For 36 years, Wisconsin has had election day voter registration. Gov. Scott Walker, in a recent speech in California, advocated ending election day registration. The 1976 legislation establishing it states: “The Legislature finds that the vote is the single most critical act in our democratic system of government.” It further states: “Therefore, pursuant to the policy of this state and nation to ensure all people the right to vote, the Legislature finds it imperative to expand voter registration procedures.” In March of 2011 the nonpartisan Wisconsin Government Accountability Board unanimously reaffirmed the value of election day registration (EDR). They based this not only on the convenience provided to voters, but also the financial savings to state and local governments, and the extra burden that would be placed on municipal clerks and poll workers should EDR be eliminated.
Editorials: Arizona’s nonpartisan redistricting creates fairer election outcomes | Arizona Daily Star
As Arizona’s election results become final, the benefits of nonpartisan redistricting become clear – at least if one believes that election results should reflect the will of the electorate. Compare what happened in Arizona’s congressional elections with the results in three states that were heavily gerrymandered. In Pennsylvania, 2,723,000 votes were cast for Democratic congressional candidates, while 2,652,000 were cast for Republicans. Had these votes been evenly divided among Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional districts, each party would have won nine. But instead, Democrats won only five seats, all in overwhelmingly Democratic congressional districts that they won with an average of 76.9 percent of the vote. Republicans, who the Republican-dominated legislature distributed more evenly among the other thirteen districts, won all thirteen with a much lower average 59.3 percent of the votes cast.
The old joke about Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is that it was neither liberal, democratic, nor even a proper party. Cobbled together from a ragbag of anti-socialist factions in the 1950s, the LDP nevertheless held together for over half a century before coming unstitched in 2009. Now, history seems to be repeating itself, as 14 different political parties have mobilised since Japan’s prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, called a general election for December 16th. As Mr Noda’s Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) weakens, most of the newer parties are on the right, united in their desire to revitalise Japan, a strategy reflected in some of their names: Sunrise, Restoration, Renaissance. The question for Japan’s voters is whether anything else unites them?
While President Obama was delivering his victory speech in the early hours of Wednesday, Nov. 7, people were still standing in line in Florida to vote. Thousands had waited hours to vote in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, some in the cold, some giving up wages to do so. In a spontaneous aside — “by the way, we have to fix that” — the president acknowledged the unnecessary hardship of casting a vote in the United States and established a goal that he now has an obligation to address. The long lines can be shortened with commitments from Washington, as well as state and local governments, but they are just the most glaring symptom of a deeply broken democratic process. In too many states, it’s also needlessly difficult to register to vote. States controlled by Republicans continue to erect partisan impediments to participation. And the process for choosing a candidate remains bound to unlimited and often secret campaign donations that are bound to lead to corruption.
The nation’s enforcer of election laws was largely paralyzed during the 2012 election, despite a Supreme Court ruling that left several key money-in-politics issues open to interpretation. With five of six Federal Election Commission members working on expired terms (one since 2007), President Barack Obama had an opportunity to remake the agency with members more inclined to enforce campaign finance rules, say reformers. But that hasn’t happened. The situation hasn’t done much for the agency’s reputation.
Of course: Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is reacting to Democratic electoral victories by trying to make it harder for people to vote. He wants to end same-day voter registration. Same-day voter registration is, in fact, a bad policy — because registration should be automatic. But in the current situation it’s the least-bad of bad policies. That’s because everything about voter registration in this country is awful. We should have universal, automatic voter registration. Period. End of story. Just as most democracies do.
How much has the South changed? That’s the question at the heart of one of the most important cases the Supreme Court will take up this year. The case weighs the fate of one of the most important laws in American history: the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A century after the Civil War, Congress created that law to give African Americans the right to vote, not just on paper, but in fact. The key provision was Section 5, which decreed that jurisdictions with histories of discrimination, mostly in the South, had to get Justice Department approval before they changed any aspect of their voting rules, right down to the location of polling places. There is little doubt that, in the years immediately after 1965, the Voting Rights Act achieved a revolution in voting rights for African-Americans in the South. In subsequent years, Congress has reauthorized the law several times, most recently in 2006.
Let’s talk turkey. In San Antonio, Texas, I’m thankful for Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. I know. If it comes up at my Thanksgiving table, my answer to the traditional question — what are you thankful for — will surely get me some puzzled looks. There is a good chance, however, I’ll be unable to give the same answer next year. Section 5 requires certain jurisdictions with histories of discrimination — Texas among them — to get preclearance for any changes to voting or election laws. The burden is on those jurisdictions to prove they did not act with the intent to discriminate. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to look at claims that this section is anachronistic, though Texas has just demonstrated that attempted discrimination against minority voters is as trendy as breakfast tacos.
Thankfully, Ohio’s nightmare election scenario didn’t happen. Ohio, THE critical swing state in the nation, got enough of its votes counted on election night that the fate of its 18 electoral votes was known by midnight. The rest of the nation did not need to wait in limbo for days or weeks to find out whom the next president would be. But let’s not get comfortable. The system did not work the best it can. More than 200,000 people voted provisionally, and their ballots still haven’t been counted. Lawsuits were filed at the 11th hour and some are still in court. And some voters waited in line for two hours or more to cast their ballots.
The dilemma regarding the enfranchisement of prisoners is becoming a constitutional issue. There are two opposing moral positions. David Cameron has said “It makes me physically ill even to contemplate having to give the vote to anyone who is in prison.” But the rule of law is about more than gut instincts. The UK government has an unequivocal responsibility to implement judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. If it refuses to bring forward plans to provide votes for at least some prisoners by Thursday of this week it will be in breach of its obligations.
A little over a week after the presidential election has ended, many voting rights watchers are reflecting on all that we learned through this year’s campaigns: what went right, what went wrong, and the unresolved challenges that remain ahead. As for the overall takeaway, Advancement Project director Judith Browne-Dianis wraps it up nicely, saying, “The national conversation around voting rights was amplified like we haven’t seen since 1965.” This year, more Americans arguably learned more about the voting process than any year in recent memory. Civil rights and election protection campaigns made people aware of things like the difference between a poll watcher and a poll observer; how people use data to purge voters; and what voters’ general rights are while standing in poll lines. On a more nuanced level, the discussion around voter ID laws gave Americans a greater understanding of not only how many people don’t have government-issued ID, but also the reasons why.
Does a federal law that applies to some states but not to others, even to some counties but not to others, make constitutional sense? That’s the question the country has been debating, sometimes bitterly, across political, geographical and racial lines for almost half a century now. The law in question is of course the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which made the most fundamental right of citizenship a reality for millions of Americans, mostly black and mostly in the South, to whom it had been long denied through the slimiest and most cynical kinds of political chicanery.
Editorials: This year’s election was marred by challenges, confusion and long lines of people waiting to exercise their American duty. Let’s fix the problems, now | cleveland.com
Despite all the fears and uncertainty unleashed by nearly two years of bitter legislative battles, lawsuits and red-hot partisan rhetoric, Election Day in Ohio went off with relatively few problems. There were long lines some polling places and scattered equipment glitches, but nothing compared to the problems seen in prior years or in other states, most notably Florida once again. President Barack Obama’s narrow yet clearly decisive victory in the state — and nationally — no doubt put a damper on post-election jockeying and muted potential claims. ‘As Florida showed in 2000, grievances are loudest when the margin between victory and defeat is thinnest. But Ohioans should not feel too cocky about the relative calm.
The recent parliamentary election in Georgia saw the ruling United National Movement (UNM) party defeated by the opposition Georgian Dream (GD) coalition led by new Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili. This election has been variously described as evidence of the strength of Georgian democracy, a turn toward Russia by Georgia, a victory which Ivanishvili bought by spending lavishly in the United States, Europe and Georgia, the end of UNM domination, and more or less everything in between. It is still too early to know the real meaning of this election, but it is possible to make some observations, and raise some questions.
Four years have passed since the financial system crashed in Iceland. The crisis hit Iceland harder than many other countries: the whole banking system defaulted and crashed. Attempts to bail out the banks failed, and because of the size of the banking system in Iceland, the government did not have the option of taking them over – the Icelandic state would have defaulted. It was a crude awakening for most people. The enormous “success” of the financial sector before 2008 was a matter of national pride. Living standards, mostly based on great expectations and debt, had skyrocketed. But it had all been a lie. And the political system had failed to prevent this unsustainable bubble. In fact political parties attributed the “success” to their own policies, while most did not read the danger signs and the few who did sound the alarm were not heard. After the crash swept it all away, trust in the political system fell to ten percent. It has not risen since then.
Long lines. New voting machines that don’t work right. Poll workers wrongfully asking for photo ID. Democratic election officials keeping Republican poll watchers out of Philadelphia polling places. We have come to expect such stories on Election Day. As much drama is generated by the obstacles voters must overcome as by their choice of candidate. A nonpartisan board, with a chief selected by a Congressional supermajority, could set standards and choose procedures. There is a better way. We can do things as they are done in most mature democracies, like Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. Nationalize our elections and impose professional nonpartisan administrators. A neutral election board with its allegiance to the integrity of the voting process rather than to a political party should take on the basic tasks of voting. The goal would be to make sure that all eligible voters, but only eligible voters, could cast a vote that would be accurately counted.
Does the re-election of the first black president mean the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is unnecessary and perhaps unconstitutional? The Supreme Court’s decision last week to consider a constitutional challenge to a key section of the act suggests that a perverse outcome of the 2012 campaign may be that President Obama’s victory spells doom for the civil rights law most responsible for African-American enfranchisement. The central question in the constitutional debate is whether times have changed enough in the nearly five decades since the act’s passage to suggest that the law has outlived its usefulness. The unprecedented flexing of racial minorities’ political muscle on Nov. 6 does make it clear how much times have changed. But a campaign marred by charges of voter suppression and Election Day mishaps also makes the need for federal protection of voting rights clearer than ever.
While the United States was grappling with whether or not to re-elect its first African-American president, Louisiana was wrestling over whether to appoint its first African-American Chief Justice for its State Supreme Court. Bernette Johnson’s destiny was temporarily deferred when some of her fellow Supreme Court Justices and Gov. Bobby Jindal challenged her right to succeed retiring Chief Justice Catherine Kimball. Louisiana law dictates that the justice who’s served the longest on the bench takes over as chief when the sitting one leaves. Johnson, the court’s only black judge, took the bench in October of 1994, while Justice Jeffrey Victory came on in January 1995. But Victory declared he had seniority, arguing Johnson’s first few years on the bench didn’t count because it was a special appointment made by a federal consent decree. Indeed, Johnson’s Supreme Court seat was made available because the electoral districts at the time were drawn so that no black Louisianians would ever have the kind of plurality needed to elect a candidate who represented their interests. When you’re black and live in a Southern state that venerates its Confederate heritage while leading the world in locking people up, voting for a judge kinda matters to you.
In post-election statements, both Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep.-elect Rick Nolan called for campaign finance reform. They singled out the role of big money and negative ads in campaigns, demanding among other things, an overturning of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Campaign-finance reform is needed, but the American election system is broken, demanding even broader changes beyond reversing Citizens United. These changes extend to the role of money in politics, voting, and the quality of political debate and information. Citizens United is one of many Supreme Court decisions that try to define the role of money and speech in American elections. Concern that money corrupts the political process goes back to the 19th century. Beginning in 1907 with the Tillman Act, federal law made it illegal for corporations to make direct political contributions to candidates for federal office. In 1947 the Taft-Hartley Act did the same for labor unions.
When people talked during the presidential campaign about the potential impact of the election on the Supreme Court, most meant the impact on the court’s membership: whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney would get to fill any vacancies during the next four years. The vote on Nov. 6 settled that question, obviously, but it also raised another tantalizing one: what impact will other developments during this election season, beyond the presidential vote itself, have on the nine justices? I have two developments in mind: the vote in four states in support of same-sex marriage, and the run-up to Election Day that saw both Democrats and federal judges pushing back against Republican strategies devised to selectively minimize voter turnout. Both are directly relevant to cases on the Supreme Court’s current docket, and it’s worth at least considering whether either or both are potential game changers. If so, it wouldn’t be the first time in Supreme Court history that timing turned out to be everything.
When Republicans claim that this was a status quo election, they point to their continued hold on the House. The 2012 congressional vote, some have said, didn’t undo the party’s 2010 successes. True enough, but that’s not because Americans didn’t vote to undo them. It’s because Republicans have so gerrymandered congressional districts in states where they controlled redistricting the past two years that they were able to elude a popular vote that went the Democrats’ way last week. As The Post’s Aaron Blake reported, Democrats narrowly outpolled Republicans in the total number of votes cast for congressional candidates. The margin varies depending on whether you count the races in which candidates ran unopposed and those in which members of the same party faced off (as happened in several California districts). But any way you count it, the Democrats came out ahead — in everything but the number of House seats they won.
Americans woke up on November 7 having elected a Democratic president, expanded the Democratic majority in the Senate, and preserved the Republican majority in the House. That’s not what they voted for, though. Most Americans voted for Democratic representation in the House. The votes are still being counted, but as of now it looks as if Democrats have a slight edge in the popular vote for House seats, 49 percent-48.2 percent, according to an analysis by the Washington Post. Still, as the Post’s Aaron Blake notes, the 233-195 seat majority the GOP will likely end up with represents the GOP’s “second-biggest House majority in 60 years and their third-biggest since the Great Depression.”
Editorials: Philadelphia voter fraud: Is it possible that Barack Obama won 100 percent of so many precincts? | Slate Magazine
The New Black Panther Party was there, on cue. Standing outside of the 4th precinct in Philadelphia’s 14th ward, there was Jerry Jackson, a member of the leather-loving fringe group who’d signed up to be a poll watcher for the Nov. 6 election. Fox News was there, too. In 2008, the network spent hours playing and replaying a video of two Panthers glaring at a conservative poll-watcher as he filmed them. This year the network sent its own reporter, who tried to interview Jackson. “Have you been around a lot today? What’s your purpose of being here?” He said nothing. The network switched to video of the 35th ward, where people waiting in a school to vote were walking past a mural of the president, even after Republicans sued to get it covered up. “This remained untouched for hours as people voted!” said reporter Eric Shawn.
Some experts say the U.S. Supreme Court’s announcement Friday that it will hear a case challenging the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act’s Section 5 means this pivotal part of the 47-year-old law is dead and the court is finally ready to bury it. Some members of the court have complained about Section 5 in more than one case since Congress last renewed the VRA in 2006. Section 5 requires some states — the key is some, not all — to get permission, or “pre-clearance,” from the Justice Department or a federal court before changing their election laws. The affected states, including Texas, are those determined under the act to have a history of discriminating against minority voters. Most are in the South.
Editorials: Sierra Leone: elections are a chance to ride the wave of economic development and democracy | IndepthAfrica
On 17 November Sierra Leoneans will go to the polls in presidential, parliamentary and local elections. Over a decade ago, after years of turmoil and unrest, Sierra Leoneans were encouraged to embrace democracy as the means of restoring peace and reviving this once flourishing West African country. Great sacrifices were made for the cause of democracy – just by voting people ran the risk of having their hands and legs chopped off. It took the largest UN peace operation and the deployment of British troops to finally bring an end to the 11 year rebel war and usher in Sierra Leone’s democracy.
The election is over, and it has already become easy to forget the election administration lunacy that plagued many communities this year: long waits for voting, changing legal rules even while the election was under way, misprinted ballots, incorrect instructions given to voters, and various machine breakdowns. When close elections lead to recounts and jurisdictions undergo the legal equivalent of a proctology exam, the remarkable variety of maladies that plague the American electoral system are exposed. But when a candidate’s margin of victory exceeds the margin of litigation, we tend, as a nation, to rapidly develop electoral amnesia. We shouldn’t need a Bush v. Gore-style heart attack, though, to shock us out of complacency about an election system that fails in its most basic functions.
Florida became a punch line after the 2000 presidential election when pregnant and hanging chad and butterfly ballots became household words. Evidently, Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-controlled Legislature reckoned late-night comics needed new material. Consider: In the early voting period before Election Day, Floridians languished in long lines. Ditto on Election Day; in Miami, some voters cast ballots well past the witching hour.
IT IS … days to election 2012. The anxiety of Ghanaians increase by the day, as the election approaches. Every day, the airwaves are filled with political discussions in both English and local languages. There are also individual discussions among various groups of people on different subjects of politics. The stakes in this year’s elections are very high because of the players involved. There are eight presidential candidates in the upcoming December 2012 elections, but the popular view is that there are two major contenders. They are President John Dramani Mahama of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP).
It has been suggested, here and elsewhere, that Fox News effectively became part of the Republican propaganda apparatus during the presidential campaign by giving pundit slots to many of the Republican candidates and relentlessly advocating for Mitt Romney once he won the nomination. Over many months, Fox lulled its conservative base with agitprop: that President Obama was a clear failure, that a majority of Americans saw Mr. Romney as a good alternative in hard times, and that polls showing otherwise were politically motivated and not to be believed. But on Tuesday night, the people in charge of Fox News were confronted with a stark choice after it became clear that Mr. Romney had fallen short: was Fox, first and foremost, a place for advocacy or a place for news? In this moment, at least, Fox chose news.
Long lines have almost become an Election Day fixture in Ohio and across the country, a sight that voters can reliably expect to see at the polls along with American flags, candidates shaking a few final hands and campaign teams making one last pitch. Do they have to be? The answer, many experts believe, is no. “We have to fix that,” President Barack Obama said in his victory speech early Wednesday, referring to the lengthy lines that greeted many voters at the polls.