While the presidential campaign commands the most attention, Senate Democrats are bearing an early television advertising assault by Republican-leaning groups that is reshaping those races. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, who is seeking a Senate seat, are being outspent by at least a 3-to-1 ratio on television advertising as super political action committees supporting Democrats struggle to raise money and President Barack Obama and the national party conserve resources for the fall election.
Editorials: Voter ID legislation, not fraud, is the real problem | Michael Paul Williams/Richmond Times-Dispatch
The legislative drive against voter fraud is a solution in search of a problem. Proposed General Assembly legislation would scratch the current provision that allows voters to sign a sworn statement that they are who they claim to be if they’re unable to produce a required form of identification. Instead, they would cast a provisional ballot. For lack of an ID, a potentially eligible vote would not be counted on election night, and possibly not at all, if the would-be voter doesn’t provide the information. At the least, this measure would leave registrars sitting on more uncounted ballots after Election Day, potentially causing confusion for voters and candidates.
Editorials: Solving the problem of Virginia’s restrictive primary rules by allowing for write-in candidates | Slate Magazine
Intelligent life exists beyond Iowa, and even beyond New Hampshire. Before the Republican Party crowns its nominee, voters from other states should and will be heard. Or will they? According to Virginia law, many a lawful voter will not be allowed to vote for the candidate she truly favors on the day of the Virginia primary—March 6, to be precise. So far, no one seems to have highlighted this gaping flaw in the Virginia election code.
Virginia’s ultra-strict ballot-access laws, whose obstacle course kept every Republican presidential candidate off the ballot except Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, were challenged last week by Rick Perry’s legal team and supporters of Newt Gingrich. Last Friday four other GOP candidates signed onto Perry’s legal challenge as well.
Virginia’s ballot-access rules are indeed extreme, but it’s hard to say, as Perry’s lawyers are contending, that these rules are unconstitutional. Governments are allowed to print official ballots, and as long as they are in this business, surely they may choose to list only the names of the major candidates. Short lists plausibly promote democracy by making it easy for the ordinary voter to find and vote for his preferred candidate.
If the aim of Virginia was to host a presidential primary that no one cared about, it seems to have succeeded. Only two candidates — former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) — qualified to appear on the ballot, and many voters may be discouraged by a foolish loyalty oath requirement by the Republican Party. It’s too late to change the requirements for access to the 2012 ballot, but a priority of the returning General Assembly should be to review a primary system that has so little regard for the interests of voters.
The failure of former House speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry to qualify for the March 6 primary has renewed scrutiny of the state’s cumbersome laws governing ballot access. Seen as among the nation’s most stringent, the Virginia rules demand that a candidate collect 10,000 voter signatures, an unusually high number, with additional requirements on how they can be collected, where and by whom. Clearly, Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Perry, who has gone to court in a bid to get his name on the ballot, must accept responsibility for not gathering the requisite number of names; the rules are well known and have been in place for years.
National: New census data trigger federal requirements for bilingual voting ballots in 25 states | The Washington Post
In the run-up to the 2012 elections, the federal government is ordering that 248 counties and other political jurisdictions provide bilingual ballots to Hispanics and other minorities who speak little or no English. That number is down from a decade ago following the 2000 census, which covered 296 counties in 30 states. In all, more than 1 in 18 jurisdictions must now provide foreign-language assistance in pre-election publicity, voter registration, early voting and absentee applications as well as Election Day balloting.
The latest requirements, mandated under the Voting Rights Act, partly reflect second and third generations of racial and ethnic minorities who are now reporting higher levels of proficiency in English than their parents. Still, analysts cite a greater potential for resistance from localities that face tighter budgets, new laws requiring voter IDs at polls and increased anti-immigration sentiment.
Effective this week, Hispanics who don’t speak English proficiently will be entitled to Spanish-language election material in urban areas of political battleground states including Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin and Utah, as well as the entire states of California, Florida and Texas. For the first time, people from India will get election material in their native language, in voting precincts in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, due to their fast population growth.
Well over a year before the 2012 presidential election, there’s a battle going on over next year’s ballots—how they’ll count and who will get to cast them. At stake is an attempt to distort the voters’ will by twisting the rule of law. Most recently, Pennsylvania has been the focus of this battle. Dominic Pileggi, the state Senate majority leader, wants to change the way the Keystone State distributes its electoral votes, divvying them up according to how each presidential candidate performed in each congressional district, with the remaining two electoral votes going to the candidate who won the popular vote.
So while Barack Obama’s 55 percent of the vote in Pennsylvania in 2008 netted him all 21 of its electoral votes, the Pileggi plan would have shaved that figure to 11 electors. (Nationwide, Obama won 242 congressional districts while John McCain got 193.) The change would be even sharper as Pennsylvania’s new congressional map is expected to have 12 of the state’s 18 seats drawn to favor the GOP. Obama could win a majority of the Keystone vote again but only score eight of the state’s 20 electors. Do we really want to bring gerrymandering into presidential elections?
When a reporter asked us why Louisiana, Missisissippi, New Jersey and Virginia have state elections in odd-numbered years, Tim Storey and I replied that it was probably the same reason that states have moved their gubernatorial elections into non-presidential election years: to insulate them from national political trends. After doing some research, though, it turns out that the reasons are sometimes more prosaic and quirky.
In some cases, the odd-year elections have to do with when new constitutions were adopted. Until the mid-19th century, the Virginia General Assembly, not the voters, elected the governor. A new constitution was adopted in 1851, and the first governor was directly elected in December 1851. They have been holding state elections in the odd-numbered years ever since. (See “Virginia’s Off-Off-Year Elections.”)
Yesterday’s East Coast earthquake – centered near Mineral, VA but felt up and down the Atlantic seaboard and as far west as Chicago – was and will be a big story for several days (and a source of endless eye-rolling from the West Coast).
It’s worth noticing, however, that the earthquake didn’t appear to stop Virginia from conducting a primary election in communities across the Commonwealth. There were scattered reports of brief evacuations and voting in parking lots, but generally people soldiered on. [The Virginia State Board of Elections’ Twitter feed has a nice chronology of events.]
In the aftermath, there will be lots of discussion about what lessons to draw from Tuesday’s events. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s blog came out quickly with a post detailing numerouscontingency planning resources that election offices should consult to be prepared for emergency situations that inevitably arise. Resources like these are crucial to the field and should be required reading for anyone responsible for the smooth operation of voting on Election Day.