There is a long history of surprise candidates doing well in the Iowa caucuses and defeating the “inevitable” nominees. And this year is no exception. Whether it’s Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, or if it’s Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, next week, Iowans will get to have the first say. How did this all start? How did the Iowa caucus—a strange election-year event where a small number of Iowans gather in homes, schools, and other civic buildings to announce their support for their candidates—become such a major political touchstone? With a mere 52 delegates, Iowa has nevertheless become a force in presidential campaigns over the last four decades. The caucus, which started in the 1840s, had traditionally fallen in the middle of campaign season. But in 1972, state reforms modernized the process and moved the date from May 20 to January 24, making it the first contest in the election. That’s when a campaign worker named Gary Hart convinced Democrat George McGovern to take the state seriously. But where McGovern took Iowa seriously, it was Jimmy Carter who revolutionized the role that the Hawkeye State would play in presidential politics. Carter turned the Iowa caucus into a major event in 1976 and thereby demonstrated how an upstart campaign could turn a victory in this small state into a stepping-stone for gaining national prominence. When people talk about Carter’s legacy by focusing on his failed presidency or his transformative post-presidency, they forget one of his most lasting actions—his 1976 campaign, which all started in small, rural Iowa.
National: From Carter To California: Automatic Registration Is The New Endgame For Elections | Huffington Post
President Jimmy Carter took office in 1977 with the conviction that it should be easier for citizens to register to vote. To accomplish that goal, he wrote to Democratic secretaries of state that year urging them to support legislation that would allow voters to register on Election Day. “The continuing decline in American voter participation is a serious problem which calls for the attention of all of us in public life,” Carter wrote. Advisers to Carter and Vice President Walter Mondale had concluded that Election Day registration, which they called “universal registration,” would boost low turnout rates. They cited laws passed in Minnesota and Wisconsin after the 1972 election that allowed citizens to register at the polls, which placed both states in the top five for highest turnout in 1976. But tucked away in their correspondence about the election reform proposals was an acknowledgment that the United States’ neighbor to the north had made it even easier for citizens to vote, by registering them automatically with government data.
James Earl Carter is nearing the end. In an extraordinary press conference last week, the 39th president discussed his impending death from metastasizing liver cancer, with a grace, humor, and wisdom the rest of us can only hope to emulate when our own time comes. Soon will come the eulogies: then, the assessments. Forgive me if I jump the gun with a gust of affection. I’ve been grappling with his 1976 candidacy and presidency for most of my workdays for at least a year now for my next book on Ronald Reagan’s rise to the presidency. I want to loose some thoughts while they are fresh in my mind. … President Carter, concerned that America ranked 21st in voter participation among the world’s democracies, transmitted a package of proposed electoral reforms to Congress. He had studied the problem. Now he was ready to administer a solution. Everyone loved to talk about voter apathy, but the real problem, Carter said, was that “millions of Americans are prevented or discouraged from voting in every election by antiquated and overly restricted voter registration laws”—a fact proven, he pointed out, by record rates of participation in 1976 in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota, where voters were allowed to register on election day. So he proposed that election-day registration be adopted universally, tempering concerns that such measures might increase opportunities for fraud by also proposing five years in prison and a $10,000 fine as penalties for electoral fraud.
A pro-democracy foundation run by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has shut down its 13-year-old electoral observation office in Venezuela as the South American country gears up for closely watched legislative elections. In a monthly report on Venezuela’s political outlook published Wednesday, the Carter Center said it closed its Caracas office May 31 to concentrate its limited resources in other countries that have solicited its help. It said it would continue to monitor events from the center’s headquarters in Atlanta. The Carter Center has been a frequent observer of elections in Venezuela and it mediated talks between the socialist government and opposition following a 2002 coup that briefly unseated then President Hugo Chavez.
Jimmy Carter didn’t hesitate when asked how he would feel about running for president today. “I couldn’t possibly do it, because I have very little money,” the 90-year-old said at a press conference during a recent visit to Wilkes-Barre. “And now it takes $200 million if you want any chance to get the Democratic or Republican nomination.” Since 1976, when Mr. Carter, a Democrat, became the 39th president of the United States, campaigns — and financing them — have changed dramatically. In the early 1970s, individuals and organizations were limited as to what they could contribute to political campaigns. But campaign financing has been reshaped over the past 40 years due to a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
Dozens of trips to monitor elections abroad have left former President Jimmy Carter hopeful about the future of many countries adopting democracy but concerned about the election process in the U.S. Carter spoke with The Associated Press on Thursday in Atlanta ahead of a May trip to Guyana that will mark the Carter Center’s 100th mission and his own 39th observation trip. The program is a large part of what Carter once called his “second life” since forming the human rights organization in 1982 after leaving the White House. The milestone represents “an opportunity to contribute to democracy and freedom,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that the work that the Carter Center has done in monitoring elections has encouraged people to have more honest elections.”
Standing in front of a huge David Perdue bus in a hangar at DeKalb Peachtree Airport, Sen. Johnny Isakson begged the crowd to go to the polls. “Tomorrow isn’t just about going to the polls for yourself, it’s about bringing our neighbors and friends,” he said, “Whatever you do from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., you want to get everyone to go out and vote.” This is the typical plea of a campaign in its final stretch. But it also reflects the fundamental and driving dynamics of the Georgia’s election contests. Rapid demographic change has pushed this Southern state from a deep red—which gave 57.9 percent of its votes to George W. Bush—to a reddish purple, where the Democratic Senate candidate—Michelle Nunn, daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn—is neck-and-neck with Republican David Perdue, and the Democratic candidate for governor—Jimmy Carter’s grandson Jason Carter—is close to a win over Nathan Deal, the Republican governor. Compared to 2010, the black share of the electorate is larger (28.8 percent versus 28.2 percent) and the white share smaller (64.2 percent versus 66.3 percent). These look like small shifts, but in a close election, they’re substantial. In an electorate with more black voters, Democrats need significantly fewer white voters to maintain a lead and get to 50 percent. What’s more, these trends are ongoing—the Georgia electorate of 2016 and 2018 will each be less white than the one that preceded it. Tuesday’s races—and the strategies pursued by both campaigns—will set the stage for the next decade of partisan fights in the state.
Robert A. Pastor, an influential scholar and policymaker who spent decades working for better inter-American relations and democracy and free elections in the Western Hemisphere, has died after a three-year battle with cancer. He was 66. American University Provost Scott A. Bass announced the death on Thursday. A letter posted on the university website by Dean James Goldgeier of the university’s School of International Service, where Pastor was a professor, said he died Wednesday evening.
Nepal’s dominant Communist party was routed, the country’s politics swung sharply to the right, and India’s influence in Nepal is likely to soar after the first set of results from last week’s election were finalized Monday. The Nepali Congress, the country’s oldest political party and one that favors close ties with India, won 105 of the 240 directly elected seats. The Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) came in second with 91 seats. Despite their party’s name, the Marxist-Leninists are considered centrists in Nepal. The majority of seats in the Constituent Assembly will be determined by proportional votes, and in those preliminary returns the Nepali Congress is again first followed by the Marxist-Leninists, according to the Election Commission of Nepal. Together, the two parties will likely dominate the new Constituent Assembly. Since a two-thirds majority in the Constituent Assembly is required for a constitution to be adopted, however, the Maoists may still play a critical albeit reduced role. The Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) secured only 26 seats in the direct election, a small fraction of the total it earned in the 2008 elections.
Venezuelans went to hi-tech polling booths on Sunday for the first presidential election of the post-Hugo Chávez era, with surveys indicating that his chosen successor will win a clear mandate to continue his policies of “21st Century Socialism.” … Capriles, a 40-year-old state governor who promised to manage the economy more effectively, wrote on his Twitter feed that this event – widely covered by the government-controlled media – was a “flagrant violation” of electoral rules that forbid campaigning in the two days prior to the vote. It was one of many claims of unfairness leveled by the challenger, who is disadvantaged by Maduro’s extra airtime on state news channels, his use of the presidential jet to fly to rallies, and resources and personnel from massive state-owned companies. In contrast, the vote itself has been lauded by outside observers as among the most advanced in the world.
Venezuela: National Electoral Council Says Voting System is “Armoured” for Presidential Vote | venezuelanalysis.com
Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) undertook its final test of voting machines yesterday as part of preparations in the lead up to the presidential vote on Sunday, when incumbent President Hugo Chavez will stand against right-wing opponent Henrique Capriles Radonski. 600 voters representing each of Venezuela’s 24 regional states were brought to a large CNE warehouse in the central Miranda state for the test yesterday. While the participants voted on the 200 randomly selected machines, CNE technicians, representatives of the presidential candidates, and the electoral accompaniment mission from the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) were able to assess the functioning of the voting system. The audit was also used to test the functioning of the electronic transmission of voting information to the CNE’s central totaling system.
The Carter Center is sending observer teams to Libya to monitor and report on that country’s July 7 parliamentary elections. Former President Jimmy Carter said in a statement Wednesday that he hopes the center’s limited mission will contribute “to a peaceful, transparent and credible electoral process and will support Libyans’ aspirations to build a strong democracy.” Voters will elect a national assembly that is expected to write a new constitution for Libya. The election will be Libya’s first national vote since the capture and killing of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi last October.
Former United States President Jimmy Carter praised Egypt’s presidential election, particularly the high participation, considering it a model for the world to follow. Carter said, “The Carter Centre to monitor elections – which he heads – has monitored more than 90 elections worldwide, but the most important was Egypt’s presidential election, which was blessed with transparency, an eagerness to participate, integrity and an overwhelming turnout”, the Middle East News Agency reported. Carter’s statement came during his meeting with Azhar Grand Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb in his office.