A state with Alabama’s ugly racial history and vote suppression legacy should try hard to act like it’s better than that now. But our state government has made Alabama appear to the world as if we aren’t even trying. Looking at the implications of closing driver’s license offices in the Black Belt, we don’t buy the promises to mitigate the ill effects with other governmental remedy. We don’t buy the claims that race and poverty have nothing to do with this. But even if they were valid, the damage to Alabama’s image and reputation is as undeniable as it was foreseeable and avoidable. What’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong, and this is wrong on the facts. It’s also wrong because the economic damage done to Alabama — tourists who will bypass us, investors and job creators who will go elsewhere to avoid the taint — more than offsets the claimed benefit, the dubious economic argument that lies behind these decisions.
The transportation budget bill that the General Assembly has sent Gov. John Kasich includes a noxious amendment that would discourage out-of-state college students from voting in Ohio. The governor should veto this irresponsible provision before he signs the bill. The Republican-controlled state Senate inserted the provision without public hearings or much debate. It would require people who want to vote in Ohio to get in-state driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations no later than 30 days after they register to vote. That mandate requires would-be voters to incur costs of $75 or more; violators could face criminal charges. The provision would particularly affect the 100,000-plus out-of-state students who attend Ohio colleges and universities.
In the aftermath of the midterm elections, there’s no shortage of easy explanations for the outcome, and everyone’s an expert. Pundits say the Democrats didn’t allow President Barack Obama to campaign enough, or featured him too much. They didn’t talk enough about the economy. They went too negative, or weren’t negative enough. The Republicans ran better, less extreme candidates. Variously, gerrymandering, vote suppression, vote fraud, or big money made the difference. Of course, the real reasons are far more complex. In the weeks and months ahead, we’ll comb through the data to learn more, but right now one fact is painfully clear: Citizens showed up to vote at lower rates than in any federal election since the middle of World War II. Preliminary data indicate that national turnout was below 37 percent. That means nearly 2 in 3 eligible voters, or approximately 144 million American citizens—more than the population of Russia—chose to sit this election out. The nation hasn’t seen turnout this low in any federal general election since 1942. Even in recent midterms, when the turnout was remarkably low, it still exceeded 40 percent, meaning millions more Americans voted in 2006 and 2010 than in 2014.
You’d think the world’s oldest democracy would be constantly working to make sure that as many people as possible vote in elections such as the one two weeks from today, which will decide who runs everything from city governments to Congress. Instead, what’s clear in the countdown to Nov. 4 are the ways a nation built on the proposition that the vote is the great equalizer limits the number of people who actually go to the polls. Too much of this is deliberate. Republican legislatures have enacted all sorts of thinly disguised ways to suppress the vote of people who don’t typically vote GOP, including minorities, the poor, the elderly and college students. Ohio and North Carolina have cut back early voting, for example, making it tougher for working people to vote. The most offensive restrictions, though, are tough photo ID requirements, which have spread to at least 16 Republican-dominated states — a number that fluctuates as courts strike down or uphold the laws. On Saturday, the Supreme Court upheld the Texas ID law, widely regarded as the nation’s most punitive.
Last Friday, a Pennsylvania trial court struck down the state’s voter ID law because it violates the state constitution’s explicit grant of voting rights to the citizens of Pennsylvania. This decision, issued just a day after several members of Congress introduced a sensible bipartisan update to the Voting Rights Act, shows that bipartisan solutions to repairing our broken election system are indeed possible. Amid the partisan debates surrounding election rules—charges of vote suppression on one side and vote fraud on the other—the Pennsylvania decision also highlights the fact that state constitutions can shore up the fundamental right to vote through a mechanism that should appeal to both sides of the political spectrum: states’ rights. Conservatives, who normally support voter ID laws, believe that states should retain significant autonomy and thus that sources of state law are paramount. Progressives espouse robust voting rights. The right to vote is located in state constitutions. That’s why reliance upon state constitutions to invalidate the strictest voter ID laws is a perfect, and bipartisan, solution to an intractable political problem.
When I saw Rep. Alan Clemmons’ guest column, “Voting problems continue to haunt us” (July 21), I was hoping he’d explain his part in peddling the myth of dead people voting in South Carolina, and apologize to the people he misled. He did neither. Instead, he again claimed an “undeniable presence of election fraud in South Carolina,” and took a cheap shot at the S.C. Progressive Network to make his point. He referenced an instance years ago when bogus forms were turned in by someone the network hired to do voter registration in Florence County. I caught the fraud myself and called SLED and the County Election Board the day the forms were submitted. No fraudulent votes were cast. I testified against the perpetrator, and he went to jail. The system worked.
A small Florida Panhandle town best known for its annual Worm Grunting Festival is at the center of an investigation into charges the white city clerk suppressed the black vote in an election where the black mayor lost by a single vote and a black city commissioner was also ousted. Both losing candidates and three black voters have filed complaints, now being investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, that City Clerk Jackie Lawhon made it more difficult for blacks to cast ballots by questioning their residency. The candidates also allege Lawhon abandoned her duty to remain neutral and actively campaigned for the three whites on the ballot. “If the allegations that we have are 100 percent accurate, then this election was literally stolen from us and I really feel like there should be another election,” said Anginita Rosier, who lost her seat on the commission by 26 votes.
Canada: Robocalls: Widespread but ‘thinly scattered’ vote suppression didn’t affect election, judge rules | Toronto Star
There was a widespread but “thinly scattered” vote suppression effort across Canada during the 2011 federal election that ultimately did not affect the outcome nor warrant annulling results, a federal court judge has ruled. Justice Richard Mosely, in a 100-page ruling released Thursday, found that “misleading calls about the locations of polling stations were made to electors in ridings across the country” including six ridings at the heart of a lawsuit brought by the Council of Canadians against the Conservative Party of Canada. He said the purpose of the calls “was to suppress the votes of electors who had indicated their voting preference in response to earlier voter identification calls.” But Mosely said he was unable to conclude the vote suppression efforts had a major impact on the credibility of the vote.
Republicans in the Ohio Legislature are pushing a plan that could cost the state’s public universities millions of dollars if they provide students with documents to help them register to vote. Backers of the bill describe it as intended to resolve discrepancies between residency requirements for tuition and voter registration, while Democrats and other opponents argue it is a blatant attempt at voter suppression in a crucial swing state. “What the bill would do is penalize public universities for providing their students with the documents they need to vote,” Daniel Tokaji, a professor and election law expert at Ohio State University told TPM. “It’s a transparent effort at vote suppression — about the most blatant and shameful we’ve seen in this state, which is saying quite a lot.” The legislation is a provision in the state budget that was backed by the Republican majority in the Ohio House of Representatives. It is now headed to the Ohio Senate, which also has a GOP majority.
The Iowa Senate Tuesday night rejected a Republican-sponsored amendment to require Iowa voters to show a photo identification when they are voting. The effort failed on a 26-24 vote with Democrats against and Republicans in support. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Red Oak, proposed the amendment to the so-called standings bill, one of the final appropriations bills usually approved as adjournment nears. She suggested that if someone doesn’t have a voter ID, her measure would allow another voter with a photo ID to vouch for them at the polls.
Allegations of voter fraud and vote suppression are common, especially among Ohio lawmakers who would use the former to justify the latter. Actual instances of attempts to tamper with voting are rare. A recent directive by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is a welcome effort to separate fact from fiction. Unsubstantiated claims of vote rigging can take on a life of their own. The Internet helps to turn rumor into fact through repetition. A post-election email that went viral is a case in point. One version of the anonymous email claimed that last November, in 21 Wood County districts Republican voting inspectors were illegally removed and President Obama won 100 percent of the votes. The writer also said that more than 106,000 votes were cast in Wood County, even though the county had only 98,213 registered voters. None of it’s true, as a check of the Wood County Board of Elections or Ohio Secretary of State Web sites makes clear. Mr. Obama won a little more than 51 percent of the 63,948 votes cast for president in Wood County. He didn’t win all of the vote in any district.
Make of this what you will: Faced with an unprecedented number of allegations of electoral fraud in the 2011 election – more than 1,400 complaints from more than 200 ridings – Elections Canada has responded by hiring not a single extra investigator to track down the culprits. The agency had nine investigators last year. It still has nine, spokesman John Enright confirmed, although it plans to add two entry-level investigators in coming months. It faces no budgetary restrictions for hiring in such a probe. It could employ 100 extra investigators if it wished.
Voting Blogs: “We Have to Fix That”: Will Long Lines Be the Next Major Focus for Election Reform? | Election Academy
“I want to thank every American who participated in this election … whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time. By the way, we have to fix that.” – President Obama, last night
Every national election seems to yield a storyline for election administration – and yesterday’s story, hands down, was the long lines that many voters faced at the polls. Just to be clear, when I say “long lines” I’m not talking about one-hour waits like the one I faced at my home polling place at lunchtime yesterday – I’m talking about epic waits, including those voters who, as the President was speaking just before 2am Eastern time, were still voting in Miami.
In 2006, Congress reauthorized Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act with nearly unanimous Republican support. In 2012, Republican officials declared war on minority voting and have challenged the constitutionality of Section 5 — which requires states and localities with egregious histories of voting discrimination to seek federal approval before making any election changes — in multiple court cases. What happened? Consider: Republican support among African-Americans for presidential nominee Mitt Romney finally hit zero in a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll and the GOP’s strength among Latino voters is nearly as anemic. These numbers make minority voters, sadly, irresistible targets for Republican vote suppression efforts. Legal battles over when ballots can be cast and whose votes will be counted, The New York Times reported Monday, could substantially affect the outcome of 2012 elections.In many states, only the Voting Rights Act is standing in the GOP’s way. Rather than showing respect for the voting rights of minorities and winning their votes with appealing policies, Republicans appear to have instead decided to try to expel them from the electorate and attack the biggest legal obstacle to their expulsion — the Voting Rights Act. The rights of minority voters, however, are not fair game in partisan battles. Partisanship must not be allowed to trump equal opportunity in voting. Republicans have whipped up a phony frenzy over the extent of voter fraud to justify their assault on minority voters.
As Jamila Gatlin waited in line at a northside Milwaukee elementary school to cast her ballot June 5 in the proposed recall of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, she noticed three people in the back of the room. They were watching, taking notes. Officially called “election observers,” they were white. Gatlin, and almost everyone else in line, was black. “That’s pretty harassing right there, if you ask me,” Gatlin said in the hall outside the gym. “Why do we have to be watched while we vote?” Two of the observers were from a Houston-based group called True the Vote, an offshoot of the Houston tea party known as the King Street Patriots. Their stated goal is to prevent voter fraud, which the group and founder Catherine Engelbrecht claims is undermining free and fair elections. The national anti-vote fraud movement represented by groups such as True the Vote is one of the most hotly debated issues of the 2012 election. Proponents say it’s about preserving the integrity of the electoral process, while critics contend that the movement is more about voter intimidation and vote suppression in Democratic strongholds and minority communities.
So much ink has been spilled on how vote suppression will affect the 2012 presidential election, one hesitates to write another word. Ari Berman has done terrific work uncovering the ways in which the new voting laws have aimed at suppressing the votes of elderly, minority, student, and other voters—particularly in swing states—who tend to vote for Democratic candidates. Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Center for Justice has an indispensible primer on the 22 new laws and two executive actions that will severely restrict voting in 17 states in November. These laws, often modeled on draft legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council, a consortium of conservative state legislators, will have the effect of disenfranchising millions of voters, all in order to address a vote fraud “epidemic” that should be filed somewhere between the Loch Ness Monster and the Tooth Fairy in the annals of modern fairy tales. As Weiser notes, none of this is casual or accidental: “If you want to find another period in which this many new laws were passed restricting voting, you have to go back more than a century—to the post-Reconstruction era, when Southern states passed a host of Jim Crow voting laws and Northern states targeted immigrants and the poor.” Whether it’s onerous (and expensive) voter ID rules that will render as many as 10 percent of Americans ineligible to vote, proof of citizenship measures, restricting registration drives,cancellation of Sunday voting, or claims that voting should be a privilege as opposed to a right, efforts to discount and discredit the vote have grown bolder in recent years, despite vanishingly rare claims of actual vote fraud. The sole objective appears to be ensuring that fewer Americans vote in 2012 than voted in 2008. But as strange as the reasons to purge certain votes have been around the nation, things have grown even stranger in recent weeks in Ohio, where GOP lawmakers have gone after not only voters but the federal courts, in an effort to wiggle out of statewide voting rules.
Canada’s Conservative government said Saturday there appeared to have been deliberate and illegal efforts to suppress votes in one constituency during last year’s national election, though a spokesman didn’t say whether the party now thought members, or those working for them, were responsible. Canada’s election agency is probing allegations that some Canadian voters were misled about the location of polling places by automated phone calls, or robocalls, during an election in May 2011. Opposition politicians have accused the Conservatives of an orchestrated attempt at suppressing votes, a charge the party has denied. The comments by Dean Del Mastro, a Conservative legislator and the main government spokesman for the controversy, marked the first time the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has acknowledged there may have been specific wrongdoing.
Canada appear to be on the verge of a major political upheaval thanks to the investigative work of two enterprising reporters working for news outlets that are generally considered Conservative-friendly. The story broke last week after a nine-month investigation by reporters Stephen Maher (Postmedia News) and Glen McGregor (Ottawa Citizen). They were curious about reports of strange phone calls voters were getting across Canada during the federal election campaign. Some of the calls were purportedly from parties they supported by the voters being called but came at annoying times or had offensive content. Some came, supposedly, from elections officials and had false information about where to vote. Maher and McGregor compiled a massive database of these calls and, last week, they broke what has become known as the Robocall scandal. “It has become quite clear that the Conservatives have no decent line of defence, here. They’re flying blind.”
Mississippi officials are confident the state’s new voter ID constitutional amendment will pass muster despite the Justice Department’s rejection of a similar South Carolina law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls.
“The Supreme Court has ruled that voter ID is constitutional and we believe that Mississippi’s plan for implementing voter ID will be constitutional as well,” Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, a Republican, said Saturday.
Under the federal 1965 Voting Rights Act, both states must seek clearance in advance from federal officials before making changes to election procedures because of their history of discrimination against black voters. Sixty-two percent of Mississippi voters approved the voter ID initiative Nov. 8.
Hosemann has said he hopes to have voter ID working before the 2012 presidential election.
Russia: Demonstrations denouncing electoral irregularities repressed, election monitoring NGO slandered | fidh.org
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), strongly condemns the pressure exercised on the NGOs, human rights defenders and peaceful protesters who denounced electoral irregularities and called for fair, free and independent electoral processes following the elections results on December 4, 2011, as well as the defamation campaign targeting the Golos, an NGO working on election monitoring, ahead of the election.
Golos (“the Voice”), a major Russian NGO specialising in election monitoring has been the target of a State-organised harassment and a defamation campaign since November 26, 2011. The harassment started a week before the holding of the elections when a State-controlled media, the pro-Government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta, published an article dated November 26, criticising Golos and accusing them of “reducing the process of observing the electoral campaign and voting on election day into a way of making money”.
Later, on December 2, 2011, the State-controlled TV channel NTV entered Golos headquarters to question the staff with cameras in order to broadcast in the evening a half-hour documentary containing sharp criticism of the NGO. In line with the Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s statement of November 27, the broadcast alluded that Golos had been a “recipient of grants” following “instructions of foreign governments”, and that the NGO’s executives were handling millions of dollars in cash, in an attempt to discredit them. Vladimir Putin had accused the “representatives of some foreign countries” to pay money to influence the elections and accused western-granted associations to make a “wasted effort” as “Juda [was] not considered the most respected biblical character” in Russia.
Paul Schurick’s recent conviction for voter fraud is a sad coda to the 2010 Martin O’Malley-Bob Ehrlich gubernatorial rematch: Sad because Mr. Schurick tainted his reputation as one of the state’s best political strategists, and sadder because Governor O’Malley almost certainly would have been re-elected no matter what late-campaign shenanigans Mr. Schurick pulled.
But the saddest thing about Schurick’s conviction is that his actions are merely one small part of a larger and more systematic attempt by conservative strategists to find ways to suppress voter turnout in service to Republican partisan advantage. Unlike in the Schurick case, most such efforts are perfectly legal (though certainly unsavory).
Let’s take a quick tour of the voter-suppression activities under way across the nation. In the past year, 19 new laws and two executive orders were issued in 14 states to create stricter voter identification requirements. These measures were supported and passed largely by Republicans after gaining control of state legislatures and governors’ offices in 2010. Their aim is to constrict the electorate for 2012 and beyond.
Maryland prosecutors in an election fraud case have introduced campaign documents suggesting a plan to suppress African-American votes. The documents were introduced as prosecutors rested their case Wednesday against Paul Schurick, campaign manager for former Republican Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. on two counts of conspiracy and one count each of election fraud and obstruction of justice, The Baltimore Sun reported.
Similar charges have been filed against political consultant Julius Henson, whose company, Universal Elections Inc., was involved in the November 2010 gubernatorial election.