In 2007, Halldór Auðar Svansson, 27, was working as a programmer in one of the main Icelandic banks, Kaupthing Bank. As a young professional, he was seduced by Kaupthing’s stated ambition to become one of the world’s top ten banks. Seven years later, Kaupthing Bank has collapsed and Svansson is the first Pirate to sit in a majority coalition, in the Icelandic capital city Reykjavik. I met him a few weeks after he took office. Among the consequences of the 2008 Icelandic financial crisis, two were particularly instrumental in Halldor’s decision to get involved in politics. The first one started with a joke. In 2010, the Best Party (a “joke party”) and its self-declared “anarcho-surrealist” leader, Jón Gnarr, won the Reykjavik municipality, a key position in the country’s political life. For Svansson, “2008 movements did actually change the way politics was done. The Best Party was a direct response to how people were disillusioned with the political system. It was a ‘parodic rebellion’, which turned out to be probably the best thing that could have happened to Reykjavik at that point.”
Voting Blogs: As Redistricting Suit Continues, What is the State’s Endgame? | Texas Election Law Blog
A surfeit of lawyers are at this moment proceeding with the second of three week-long hearings in the Federal District Court, Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division. The issue is whether the State of Texas intentionally discriminated against protected classes of minority voters in the course of redistricting U.S. Congressional districts in 2011. The facts of the case as previously established are particularly unflattering to the Republican Party leadership in the Texas Legislature, and back in 2012 another Federal court already ruled that the Congressional redistricting was discriminatory, and carefully pointed out the evidence that this discrimination was intentional. Given all this, one might be inclined to ask, “what, exactly, is the State trying to accomplish in its defense of this lawsuit?” As I’ve said before, I am a terrible prognosticator of political outcomes, in part because my dogged naivety gets in the way of my cynicism. With the litigation history of the 2011 redistricting largely running against the State, I would presume that at both the trial and appellate levels, the courts would be likely to find that continued close Federal monitoring of Texas election procedures is required under Section 3(b) of the Voting Rights Act.
There’s a lot of talk these days about transparent and open governments and recently the Colorado Secretary of State’s office put their money where their mouth is and created a statewide elections data portal. The Accountability in Colorado Elections (ACE) site was launched in late July and it provides, through a series of interactive maps, charts and tables, Colorado election data by county. Although all of this information has long been publicly available, it was not centrally located, thus sending those seeking the information to as many as 64 different websites and elections office. This is a big step forward in the world of elections data. “Over a century ago, states started reporting election returns in a centralized, uniform fashion, which was an important step in reassuring the public that election results were determined above-board,” said Charles Stewart, the Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science at MIT. “Now, the big question is, ‘what are election officials DOING in their jobs?’ Something like ACE helps answer that question. Colorado is the first state to put all of the county information in one centralized location.
Voting Blogs: You Should Talk to Your Kids—As long As You Are Not Engaged in Illegal Coordination | More Soft Money Hard Law
The Times was doing well with the younger set in recent days, hammering home the virtues of legalized access to marijuana, but it has taken a step back. Now it is questioning the right of youth to accept unlimited support from parents and other relatives through family-established or -financed Super PACs. This was one opportunity for the realization of a young person’s dream—unlimited financial support from family which could not be used as leverage to tell the kids what to do. This spending must be independent. It’s the law. This turns out to be an exception from the trend noted just this morning by Robert Samuelson in The Washington Post toward large numbers of young people returning home after college. They can have family support while mapping out their careers. Should their career interest turn to politics, however, family options dwindle. Neither the mother nor the father, not the sister nor the brother, and certainly none of the relatives outside the immediate family circle, can contribute more than $2,600 per election. Unless the family sets up a Super PAC.
A press conference concluded a few minutes ago by the McDaniel campaign suggests that the campaign found far fewer illegal votes than the approximately 7,600 votes separating him from Sen. Thad Cochran in the MS Republican Senate primary. Instead, it sounds like the campaign has alleged only 3,500 votes cast by voters who also (presumably illegally) voted in the earlier Democratic primary. There are 9,500 other votes said to be “irregular,” and 2,500 allegedly improper absentee ballots. Those numbers alone suggest there will not be enough to get a new election, unless the “irregularities” are serious enough to call the result in question. But that would not be impossible, depending on what the evidence shows. But the reason I expect McDaniel will likely lose is that he is not asking for a new election. Instead, he is asking for a remedy of having him declared the winner. He would apparently rely upon polling to show that Democrats who voted in the primary did not intend to vote for the eventual Republican nominee in the fall. This relies upon a MS code provision saying that only those who will support the nominee in the general election can vote in the primary.
The New York Times this morning reports on political spending in this election cycle, but it also wishes to explain to readers the meaning of all these dollars. So the article this morning about the money going into Senate and House races links the cash to “consequences [that] are already becoming apparent”: candidate loss of control over their messaging and a sharply negative tone. The grounds for these conclusions are not drawn from the the numbers. They are added on. Note that a contradiction is now entering into the discussion of Super PACs and outside independent activity. One of two things can be true but not both: either the “shadow parties” or candidate-affiliated organizations are synchronizing their messages with the candidates’, or they are operating independently and crowding out the candidate’s communications. The Times puts both explanations into its story.
After years of inaction, it looks like the powers that be in Washington are ready to put the EAC back together. Yesterday, the White House issued a press release that included the following: President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key Administration posts … This is good news on a variety of fronts. First, these two nominations suggest that Capitol Hill Republicans are ready to let the nomination and confirmation process move forward, which may put to rest (for the time being) the drive to defund and eliminate the EAC. Second, they raise expectations that a full complement of Commissioners will be able to restart and/or continue the lesser-known but crucial functions of the EAC like voting system standards adoption and management of the Election Administration and Voting Survey, which underpins much of the data-focused reforms underway nationwide.
Voting Blogs: U.S. Election Assistance Commission May Be Back with Commissioners Soon | Election Law Blog
President Obama just announced two nominations for the U.S. Assistance Commission. Matthew Masterson and Christy McCormick are Republican-chosen nominees to join the two nominees from the Democrats, Thomas Hicks and Myrna Perez. The EAC was created as part of the 2002 Help America Vote Act as a way of providing best practices and doling out voting machine money in the wake of the Florida 2000 debacle. The commission functions with two Democratic nominees and two Republican nominees. As I explain in The Voting Wars, the EAC started out with some independent commissioners who looked like they were going to transcend partisan politics and get some stuff done. But then there was controversy over a voter id report, and pressure on Republican commissioners.
Voting Blogs: County elections official in ‘uncharted territory’ with California recount | electionlineWeekly
For elections officials in California, during a busy election year, July is often the time for well-deserved vacations, elections office housekeeping and a time for general administrative work and slow ramp-up to November. But this year, elections officials in 15 of the state’s 58 counties are either busy hand-counting ballots or preparing for their turn to count. On July 6, Democrat John Perez, who came in third behind Democrat Betty Yee in the race for state controller sent a letter to California Secretary of State Debra Bowen requesting a recount. Under California law, any voter may request a recount if they pay for it. Perez, who lost to Yee by 481 votes, requested that 15 counties manually recount dozens, if not all of their precincts.
This week, the Delaware General Assembly approved broad legislation that will fundamentally change the way elections in the First State are administered, if not conducted. Under House Bill 302 the state’s election law will be amended to consolidate the three county—Kent, New Castle and Sussex—elections boards into one 11-member state board of elections. Unlike most, if not all other states, currently elections staff in each of Delaware’s three counties are state employees although they report to local elections boards and not the state.
A controversial California election reform bill that had been sailing through the state legislature with the inexplicable support of Democrats after being authored by a Republican lawmaker, has now been substantially rewritten — some might say ‘gutted’. And that’s a very good thing, according to Election Integrity experts we’ve spoken with. … The new provision would have been a very big change to current law and, as we reported, would restrict voters from raising funds to help pay for such a count. In the process, it would have drastically reduced the opportunity for citizen oversight of public elections in the state. Democrats in the state Assembly supported AB 2369, as authored by Republican Assemblyman Curt Hagman for unknown reasons. It passed out of the lower chamber late last month by an astounding 66 to 7 vote, before being sent on to the state Senate.
Critics of campaign finance enforcement, or the lack of it, continue to be infuriated by the FEC’s record of deadlocks in major cases, and they are further troubled by the obstacles to judicial review. When complainants stymied by deadlock appeal to the courts, they must still overcome the “deference” generally granted to the agency’s expertise, except where the law is clear or the agency is acting arbitrarily. In these cases, the courts review the agency’s action by examining the stated position of the Commissioners voting against enforcement. This is the so-called “controlling group” of Commissioners—the ones whose refusal to authorize enforcement controlled the outcome. Two FEC Commissioners, Ann Ravel and Ellen Weintraub, now argue that this is all wrong, and have called for the courts to reconsider the process by which deadlock decisions are reviewed. They want an end to the “controlling group” analysis; the courts, the Commissioners contend, should review deadlocks on a de novo basis. So if the FEC dismisses a complaint because the Commissioners cannot agree on what sort of an organization constitutes a regulated “political committee,” the court would take it from there—disregarding the Commissioners’ disagreement and proceeding to judge the issue from scratch.
What happens if you hold an election and no one shows up? Well that’s what happened recently at one polling place in Sonoma County, California. The Rohnert Park precinct on the Sonoma State University campus saw not one voter on June 3. Not one. “Maybe a couple of people came by to drop off mail ballots, but we didn’t have a single voter,” Gloria Colter, assistant registrar told The San Francisco Chronicle. This is of course an extreme, but as we prepare to hit the halfway point in the 2014 mid-term election cycle, turnout has been abysmally low with some states and the District of Columbia hitting record low numbers. Obviously there is a litany of reasons for why voters don’t show up during non-presidential years, but what impact does low voter turnout have on elections officials?
Yesterday, federal district judge Peter Economus issued an opinion and order in the ongoing dispute about early voting between the state of Ohio and Obama for America. In 2012, Economus issued a temporary injunction ordering the state to re-open early voting the weekend before Election Day, saying it was necessary to prevent an equal protection violation given the ability of military and overseas voters to cast early ballots up until the day before Election Day. After the parties were unable to reach an agreement on early voting – and Secretary of State Jon Husted issued a directive (2014-06) establishing uniform early voting hours for 2014 that included only the Saturday before Election Day – the federal court issued a permanent injunction requiring the state to provide pre-Election Day weekend early voting for all future elections.
When people discuss the election administration challenges that face large urban counties like Los Angeles County, CA it’s easy to look at the numbers (nearly 5,000 precincts and a voting population that would put them in the nation’s top ten if it were a state) and think you can understand the impact of the jurisdiction’s size on the collection and tabulation of votes. Then, you’re standing in the parking lot of the library next door to the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s (RR/CC) building as a helicopter – A HELICOPTER! – is delivering ballots from far-flung precincts in places like Catalina Island and Lancaster (over the mountains) to headquarters for counting. That’s when you think to yourself – yeah, it’s big.
Voting Blogs: Ohio SoS Channels PCEA and EAC, Directs Counties to Prepare Election Administration Plans | Election Academy
The position of Secretary of State in Ohio gets lots of attention because it is the chief election official in one of (if not the most) politically competitive states in the nation. But one aspect of the job that many people outside the state don’t realize is the sweeping authority the Secretary possesses to issue directives to county election offices on matters not explicitly covered by state law. The latest example of that power came recently when Secretary Jon Husted issued Directive 2014-16 which requires counties to produce election administration plans (EAPs) in advance of each election, starting with the 2014 general election. Husted’s directive stems in part from the settlement in LWV v. Brunner, which requires the state to produce EAPs.
With the primary season in full swing, it has been a busy spring for state and local elections offices in their efforts to make voting/registering easier for citizens. Like the trees and flowers coming into season, new websites and mobile apps have been blooming from coast to coast. For some a lot of this may be old hat, but it’s important to take notice of these new apps/sites to highlight the progress being made in the elections field; and to encourage others who may late bloomers to get the ball rolling with their own tech improvements. What follows is a snapshot of what some counties, states and voter advocacy organizations have done lately to make voting and/or registering to vote easier. In Connecticut, Secretary of State Denise Merrill recently announced that a mobile app for the state’s new online voter registration system is available. The app — for smartphone or tablet — is available through Google Play and Apple. Since OVR launched in February, more than 2,000 Connecticut residents have registered to vote or updated their registration. Merrill hopes the new app will increase those numbers.
Voting Blogs: Should bipartisan/nonpartisan committees redraw districts? An example from the midwest | Explaining Elections
Using simple measurements like incumbency, competitiveness (elections won by less than 75%), and previous election results since 2000, we predicted the likelihood of Democrats regaining control of the state legislature. In doing so, we also measured the current disadvantage Democrats face resulting from districting. In this post, we’ll discuss whether different redistricting schemes help reduce skewed proportionality regarding a legislature’s seat to vote distribution. To the left is an example of our predicted “vote to seat” distribution (this time in Iowa), which predicts the likely seats Democrats will receive given their state-wide vote total. If districts were ideally drawn, 50% of the votes statewide for Democrats would translate into 50% of the seats in the state assembly. Comparing three midwestern states (Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin), we can see that different districting schemes yield different levels of proportionality. Since most elections are decided between 45%-55% of the vote, we can tell how volatile or unequal a system is by the steepness of the curve. A truly proportional system is represented by the dotted line in the graph to right, passing through 0,0 and 50,50. These trends are normal for majoritarian representation, but clearly some of these states are more proportional than others, so what causes the difference between these states?
Twenty years ago, my first job was as a News Aide at The Washington Post. On election night 1994 I was given a telephone and sent on my way to the D.C. Board of Elections (DCBOE). Upon arrival at the DCBOE, I plugged my phone into a jack in the wall in a room set up for reporters and once polls closed about every 30 minutes to an hour someone from the BOE would bring those of us in the room a stack of green bar paper with precinct results listed and I would call in results to then-Metro Editor Joann Armao. Sometime around midnight, with votes still waiting to be counted, but the outcome clear and a home delivery deadline looming, Armao called the race for Democrat Marion Barry who was making a comeback following time spent in prison. It was closer to 2 a.m. by the time I could unplug my phone and take the last stack of green bar paper home with me for analysis in the morning. A lot sure has changed in the past 20 years, but has the instant gratification of social media and the web made the public’s and media’s expectations for election night unrealistic? Do elections officials on social media see it as a burden or a cost-effective way to stay up-to-the-minute with what’s going on at the polls and provide useful information to voters?
Voting Blogs: Filling in the Record Book: Election Data Analysis Can’t Start Without Election Data Collection | Election Academy
Yesterday, Nate Silver’s new and expanded FiveThirtyEight had a fascinating story on Dick Pfander,”The Man Who Preserved Decades of NBA History“, whose hobby of collecting and tabulating years of NBA boxscores (the image above is handwritten career stats for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) formed the basis for the league’s early statistical records. Now, that archive is powering a new generation of highly-sophisticated analysis. I highly recommend the article as an example of how something that seems obvious and straightforward to collect and analyze – sports statistics – is anything but. To an election geek, the article is timely because of a discussion that took place yesterday at the Senate Rules Committee hearing on “Collection, Analysis and Use of Data: A Measured Approach to Improving Election Administration.”
Voting Blogs: OVR is Dead, Long Live OVR: Minnesota Set to Enact Legislation After Judge Invalidates Existing System | Election Academy
Last fall, I wrote about Minnesota’s new online voter registration system (OVR) – implemented without legislation by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. Since then, the state legislature has been moving forward with a bill to enact OVR – a bill which must receive bipartisan support in order for Gov. Mark Dayton to sign it. Yesterday, the two threads of that story came together in an interesting way. A day after the House enacted OVR legislation by a wide margin in preparation for a Senate vote, a local judge invalidated the state’s existing OVR system as an improper exercise of the Secretary of State’s authority.
Voting Blogs: Arkansas Judge Declares Republican Photo ID Restriction Law Unconstitutional, ‘Null and Void’ | BradBlog
A Circuit Court judge has resoundingly rejected Arkansas’ new Photo ID restrictions on voting, declaring the law to be “null and void” and in violation of the state’s Constitutional right to vote. Last year, after Republicans took over the Arkansas statehouse for the first time since Reconstruction, they passed an onerous Photo ID restriction law for voting. The Democratic Governor Mike Beebe vetoed the new restrictions, but that veto was subsequently overridden by the Republican legislature. Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Davis Fox’ 2-page Summary Judgement [PDF] finds in favor of plaintiffs in the case, the Pulaski County Election Commission and against both the defendant, the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners, as well as the Republican Party of Arkansas which intervened on behalf of the Board of Election. In his Thursday ruling, Fox found the law to be “unconstitutional in that it violates Articles 3, Section 1 and Article 3, Section 2 of the Arkansas Constitution.”
Voting Blogs: A Constitutional “Right to Participate” in the Electoral Process? | More Soft Money Hard Law
In a close and insightful reading of Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion in McCutcheon, reproduced here with his permission from the election law listserv, Marty Lederman has called attention to this first paragraph:
There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders. Citizens can exercise that right in a variety of ways: They can run for office themselves, vote, urge others to vote for a particular candidate, volunteer to work on a campaign, and contribute to a candidate’s campaign. This case is about the last of those options. (McCutcheon v. FEC, 134 S.Ct. 1434, 1440-41).
The right that Roberts cites—the right to participate in the electoral process—is apparently wide in scope and includes a “variety of activities,” including voting. So Marty notes that this rationale does not spring from pure “free speech” jurisprudence, and indeed he argues that “if there were such a basic right, the opinion would make much more internal sense than if viewed through a Free Speech Clause” lens. While disclaiming “naiveté” about the Roberts Court’s commitment to the interests of voters, Marty asserts that if “taken seriously,” this freshly minted right to participate could “be the source of a new flourishing of voting rights and other election-related rights.”
While there are times that it may seem like we have been talking about voter ID forever, the number of states that have strict photo ID requirements to cast a ballot is still relatively low. Currently 34 states require some form of ID in order to cast a ballot, but only eight states are strict photo ID states. Strict photo ID states, as defined by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) are those states where, “[v]oters without acceptable identification must vote on a provisional ballot and also take additional steps after Election Day for it to be counted.” Two of those strict photo ID states are implementing photo ID requirements on a large-scale basis for the first time this year during their primaries: Mississippi and Arkansas.
Voting Blogs: Ohio before the Supreme Court, Defending the Power to Police Political Speech: Is the End Near, or Now? | More Soft Money Hard Law
The State of Ohio is playing for time in its defense of its “false campaign statements” statute. It wants the case now before the Supreme Court decided on ripeness, win or lose; it wants to hold off a decision on the constitutionality of its law. Some, Rick Hasen among them, believe that this might work. But then again, it might not, and the law could well be put out to pasture without further ado. The petitioner has argued in clear terms that the law is unconstitutional and that, on this point, the recent decision inUnited States v. Alvarez is dispositive. Petition for Writ of Certiorari at 6-7, Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, 134 S.Ct. 895 (2014) (No. 13-193). And the Court could agree, motivated as well to spare the petitioner another expensive, time-consuming tour through the courts to win the victory that it is virtually guaranteed.
Voting Blogs: The Election Performance Index and Election Reform: The Early Returns Are Promising | Heather Gerken/Election Law Blog
I want to offer a brief response to Rick Hasen’s post about the release of Pew’s 2012 Election Performance Index. Now that we can assess state performance across two comparable elections, he asks an excellent question: Will we see states trying to improve their performance? I suggested as much in my book, The Democracy Index: Why Our System is Failing and How to Fix It, where I proposed creating a ranking like the EPI. It’s only been a few days, of course, but the early returns are heartening. States are obviously paying attention; there are lots of stories about states touting their rise in the rankings or grumbling about their scores, with more discussions happening behind the scenes. More importantly, election officials are already using the EPI to push for reform.
William & Mary’s Election Law Program and DC Vote co-hosted a symposium on Rethinking DC Representation in Congress on February 21, 2014 in Washington, DC. The symposium impaneled several highly regarded Constitutional law experts and voting rights advocates. Residents of Washington, DC have long lacked Congressional representation, notwithstanding over two centuries of advocacy by voting rights supporters. Despite a long history of amending the Constitution in order to enfranchise previously-ignored groups (African-Americans, women, and individuals between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one) legislators and federal courts have given short shrift to voting rights for residents of the nation’s capital. Maryland State Senator and American University Law Professor Jamie Raskin emphasized that for DC residents, “Constitutional democracy has broken down. It has never really existed.”
The elections on March 30 do not bode well for Turkish democracy. They threaten the basic liberties and rights of many opposition groups in the country, thanks to PM’s Erdogan ultimatum that he will make the opposition “pay for this.” When the corruption scandal broke out in Turkey a few months ago, Twitter instantly became the primary outlet of opposition to PM Erdogan and his AKP. Twitter was about dissemination of ideas, organization, and exposing the corruption, illegal rule [rule by utter disregard of law], the immoral acts of PM Erdogan and those around him. Yet, the results of the elections were instructive. Twitter was effective in terms of organizing the opposition and informing them about the extent of the corruption in which the AKP was mired. Yet, this opposition was relatively small in number, educated, young, and urban; what appeared on Twitter (and, other social media outlets) had minimal impact on the rest of society, which is large in number, less educated, older, and more suburban and rural than urban.
Voting Blogs: A Novel Proposal from Heather Gerken: Plus One More, Also from Yale | More Soft Money Hard Law
In an interesting Washington Post article, Professor Heather Gerken has proposed with co-authors a new strategy to advance a core reform objective, the enhancement of transparency, as other options seemingly dwindle after CItizens United andMcCutcheon. Heather is well known and well-respected for just such an insistence on thinking beyond the well-traveled, now largely exhausted policy choices. A good example is the Democracy Index, which she constructed to “harness politics to fix politics,” by generating political incentives for the improvement of performance on election administration through the publication of public rankings. What she and her co-authors now suggest is that 501(c)(4)s and other organizations not publicly reporting their finances be required to disclose that they do not disclose. Public opinion would do the rest: politics would be harnessed to fix politics. Suspicious that the advertisers won’t say who is paying for their messages, the audience would be mistrustful, the ads would have less value, and donors would have reason to doubt that their money is well spent. Money might then flow to messages financed by disclosing organizations. This mode of attack, Gerken et. al believe, might also help with the “whack-a-mole” problem: that regulators and lawmakers must chase ever-changing organizational forms, from “527” to 501(c) organizations. This new regulatory program would target the ads, irrespective of the type of sponsor.
Voting Blogs: Federal Judge Orders Texas to Produce Legislative Docs That May Prove Polling Place Photo ID Restriction Law Was Racially-Motivated | BradBlog
Just over a week ago, it was North Carolina legislators ordered by the court to cough up documentation relating to passage of new, draconian restrictions on voting rights in their state. Now, legislators in Texas are facing much the same thing, as that state’s extreme polling place Photo ID restrictions also face legal and Constitutional challenge. By way of an eight-page Order [PDF]issued late last week, U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos has directed the State of Texas to serve upon the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) documents that relate to the question of whether “state legislators, contrary to their public pronouncements, acted with discriminatory intent in enacting SB 14,” the Lone Star State’s polling place Photo ID restriction law. That law had previously been found to be discriminatory against minority voters in TX, and thus rejected by both the DoJ and a federal court panel as a violation of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). It was then re-enacted by the state of Texas almost immediately after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted a central provision of the VRA in the summer of 2013.