India: Non-Resident Indians Make Their Voices Heard in Punjab Elections | News18

Punjab’s strong non-resident community has arrived in hordes from Canada, Britain, the US and other countries for the February 4 assembly elections in the state.
All major parties are paying special attention to the diaspora — or non-resident Indians (NRIs) — who have arrived here as the community is believed to have an influence on voting prospects in Punjab. In the past over one year, not only have NRIs extended support to the three major parties in the fray — the Congress, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal — but are also believed to have made major financial contributions to the parties.

Utah: Senate passes resolution to repeal 17th Amendment in states’ rights push | Standard Examiner

The Utah Senate passed a resolution Wednesday that calls upon Congress to repeal the 17th Amendment, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. Such a proposal would result in U.S. senators being appointed by state legislatures instead of being elected by popular vote. The 17th Amendment, allowing for the popular election of U.S. senators, was passed in 1913. According to the language of SJR2, this “resulted in the increased power of the federal government over the individual states.” The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Alvin Jackson, R-Highland, told the Tribune, “This is about restoring power back to the states.”

Turkey: Premier Gains Ground in Turkish Elections | Wall Street Journal

Turkey’s prime minister appeared to have scored a decisive victory in local elections seen as a referendum on his rule over an increasingly divided country, setting the stage for a possible run for president. Exit polls showed Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, winning a comfortable plurality of votes nationally, but the margin of victory and his party’s control of major cities was unclear early Monday. Two polls showed the party registering 46% of the vote with 80% of the ballots counted, with the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, securing 28%. In Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, and the capital, Ankara—the most closely watched and influential constituencies—both the government and the opposition claimed victory and accused each another of fraud. The AKP appeared to have held Istanbul but the final results in Ankara were still unclear at midnight.

Iowa: Jury acquits ex-felon in Iowa voter fraud case | The Des Moines Register

A former drug offender who voted in a municipal election despite having lost her right to cast a ballot was acquitted of perjury Thursday, in the first trial stemming from Iowa’s two-year investigation into voter fraud. Jurors rejected the prosecution’s argument that Kelli Jo Griffin intentionally lied on a voter registration form before casting a ballot in an uncontested mayoral and council election in the southeastern Iowa town of Montrose. Griffin, a 40-year-old mother of young children, would have faced up to 15 years in prison if convicted. Griffin had lost her voting rights following a 2008 felony conviction for delivery of cocaine. She testified that she believed her right to vote had been restored when she left probation last year, which had been the state’s policy until 2011. Lee County Attorney Michael Short argued that Griffin deliberately left blank a question on the form asking whether she was a convicted felon, saying she was trying to hide her past as a drug dealer. Iowa is now one of four states in which ex-offenders have to apply to the governor to regain their voting rights.

Editorials: Conservatives’ 17th Amendment repeal effort: Why their plan will backfire. | David Schleicher/Slate

ver the past year, an increasingly central plank of conservative and Tea Party rhetoric is that constitutional change is needed and that the 17th Amendment in particular, which gives state residents the power to elect senators directly, should be repealed. (Previously, senators were selected by the state legislatures). Hard-right figures across the country, from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to Georgia Senate candidate Rep. Paul Broun to a steady drumbeat of state officials, have now called for repealing the amendment and giving the power to select senators back to the state legislatures. Radio host Mark Levin’s book The Liberty Amendments, calling for repeal, among other constitutional changes, was the best-selling book on constitutional law last year. Clearly this is an idea with legs. This boomlet of energy for repealing the 17th Amendment is not the first in recent memory. Back in 2010, repeal was similarly endorsed by a bevy of conservative bigwigs from Justice Antonin Scalia to Gov. Rick Perry to now-Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). Back then, support for repeal was mocked in Democratic campaign ads as kooky, but perhaps it’s time to concede that it is no longer a fringe idea. Given the ascendance of the right flank of the GOP, it’s worth taking the argument for repeal seriously.

National: Gerrymanders and state [s]elections | The Hill

Ol’ Elbridge Gerry is back in the dock, his namesake “gerrymander” blamed for all that ails our “gridlocked” Congress.   Some claim that the House districts drawn by state legislatures in 2011 have reached new heights (or lows) of partisanship.  Critics deride the shape of the districts and object to their effect on control of the House.  These claims are important, but they ignore the fact that state legislatures have since 1788 sought to influence the selection of members of Congress. The current, computer-aided gerrymandering is only the most recent battle in that perennial fight.  When viewed as the “selection” of sympathetic House members by state legislatures, gerrymandering reflects deeper constitutional roots than its critics admit. The Framers of our Constitution granted state legislatures key roles in the election of the members of the Senate and House.  Article I of the 1787 Constitution provided for the election of senators by vote of the state legislatures.  Members of the House were to be chosen by the vote of the people of each state, but state legislatures would choose the “time, place, and manner” of such direct elections,” though Congress retained power to “alter” such state regulations.

Mississippi: Lowndes County to buy new voting machine system | The Commercial Appeal

Lowndes County supervisors plan to seek bids to buy new voting machine system that scans paper ballots. Supervisors on Monday approved a request by county purchasing clerk Terry Thompson to solicit bids, The Commercial Dispatch newspaper reported. The equipment would replace a TSX electronic voting system that has been used since 2005 to process votes digitally. Mississippi received federal funding in 2005 for TSX systems as well as maintenance and technical support. County circuit clerk Haley Salazar said in September that money for support and upkeep will not be provided after this year and that going back to paper ballots would be more efficient for voters, poll workers and election commissioners.

Editorials: District should adopt instant-runoff elections | The Washington Post

Congratulations to D.C. Council member Anita Bonds (D) for winning Tuesday’s special at-large election and also to Elissa Silverman (D) for a strong showing as a first-time candidate. But the abysmal voter turnout that saw a winner supported by roughly 3 percent of eligible voters must prompt concern about how these elections are held. Not only does the District need to examine how to boost voter participation but it also should move to a system of instant-runoff voting. Ms. Bonds did not receive our backing in the campaign to serve the at-large council term vacated when Phil Mendelson (D) was elected chairman, but we hope she succeeds in meeting her election-night pledge to bring people together to help meet the city’s potential. It’s also clear from the way Ms. Silverman’s campaign resonated that she could have a political future, one that should be followed with interest. By contrast, prospects for the future of the local Republican Party appear dim with the third-place finish of GOP standard-bearer Patrick Mara.

Editorials: End the electoral college | USA Today

Vladimir Putin had an election in Russia. This week, Hugo Chavez had one in Venezuela. Last spring, Nicholas Sarkozy lost one in France. In each case, the outcome was decided by the majority of voters in their country. Such direct democracy is a foreign concept in the USA, where we require neither direct voting nor a majority to lead our nation. The reason is an arcane institution: the Electoral College. In the U.S., presidents are not elected by the people but by 538 “electors” who award blocks of votes on a state-by-state basis. The result is that presidents can be — and have been — elected with fewer votes than their opponents. Indeed, various presidents have taken office with less than 50% of the vote. The question is whether a president should be elected by a majority of voters of at least one free country before he can call himself the leader of the free world. The Electoral College is a relic of a time when the Framers believed that average people could not be trusted with selecting a president, at least not entirely. This was consistent with a general view of the dangers of direct voting systems. Until 1913, U.S. senators were elected not by their constituents but by the state legislators. When we finally got rid of that provision with the 17th Amendment, we failed to change its sister provision in Article II on the indirect election of presidents.

Arizona: Senate Candidate Jeff Flake Takes On The 17th Amendment | TPM

Jeff Flake, the Republican Arizona congressman who is running for U.S. Senate, would prefer if the voters of his state didn’t have the chance to cast a ballot for him this year. Instead, he said at a recent campaign stop, he wishes the Arizona legislature, which is dominated by a Republican super majority, would get to choose who represents the state in the Senate. Flake made the comments last week in response to a question at an event in Payson, Ariz. The local newspaper, the Payson Roundup, first noted the response on Friday. In doing so, Flake came out alongside hardcore Tea Party candidates who favor the repeal of the 17th Amendment, which was adopted in 1913 to let voters pick their senators. But even some Tea Party candidates have said repealing the amendment would be a step too far for them.

Editorials: Maryland Becomes 40th State to Ratify 17th Amendment | Karl Kurtz/The Thicket

My sharp-eyed colleague, Ron Snell, noticed a bit of federalism trivia that had previously slipped by us in the 90 Day Report, a summary of the work of the 2012 Maryland General Assembly: Maryland ratified the 17th Amendment to the Constitution–the direct election of U.S. senators–during its legislative session earlier this year. Thirty-seven other states–the required three-fourths majority of states in those days–had ratified the amendment in 1913. Alabama ratified it in 2002 and Delaware in 2010. Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Rhode Island, South Carolinia, Utah and Virginia are the eight states that have not ratified the amendment. Utah is the only state explicitly to have rejected the amendment, according toWikipedia. In looking up this information, I was intrigued to read about a 1997 law review article, “Ulysses at the Mast: Democracy, Federalism, and the Sirens’ Song of the Seventeenth Amendment,” by Judge Jay Bybee in which he argues that the state legtislatures’ ratification of the 17th Amendment, giving up the power to elect U.S. senators, led to a gradual “slide into ignominy” for state legislatures. I don’t buy the “slide into ignominy,” but I agree with Bybee that the 17th Amendment significantly hindered the role of state legislatures in the federal system.

Editorials: Is Rick Perry Right That the Seventeenth Amendment Was a Mistake? | Vikram David Amar/Verdict.Justia

Among the many provocative things Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry has said is that the American people “mistakenly empowered the federal government during a fit of populist rage in the early twentieth century . . . by changing the way senators are elected (the Seventeenth Amendment).”

In this column, we analyze why the Seventeenth Amendment—providing for direct election of U.S. Senators—came about, and whether it would be a good and/or workable idea, as Perry suggests, to repeal it.

The Original Constitution and the Provision for State Legislative Election of Senators

Most historians and legal commentators agree on the basic story of Senate election methods. In 1787, the Framers and ratifiers of the original Constitution chose legislative election largely to safeguard the existence and interests of the state governments.