Voting Blogs: First Person Singular: Data is a useful tool for elections officials | Steve Weir/electionlineWeekly

There are two major observations that I have had during my 24 years as County Clerk-Recorder. First, the people who work in elections are extremely dedicated and ethical. Second, we have in our hands access to a wealth of data that we should use to tell our story. However, many of us miss the opportunity to review and to “own” our data. I slowly found out in my early days as Clerk, that our elections information management system had TONS of reports on virtually every aspect of our operations. From simple over-under reports (that can identify individual precinct problems) to rejected vote-by-mail ballots, patterns of problems could be easily identified and tracked. In 1996, we had a close contest for a California State Senate seat. Out of about 300,000 votes cast, the spread was about 700 votes, not close. However, the losing party asked for a recount. After 25,000 ballots were hand counted, the spread had hardly changed and the recount was called off. As part of this process, I noticed that 3,200 vote-by-mail ballots had been rejected, almost 4 percent of the total vote-by-mail ballots cast. Most of these arrived after election day. No one seemed bothered by this statistic. No one except me. These were voters who did not have their ballots counted.

Voting Blogs: Can California’s New Primary Reduce Polarization? Maybe Not | The Monkey Cage

According to many pundits and scholars, closed primary elections are a major contributor to the ideological polarization in Congress and state legislatures. By partitioning voters into two ideologically-sorted electorates, they argue, closed primaries incentivize candidates to adopt the positions of voters in their party rather than of their constituency as a whole. As a result, they elect representatives who consistently toe the party line and resist compromise. Advocates of reform, from academics like Morris Fiorina to practitioners like Arnold Schwarzenegger, therefore argue that replacing closed party primaries with a more open nominating process will reduce polarization and its offspring—gridlock and a noxious political atmosphere—by helping moderate candidates. Are these claims about the consequences of reform valid?

Voting Blogs: Early voting legislation biggest response to November lines so far | electionlineWeekly

Following the November election, just about every politician from the president on down vowed to do something about the lines some voters faced during the 2012 general election cycle. Now, with most Legislatures back at work — some have even completed their work for 2013 — altering, or allowing, early voting seems to be the most popular way legislators have chosen to tackle the problems of lines. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures 32 states and the District of Columbia allow voters to cast a ballot in person in advance of an election and Oregon and Washington offer all vote-by-mail thus making early voting a moot point. Of the remaining 16 states that did not offer early voting at the time of the November 2012 general election legislatures in more than half of those states are considering legislation that would allow voters to cast an early ballot. Bipartisan efforts to advance early voting have begun making their way through several statehouses.

Voting Blogs: Arbitrary and Outrageous Costs for ‘Recounts’ of Paper Ballot Elections in California Continue to Stymie Citizen Authentication of Results | BradBlog

Early last month, The Brad Blog offered an exclusive special report on how a single Registrar of Voters in Fresno County, CA effectively stopped a citizen-organized attempt to confirm the results of last November’s Prop 37 initiative dead in its tracks. She was able to stop an attempted post-election hand count of the paper ballots in her county by charging the proponents of the count an outrageous and seemingly arbitrary high price to carry out the count. Now, a very similar story is being reported in regard to an attempt to confirm the results of a mayoral race in another California county where the “losing” candidate is said to have lost by just 53 votes. In that case, rather than an outrageous $4,000 per day to count the paper ballots again, as was the case for Prop 37 in Fresno, the candidate has been charged $2,000 per hour for her attempt to verify that the results of her contest were accurately reported by the computer system.

Voting Blogs: Party Nationalization after the 2013 Ecuadorian Legislative and Presidential Election | The Monkey Cage

On Friday, 8 March, the Ecuadorian National Electoral Council (Consejo Nacional Electoral, CNE) released the final voting results for the legislative and presidential elections held on 17 February. These results verify the dominance of the government party, Alianza Patria Altiva I Soberana (Alianza PAIS), and hint at a realignment of the party system. Riding the coattails of the popular incumbent president Rafael Correa, Alianza PAIS has transcended the historical tendency towards regionalization of the country’s parties through a strong performance across the country’s 34 electoral districts. This election marks an important milestone for democracy in Ecuador. President Correa is completing the first full term for an Ecuadorian president since Sixto Durán Ballén (1992-1996), and his time in office surpasses that of Isidro Ayora (1926-1931), making him the longest-serving president in the country’s history.[1] His current mandate terminates on 10 August 2013. As expected, Correa easily won re-election in the first-round with 57% of the valid vote, and Alianza PAIS won a 92-seat majority in the 137-member unicameral legislative assembly (seat distribution is still being decided by the National Electoral Council, pending a ruling on potential voter fraud in the province of Guayas).

Voting Blogs: Post Election Report: Kenyan Elections 2013 | The Monkey Cage

On March 4th Kenyans went to the polls to elect the country’s 4th president, among other officials. Most polling stations opened on time at 6 AM. Some, however, opened late due to late arrival of voting materials or the failure of the biometric voter registration (BVR) kits that were used to identify voters before they cast their ballots. It was the first time that Kenya had implemented an electronic voter register, the previous manual register having had hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of ghost voters. It was also the first election following the enactment of a new constitution in 2010, which doubled the number of elective contests in the general election. With the botched 2007 general election still fresh on everyone’s mind, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) was keen on guarding the credibility of the process. The actual voting went relatively well. Besides a night attack on the eve of the election by a separatist group in the former Coast Province, there were no major incidents. Most polling stations closed at 5 PM and those that opened late were allowed to extend voting until 10 PM.

Voting Blogs: New York City Considers Move Back to Lever Voting Machines For September Elections | BradBlog

We have yet another potential mess concerning elections in New York City on the new optical-scan computer tabulation systems which recently replaced the mechanical lever machines used by the city for decades. This time, the problem relates to the upcoming citywide elections in September which, if no candidate wins more than 40% in any of the primary races, a runoff will be required by state law, just two weeks later. This is now a huge problem for the city, since there is concern that it could be all but impossible to re-prepare and fully re-test the computer optical-scan systems in the short time after the primary and before the runoff elections. It has led some, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as well as the NYC Board of Elections, seemingly regretting the move away from lever machines, and considering bringing them out of mothballs for this year’s runoffs.

Voting Blogs: Italy’s ‘Perfect storm’ | openDemocracy

Some foreign publications, in commenting on the situation in Italy after the recent electoral results, have reverted to the offensively superficial and trite image of “bring on the clowns”. The term could be used both in a derogatory and a purely descriptive sense, as the only real winner of the election, Mr. Beppe Grillo, a professional comedian, could be called a “clown” without causing offence. Politically speaking, however, the epithet would not apply. Grillo has shown remarkable ability, and has created a powerful political movement, the party which has received the greatest number of votes (around 25 percent), from scratch, with no public financial backing, and in the teeth of first ridicule and then very violent criticism on the part of almost all the media. Whether this structure will show itself to be stable and lasting is another question, but it certainly wields decisive weight at this time. The same publications apply the epithet also to Mr. Berlusconi, mainly because, in their very superficial view of the situation, they consider him one of the “winners”, even though his Party has had the poorest electoral result in its history. The Italian press, in this case perhaps more imaginative and aiming at a higher cultural level, has preferred to describe the present political situation with the term “Perfect Storm” – much more suitable.

Voting Blogs: 2013 Kenyan Elections: Post-Election Report | The Monkey Cage

Kenyan elections have been underway for slightly more than 24 hours, and the much-touted voting technology, or lack thereof, has been at the center of attention. Within hours of the opening of the polling centers, reports from around the country announced the failure of the biometric voter identification system. This technology, which recorded voters’ fingerprints and other biographical data during the voter registration process, was meant to then identify registered voters on Election Day, using Kenyans’ individual biometric identity information. Due to a number of problems, including power outages, low battery life of the devices and polling officials’ difficulty accessing the central system, however, many stations had to resort to using the manual register.

Voting Blogs: The Italian puzzle – austerity, corruption, and the man next door | openDemocracy

Most international press has identified the results of the Italian elections as a vote against austerity. We find this analysis inaccurate, and with this article we explain why and present some likely scenarios. The message of the electorate is that before any macroeconomic or financial change can be considered, Italy’s institutions and their representatives need to be reformed and the impoverishment of the country must be addressed. Homework first. Italy enjoys a bi-chamber system: the lower Chamber and the Senate have an equal say on all matters including the appointment of the government. The electoral law was changed in 2005 by Berlusconi and his allies to make it very difficult for whoever does not win Lombardy and Veneto, the most populous and traditionally right-leaning regions, to win both chambers. Italians under the age of 25 are still shockingly not allowed to vote for the upper house, making it traditionally more conservative.

Voting Blogs: Not Yet Section 5’s Time To Die | Andrew Cohen/Brennan Center for Justice

The need for the Voting Rights Act will die, and it should die, on the day when Americans can say to one another with a straight face that racial discrimination in voting no longer exists there. Sadly, that day has not come. Before the United States Supreme Court’s oral argument this week in Shelby County v. Holder,Professor Garrett Epps cut to the core of the conflict over Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. “On the one hand,” he wrote Sunday in The Atlantic, “there is the right to vote… the cornerstone of a democratic system.” On the other hand, he added, there is the “sovereign dignity” of the states, words and a principle that “are mentioned nowhere in the Constitution.” As we begin to contemplate a world without this vital provision of this venerable law, a world in which federal officials are deprived of one of the most successful tools they have ever had to root out racial discrimination in voting practices, it is worth noting today the relative values of these conflicting interests as they impact the everyday lives of the American people. There is simply no comparison– despite the tone and tenor of some of the questions posed Wednesday by some of the justices.

Voting Blogs: Why the Predictions Could be Wrong in Shelby County | Myrna Pérez/Brennan Center for Justice

If you listen to the court watchers reacting to Wednesday’s oral arguments in Shelby County v. Holder, you might be bracing yourself for a roll back of voting rights. They are largely predicting the formula used to determine which states and localities are subject to or “covered” by the preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) will be struck down by the Supreme Court. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard these prognostications. In 2009, similar predictions abounded in a similar case, Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder (NAMUDNO), involving this key provision, called Section 5, of the VRA. They were wrong in NAMUDNO, and while only time will tell, I think they will be wrong in Shelby County.

Voting Blogs: Should I Stay or Should I Go? States Weigh Future of Federal Voting System Certification | Election Academy

Day 2 of the EAC/NIST Future of Voting Systems Symposium was a deep, deep dive into the policies, procedures and process behind standard-setting at the federal level. The morning was devoted to a discussion about how federal standards are developed and how market players (especially vendors and consumers) conform to them. It was truly fascinating to hear how different standards work in practice, especially since the speakers were so enthusiastic and detailed about the subject. [My highlight of the morning was the discovery that low-flush toilets are tested using Japanese bean paste.] But it was in the afternoon, when the talk turned to voting system standards in particular, that things got interesting.

Voting Blogs: True The Vote Fudges the Numbers in New Turnout Study |

True the Vote, an organization dedicated to eradicating voter fraud through controversial methods, issued a report on February 27 concluding that voter ID laws and other election changes allegedly meant to reduce voter fraud not only did not have an adverse impact on turnout in the 2012 elections, but may have helped to increased turnout. Its findings have been trumpeted by many news outlets who do not believe such laws suppress voter turnout. But it turns out the report’s authors made a huge methodological mistake. They compared turnout of eligible voters in 2008 to turnout of registered voters in 2012. Correcting this error reverses their findings. All but one of the states with these new laws experienced a decline in voter turnout, and most experienced a decline greater than the national turnout decline from 2008 to 2012.

Voting Blogs: The Italian General Election of February 2013: Deadlock after Technocracy | The Monkey Cage

The main results of the Italian General Election held on 24-25 February 2013 were unexpected. The most blatant outcome is the success of the brand new Five Star Movement led by the comedian Beppe Grillo. This political movement received the most votes in the Chamber, gaining more than 25 per cent of valid votes. The centre-left coalition led by the Democratic Party’s leader Pierluigi Bersani gained a plurality of votes in the Chamber (29.5% of valid votes). The seat bonus provided by the electoral system ensured the centre-left coalition a majority of seats (340 seats out of 630). In the Senate, where the seat bonus is allocated on a regional basis, the centre-left coalition gained 121 seats, far short of the majority threshold required to govern (158).

Voting Blogs: Are Election Day Precincts an Anachronism? | State of Elections

William & Mary’s recent Election Law Symposium played host to several of the leading luminaries in election administration, focusing upon issues of election delays, including but not limited to long lines.  On more than one occasion, participants discussed Election Day vote centers—large voting “big boxes” of sorts at which voters from multiple different precincts may vote—as a potential instrument to combat Election Day delays (see here for a brief discussion of voting at non-precinct polling places).  The subject was particularly appropriate for the panel assembled at W&M, as it included Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, a lightning rod for controversy in election administration, whose state has had valuable experience with Election Day vote centers. A recent study by political scientists Robert Stein of Rice University and Greg Vonnahme of the University of Alabama has shown that use of such vote centers can increase voter turnout. Some at the conference expressed concerns about vote centers.   Panelists referred to the logistical difficulties of operating voting centers—notably that the centers must have the capacity to provide several different ballots for different precincts, including situations in which different ballots require different paper sizes (a problem rendered moot where sophisticated voting machines are used, as they can easily be programmed to contain multiple electronic ballots).

Verified Voting in the News: Internet voting, the third-rail of elections | electionlineWeekly

There are no two words that get elections officials, scholars, vendors and geeks more riled up than Internet voting. The emotions on both sides often run so high that at times it can seem almost impossible to even have a conversation about the concept of casting a ballot online. But with concerns about long lines on Election Day, with the U.S. Postal Service cutting services, and elections officials concerned about getting ballots to voters overseas or in times of emergency, is it possible to discuss the possibilities? “Is there anything not controversial related to voting?  If voting machines had to go through acceptance that Internet voting is facing, they wouldn’t have been rolled out,” said Brian Newby, Johnson County, Kan. election commissioner. “The movement has pretty successfully been slowed by emotion and in particular, emotion masquerading as fact.” According to Newby, beyond the technological issues, there are some who are very impassioned because it takes away the spirit of community that comes with voting. “I respect that opposition because at least they are saying they don’t like Internet voting because of the way they feel. That’s an emotional argument that’s fair because it’s called out from the beginning as being emotional. Newby acknowledged that it is a difficult conversation, in part, because the country is no closer to Internet voting in the United States, really, than it was five or 10 years ago. “Discussion has been successfully stonewalled, so why fight with success?” Newby said. ”The best argument that could be made would be that there is a growing use of Internet voting options for military and overseas voters, but even those options have been much more evolutionary than revolutionary.”

Voting Blogs: “Fixing that”: States identify technological, personnel solutions to election delays | State of Elections

One of the biggest stories talked about in the wake of Election Day 2012 were the long lines at the polls. As Election Night played out in real time on television, people were able to see firsthand–or not see, as the case was–the votes come in from districts in states that had closed their polls hours ago. Jump over to any local station in these areas, and you could probably find a local reporter talking to prospective voters, many of whom said they had been waiting in line for hours. President Obama, speaking the day after, declared: “we have to fix that.” Some states have already started to address these problems. Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner filed a report earlier this month with his findings as to the best ways to reduce long lines and streamline elections. Florida saw some of the worst lines last year. Chief among Detzner’s proposed solutions include requiring county commissioners to pay for technological upgrades, giving election administrators greater leeway to make decisions that will shorten lines, and requiring that legislators have a word limit for the constitutional amendments they place on the ballot. He also suggested that, besides unpreparedness among election officials, one of the greatest problems leading to Election Day lines was the cutback passed by the state legislature on the number of early voting days and locations. He says that, despite the budget concerns that led to these being cut back after the 2010 election, they remain a pivotal reason why lines were so long.

Voting Blogs: Redistricting didn’t win Republicans the House | Washington Post

There have been a lot of claims recently about the impact of redistricting on the 2012 congressional elections. Progressives are alarmed that Democrats won a majority of the House vote—roughly 51%—while falling a full 17 seats short of a majority. Such a discrepancy between the winner by votes and the winner by seats is rare, so it’s natural to assume that Republican gerrymandering—the process of drawing districts to advantage one interest over others—might be the culprit. Neuroscientist and election forecaster Sam Wang recently added fuel to the fire, calling the 2012 outcome “The Great Gerrymander.” He identified 10 states, most of them controlled by Republicans, as notable and egregious deviations from a fair outcome, suggesting that gerrymandering cost the Democrats 15 seats in the current House of Representatives and calling for redistricting reform to fix the problem. Wang’s conclusion resembles that of political scientist Nicholas Goedert, who suggests that the 2012 maps cost the Democrats 14 seats. Is this right? Has gerrymandering allowed Republicans to defy the will of the people? The crucial question to ask when deciding whether redistricting “mattered” is: compared to what? What is the alternative set of districts—the “counterfactual”—to which you’re comparing the current districts? Once we consider some other alternatives, these claims about gerrymandering aren’t as strong as they first appear.

Voting Blogs: US Postal Service plans to eliminate Saturday delivery – elections officials not surprised; will ramp-up voter ed | electionlineWeekly

To quote the great American orator Yogi Berra, it’s like déjà vu all over again. Just about this time almost every year in recent memory, electionlineWeekly writes a story about cuts proposed by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and the possible impacts those cuts could have on the administration of elections. This year is no different after late last week USPS announced it will eliminate Saturday delivery except for packages. And elections officials aren’t thrilled, but they aren’t exactly surprised either. “I sit on the Mailers Technical Advisory Board (MTAC) to USPS so this has been discussed for quite some time now—it seemed to be more a question of “when”, not so much of “if,” said Tammy Patrick federal compliance officer, Maricopa County, Ariz. Elections. “The August timeline is preferable to waiting until 2014.” While only Oregon and Washington offer exclusive vote-by-mail system, about 20 percent of all voters in the United States cast their ballot through some form of vote-by-mail. This figure has more than tripled since 1980. This is especially true in Western states like Arizona, California, Colorado and Montana where local elections officials are working with legislatures and state election officials to make voting by mail as easy as possible.

Voting Blogs: Thoughts on the New Presidential Commission on Election Administration | Election Academy

The announcement last night of a new Presidential Commission on Election Administration brings to an end the speculation about President Obama’s plans to act on his observation that “we need to fix” problems with the nation’s election system. In one way, the decision to appoint a new Commission is a little puzzling, given the existence of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission; however, given the political limbo facing the EAC, the Administration may have decided that bypassing the appointment process via executive order was a way to get started on the process sooner than later. The choices to co-chair the Commission are very encouraging. Ben Ginsberg and Bob Bauer, while fierce advocates for their parties’ interests, have a long history of cooperation with one another on projects in this field, including attempts to help the nation’s judges bring some order to the often-messy process of election litigation. Hopefully, this will encourage policymakers on both sides of the aisle to look past what Election Law Blog’s Rick Hasen calls “the voting wars” and identify some solutions that can garner bipartisan support.

Voting Blogs: The 2012 Election Protection Report: Our Broken Voting System and How to Repair It | Election Protection Coalition

Every year, countless Americans across the country are blocked from voting—many having done everything they were supposed to do to exercise their civic right. The 2012 elections was a clarion call for change, and it is urgent that lawmakers answer this call and finally tackle these issues in a meaningful way.

Download the Report.
View on Scribd.

This Election Protection report provides a snapshot of the endemic problems that continue to plague American elections and sets the stage for federal and state legislators, state executives, and election officials to finally address the enduring difficulties that infect the voting process of this country. Though long lines were the story of the day, the problems run deeper than what appeared in the news media; the lines were a visible symptom of institutional problems afflicting our system of elections. Every year, countless Americans across the country are blocked from voting—many having done everything they were supposed to do to exercise their civic right. For these eligible and qualified voters—who show up at the polls on Election Day to make their voices heard only to be turned away because they inexplicably do not appear on the voter rolls or encounter a poorly trained poll worker not following voting rules—our democracy is broken.

Voting Blogs: Will the Bauer-Ginsberg Election Reform Commission Improve Our Dismal Election System? | Rick Hasen/Election Law Blog

During tonight’s State of the Union speech, the President made the following remarks:

But defending our freedom is not the job of our military alone.  We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home.  That includes our most fundamental right as citizens:  the right to vote.  When any Americans – no matter where they live or what their party – are denied that right simply because they can’t wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals.  That’s why, tonight, I’m announcing a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America.  And I’m asking two long-time experts in the field, who’ve recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney’s campaign, to lead it.  We can fix this, and we will.  The American people demand it.  And so does our democracy.

Here the President has followed up on his “we can fix that” statement about long lines from his victory speech on election night and his reiteration of the point in his inauguration speech. The issue is now officially on the agenda.

Voting Blogs: Pew’s Election Performance Index | Heather Gerken/Election Law Blog

A few years ago, I proposed creating a “Democracy Index” that would rank states and localities based on how well they run elections.  Since then, the Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonpartisan organization well known for promoting data-driven governance, has tried to put these ideas into action.  It created the nation’s first Elections Performance Index, which was released this week.  The EPI measures state performance based on seventeen indicators, which include the length of lines, the accuracy of voting technology, and the percentage of voters who experienced problems registering or casting an absentee ballot. The process for creating the Index was remarkable – as serious and professional an undertaking as I’ve witnessed.  Pew itself devoted significant funding and top-notch staffers to the project.  It also assembled an extraordinary group of advisors, which included some  of the top state and local election administrators in the country.  The legendary Charles Stewart, the former chair of MIT’s political science department, served as the data expert (though that seems a bit like calling a Ferrari a “car”).  The Pew staff and advisors — along with numerous outside experts Pew called in to poke and prod and test and challenge the validity of the indicators – narrowed down a list of almost fifty potential performance indicators to the seventeen you see on the website.  A huge amount of effort was put in to be sure the indicators were measuring something meaningful, and that the data gave us genuine signals rather than noise.  I am frankly amazed that Pew came up with so many good measures – it’s a testament to the creativity of the team, especially the political scientists who were involved.

Voting Blogs: Unlikely Challenge: North Carolina Election Challenge Procedures and Write-In Candidates | State of Elections

You can’t beat somebody with nobody”. On Election Day 2012, President Obama was re-elected, and North Carolina elected a Republican Governor for the first time in two decades. But there were thousands of other races further down the ballot, ones that are barely noticed by the public. In one of the most competitive counties in a swing state, on the last race on the ballot, a very odd thing happened. There was an election for an office that no one ran for. This election, for Watauga County Soil and Water Supervisor, had only write-in candidates since no one officially filed to run. Of the 27,764 ballots cast in Watauga County, only 1,839 votedin the race, all write in votes.  The election was won by Chris Stevens, a college student who registered to vote in September in Watauga County. The ineligible candidate discussed by this post, Alan Teitleman,finished fifth.

Voting Blogs: No Mail on Saturdays? Election Officials Consider the Impact | Election Academy

Yesterday, the U.S. Postal Service announced that beginning in August, it will stop home collection and delivery of mail on Saturdays in an effort to keep itself afloat despite mounting financial losses. The story is notable in itself – as I’ve already seen in numerous pieces, the USPS has the potential to touch every home in America six days a week – but the impact is especially keen in the elections field, where growing reliance on vote-by-mail and absentee ballots has made election officials and the Post Office partners in the delivery and receipt of ballots. In the Pacific Northwest, where voters in Oregon and Washington now vote completely by mail, state officials are already making plans to cope if the USPS goes through with the plan to end Saturday service.

Voting Blogs: Forget About Fresno: How One California County Clerk Stopped Prop 37’s Oversight ‘Recount’ | BradBlog

What happened last November in California’s Prop 37? Is it really possible that progressive California doesn’t want Genetically Engineered Foods to be labeled as such? According to the reported results of that election, that would seem to be the case. But did Californians really vote against such labeling? Unfortunately, thanks to a lack of overseeable public hand-counts on Election Night, and a gaping weakness in the state’s otherwise liberal “recount” law, we’re unlikely to ever know for certain. A weeks-long investigation by The BRAD BLOG into the months-long attempted effort to confirm the results of the Prop 37 ballot initiative last November, serves to highlight not just the weakness in California “recount” law, but also the notion that paper ballots, secretly tallied by optical-scan computers, are just fine, since, as the knee-jerk saying goes, “we can always count the paper ballots by hand afterwards if there are any questions about the results.”

Voting Blogs: How to Fix Long Lines | Brennan Center for Justice

There were many images typical of Election Day last November 6, including the usual confetti and tears that accompanied the victory and concession speeches at the end of the night. Unfortunately, there was another image that is increasingly common on Election Day, especially during presidential contests: long lines. While it was inspiring to see so many Americans endure hours of standing to exercise their most fundamental right, it was also troubling. We admire the voters in Miami who waited for hours and “refused to leave the line despite fainting.” But should this kind of fortitude be needed to vote? By modernizing voter registration, providing more early voting opportunities, and setting minimum national standards for polling place access, America can fix the long lines that plague elections and bring our voting system into the 21st century.

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Voting Blogs: Czech presidential vote: a society divided | openDemocracy

This Saturday’s election saw the victory of former PM Milos Zeman over current Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. The duel between a decried populist and an old-school aristocrat revealed a division previously unseen in modern Czech society. A few days before the first round of the presidential election, Charles University sociologist Martin C. Putna described the vote as an historic event in which the Czechs are “subconsciously electing their king”. Putna claimed that this inadvertent royal tradition rests on two factors. The first is the presidential residence – Prague Castle located in the heart of the capital and situated on a minor hill overlooking the city – which has been the seat of Czech monarchs since the ninth century. The second factor is the Czech Crown Jewels, stored in the St. Vitus Cathedral inside the Prague Castle complex, the fourth oldest coronation vestments in Europe. Both the Prague Castle and the Crown Jewels are among the major symbols of contemporary Czech sovereignty, nationalism and statehood even though they are intrinsically linked to a regal tradition.

Voting Blogs: 2013 Jordan Post-Election Report: And the winner is…the king | The Monkey Cage

On 23 January 2013, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan held its first parliamentary elections in the context of the “Arab Spring”. Like previous parliaments, the 17th elected Lower House (the Upper House, or Senate, is royally appointed) will consist of an absolute majority of conservative and tribal candidates, providing the “reigning and ruling” King Abdallah II with a solid support base in both chambers. More than 75 % of the 150 parliamentarians can be considered loyalists, while about one fourth (ca. 37 deputies according to some reports) have a more independent and oppositionist outlook. The latter group is, however, very diverse, ranging from individual leftist and liberal secularists to independent Islamists, three of which represent the al-Wasat party, the biggest party in the future legislature. The future Lower House will also have 17 female deputies, two more than the women’s quota of 15 provides.