Moving local elections to November may make it harder for voters to keep track of races, a North Dakota lawmaker said Tuesday. The interim Government Administration Committee began examining the possibility of moving city and other local elections from June to November during a meeting at the state Capitol Tuesday. City elections in North Dakota are held on the second Tuesday in June in each even-numbered year, coinciding with primary elections for state and federal offices, while general elections are held in November during each even-numbered year. The resolution requesting the legislative study said conducting local elections at the same time as the primary may cause voter confusion. Moreover, newly elected city officials have only about two months to get up to speed before cities have to prepare preliminary budgets.
Editorials: Beirut’s election was surprisingly competitive. Could it shake up Lebanese politics? | Amanda Rizkallah/The Washington Post
On May 8, Lebanon held the first of four rounds of municipal elections. The only elections since 2010, this round of voting represents Lebanese citizens’ first opportunity to exercise their political voice since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, ensuing influx of refugees and popular protests against a paralyzing trash crisis. Lebanon’s politicians have repeatedly postponed the parliamentary elections originally scheduled for June 2013 and the country has been without a president since May 2014. Amid this political impasse at the national level, municipal elections have become the last remaining institutional mechanism for generating a modicum of political accountability. Beyond activists’ efforts to ensure the funding of these elections, protesters and members of civil society have called for greater decentralization and fiscal resources for municipal councils.
Editorials: Low-turnout Los Angeles perfect place to test innovative election ideas | Joe Matthews/San Francisco Chronicle
Like a man who bangs his head against the wall to cure a headache, Los Angeles will hold more municipal elections this March. The certain result: another low-turnout embarrassment that draws the usual lamentations about how our democracy is in peril. Enough crying. If California’s civic leaders are so sure that Los Angeles elections are democratic disasters, then why don’t they declare an official state of emergency? In other California contexts, disasters draw interventions and lead to big changes. After an earthquake or fire, officials can declare emergencies and take decisive action without following the usual regulations. When California school districts don’t meet academic standards or go underwater financially, the state can take them over. When law enforcement agencies fail, the courts or the federal government can assume oversight.
Residents in a Southeastern New Mexico city have approved a measure that will require people to present a photo ID to vote in municipal elections. The proposal, which amends the city charter in Hobbs, passed with 78 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s special election. About 1,300 people cast ballots in the city of about 33,000. The amendment says that if voters don’t have identification, the city will provide it free of charge. The oil-boom town is the latest battleground over requiring strict identification to cast ballots.
A legislative committee is looking into changing the way municipal elections are conducted in Kansas to boost turnout. Rep. Steve Huebert, R-Valley Center, believes it’s time to abandon the system of holding city and school board races on a different cycle than federal and state races. He wants to combine municipal elections with higher-profile November races that generate larger turnout, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. “Plain and simple, turnout for the current system is pitiful, and it gets worse every two years,” Huebert said. “We need to either figure out a way to increase turnout for the current system or move the elections.” In the past five years, at least 10 municipal election bills have been offered. Some have proposed merging municipal races with state and federal races in even-numbered years while others have proposed holding them in November of odd-numbered years. And some have even proposed making them partisan races.
California: Los Angeles officials to consider ballot measures to change election years | Los Angeles Times
Can changing when Los Angeles votes reverse a long-term decline in turnout? Los Angeles lawmakers Friday are set to consider letting voters decide whether city elections should be moved to even-numbered years. The City Council has asked its lawyers to prepare two measures for the March 3 ballot aligning city and school board elections with state and federal contests. But some activists are warning that such a move could cause voter participation to decrease even more. Hans Johnson, president of the East Area Progressive Democrats, pointed to results from the June primary, which showed slightly more than 16% of L.A. voters casting ballots. That’s down 7 percentage points from the May 2013 mayoral runoff, when around 23% of voters took part. “This process is being rushed forward with a lack of review of the implications,” Johnson said.
California: Los Angeles could move to even-year elections to increase voter turnout | Los Angeles Daily News
In an effort to increase voter turnout, the Los Angeles City Council Wednesday called for a proposal moving city elections to June and November of even-numbered years. The 12-1 vote, with Councilman Bernard Parks dissenting, asked that the proposal be drafted in time to submit to voters at the March 2015 election. The shift from odd- to even-numbered years would take effect with the 2020 elections. It would allow incumbent officials at that time to serve an extra 18 months. “If voting was a business, we would be going bankrupt,” said Darry Sragow, a USC professor and a former campaign consultant. “The first thing is the way people vote should be a reflection of the way they lead their lives. Everything in our lives is different with cell phones, the Internet, where we work, how we work. “Participation rates are steadily declining. It is not the people’s fault. It is the fault of a system that no longer reflects their day-to-day existence.”
In a wondrous proposal that says more about the decline of civilization than its authors surely intended, the Los Angeles Ethics Commission has come up with a way to boost voter turnout in L.A. city elections: Make voters eligible for cash prizes. The recommendation may fail to persuade the City Council to enact such a plan, and even if it does, the particulars — two $25,000 awards? one $50,000 windfall? 500 all-you-can-eat coupons to In-N-Out Burger? — remain to be determined. The plan’s purpose is to arrest the decline of voter participation in municipal elections, which has been falling for decades and hit an all-time low of 23% in last year’s mayoral run-off. Then again, it would be almost impossible to design a system more likely to produce low turnouts than L.A.’s elections. They are held in the spring of odd-numbered years, when potential voters are just coming up for air after the saturation coverage and ad blitzes of presidential and gubernatorial contests. More fundamentally, by the terms of California’s Constitution, city officials don’t have all that much power over public affairs. Separately elected school boards run the schools, while county supervisors are in charge of health and welfare programs.
There are elections in Sweden every four years. There are 349 seats up for grabs in the national parliament (Riksdag) and registered voters will also choose the next politicians to make up 21 county councils and 290 municipal assemblies. You have to be a Swedish citizen aged 18 or over to vote in national elections. But if you’re from the EU, Iceland or Norway and you’re registered as living in Sweden, then you can have a say in municipal and county council elections. People from outside Europe who have been in Sweden for more than three years may also be allowed to vote locally. In total around seven million people are eligible to go to the polls.
Benghazi residents on Saturday (April 19th) voted to choose their municipal council in an atmosphere of hope and optimism about a better future. The chairman of election subcommittee, Abdel Wahab al-Feki, expressed his relief over the smooth flow of election, which took place without any obstacles. He lauded the democratic transition and peaceful transfer of power in Benghazi from the local to the municipal council. He made the statement in a press conference held on Saturday at a tourist village by the subcommittee that oversees Benghazi municipal council election. The subcommittee mobilised more than 1,900 employees for at 128 election centres, al-Feki told the Press Solidarity news agency, noting that the armed forces provided support in securing and protecting election centres throughout Benghazi. “I hope the people will choose competent, effective and experienced candidates for the municipal council,” said Benghazi local council spokesperson Usama al-Sharif. “I also wish success to the candidates in this tough, although not impossible, stage.”
One of the longstanding arguments against voter ID laws has been that there is no history of significant elections fraud. But advocates of North Carolina’s new elections law have been making their way across the state to county elections boards to try to make the case that fraud has existed but has been inadequately investigated. Such allegations have been lodged in Pembroke, a Robeson County town, where the state Board of Elections recently found so many “irregularities” in the November municipal elections that a new vote was ordered and a probe called for by the local district attorney. There also is an effort underway by the Republican-led board in Forsyth County to push out the elections director, an endeavor being fought by the director and one board member. A ruling from the state elections director could come any day.
California: Assemblyman Roger Hernandez plans to introduce bill requiring district-based elections | Daily Bulletin
Calling it an effort to strengthen the California Voting Rights Act and address the problem that “it’s difficult for people of color to get elected,” Assemblyman Roger Hernandez says he plans to introduce legislation that would require cities with populations of 100,000 or more to hold district-based municipal elections. The bill, the Municipal Fair Representation Act, as currently written would apply only to general law cities, such as West Covina, El Monte, Fontana, Ontario, and Rancho Cucamonga. It would not apply to cities that are established under charters. “It’s important that we do our best as governmental leaders to have voting systems in place to give our diverse populations the best chance of having reflective representation,” Hernandez, D-West Covina, said in a telephone interview Friday. An aide said Hernandez plans to introduce the legislation in January.
The Mauritanian legislative and municipal elections are being held at a moment of national disunity. A number of challenges have caused the vote to be postponed several times in the past. Finally the government has decided to go ahead with it, despite a vote boycott by some of the major opposition parties. The results could be ominous to national unity. Mauritania is one of the least developed nations in the Sahel region of Africa. It has not yet emerged from years of political instability after a series of military coups and failed democratic processes, the result of which is extreme polarization within the political class. Hundreds of small parties are crowding the arena and vying for dominance. None of them has a clear programme or a distinct ideology. They keep switching sides between the ruling party and the main opposition bloc, thereby creating unstable and unreliable alliances. Moreover, there is a deep and long standing mistrust between the ruling party, the Union for the Republic (UPR) and the hardline opposition party, Coordination of the Democratic Opposition (COD). In 2009 the two sides engaged in an unsuccessful political dialogue in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, following the 2008 military coup which led to the ousting of a democratically elected president.
In the Wasatch County town of Wallsburg, the city employee responsible for oversight of elections brought new meaning to the job description by overlooking the election altogether. The new recorder in the town of about 275 just east of Deer Creek Reservoir forgot to announce the opening of the filing period or arrange to hold an election Nov. 5, when voters across the state cast their ballots in municipal elections. By the time the oversight was caught shortly before Election Day, it was too late to field candidates and hold the balloting on the fly. “Wallsburg never advertised or prepared for an election this year, so no one signed up,” said Wasatch County Clerk Brent Titcomb. “They’re going to have to appoint the current mayor and council for two more years and they’ll advertise and have people elected [in 2015].”
The municipal elections in Kosovo on were not really local, and come down to two very different stories depending on whether one looks at the Serb-held northern region or the rest of the country. These were not ordinary elections: they were meant to mark a peaceful transfer of power over northern Kosovo, from Serbia to the Kosovo government in Pristina. Their failure is a serious warning sign. The municipal elections in Kosovo on 3 November were not really local, and come down to two very different stories depending on whether one looks at the Serb-held northern region or the rest of the country. In the government-controlled south, Election Day was inspirational as all communities turned out heavily and peacefully. North of the Ibar river, the elections were tragic, with hubris and assorted other flaws leading to a day ending in violence and confusion. These were not ordinary elections: they were meant to mark a peaceful transfer of power over northern Kosovo, from Serbia to the Kosovo government in Pristina. Their failure is a serious warning sign.
Yesterday’s voting brought an end to the 2013 election cycle. Ten of America’s 30 largest cities — including Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York and Seattle — elected mayors this year. Another 13 of those 30 cities elected mayors during the 2011 cycle. And regardless of election year, the vast majority of American cities also allow candidates to skip a November contest entirely by winning a majority of votes cast in typically low-turnout first-round elections. America’s local elected officials still enjoy far higher citizen trust than their state (and, especially, their national) cousins, so it’s worth asking why so many local governments continue to risk their relatively favored status by structuring their election systems to virtually guarantee abysmal voter turnout, thus essentially disenfranchising huge numbers of citizens. New York City’s mayoral contest exemplifies the problem in two ways. First, like about 20 percent of all U.S cities, the Big Apple still elects mayors on a partisan basis. Just 22 percent of New York’s 4.2 million registered voters turned out for this September’s party primaries. Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio won the Democratic nomination with a plurality of just 280,000 votes – less than 7 percent of the city’s registered voters. De Blasio’s primary win virtually guaranteed yesterday’s victory over Republican nominee Joe Lohta in a city where Democrats hold a 6-to-1 party-registration edge. Meanwhile, 700,000 non-affiliated voters, locked out of the party primaries, had no meaningful say in this election.
Montreal’s elections office issued the official results of Sunday’s municipal elections on Tuesday afternoon, which means the period for requesting official recounts has begun. After a municipal election, officials double-check that the ballot counts filled in on forms at each polling station correspond to the numbers that were reported to the Elections Montreal office by telephone immediately after counting the votes at each polling office, Elections Montreal spokesperson Pierre G. Laporte said. The process takes a couple of days, at which point the official election results are posted, he said.
Off-year municipal elections like those held this year in Los Angeles reduce overall voter turnout and appear to draw disproportionately small numbers of voters from minority groups, according to a study by the Greenlining Institute to be released Monday. “Our analysis strongly suggests that holding local elections in odd years … almost certainly skews the makeup of the electorate,” said Michelle Romero, director of the group’s Claiming our Democracy program. In addition, holding local elections separately from state and federal elections raises per-voter costs, the study found.
Editorials: Connecticut judge keeps candidates on ballot who had been thrown for a filing technicality | Hartford Courant
A judge’s decision to keep candidates of “Save Westport Now,” a minor party, on the November ballot rings the bell for democracy, giving that town’s voters greater choice. Stamford Superior Court Judge Kenneth Povodator’s ruling is a welcome precedent for at least a dozen other Connecticut cities and towns where third-party candidates have been thrown off municipal election ballots because of a filing technicality. Those candidates should be restored to the ballot, too. In East Hampton, for example, the Chatham Party’s 16 candidates — including four incumbents who make up the town council majority — have been disqualified and are forced to run write-in campaigns. That’s a travesty.
Just over half of Torontonians polled by Forum Research, a Toronto-based public opinion research company, do not support allowing permanent residents to vote in municipal elections. Toronto City Council voted in June to ask the province to give permanent residents the right to vote and participate in city elections. If approved by the province, the new system could be in effect for the 2018 election and would allow an estimated 250,000 non-citizens to vote in the municipal election. Toronto isn’t the first city to look at offering the vote to permanent residents. Some cities in about 40 countries, including Dublin and Oslo, currently allow non-citizens to cast their ballot municipally.
Canada: Toronto Councillors vote to seek end of ‘first past the post’ system in city elections | National Post
Toronto city council took a significant step on Tuesday towards dramatically changing how the city elects its leaders — and who gets to cast a ballot. By a vote of 26 to 15, the governing body asked the provincial government to allow it to use the ranked choice voting system, which demands that the winning candidate accumulate at least 50% of votes cast. It also asked, by a margin of 21 to 20, the minister of municipal affairs and housing to grant permanent residents the right to vote in municipal elections. Both initiatives require Queen’s Park to amend legislation. Yanni Dagonas, a spokesperson for Minister Linda Jeffrey, said the government will give Toronto’s requests “careful consideration” and said it appreciated the city’s efforts to “increase voter engagement.” City staff have already indicated it would be impossible to implement such reforms by the 2014 election. Ranked choice voting would also have to come back to city council for further approvals.
Public debates on the convening of the Electoral College for the 14 April 2013 election of senators in Cameroon are rife. Discussions have been on whether or not the time for such election is now, is the Electoral College legitimate and are all those who qualify to participate in the poll according to the Constitution of Cameroon going to take part? While hoping that legal minds clarify the population on what the best practice should be, the bottom line is that the decision to take part ought to be political since Cameroon has embarked on a democratic process and like in all democracies, the freedom of choice remains fundamental. Another crucial factor which cannot be overlooked is the fact that; Part III of Law N° 96-06 of 18 January 1996 to amend the Constitution of 2 June 1972 says in Article 14 (1) that; “Legislative power shall be exercised by the Parliament which shall comprise 2 (two) Houses: (a) The National Assembly; (b) The Senate.” Until now, only the National Assembly existed in the country, leaving a constitutional vacuum that many thought should be filled. Another Constitutional right is that of the Head of State who decides when to convene the Electoral College for any election in the country. Thus, any debate over the timeliness of the election must take into consideration all the legal arguments.
Nearly 14 weeks after the April Municipal Elections in Anchorage, yet another shoe has dropped in connection with that flawed election day. On Wednesday of this week, 141 sample ballots were discovered in a vault in Anchorage City Hall. As of publication, no one knows if those votes were counted in the election. In a way, the matter is academic. 141 votes will not alter the outcome of any race or ballot-proposition from April 3rd. The closest vote on any matter before the public that day was decided by a margin of at least 3,000 people. But the new revelation does add to the embarrassment of the city. Already, a city clerk — and a deputy city clerk — have lost their jobs over this issue. Today (Saturday) Ernie Hall, the Chairman of the City Assembly, said that preliminary indications are that the latest irregularity may be connected with the confusion of election day.
Saudi Arabia: Women to run and vote in local elections without male guardian permission in 2015 | The Washington Post
Women in Saudi Arabia will not need a male guardian’s approval to run or vote in municipal elections in 2015, when women will also run for office for the first time, a Saudi official said Wednesday. The change signifies a step forward in easing the kingdom’s restrictions against women, but it falls far short of what some Saudi reformers are calling for.
Shura Council member Fahad al-Anzi was quoted in the state-run al-Watan newspaper saying that approval for women to run and vote came from the guardian of Islam’s holiest sites, the Saudi king, and therefore women will not need a male guardian’s approval. The country’s Shura Council is an all-male consultative body with no legislative powers.
Election officials in southern Indiana are looking for hundreds of absentee ballots they say ‘just disappeared.’ Clark County Party leaders say they’ve gotten dozens of calls from voters about missing ballots. They’re worried their vote won’t be counted in Tuesday’s election. If the number of signs in Jeffersonville are any indication, there’s plenty of interest in Tuesday’s races.
“I think we’ve got several of our municipal elections in Jeff and Clarksville that could come down to just a few votes,” said Clark County Republican Party Chair Jamey Noel. Noel says the two hundred missing ballots are particularly frustrating. While that may not seem like a significant number, he says the margin of victory could be razor-thin in some races. “This is really not just a Democrat or Republican problem,” he said. “It’s a problem in general that everyone deserves the right to vote and their vote should count.” The ballots apparently went missing at some point between the time they left the Clark County Government Building, and when they were supposed to be delivered to the Post Office.
When Bloomington residents vote in municipal elections on Tuesday, they’ll be making marks on paper ballots, which they’ll slip into a box. At the end of the day, the votes will be tallied by hand. That’s the same system local voters used more than 100 years ago.
In the November 2010 general election, Monroe County voters used electronic voting machines that automated tallying. Even in the May 2011 primary election, the votes — on paper ballots — were tallied using a high-speed optical scanner. Monroe County voters have been using voting machines, mechanical or electric, since the ’60s, but on Nov. 8, 2011, they will use the same system used by America’s founding fathers.
What happened? ES&S contract In December 2010, Monroe County signed a contract with Elections Systems and Software, of Omaha, Neb., for the purchase of digital scanners that would read paper ballots and tally votes. Such a system allowed verifiability: paper ballots, or a sample of them, could be compared to the machine’s tally to ensure accuracy.
Only three candidates filed for three available City Council positions in the Nov. 8 election. “In a small city sometimes you beg for candidates,” said Carolyn Jorgensen, the city’s clerk/treasurer. So Castle Dale took advantage of a new state law that allows cities and towns to cancel municipal elections if it would not affect the outcome. Altogether, 38 Utah cities and towns have cancelled their municipal election for the same reason.
State Elections Director Mark Thomas estimates savings to the mostly smaller communities will total almost $250,000. Castle Dale hasn’t calculated how much its savings will be, but the cost of holding an election where the outcome is already known is what led communities to ask Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, the state’s top elections official, to push for a provision that would allow municipalities to cancel those elections.
Authorities have endorsed 24 new municipalities amid protests continuing for a second day, with dissatisfied citizens closing roads and staging sit-ins in various parts of the country. The endorsement of the new municipalities, which came despite a Cabinet decision on Tuesday to look into outstanding applications after the December 27 municipal elections, raises the number of these new entities to 123, making the total number of municipalities 216.
In the Village of Salem, a southern district of Amman, residents closed a major highway leading to Sahab, east of the capital, demanding that the government establish a municipality for their area and separate it from the Greater Amman Municipality. An official source at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs told The Jordan Times that the demand has been met, pending the signature of Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit.
Local elections officials don’t plan to challenge a new law that leaves names of unopposed municipal candidates off ballots — but the statute may be destined to change anyway. On Wednesday, a Tippecanoe Circuit Court judge granted a preliminary injunction overriding the statute in that county.
The law, which took effect July 1, means that Evansville City Council members Dan McGinn, R-1st Ward, and Connie Robinson, D-4th Ward, will not appear on the Nov. 8 municipal election ballot. The statute affects only municipal elections.
Five Utah cities are taking advantage of a new law that allows them to cancel municipal elections when the number of candidates for at-large seats does not exceed the number of positions available. Providence and Cornish in Cache County, Fielding in Box Elder County, Marriott-Slaterville in Weber County and Beaver in Beaver County all fit that profile and have chosen not to hold November elections.
Providence had four candidates file for three City Council positions. But then incumbent David Low withdrew, leaving incumbents Bill Bagley and John Russel and newcomer Ralph Call on the ballot.