At her inauguration ceremony today, Secretary of State Debra Bowenannounced that her office was implementing a four-year strategic plan focused on three priorities: ensuring fair and secure elections, doing business, and protecting rights and state treasures. She also listed six values that will guide the work of the office of Secretary of State: service; integrity; teamwork; openness; innovation; and consistency. She concluded by saying that standing up for the workers in her office is the most important thing she can do to make sure they deliver excellent public service, so “let’s get back to work.”
Sen. Tom Gaffey, D-13th, announced Monday he will not take the oath of office on Wednesday. Mr. Gaffey was re-elected to office in November. Mr. Gaffey is charged with double-billing his political action committee, a charge that amounts to larceny. He says he plans to plead guilty on Wednesday and that he has taken steps to repay the money. The state senator said in a press release that he apologizes to family and constituents, saying “I apologize to my family, friends, colleagues and the voters of my district for any embarrassment my mistakes may have caused.”
While four candidates challenged their opponents’ petition for nomination early Monday evening, all four candidates were upheld in the end. The St. Charles election board, which consisted of Mayor Donald DeWitte, 4th Ward Alderman James Martin and Clerk Nancy Garrison, decided in all cases that even though certain points were valid, nothing made any of the challenged candidates ineligible for the election.
ES&S used a “Graphic Dump” on the M100 to show exactly what was being read in each oval on the ballot. What that graphic dump showed was that for the ballots in question, when placed in the machine top first, the M100 read not the area within the oval, but rather the area to the left. That area to the left corresponds to the place on the top of the ballot where the judge’s initials go within the area that contains the column timing bars. Essentially what appears to have happened is that when the judge’s initials cross into the timing area within a very limited range and at a very limited angle (that is, very horizontal), that extra line is being read as one of the column timing bars. No one at ES&S had seen this before, and it is odd enough that it is unlikely that its cropped up many times before. At the same time, I’d be surprised if we were the first people to witness this.
A former Morningside College student could be deported for claiming to be a United States citizen so he could vote. Christopher Mettin, of Germany, pled guilty to one of the two counts he was originally charged with and was sentenced to time already served, which was 52 days.
A coalition of voting rights groups has formed to oppose an effort led by Secretary of State-elect Kris Kobach to require voters show a photo ID to vote. The Kansas Voter Coalition said on Monday that the proposal by Kobach, a Republican who takes office Jan. 10, is “a solution to a problem whose existence cannot be demonstrated empirically.” Gov.-elect Sam Brownback also supports voter ID.
Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo said he will wait for a court battle over a Worcester County seat to play out before swearing the winner in. A recount shows Republican Peter Durant ahead by a single vote over incumbent Democratic Rep. Geraldo Alicea.
State Assemblyman Frank Skartados narrowed the gap Monday in his fight to hold on to his 100th District seat against Tom Kirwan. But he might have to go to court to win that battle. On Monday, the Dutchess County Board of Elections opened 44 absentee and affidavit ballots from the cities of Beacon and Poughkeepsie at the direction of Judge Victor Alfieri in a decision issued following a hearing in Orange County Court. Both cities are predominantly Democratic. Skartados, the Democrat in the race, picked up 37 votes to 6 for Kirwan, for a net gain of 31. (One ballot was objected to by Jim Walsh, the lawyer for the Republican team.)
Voters in Oklahoma could see new polling machines by next election. State officials say it’s time for the old machines to retire. According to the State Election Board, the machines are 18 years old, but the state only expected them to work for 10 years. The new devices can be expected to hit voting precincts by 2012.
The 4 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico can’t vote in American elections, the 1st Circuit ruled, even though the U.S. government signed an international treaty protecting all citizens’ civil and political rights. In a 2-1 decision, the federal appeals court in Boston held that the Constitution trumped international law in determining whether Puerto Rico has the right to elect its own member to the House of Representatives.
In the majority opinion, Chief Judge Sandra Lynch said voting rights are “limited to the citizens of states.” Puerto Rico residents could only vote in U.S. elections through a constitutional amendment, or if the territory became a state, according to the ruling. “The constitutional text is entirely unambiguous as to what constitutes statehood; the constitution explicitly recites the thirteen original states as being the states and articulates a clear mechanism for the admission of other states, as distinct from territories,” Lynch wrote. “Puerto Rico does not meet these criteria.”
With Republicans taking control of state legislatures and governorships across the country this month, newly emboldened GOP lawmakers in places like North Carolina, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Kansas are pushing laws that would require photo identification for all voters. Voter-ID bills have already been “prefiled” — that is, submitted before sessions begin — in at least six states. In North Carolina, legislators have even vowed to pass such a measure in the first hundred days of the session, and incoming Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has said a voter-ID law will be the first bill introduced in the 2011 legislative session.
But despite Republican alarmism over rigged elections, voter-ID laws are a solution in search of a problem: They address an exceedingly rare type of vote fraud, cost the state money that could be used to address more pressing issues in a time of economic crisis, and serve primarily to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters — just so politicians can influence who votes in the next election. Given the sense of urgency behind these laws, one would expect that on Election Day, droves of people scheme to fix elections by impersonating other voters. That’s not the case. The type of fraud that voter-identification laws would address — that is, impersonation of another voter at the polling place — is exceedingly rare. An extensive analysis by professor Lori Minnite at Barnard College showed that at the federal level, only 24 people were convicted of or pleaded guilty to illegal voting between 2002 and 2005, an average of eight people a year.
Kosovo’s election authorities were nearing the end of a recount of nearly 40 per cent of votes cast in last month’s general election, an official said Tuesday, following complaints of widespread fraud in the country’s first poll since it declared its independence from Serbia. Ballots from 700 polling stations out of 760 across Kosovo where irregularities were reported have already been recounted, said Fehmi Ajvazi, a spokesman for the Central Election Commission. The commission agreed on a recount just days after the Dec. 12 poll when candidates for the 120-seat legislature complained of widespread fraud. Suspicion arose in poling station where monitors complained that votes for party candidates exceeded those cast for a single political party. Voters in Kosovo are asked to choose a political party and up to five party candidates.
The Institute for Public Policy Research was formed in Great Britain in 1988, and now has a presence in 25 nations. On January 4, 2011, it issued a 24-page report, “Worst of Both Worlds: Why First Past the Post No Longer Works.” The study finds that British parliamentary elections, which use the same winner-take-all system that the United States uses for federal and state elections, are deeply flawed.
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