Civil rights activists, including Martin Luther King III, are amping up the pressure on President Obama and the 2016 White House contenders to tackle low voter turnout by overhauling the rules governing the nation’s elections. The advocates are marking Thursday’s 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) with a rally on the National Mall calling for new efforts to knock down what they consider to be barriers to the polls. The activists want lawmakers to consider online registration and an expansion of the voting window to include a weekend, which they argue would make it easier for people to cast their ballots. Behind King and Andrew Young, the former United Nations ambassador and civil rights activist who now heads the voting rights group Why Tuesday?, the activists have challenged each of the 2016 presidential candidates to outline their ideas for addressing the low voter turnout that’s plagued recent elections — a request that came with an unveiled threat to call out those who ignore the plea.
As he pitched himself to black voters in South Carolina Tuesday, Martin O’Malley called for a constitutional amendment to protect every American’s right to vote. “Many Americans don’t realize that the U.S. Constitution does not affirmatively guarantee the right to vote,” he said in an email to his supporters. “Passing a constitutional amendment that enshrines that right will give U.S. courts the clarity they need to strike down Republican efforts to suppress the vote.” O’Malley is specifically advocating for the passage of legislation introduced in the House in January, which states, “Every citizen of the United States, who is of legal voting age, shall have the fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides.” The bill was referred to the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice.
Leaders of the Democratic Party adopted their 2016 presidential nominating calendar on Saturday, setting the stage for a successor to President Barack Obama. The Democratic National Committee, or DNC, approved rules for its 2016 convention along with a primary schedule that will begin with the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1, 2016, followed by voting later that month in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. The 2016 framework is in line with plans pushed by Republicans and gives states incentives to hold their primary contests between March and June, aiming to avoid a front-loaded calendar that encroaches on the Christmas holidays. Pointing to the 2016 national meeting, DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz predicted it will be the convention where “we will nominate the 45th president of the United States of America.” The plans were approved unanimously without any discussion.
Maryland: Fourth Circuit dismisses political consultant’s challenge of illegal Election Day robocall | Baltimore Sun
A federal court on Monday rejected political consultant Julius Henson’s appeal of a $1 million civil judgment against him for an illegal Election Day robocall. The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a decision that Henson, his company, Universal Elections Inc., and an employee violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act with a November 2010 automated campaign message to more than 112,000 Democratic voters in Maryland. In the case brought by Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler, the state argued that the call was designed to suppress black votes. The message failed to include information on the call’s sponsor. Henson was employed by former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, who unsuccessfully challenged Gov. Martin O’Malley for re-election.
After three years of delay, Maryland elections officials are finally replacing the state’s aging touch-screen voting machines with ones that can optically scan paper ballots in time for the 2016 presidential election. However, an April 12 story in the Maryland Reporter noted that they are planning to spend virtually all of the $1.2 million budgeted for the transition on just five outside contractors. Election Board Administrator Linda Lamone, who previously stated that the switch would occur “over my dead body,” has recommended paying the yet-to-be-hired senior project manager $350,000, the deputy project manager $300,000, two business analysts $210,000 each, and a technical writer $170,000 for just nine months of work.
Virginia is heading toward tough new restrictions on voting following last November’s election, while across the Potomac, Maryland is doing just the opposite. It’s the latest evidence that the two states are following the diverging national trends of the parties that control their respective statehouses. The Virginia Senate approved a Republican-backed measure Friday that requires voters to show a photo ID at the polls in order to cast a ballot starting in 2014. If it’s signed into law, it would make Virginia the 10th state to pass such a mandate. Republicans said it’s a necessary step to prevent election fraud. But Democrats said the GOP is moving the goal posts after changing voting laws last year to require that Virginians bring any ID, with or without a photo, to the polls. “A year later, we still have no evidence of voter fraud. None at all,” said Sen. Don McEachin, D-Henrico. Gov. Bob McDonnell has not indicated whether he would sign the bill, but a spokesman said “the governor believes Virginia’s current system generally has proven successful.”
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is proposing legislation this year that would allow residents to register to vote and cast their ballots on the same day, as he looks to join other Democratic-leaning states that are expanding voter access as a counterpoint to voter-identification laws passed in more conservative states. The governor’s proposal would allow residents to register and vote on the same day during early voting, but not on Election Day, and would add Maryland to 12 states and the District which have enacted some form of same-day voter registration. A change is expected to increase voter turnout and is part of a push by many Democrats, including President Obama, to clear what they say are unnecessary roadblocks in the way of potential voters.
Expanding the opportunity for qualified residents to vote in an election is seldom, if ever, a bad thing, so Gov. Martin O’Malley’s decision to expand early voting and seek same-day registration in Maryland is a welcome development. Too bad that Republicans in Annapolis are already lining up against the measures on purely partisan grounds. One of the more notable features of the 2012 General Election was the high early-voter turnout in Maryland. Some people waited for hours, particularly in Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties, to cast a ballot before Election Day. Altogether, more than 430,000 Marylanders took advantage of early voting (about 16 percent of the total votes cast) despite Hurricane Sandy and the loss of one early voting day (two were actually canceled, but an additional day was added). Governor O’Malley has proposed that more days of early voting be added — three days in the general election of a presidential election year and two days in all other elections — and that more early voting centers be established, chiefly in the suburban counties. Rural counties, where early voting was not so popular, and Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County would be unaffected. Frederick, Harford, Howard, Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties would be required to open two to three more centers, depending on the number of voters living there.
Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) plans on Friday to propose expanding early voting days in Maryland and, for the first time, allowing residents to register on the same day that they cast ballots — moves certain to rankle Republicans. The legislation seeks to build upon an early voting plan in place in Maryland since 2010 that was vigorously fought for years by the state’s minority party, including O’Malley’s Republican predecessor, former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.