Who’s rigging our elections? Ask Republicans and they’ll insist that Democrats promote voter fraud through early balloting, same-day registration and lax oversight that encourages illegal immigrants to vote. Nonsense, Democrats will say. It’s the GOP that’s trying to disenfranchise young, poor and minority voters by requiring picture IDs at polling places and bringing court cases intended to eliminate federal oversight of voting practices in many Southern states. As Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School, reminds us in “The Fight to Vote,” such disputes are not new: Voter eligibility and qualifications have been at the heart of the struggle for American democracy from its outset. After the Revolutionary War, Pennsylvanians debated for 14 years over who should be able to vote, with opponents of universal suffrage like Benjamin Rush deriding it as “a mobocracy.” The book is an engaging, concise history of American voting practices, and despite a heavily partisan treatment of today’s “voting wars,” it offers many useful reforms that advocates on both sides of the aisle should consider.
Has there ever been an election like this one? The 2016 race is ferocious, rude, ugly, with parties and coalitions fracturing before our eyes. It’s also the first contest in years where public anger is trained on how government works and not just what it does. The state of democracy is on the ballot. Bernie Sanders denounces the “billionaire class” and demands campaign finance reform. Donald Trump snarls, “Washington is broken” and brags that as a self-funder, he cannot be bought. Hillary Clinton, more muted, rolls out detailed plans for campaign finance changes and automatic voter registration. To add to the intensity, the looming Supreme Court nomination fight will tap public anger over Citizens United, the Court’s most reviled recent decision. All just two years after an election in which voter turnout plunged to its lowest level in seven decades.
“What’s the point?” How many times have you asked yourself a question like this? Perhaps at school, when no matter how hard you study, you can’t seem to pass that exam. Maybe at the office, when you spend hours working on a presentation only to have your boss pass you over again. Not seeing any results from our efforts can be frustrating, irritating and can test the patience of the most resolute among us. Not seeing any results can drive us to seek out new paths. A lack of results demands change. So again, I ask: “What’s the point?” This time, however, my question is directed to Congress. What’s the point of a non-voting member on the floor?
A sudden gust of icy wind howls across the bay and into the darkened streets of Boston. The year is 1773, just a week before Christmas Eve. Snow begins to fall from the sky as a small group of colonial men emerge from the shadows. Moving quickly, they board a British vessel carrying a shipment of tea. The story is a familiar one; no American history book would be complete without the account of the Boston Tea Party. This single event is seen by many as the beginning of America’s fight for independence. This act of rebellion sent our battle cry across the Atlantic and into the ears of the king: “No taxation without representation!” Hundreds of years later, every American reaps the benefits of our founder’s actions. Because of the bravery of these men, every single American citizen is allowed life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Every American is given a say in who represents them. But that’s not completely true, is it?
National: Enshrining the right to vote and 2015’s other constitutional amendment ideas | The Guardian
More than 11,000 amendments have been proposed in Congress to the constitution, and only 27 have become law. But that hasn’t stopped members of Congress from trying to add to that total and make their mark on the founding document of the United States. This year, congressmen and senators have proposed nearly 70 different amendments to the constitution. Amending the constitution is an intentionally difficult process. In order to be enacted, an amendment needs to be approved by two-thirds majorities in both the House and the Senate, and then has to be approved by the legislatures in at least three-fourths of states (or 38 out of 50). The last amendment was passed more than two decades ago. … Unbeknown to many Americans, there is no explicit right to vote in the US constitution. While US citizens have the right to bear arms, the right not to have troops quartered in their homes and to trial by jury in a federal civil law “where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars”, there is no affirmative right to cast a ballot.
The top federal prosecutor in North Alabama says she is reviewing a lawsuit filed Wednesday by groups challenging Alabama’s law requiring people to present photo identification before they can vote. “We received a copy of the lawsuit … We are certainly reading the lawsuit with great interest,” said U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance. But Vance said it was “too speculative” at this point on whether the U.S. Department of Justice would get involved in the issue. But, she added, “we are acutely concerned with protecting the right to vote.”
The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday, December 1, temporarily ordered the Commission on Elections (Comelec) not to deactivate the registration of 2.5 million voters who failed to have their biometrics taken for the 2016 elections. SC spokesman Theodore Te said the SC’s temporary restraining order (TRO) covers the Comelec’s “No Bio, No Boto” (No Biometrics, No Vote) policy. Te said the TRO is “effective immediately and until further orders.” In a text message to Rappler on Tuesday, Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez said around 2.5 million voters completely failed to have their biometrics taken.
Weeks before he leaves office, the governor of Kentucky on Tuesday issued an executive order that immediately granted the right to vote to about 140,000 nonviolent felons who have completed their sentences. The order by Gov. Steven L. Beshear, a Democrat, was cheered by advocates for criminal justice reform and civil rights, who said it would place Kentucky’s policy more in line with others across the nation and was consistent with a trend toward easing voting restrictions on former inmates. Kentucky had been one of just three states imposing a lifetime voting ban on felons unless they received a special exemption from the governor. Florida and Iowa still carry the lifetime ban.
An amendment that would have given long term British expats the ability to vote in the UK’s referendum on the country’s future in the European Union has been defeated. Currently expats who have lived abroad for more than 15 years cannot vote in British elections, but there has been a major campaign for them to vote in the referendum based on the argument that it affects expats as well as those living in the country. A number of members of the House of Lords, the upper house in the British parliament, presented an amendment to allow them to vote but it has been defeated by 214 to 116 votes and there is currently no other move to change the voting system. The upcoming Votes for Life bill will overturn the law that bans those who have lived abroad for longer than 15 years from voting, but it will not be passed before the referendum, which must take part by 2017.
Kansas: Lawyers in voter registration lawsuit against Kobach ask for class-action status | The Wichita Eagle
A court challenge by two Douglas County residents against Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach could become a class-action suit that represents many of the 36,000 people slated to have their incomplete voter registrations canceled. Lawyers for Cody Keener and Alder Cromwell filed an amendment Tuesday to make the change. Kobach has asked the federal court to dismiss the case because Keener and Cromwell are now registered to vote. His office registered them by obtaining proof-of-citizenship documents on their behalf, which is allowed by the registration statute. Will Lawrence, attorney for Cromwell and Keener, said their case remains valid despite Kobach’s subsequent action to register them. “But we also realize this case involves tens of thousands of Kansans who have ended up on the suspended voter list and are ultimately to be denied the right to vote,” Lawrence said. Craig McCullah, Kobach’s spokesman, said Thursday the office was reviewing the class-action request and had no comment yet.
In January of this year, Puerto Rico’s Governor, Alejandro Garcia Padilla, made an announcement that would be political suicide for any politician in the mainland United States. Garcia Padilla, standing beside President Danilo Medina of the Dominican Republic, announced a proposal to broaden the voting franchise to include every resident of Puerto Rico, regardless of legal status. It is an established fact that illegal immigrants cannot vote in U.S. elections. This is also the current law in Puerto Rico. However, Garcia Padilla expressed his opinion that since every person who chooses Puerto Rico as his or her home is affected by the decisions that the government makes, all residents should have the right to participate in deciding who governs. So far, neither the Governor nor the members of his political party, the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), has drafted a bill on this issue. However, the Governor’s proposal sparked discussions about the constitutionality of giving illegal immigrants the right to vote, particularly given Puerto Rico’s relationship with U.S.
On December 6, citizens of Armenia will vote in a referendum to change the country’s constitution. It needs 638,583 “yes” votes to pass. Hetq has taken a look at past national elections and has revealed that while the number of residents in Armenia has been decreasing, the number of eligible voters has increased. Armenia’s first constitution after regaining independence was adopted on July 5, 1995. At the time, according to official figures, the country’s population was 3,753,500 and the number of eligible voters was 2,189,804. According to September 2015 official figures, 3,007,300 people live in Armenia and as of November 6, 2,554,332 have the right to vote.
Polling places mysteriously ran out of ballots when Mexican Americans showed up to vote. Ads on Spanish language radio threatened fines and imprisonment to those who voted without first properly registering to vote. Illiterate voters were not given assistance at the polls. These were just a few examples of tactics used to keep Mexican Americans from voting in elections after the Voting Rights Act was passed given by scholars and activists at a two-day conference in Texas on the struggle for Latino voting rights. The Voting Rights Act protections are weakened today after a 2013 ruling by the Supreme Court that gutted the act, experts said, and new tactics are taking their place to suppress Latino votes as the population grows and becomes more politically potent.
Veterans Day is a painful reminder of inequality for veterans in America’s territories who are disenfranchised because of where they live. In 2013, Luis Segovia was deployed to Afghanistan, a world away from his family in Guam. For him it was a bit of deja-vu; four years earlier he was serving his first tour in Afghanistan. A lot had changed in his life since. He had moved from Chicago to Guam, married the woman of his dreams, and started a family. One thing he hadn’t expected was that a change in zipcode would mean he longer would be able to vote for president. Being denied basic democratic participation is something he could never have imagined in 2005, when he was deployed for 18 months in Iraq. Serving at Forward Operation Base Marez near Mosul, one of his primary missions was providing security for the 2005 Iraqi election. He felt a sense of accomplishment, he could feel history being made.
Voting Blogs: The Territorial American Exceptionalism to the Fundamental Right to Vote | State of Elections
Voting is one of the most fundamental rights of U.S. citizens. Congress explicitly states as much in the National Voter Registration Act. Chief Justice Warren invoked the principle when delivering the Reynolds v. Sims opinion in 1964, stating, “undoubtedly, the right to suffrage is a fundamental matter in a free and democratic society.” If you’re a U.S. citizen born and living in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Northern Marina Islands, or Guam, your right to vote in federal and presidential elections is a lot less fundamental than that of citizens living on the mainland. If you’re willing to move to one of the 50 states, you can join the franchise. Even if you move to D.C., you will still have a larger say on who the next president will be than you would if you live in the territories thanks to the 23rd Amendment.
If you are a convicted felon in Florida, you have a long wait and an uphill climb to persuade Florida’s highest elected officials to restore your right to vote — even if you have paid your debt to society in full. On Monday, Public Defender Larry Eger and Michael Barfield, vice president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, urged about 40 people at a League of Women Voters of Manatee County forum to support a proposed constitutional amendment that will automatically restore a felon’s voting rights once “all terms of sentence including parole or probation” are completed.
In recent years, as the U.S. Supreme Court has limited its protections of the right to vote, some state courts have stepped in to fill the void. State judges have looked to their state constitutions—which are more explicit in conferring the right to vote—to provide relief from onerous election laws. And, in doing so, they have shown how these documents can be powerful tools to improve America’s democracy. Forty-nine of the 50 state constitutions explicitly grant the right to vote to their citizens (Arizona is the only outlier), and just over half of them also provide further protection to the democratic process by requiring elections to be “free and equal” or “free and open.” Some state courts, such as in Missouri, Pennsylvania, Arkansas—and most recently Delaware—have analyzed their state constitutions in an increasingly expansive way, going beyond federal law to protect voting rights.
In three days, Myanmar will hold its first democratic national election in 25 years — a historic moment for a country that has transformed itself from a military dictatorship, isolated from the West, to a quasi-civilian government embraced by the Obama administration for its progress toward democracy. Along the way, the government wrote a new constitution, freed more than 1,000 political prisoners and released opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, from years of house arrest. In a much smaller by-election in 2012, she won a seat in parliament. But this is not a truly free and fair vote. Of the 664 seats in parliament, a quarter are reserved for military officials. The constitution also states that no president may have a spouse or children who are foreign citizens, a provision widely considered to be aimed at preventing Suu Kyi from becoming president. She is the widow of a British national and has two sons with foreign passports. If her party were to win a majority, she could not be chosen as president. (The president is selected by the parliament.)
So much for my proud voting history, Sherri VanMeter told herself. The Galloway resident was stuck in the hospital on Election Day. “I make every general, every primary,” she said. “I got upset about it.” VanMeter, 49, shared her disappointment with her nurse, Jackie Palmer, who happened to know there was a way to bring that cherished part of the democratic process to VanMeter’s fourth-floor room at OhioHealth Doctors Hospital. “I think we can help,” Palmer told her. Voters who are unexpectedly hospitalized — or at the bedside of their minor child — still have the right to vote as long as a request is submitted to the county elections board by 3 p.m. on Election Day. “It’s part of standard election procedure,” said Ben Piscitelli, spokesman for the Franklin County Board of Elections.
A United Nations rights investigator has questioned whether Myanmar’s elections in November can be considered free and fair because dozens of candidates had been disqualified and hundreds of thousands of people denied the right to vote. Yanghee Lee, UN special rapporteur on rights in Myanmar, said restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association – including arrests and excessive use of force against protesters – put genuine elections at risk. “The credibility of the elections will be judged by the environment in which they are conducted and the extent to which all sectors of Myanmar society have been allowed to freely participate in the political process,” Lee told a UN general assembly committee in a report on Wednesday.
Róbert Berény in the background. That particular painting had been missing since 1928 and was worth ar
A ban on long-term expatriates voting from abroad has drawn the ire of Canadian business groups in Asia, who argue the measure runs contrary to both their rights and the country’s interests. In an open letter decrying the rule, the five groups based in Asia call on members of Parliament and Canadians to help their cause. Their appeal, which comes as Canada attempts to close an important Pacific trade deal, carries the signatures of Canadian chamber of commerce members in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan under the heading, Out of Sight, Out of Mind, Really?
A Canadian citizen has become a protest candidate in the riding held by Conservative Leader Stephen Harper even though he is barred from voting because he has lived outside Canada for too long. Nicolas Duchastel de Montrouge is now one of seven people taking on Harper in Calgary Heritage after spending more than a week collecting the requisite 100 signatures from riding residents. “It was hard but we made it happen,” Duchastel de Montrouge said Monday from suburban Seattle where he lives. “I am the only candidate I think that resides outside Canada.” Duchastel de Montrouge’s registration as an Independent comes as two other long-term expats prepared to ask the Supreme Court of Canada to restore their right to vote from abroad.
Editorials: The 14th amendment and the Voting Rights Act are under attack because it is essential for racial justice | Flavia Jimenez/The Guardian
he 14th amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 are two of the most important civil rights protections in our nation. The 14th amendment has been cited in more litigation than any other amendment – including landmark cases such as Brown v Board of Education. But recent racist attacks on these civil rights policies show that they are still vulnerable to erosion even after all these years. After the Voting Rights Act was gutted by the Supreme Court in the 2013 Shelby County v Holder decision, extremists have now set their sights on policies, such as the 14th Amendment, that offer protection to communities of color. Ratified in 1868, the 14th Amendment granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States” and endowed all such citizens with the rights of due process and equal protection of the law. The amendment was passed explicitly to clarify the citizenship of the millions of African-Americans emancipated from slavery through the passage of the 13th Amendment. Overnight, the law redefined who was considered an American c
For most people, the 1963 March on Washington brings to mind the phrase “I have a dream.” Four simple words became the music that turned Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech into one of history’s greatest. But despite their elegance, they actually are not my favorite part of the speech. I love the beginning, where King defines the need for a civil rights movement in the first place. “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir,” King said. “. . . Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’ “But,” King added, “we refuse to believe . . . that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.” In this statement King speaks to the heart of black idealism and identifies the core of the American civil rights movement of the past 50 years. This vision of simple justice affirms that the rights and privileges of citizenship should not be reserved for some but should be available to all.
Long-term expats determined to cast a ballot for the Oct. 19 election have found a way to do so — against the wishes of the Conservative government and despite a court ruling upholding their disenfranchisement. However, the method costs money, travel, and time, prompting some to argue the rules have effectively made their right to vote subject to financial ability. “Voting should not be something you must purchase,” said Natalie Chabot Roy, 38, who was raised in northern Ontario but lives in Bonney Lake, Wash. Earlier this year, the government successfully appealed a court ruling that would have allowed Canadians abroad for more than five years to keep on voting by way of a mailed “special ballot.” Nevertheless, at least one enterprising expat has already cast his ballot for the Oct. 19 election under another section of the Canada Elections Act that amounts to a barely accessible backdoor around the ban, and others are considering following suit. That section allows expats who show up in the riding in which they lived before leaving Canada to vote — if they show proof of the former residency along with accepted identification.
Wednesday marks the 95th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the United States. At the same time, one of the last countries to deny women the vote is preparing to open its polls: this December, women will vote in Saudi Arabia for the first time. This achievement, like the ones that came before it, wasn’t handed to Saudi women, who have been pressuring their government for years. Around the world, women have only won suffrage because they’ve demanded it. “There’s no other movement for women’s rights that’s as international as votes for women,” says Ellen DuBois, distinguished professor of history and gender studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. A century ago, American women were deep into their own chapter of the movement—and closing in on victory. The first international votes for women came sporadically during the 19th century. Women in Sweden and Scotland won some local voting rights, and Great Britain opened local elections—but only to unmarried women who also owned property. Then, in 1893, women in New Zealand won the full right to vote.
When Canadians vote in the federal election in October, thousands will cast their ballot from behind bars. Inmates in federal prisons and provincial jails are eligible to vote for a candidate in the riding where they lived before they were incarcerated. In the last federal election in 2011, voter turnout was 54 per cent in penitentiaries, not far below the 61 per cent who exercised their democratic right in the general population. “They are part of the polity and they want to be part of the democratic process,” Catherine Latimer, executive director of The John Howard Society of Canada, told CBC News.
As an elected lawmaker and member of Myanmar’s governing party, U Shwe Maung attended dinners with the president and made speeches from the floor of Parliament. But this weekend, the country’s election commission ruled that despite more than four years in office, he was not a citizen and thus was ineligible to run for re-election in landmark voting in November. “I was approved and considered a full citizen in 2010,” he said in an interview on Saturday. “Now, after five years, how could I not be eligible?” Mr. Shwe Maung’s plight is but one example of what appears to be the mass disenfranchisement of the Rohingya, a persecuted Muslim minority who number around one million in Myanmar.