National: Senate hearing on voting rights turns partisan |

Senate Democrats and Republicans sparred Wednesday over whether voter ID laws, attempts to purge voter rolls and restricted early voting were legitimate efforts to stop fraud or mainly Republican strategies to hold down Democratic votes. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a onetime Republican who recently turned Democrat, said the state GOP aimed its efforts at Hispanics and African-Americans. They cited as one example the elimination of early voting on the Sunday before the election, when members of those groups historically vote after church.

National: Electoral College vote affirms Obama re-election | US News and World Report

Tradition trumped suspense Monday as members of the Electoral College cast the official, final votes in the 2012 presidential election, a constitutional formality on President Barack Obama’s march to a second term. The rite playing in state capitols involved party luminaries and tireless activists carrying out the will of each state’s voters. The popular vote from state-to-state dictates whether Democratic or Republican electors get the honor, but the outcome wasn’t in doubt. Obama had well more than the 270 votes required to win the White House. Obama was on course to get 332 votes to Republican Mitt Romney’s 206, barring defectors known as “faithless electors.” California’s 55 electoral votes — the largest cache in any state — helped put the Democratic president over the top by late Monday afternoon. Electors also were affirming Joe Biden for another term as vice president. “Everybody votes for president, but nobody gets a real vote except a presidential elector,” said elector Mike Bohan of Oregon, which was in Obama’s column.

National: Senate Judiciary Committee taking postelection look at November’s voting problems |

A polarized and gridlocked Congress is taking its first look at problems voters had in November, including long lines that left many waiting for hours to cast ballots. The problems went well beyond lengthy waits. A rise in the number of provisional ballots delayed the results for days in some cases. Growing photo ID requirements placed on voters by Republican-controlled state legislatures sparked intense partisan fights. And the time allowed for early voting was too short for many, too long for others. The Senate Judiciary Committee was to examine last month’s balloting during a hearing Wednesday on the Voting Rights Act. But with Congress expected to adjourn within days, any focus on possible fixes won’t occur until next year — if at all. The 1965 law is the federal government’s most potent weapon against racial discrimination in elections, requiring all or parts of 16 states with a history of discrimination in voting to get U.S. approval before making election changes.

National: Oscar 2012 Voting – Glitches On First Day Of Online Ballots |

Monday was the first day that the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences unveiled its new electronic voting system for the Oscars, and today didn’t exactly go off without a hitch. I figured the big problem would be getting older voters (some are over 100) to warm up to using the world wide web. But the big problem today occurred when the system temporarily went on the fritz and voters couldn’t log in. I’m not sure if there was an avalanche of attempts to vote, but I’m told that the system wasn’t working for much of the day today, one frustrated Academy member told me. The member added that the support center, whose number was included with the ballot instructions, wasn’t sure when things would be back online.

National: The GOP’s Electoral College Scheme |

Republicans alarmed at the apparent challenges they face in winning the White House are preparing an all-out assault on the Electoral College system in critical states, an initiative that would significantly ease the party’s path to the Oval Office. Senior Republicans say they will try to leverage their party’s majorities in Democratic-leaning states in an effort to end the winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes. Instead, bills that will be introduced in several Democratic states would award electoral votes on a proportional basis. Already, two states — Maine and Nebraska — award an electoral vote to the winner of each congressional district. The candidate who wins the most votes statewide takes the final two at-large electoral votes. Only once, when President Obama won a congressional district based in Omaha in 2008, has either of those states actually split their vote. But if more reliably blue states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin were to award their electoral votes proportionally, Republicans would be able to eat into what has become a deep Democratic advantage.

National: Redistricting Helped Republicans Hold Onto Congress |

Wisconsinites leaned Democratic when they went to the polls last month, voting to re-elect President Obama, choosing Tammy Baldwin to be their new United States senator and casting more total votes for Democrats than Republicans in races for Congress and the State Legislature. But thanks in part to the way that Republicans drew the new Congressional and legislative districts for this year’s elections, Republicans will still outnumber Democrats in Wisconsin’s new Congressional delegation five to three — and control both houses of the Legislature. Pennsylvanians also voted to re-elect Mr. Obama, elected Democrats to several statewide offices and cast about 83,000 more votes for Democratic Congressional candidates than for Republicans. But new maps drawn by Republicans — including for the Seventh District outside Philadelphia, a Rorschach-test inkblot of a district snaking through five counties that helped Representative Patrick Meehan win re-election by adding Republican voters — helped ensure that Republicans will have a 13-to-5 majority in the Congressional delegation that the state will send to Washington next month.

National: Electoral college set to vote on President Obama’s reelection | The Washington Post

President Obama hasn’t officially secured a second term in the White House. Technically, that won’t happen until the electoral college casts its ballots Monday — presumably in favor of the winner for each state. Even then, Congress has to formally declare Obama the victor after counting the electoral votes on Jan. 6. Such is the nature of an often poorly understood — and some argue arcane — system for electing the U.S. president. Essentially, Nov. 6 marked the beginning, not the end, of the process for this cycle. No one is expecting anything but a routine process Monday for Obama, who decisively won the popular vote last month, earning 332 pledged electoral votes to Mitt Romney’s 206. There have been some electoral defectors in the past, but they’ve been rare.

National: Virginia lawmakers split on election reform plans | The Washington Post

Three Virginia congressional Democrats witnessed similar scenes on Election Day: long lines at polling places around the commonwealth, with not enough poll workers or voting machines to handle the heavy turnout. And voters, in Virginia and elsewhere, made similar complaints about waits that sometimes lasted for hours. But the three lawmakers came away with two very different solutions to the problem. Sen. Mark R. Warner (Va.) and Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (Va.) have joined a Delaware Democrat to offer a bill that would give grants to states that make it easier for residents to register and cast their ballots. Rep. James P. Moran (Va.) went in his own direction, introducing legislation that would require states to allow early voting and online registration.

National: U.S. Should Consider Automatic Voter Registration: Holder | Bloomberg

The U.S. should consider automatically registering eligible voters and extending voting hours to counter the November election’s long lines and administrative hurdles, Attorney General Eric Holder said. Holder, speaking today at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, proposed expanding access for voters and overhauling a registration system he called “antiquated.” “It is important for national leaders, academic experts, and members of the public to engage in a frank, thorough and inclusive discussion about how our election systems can be made stronger and more accessible,” Holder said in prepared remarks.

National: GOP consultant: Voter ID, long lines help “our side” |

A Republican consultant admitted that Voter ID laws and long lines at the polls help Republicans win elections, saying that, “A lot of us are campaign officials — or campaign professionals — and we want to do everything we can to help our side. Sometimes we think that’s voter ID, sometimes we think that’s longer lines — whatever it may be.” Huffington Post, which first pointed out the comments, reports that Tranter owns Vlytics, a “data consulting” company that was paid more than $3000 by Mitt Romney’s campaign.

National: U.S. should automatically register voters: attorney general | Reuters

Attorney General Eric Holder said on Tuesday that U.S. election officials should register eligible voters automatically and take steps to reduce the long lines Americans encountered in national elections on November 6. In a speech in Boston, Holder became the highest-ranking official to call for voting changes since President Barack Obama expressed exasperation with the hours-long lines during his re-election victory speech last night. “Modern technology provides ways to address many of the problems that impede the efficient administration of elections,” Holder said.

National: Eric Holder: Time To Consider National Voting Standards | TPM

Attorney General Eric Holder said during a speech on Tuesday night at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library that it’s time to consider setting national standards for how elections should be handled. “A recent study by the MacArthur Foundation found that nearly 90 percent of those who voted in last month’s election would support creating national voting standards,” Holder said, according to prepared remarks. “That’s why it is important for national leaders, academic experts, and members of the public to engage in a frank, thorough, and inclusive discussion about how our election systems can be made stronger and more accessible.”

National: After Obama Vow and Voter ID, Weighing Washington’s Role in Elections | Stateline

Call it the sentence that spawned a thousand ideas for election reform. When President Obama stood on stage in Chicago last month delivering his victory speech, he thanked the millions of Americans who cast their ballots on Election Day. He especially noted those who “waited in line for a very long time” just to vote. “By the way,” he added, “we have to fix that.” There’s a lot to fix. Reports from diverse parts of the country detailed all sorts of problems at polling places. Ballots were misprinted, poll workers were unclear about certain laws or regulations and long lines greeted many voters at the polls.

National: If the Internet is magic, why can’t we vote on it? | Computerworld

Regular as clockwork — just after an election which generated far too many stories of people waiting far too long to vote (and far too many local election officials saying that everything went fine and that there were no problems) — come the calls for voting via the Internet. The press wonders if we are a third-world country, politicians posture and most securityexperts say “don’t go there.” Some examples: A headline in The Washington Post was “Estonia gets to vote online. Why can’t America?” New Jersey tells people they can vote via email. A famed Russian computer security expert is quoted by the BBC saying that “the lack of well-established online voting systems is a real threat to the democratic nations of the Western world” (because kids will not vote if they can’t do it online).

Anyone who has not been comatose these past few years already knows why we don’t vote over the Internet. Most vendors of electronic systems are generically incapable of producing secure ones. Just Google “voting machine security” for many examples, and if that is not enough try “SCADA security.”

National: How The Voter ID Crusade Backfired On Republicans | TPM

The Republican push to make it more difficult to vote this year — seen by many as a racially tinged attempt to keep Democratic turnout down — could not have failed more spectacularly, a top African American activist told a left-leaning think tank Tuesday. Chanelle Hardy, a vice president at the National Urban League, told an audience at the Center For American Progress in Washington that, as conservatives had suspected, there was a drop-off in enthusiasm among the African American electorate between 2008 and 2012. Republicans based a lot of their strategy on enthusiasm dips like these, assuming that Obama wouldn’t be able to maintain the same level of minority turnout he had enjoyed in 2008. Unfortunately for those Republican strategists’ plans, however, other Republicans in legislatures across the country were on a quest to impose restrictions on voting, chasing the ghost of in-person voter fraud.

National: Behind U.S. race cases, a little-known recruiter | Reuters

Sometime in the next few months, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide two cases that could fundamentally reshape the rules of race in America. In one, a young white woman named Abigail Fisher is suing the University of Texas over affirmative action in college admissions. In the other, an Alabama county wants to strike down a law that requires certain states to get federal permission to change election rules. If they win, the names Fisher and Shelby County, Ala., will instantly become synonymous with the elimination of longstanding minority-student preferences and voting-rights laws. But behind them is another name, belonging to a person who is neither a party to the litigation nor even a lawyer, but who is the reason these cases ever came to be. He is Edward Blum, a little-known 60-year-old former stockbroker.

National: Boehner Taps Candice Miller to Helm House Administration Committee | Roll Call

Michigan Republican Candice S. Miller was appointed chairwoman of the House Administration Committee, House Speaker John A. Boehner announced Friday afternoon, making Miller the only female chairman of a House committee for the 113th Congress. Miller’s selection over Mississippi Rep. Gregg Harper — who had expressed interest in the post — comes just days after House Republicans were chided by Democrats and some womens’ groups for signing off on an all-white male cast to lead the 19 major House committees. Miller will replace Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., who lost his bid for re-election to Democrat Ami Bera.

National: Lawmakers eye proposals to speed voting | Baltimore Sun

ong lines that caused voters in Maryland and several other states to wait hours at polling places on Election Day are prompting a push for new laws to speed the process of casting a ballot. Lawmakers in Congress and the Maryland General Assembly say they are considering a broad range of ideas, such as increasing the number of early voting centers available in high-population jurisdictions and offering federal grants to states that find ways to streamline the voting process.

National: Why Have There Been So Many Contested Elections? | NPR

After two weeks of dispute with St. Lucie County elections officials, Florida Rep. Allen West conceded the race for Florida’s 18th Congressional District to Democrat Patrick Murphy on Tuesday. Allen’s post-election battle was the most high-profile this year, but the phenomenon is by no means unusual. In today’s political climate, candidates don’t like to concede, even after the votes have been counted. Increasingly, they are taking their cases to the courts, says Joshua Douglas, an assistant professor of law at the University of Kentucky.

National: Automatic voter registration a top priority for some reformers | Palm Beach Post

The United States’ leading prosecutor on civil rights issues wants the country to join the majority of other democratic nations when it comes to voting, by making the government – instead of the voter – responsible for registering voters. U.S. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, chief of the Department of Justice’s civil rights division, is one among a variety of activists and federal officials and lawmakers who say long lines and other problems encountered by voters throughout the nation this fall need to resolved by the federal government if not the states.

National: The election commission with no commissioners |

Despite rampant concerns on both the right and left about the integrity of the election, we seem to have dodged a bullet on Nov. 7, at least on the presidential level. There were no serious problems reported — no hanging chads, endless recounts or credible evidence of widespread dirty tricks — and 97 percent of voters said they had no problems voting this year, aside from waiting in lines. It’s lucky that was the case, because the federal commission tasked with making elections function better has been stymied by partisan infighting that has left it with zero commissioners, with Republicans refusing to appoint new ones and blocking Democrats from doing the same.

National: Senator Urges Republicans to Fill Election Commission Vacancies | Roll Call

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., today called on Republican leaders to recommend nominees for a federal election agency that sat without a single commissioner, executive director or general counsel as voters encountered long lines, machine malfunctions and other problems on Election Day.
Boxer urged Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to take “immediate action” to fill the vacancies at the Election Assistance Commission by recommending names for the two open Republican commissioner positions after not doing so for nearly a year. “I believe the dysfunction we witnessed may have been reduced had this commission been fully staffed and operational,” Boxer wrote in a letter.

National: Justice Department official: Register voters automatically | Huffington Post

One of the top enforcers of the nation’s civil rights laws said Friday government should be responsible for automatically registering citizens to vote by using existing databases to compile lists of all eligible residents in each jurisdiction. The proposal by Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, chief of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, follows an election with breakdowns that forced voters in many states to wait in line for hours. In remarks at George Washington University law school, Perez said census data shows that of 75 million adult citizens who failed to vote in the 2008 presidential election, 60 million were not registered and therefore ineligible to cast a ballot. Perez says one of the biggest barriers to voting in this country is an antiquated registration system.

National: Federal Election Assistance Commission under scrutiny | Hattiesburg American

Republican lawmakers say it’s time to do away with the federal commission that has given states election-related advice for the past years. The lawmakers say the Election Assistance Commission has outlived its usefulness. “We do not need a separate federal agency for the small number of useful functions it performs,’’ said Republican Rep. Gregg Harper of Mississippi, who introduced a bill last year to shut down the commission. “They can be accomplished more efficiently within another agency.” The EAC drew new attention after the Nov. 6 election.

National: Chris Coons Offers Election Reform Bill To Fix Problems At Polls | Huffington Post

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) is heeding President Barack Obama’s election night call to “fix” the problems voters faced at the polls this year, by introducing legislation that would reward states for election reform. Coons’ bill, titled the Louis L. Redding Fair, Accurate, Secure and Timely (FAST) Voting Act of 2012, is modeled on Obama’s Race to the Top program for education. States that make voting faster and more accessible would be rewarded with federal grants. Voters in several states this year — most notably, Florida and Ohio — stood in extraordinarily long lines at the polls, with some people waiting nine hours. Citizens also dealt with shorter early-voting periods, confusion over whether they needed to present photo ID and reports of uncounted ballots.

National: Democrats Propose Speeding Up Voting | Roll Call

Efforts to improve election administration and address the long lines that greeted voters on Election Day shifted to Capitol Hill on Thursday as House and Senate lawmakers unveiled related bills. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., introduced legislation that would establish a competitive-grant program within the Justice Department to provide states with incentives to improve their voting processes. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., quickly pledged to co-sponsor the bill, citing the “embarrassment” that long lines caused Virginia last week. “In Prince William County, folks waited for up to three hours. In Chesapeake, Va., folks waited up to four hours. It was remarkable that it was five days after the fact before we even knew the results in Florida,” Warner said on the Senate floor.

National: New Legislation Would Help Shorten Voting Lines, Strengthen People’s Ability to Vote | Daily Kos

Citing widespread reports of hours-long waits and blocks-long lines at polling places around the country during Election Day, Rep. George Miller (D-CA) today announced that he will introduce new legislation intended to shorten wait times at polling stations and enhance the ability of all citizens who want to vote to cast their ballots. Miller’s bill would require early voting in all states for federal elections, for a minimum of 15 days prior to Election Day.  Today, 15 states do not have any form of early voting and for states with early voting the number of days varies from state to state and in some states, like Florida, the number of days was shortened in this last election.  In addition, Miller’s bill would also require states to ensure that all voting precincts have adequate resources to ensure that no voter must wait in line for more than one hour to vote.

National: Voting Problems Renew Efforts to Overhaul System | Roll Call

Election experts and activists are calling for an overhaul of the voting system after hours-long lines, machine malfunctions and other obstacles plagued polling places around the country last week and in some cases delayed the results of races for days. Buoyed by President Barack Obama’s promise to “fix” the system in his acceptance speech, interested parties are coalescing around a campaign to retool the registration and voting process to avoid a meltdown in tight contests down the road.