Cynthia Bauerly, one of six commissioners at the Federal Election Commission, handed in her resignation on Friday and will officially leave the body that oversees campaign finance regulation in February. “It has been my honor and privilege to serve on the Federal Election Commission since 2008,” Bauerly, one of the three Democrats on the commission, wrote in the resignation letter obtained by The Huffington Post. “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve the country in this role and I will step down on February 1, 2013.”
Some members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, Calif., said online voting system bugs kept them from casting Oscar ballots. Electronic voting was a new option this year in Oscar voting. In response to problems with user log-ins and passwords, the academy extended the voting deadline for Oscar nominations by one day to Friday. Amy Berg, an Oscar-nominated member of the documentary branch, said the voting website rejected her password three times before locking her out, The Hollywood Reporter said.
As Academy members select the nominees for the 85th Oscars — phase one voting began Dec. 17 and will close Jan. 4 — they are feeling the impact of two major changes to the voting process that were implemented by the board of governors: Nomination ballots can be cast online, but the deadline to submit them has been moved up nine days. (That number was 10 days, but the Academy extended the voting deadline by 24 hours on Dec. 31.) These might not sound like earth-shattering developments, but they have significantly altered the balloting experience of the Academy’s roughly 5,700 voting members and also might impact the sorts of nominees those members select. The Hollywood Reporter first reported on this situationDec. 27 after reaching out to a considerable number of voters and spoke a whole new crop for this follow-up story — virtually none of whom had discussed e-voting publicly.
This year, Oscar voters are getting a deadline extension, giving members an extra day to vote on the nominees for this year’s Academy Awards after technical issues plagued the first attempt by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to allow online voting. The Academy announced in early 2012 that it would be making e-voting available to members, and as is often then case in the move from analog to digital, the transition to the new voting platform hasn’t been without hiccups. In a recent Hollywood Reporter analysis, many Academy voters complained of issues with logging in to the voting site — something an Academy representative attributed to voters “forgetting or misusing passwords” – difficulty navigating the site once they were logged in, and even the potential for hackers to infiltrate the website and influence the vote.
Growing concern that problems with the new electronic Oscar voting system could lead to record-low turnout has prompted the motion picture academy to extend the deadline for members to vote for Oscar nominations. But next week’s highly anticipated announcements looming, the extension is only for a day, until Friday. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Monday any votes received after the new deadline will not be counted. “By extending the voting deadline we are providing every opportunity available to make the transition to online balloting as smooth as possible,” said the academy’s chief operating officer, Ric Robertson, in a statement. “We’re grateful to our global membership for joining us in this process.”
The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences opted to try online voting for this year’s Oscars, and with one week left in the voting period multiple sources have told The Hollywood Reporter that the new system isn’t working well. Voting started December 17 and is set to end on January 3. THR reached out to several members of the Academy and roughly half told the paper they experienced problems, or were concerned that older, less technically-savvy Academy members would simply give up. (The median age of the Academy’s 5,765 members is 62, according to a study done by the Los Angeles Times.) Some told of repeated difficulties logging in and being locked out of the system.
It looks like online Oscar voting is hitting a few snags, which some Academy members worry might depress voting participation to its lowest level in years. \ Voting to determine the next set of Oscar nominees began Dec. 17 and will extend through Jan. 3. On Dec. 26, I reached out to a wide cross-section of the Academy to see if they tried to vote online (an Academy spokesperson tells me that “a great majority” of members have registered to do so) and, if so, to characterize their experience. Roughly half of the members reached said they experienced problems navigating the site; more than one described it as a “disaster.” They also worried that hackers could compromise the Oscar vote. On Dec. 26, I also spoke with an Academy spokesperson who told me most complaints about e-voting have stemmed from members “forgetting or misusing passwords.”
The New Year is likely to amass a wave of issues that will affect Latinos including a pending case in the Supreme Court that revisits a key provision of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). In Shelby County vs. Holder, the Supreme Court justices will be deciding whether it makes sense to pursue section 5. The provision requires that lawmakers who want to enact changes to voting laws are obligated to seek permission from the federal government in states with a history of discrimination. Advocates argue that without this key provision, federal judges would not have been able to block voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina. It also voided district maps in Texas and prevented early voting in parts of Florida. Yet, critics claim the provision is outdated.
In Voter ID: Five Considerations – the lead story in the November / December issue of The Canvass – we predicted that interest in photo voter ID laws would remain high in 2013. This prediction has already been borne out. When we drafted the article, lawmakers in Arkansas, Minnesota and Wisconsin had revived discussion of their states’ photo ID proposals. Since then, a number of other states have jumped in the mix. Here’s a quick rundown of some recent developments on the photo ID front. We’ll be back shortly with the second half of the list. Republican Representative Bob Lynn’s photo ID proposal (HB 162) failed to make it to a vote in Alaska last session, when Democrats and Republicans split control of the Legislature. With Republicans holding their lead in the Alaska House and newly in charge of the state Senate, the proposal is sure to get another airing in 2013. Lynn told the Anchorage Daily News that photo ID will “be one of the first bills we hear.”
On election night, President Barack Obama thanked voters who braved long lines at polling places throughout the country. People waited as long as seven hours in some precincts in Florida, with some still waiting to cast a ballot long past midnight. In other states, such as Virginia and Maryland, lines also stretched into hours. “By the way, we have to fix that,” Mr. Obama said. But with the presidential election over, comprehensive overhauls to the patchwork of state election laws remain a distant goal. More than a decade after the 2000 Florida vote-count debacle, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee last week spotlighted complaints about the casting and counting of votes that persist despite a package of post-2000 adjustments.
National: Senate committee debates if voter-ID, early voting effectively curbed voter fraud | TribLIVE
Senate Democrats and Republicans sparred on Wednesday over whether voter ID laws, attempts to purge voter rolls and restrictions on early voting were legitimate efforts to stop fraud or were Republican strategies to hold down Democratic votes. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and former Gov. Charlie Crist — a onetime Republican who recently turned Democrat — said Florida Republicans aimed their efforts at Hispanics and blacks. They cited as one example the elimination of early voting on the Sunday before the Nov. 6 election. He said members of those groups historically vote after church services.
National: Democrats Set Stage for Supreme Court Defense of Voting Rights Act Provision | PBS NewsHour
With the Supreme Court set to hear a challenge to a main provision of the Voting Rights Act in February, advocates argued Wednesday that the November elections only underscored the need for the law and its protections of minority voting rights. The high court will hear a challenge by Shelby County, Ala., that the so-called “pre-clearance” portion of the act, which requires jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination to get approval of the Justice Department before making changes to their voting rules, is unconstitutional. But opening a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said he was concerned even before Election Day about a “renewed effort in many states to deny millions of Americans access to the ballot box through voter purges and voter identification laws,” adding, “what we saw during the election shows that we were right to be concerned. Purges of voter rolls, restrictions on voter registration, and limitations on early voting…led to unnecessary and avoidable problems.”
National: Obama wins Electoral College vote; Republicans seek changes in state rules | Boston Herald
Despite predictions that the presidential election could end in an electoral vote tie, or that the winner of the popular vote could again be denied the White House by the Electoral College, President Barack Obama won his anticipated 126-vote landslide Monday as the 538 electors officially voted in statehouses. But 12 years after Al Gore’s defeat prompted some Democrats to call for changing to the constitutionally prescribed method of choosing the president, Republicans are now mounting efforts in key states to end the winner-take-all method that most states employ. Some Republican strategists believe that could counter the advantage Democrats have gained on the path to the needed 270 electoral votes.
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.
Senate Democrats and Republicans are sparring over whether voter ID laws and restricted early voting are attempts to disenfranchise African-American and Hispanic voters. Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who recently became a Democrat, said their state’s Republican Party deliberately tried to suppress the vote from those groups.
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 | kspr.com
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.
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.
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.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Feb. 27 in a lawsuit that challenges a central provision of the Voting Rights Act. The court announced the scheduling Monday. The case, Shelby County v. Holder, is just one of three high-profile civil rights cases on the court’s docket next year. The justices are also set to rule on affirmative action and same-sex marriage.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.