poll from Public Policy Polling found that Congress is currently less popular than cockroaches, lice and traffic jams. It has difficulty getting any sort of business done, let alone address our nation’s major challenges, like climate change, immigration, poverty and fiscal policy. But amidst the partisan fingerpointing and bickering, one core aspect of the way our government works gets a free pass. We hear a lot about campaign finance and gerrymandering, but single-member district elections – that is, having each House member represent one congressional district – are without doubt the single greatest cause of what is broken about Congress. They are the key reason why Republicans easily kept control of the House despite losing the popular vote to Democrats, and why the political center has lost out to partisans on both sides of the aisle. They turn four out of five voters effectively into spectators who have absolutely no chance of affecting their representation in Congress. They help keep women’s representation in the House stalled at less than 18 percent, and grossly distort fair representation by party and race.

Editorials: Votes Behind Bars | Pamela S. Karlan/Boston Review

Nearly half a century ago, Isaiah Berlin delivered an extraordinarily influential lecture called “Two Concepts of Liberty.” The negative concept consists in freedom from—“warding off interference” from external forces. By contrast, the positive concept consists in freedom to—to be “a doer—deciding, not being decided for.” Democracy requires both forms, but current constitutional doctrine adopts an unduly negative approach. This is especially the case when it comes to political voice. The Supreme Court has resisted attempts to constrain the political impact of money, most notoriously in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010). But just as telling is Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett (2011), where the Court hobbled the states’ ability to construct public financing systems. Adjusting the funds available to candidates who accept public financing somehow burdens privately financed candidates’ freedom, according to the justices.

Editorials: Voting Rights Act: What’s lost if the Supreme Court kills it? | Richard Hasen/Slate Magazine

Odds are, the Supreme Court will strike down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act after hearing a case from Alabama that will be argued next month. If the part of the law called Section 5 does indeed go down, minority voters in Southern states and elsewhere will lose a key bargaining chip. Section 5 has enabled them to beat back some attempts to make it harder for them to vote, and helped insure that the gains they’ve made in representation and redistricting are not rolled back. As another recent fight over South Carolina’s voter ID law shows, Section 5 still serves a vital role in an era in which partisan legislatures may manipulate election laws for political gain. Like many other states with Republican majority legislatures acting over the last few years, South Carolina adopted a tough photo identification law before the 2012 election. The state’s Republican legislature likely acted out of the belief that such laws would marginally depress Democratic turnout and help Republicans at the polls. Controversy over voter ID laws also motivates the Republican base to turn out to vote. (What voter ID laws don’t do is prevent a lot of real voter fraud, though that’s the rationale their supporters cite.)

Editorials: Technology in our electoral process | Leland Yee/Daily Journal

In September, as a result of a law I authored in 2011, California launched online voter registration. Consequently, California set a new record with 18,245,970 registered voters. More than 1 million people used the new registration system in less than a month, with moe than 780,000 citizens added to the voter file. Nearly 62 percent of those who registered online were under age 35 and four out of five registered to vote for the first time. Proudly, these individuals also voted in much higher numbers than those eligible via paper registration from previous elections. … I share this frustration but I have a fundamental optimism that the barriers to online voting can be lifted if enough research and development is devoted to solving the problem. Unfortunately, Internet voting systems are not yet ready for deployment. The National Institutes for Standards and Technology and cyber security experts at the Department of Homeland Security have reviewed the currently commercially available Internet voting systems and found that fundamental security problems have not been resolved and thus should not be used yet in our public elections.

Editorials: Downshift on North Carolina Voter I.D. | NewsObserver.com

What’s this? Republicans backing away a bit from an issue they used to politically club former Gov. Beverly Perdue? It seems so, and if it is so, good. During a visit to the General Assembly on Wednesday, Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican with super majorities of his party in both houses of the legislature, indicated he might be willing to compromise on the GOP’s push to require North Carolinians to produce photo identification when voting. Republicans passed the bill last session. Perdue rightly vetoed it.

Editorials: Mr. McDonnell moves to restore voting rights | The Washington Post

By throwing his support behind a measure to automatically restore voting rights to nonviolent felons, Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) is doing more than helping to end his state’s archaic practice of systematically disenfranchising thousands of people each year. He is also addressing what has become a patently racist distortion in Virginia’s democracy. At a rough estimate, 350,000 Virginians — almost 6 percent of the overall voting-age population — are felons who have completed their sentences and paid their debt to society but remain forbidden to vote. That’s one of the highest rates in the nation, thanks to a regime that permanently and indiscriminately disenfranchises them — shoplifters and murderers; bad-check writers and burglars — unless the governor himself, acting on an individual’s petition, restores his or her rights. Just three other states (Florida, Kentucky and Iowa) enforce such a rule. The burden is heavily skewed by race. One in five African Americans of voting age in Virginia, and a third or more of black men, cannot cast a ballot. That’s a profoundly undemocratic disgrace.

Editorials: GOP v. Voting Rights Act | Reuters

The Republican Party is in danger of reaping what it has sown. Much has been written about the GOP’s problem with minority voters.  Quite simply, the party has managed to alienate every nonwhite constituency in the nation. This is not an accidental or sudden phenomenon. Ever since Republicans chose almost 50 years ago to pursue a Southern strategy, to embrace and promote white voters’ opposition to civil rights, the party has been on a path toward self-segregation. Successive Republican administrations have pursued agendas that included retreating on civil rights enforcement and opposing government programs that increase minority opportunity. That steady progression culminated in Mitt Romney’s disastrous showing among African-American, Latino and Asian voters.

Editorials: Finding the ‘Flippers’ in 2012 Vote | Daily Yonder

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney spent more than $1 billion each on their presidential campaigns. The map tells you what kind of change a couple of billion dollars will buy you in today’s America. If the map looks largely blank to you, then you’re getting the picture. The map shows all the counties that switched allegiance between 2008 and 2012 — the counties that voted for one party four years ago and a different party in November. There are exactly 208 of these counties — flippers, we call them. Only 208 counties changed allegiance in 2012 out of the more than 3,100 counties that cast votes. President Obama’s campaign hired the brightest batch of social psychologists and social media experts the tech and academic worlds had to offer. They constructed complicated models predicting the behavior of individual voters and intricate social media strategies.

Editorials: Why ‘gerrymandering’ doesn’t polarise Congress the way we’re told | Harry J Enten/guardian.co.uk

You ever hear a point of view that is so infuriating that you want stick your head out the window and yell? I go bananas when I hear an opinion that goes against well-established political science literature. That happened this past weekend when respected television journalist Tom Brokaw said the House of Representatives is becoming increasingly polarized because of gerrymandering. Don’t get me wrong, I love Brokaw. It just so happens that he is wrong, and posts about the effect of gerrymandering on redistricting have been written over and over again in past months. It could be that Brokaw doesn’t quite understand what gerrymandering is. For those who don’t, gerrymandering is the manipulation in the drawing of House districts to ensure a desired result. Brokaw’s assumption is that politics is becoming more polarized as the result of gerrymandering in districts in which Democrats and Republicans are increasingly safe from worrying about a competitive challenger from the other party. While it is true that House districts are increasingly “safe”, this is the case even when controlling for redistricting. Last week, Nate Silver noted that there was an 8% increase in polarization independent of any effects of redistricting in 2012.

Editorials: North Carolina Voter ID may be bigger project than expected | FayObserver.com

The argument in favor of voters showing photo ID before they can cast a ballot is appealing, on first hearing. After all, who’s in favor of voter fraud? Granted, there’s little record of fraud committed at polling places, despite all those jokes about cemeteries emptying out on Election Day. If there’s a real problem, it’s with absentee ballots, which are much easier to cast illegally. But still, as technology advances and there’s far greater incidence of identity theft, the possibility of fraud is out there and pre-emptive measures may be wise.

Editorials: National Popular Vote foes coalesce | The Orange County Register

It looks like Republicans may keep the Electoral College alive and well. I wrote in November about the momentum of the National Popular Vote movement, which aims to sidestep the Electoral College by having states agree to give all their electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the popular vote nationwide. The intent is to make sure the Electoral College can no longer seat presidents who haven’t won the popular vote, a phenomenon that’s occurred four times. So far, eight states – including California – and the District of Columbia have signed the compact, which would kick in when states with a combined total of 270 electoral votes have agreed to the plan.

Editorials: Casting Votes | Jeffrey Toobin/The New Yorker

Here’s a safe prediction for 2013: few people will pine for the Presidential campaign of 2012. Even Barack Obama’s most ardent supporters acknowledge that his victory provided little of the euphoria of four years ago. Not many Republicans have longed to hear from Mitt Romney since his swift journey to political oblivion. Anyone miss the barrage of Super pac ads? (Those, alas, will probably be back in four years.) The pseudo-candidacy of Donald Trump? (Ditto.) But in last year’s spirited competition for the nadir of our political life the lowest blow may have been the Republicans’ systematic attempts to disenfranchise Democrats. To review: after the 2010 midterm elections, nineteen states passed laws that put up barriers to voting, including new photo-I.D. and proof-of-citizenship requirements, and restrictions on early and absentee voting. In most of those states, Republicans controlled the governorship and the legislature. The purported justification for the changes was to limit in-person voter fraud, but that claim was fraudulent itself, since voter fraud is essentially nonexistent. Mike Turzai, the Republican leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, revealed the true intent behind most of the laws last June, when, after the House passed such a measure, he boasted, in a rare moment of candor, “Voter I.D., which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania: Done.” Turzai’s prediction was wrong, but that doesn’t mean that the Pennsylvania law and others like it weren’t pernicious. Obama won in Florida, too, but a recent study by Theodore Allen, an associate professor at Ohio State University, found that, in central Florida alone, long lines, exacerbated by a law that reduced the number of days for early voting, discouraged about fifty thousand people, most of them Democrats, from casting ballots.

Editorials: Toothless election oversight | The Washington Post

It is to identify a federal agency in Washington more dysfunctional than the Federal Election Commission. Terms have expired for five of the six commissioners, and by next spring, the entire commission will be a lame duck if nothing is done. The number of enforcement actions — at the core of the FEC’s mission — has fallen to an all-time low. Created in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, the commission now behaves as an immobilized observer while campaigns are swamped with a tidal wave of hidden cash. At the heart of the trouble is the way the commission was structured when it was established in 1974, with three members from each party. To approve any action requires four votes. Political deadlock has paralyzed the commission in the past few years, leading to split votes, three-to-three, that result in no action on enforcement, auditing or advisory matters. The commission’s three Republicans have repeatedly used this tactic to undermine election laws that they oppose on ideological grounds. According to a Dec. 12 letter sent to President Obama by nine groups advocating campaign finance reform, official actions by the FEC in 2012 amount to only one-tenth the number pursued annually before 2008.

Editorials: Mississippi Republicans playing voter ID games | The Clarion-Ledger

Deciding whether to believe the Brennan Center study which “estimated 48,000 low-income Mississippians could have trouble obtaining government-issued photo identification” or an afterthought-study (no federal observers, eligible voter percentages) which suggests only 21,855 Mississippians total would need one? Mind you, the afterthought was prepared by proponents who requested $395,000 for poll-tax (driver’s licenses aren’t free and Mississippi’s unexpired license requirement is tantamount to a recurring voting fee) ID litigation and requested none for related education and outreach.

Editorials: A Constitutional Case Against Felony Disenfranchisement Laws | COLORLINES

In the movie “Lincoln”, there’s a scene where “Radical” Republicans are debating Democrats in congressional chambers over whether to abolish slavery with a new constitutional amendment. A speaker from the Democratic Party, arguing against abolition, delivers a rousing speech about how Negroes shouldn’t be emancipated because of the slippery slope of freedom. Once Negroes have freedom, he argued, then they’ll want the right to vote—the prospect of which caused a riotous but bipartisan chorus of disagreement from most of Congress. The bellowing response was only outdone by an even more clamorous round of disapproving shouts when the speaker mentioned giving women the franchise.

Editorials: Czech Voters to Vote for President for First Time since Revolution | Der Spiegel

For the first time since the Velvet Revolution, citizens in the Czech Republic will have the opportunity to vote directly for their head of state in two weeks. Former Prime Minister Milos Zeman is in the pole position. His tough-talking style appeals to Czechs who are tired of back room deals and a scandal-plagued leadership. Miloš Zeman has set up his campaign headquarters close to his ultimate goal: His headquarters are in an historic building in the old town, close to Prague Castle, which also serves as the Czech Republic’s presidential palace. The candidate lights one cigarette after another, now and then pouring himself a bit more Bohemian white wine from a large carafe. As the smoke wafts around him, Zeman declares, “I want to be president.”

Editorials: Election-day registration works here | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Don’t look now, but an ongoing battle over how Wisconsinites vote opened on a new front. After signing into law a series of changes to how state elections are run, Gov. Scott Walker said he was considering doing away with election-day registration – or EDR, as its known – the practice of letting voters register on the same day they vote. Walker has since backed away from that idea, pointing to a Government Accountability Board report that showed doing away with EDR would be costly. But it would be a mistake for other reasons as well, one that runs contrary to our state’s fine traditions and will add an unnecessary barrier to voting. The concerns the governor raised about EDR actually would become much worse if it were eliminated.