Iowa House Republicans are ending their review of a contested Statehouse race separated by nine votes, arguing that a set of rejected ballots at the heart of the challenge shouldn’t be opened or counted. The announcement Wednesday by a key Republican lawmaker greatly diminishes Democrat Kayla Koether’s chances of getting the Iowa Legislature to accept 29 rejected mail-in ballots in the House District 55 race. Rep. Michael Bergan, R-Dorchester, was declared the winner in the race and took his seat this year. Rep. Steven Holt, a Denison Republican overseeing a five-member, GOP-led special election committee, said Republicans believe election law doesn’t allow the ballots to be reviewed. “We lack the legal authority to open these ballots,” Holt said.
It may be an American’s right to vote on Election Day, but that right was hampered in last November’s elections by excessively long waits, a limited number of voting machines, a lack of Spanish-speaking translators and — in one case — an “intimidating” police presence at the polls. Those were just a few of the stories that people told legislative members of both the House Voter and Election Committee and the Senate Rules Committee on Saturday morning. The special session was dedicated to hearing testimony on unexpected and unpleasant challenges facing New Mexico voters in last November’s general election. “There’s no such thing as a perfect election, but it’s always troubling to hear of issues on Election Day,” said Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who has served as county clerk for Bernalillo County since 2007. She was one of about 20 people offering first-hand testimony — and also the only county clerk to show up for the event.
On the heels of the November election, an East Tennessee Republican group considered blocking future votes from some of its members. It would have been punishment for supporting the wrong candidate, and state law permits it. Few people know, when you vote in any election in Tennessee anyone can challenge your vote. That voter challenge law is rarely enforced. As political tension has increased over the past few years, it is coming up more in local elections. Last week, the Anderson County Republican party threatened two of its members, both who hold local offices, with a voter challenge in future primary elections. Some political experts believe that state law, especially it it’s actually used in more counties, could further strain national politics.
The Republican fight against voter rights has garnered the lions share of press attention, but as The Nation reports, the fight for voting rights extends well beyond the fight over Voter ID and includes the fight over who gets to raise the question over who is eligible to vote. In at least twenty-four states any random person is authorized, if they feel so inclined, to question individual voters and ask them to “prove” their eligibility to vote. As restrictive and complicated Voter ID laws have passed state-by-state, conservative groups have realized there’s good leveraging in voter registration challenges and poll watcher trainings.Tea Party loyalists have created True the Vote, an advocacy group which pushes Voter ID laws and training “patriots” to protect the polls. But as a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice, “Voter Challengers” spells out, these groups rely on American’s historical amnesia when it comes to race in order to promote their activities. Poll-watching can’t be divorced from its racially motivated roots, and groups like True the Vote understand that, even if they won’t acknowledge it.