Voters in the recent Iowa caucuses and Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary will rely on paper ballots as they have for generations. In the very next primary on January 21, South Carolinians will vote with backlit touch-screen computers. In an age of electronic banking and online college degrees, why hasn’t the rest of the nation gone the way of the Palmetto State? The reason is simple and resonates with the contentious debate that has yet to be resolved after at least 15 years of wrangling over the issue of electronic voting. No one has yet figured out a straightforward method of ensuring that one of the most revered democratic institutions—in this case, electing a U.S. president—can be double checked for fraud, particularly when paperless e-voting systems are used. Read More
Several members of the Supreme Court appeared frustrated on Monday as they surveyed the available options and looming deadlines in a major voting rights case from Texas that could help decide control of the House. The case is a result of a population boom in Texas, which gained more than four million people in the last decade, about 65 percent of them Hispanic. The growth entitles the state to four additional Congressional seats.
The Texas Legislature, controlled by Republicans, enacted new electoral maps for both state houses the federal House of Representatives in May and June to take account of the growth in population, and Gov. Rick Perry signed them into law in July. Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, though, the maps may not be used until they are approved, or “precleared,” by either the Justice Department or a special three-judge court in Washington. Texas officials chose to go to court, and they have so far not received clearance.
In the meantime, a second special three-judge federal court, this one in San Antonio, Tex., drew a competing set of electoral maps when Texas failed to obtain prompt federal clearance. The question for the Supreme Court justices is whether the court-drawn maps give enough deference to the Legislature’s choices. The answer may help determine whether the new districts elect Democrats or Republicans. Read More
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday upheld a federal law that bars foreign nationals from spending to influence U.S. elections.
In the latest of a series of high-profile cases challenging limits to political contributions, the high court affirmed a lower court ruling that foreign citizens can be excluded from certain civic and political activities. The Supreme Court summarily upheld the lower court’s decision in the Bluman v. Federal Election Commission case without comment. Campaign finance reform advocates painted the court’s decision as a victory for keeping corporate foreign cash from improperly influencing the U.S. political system. Read More
There is a way the U.S. Supreme Court can extract some sense out of a wildly politicized Voting Rights Act it heard Monday, argues a prominent redistricting specialist. “Don’t mess with Texas” — this time, the U.S. Supreme Court should have listened. The court has injected itself into a 10-gallon disaster that grows messier with every passing day. Today, the court hears arguments. If only it could slowly back out of the room. Read More
An e-voting machine expected for use in the 2012 presidential election is experiencing anomalies, increasing scrutiny on the system’s reliability as elections loom. The Electronic Assistance Commission’s formal investigative report revealed the DS200 machine, used only in Ohio and Wisconsin, failed to record votes, logged in the wrong vote, and often froze up, jeopardizing voting accuracy. Testing protocol included powering off the machine between votes and inserting ballots at various angles.
The government group, which certifies electronic voting, reportedly won’t decertify the machines because manufacturer, Electronic Systems & Software, said it fixed the issues. Read More
Super PACs can receive unlimited contributions and make unlimited campaign expenditures for or against a candidate, often with actual donors hidden from view. This election year will see an exponential growth in their number and in the funds available to them. Partisans from left and right will use them. No reforms to limit them will occur. And there is a looming war of attrition as the negative, superficial cannonading of Super PACs in political ads threatens to obliterate any semblance of a policy debate.
Exhibit A (we will likely run the alphabet this year) is Restore Our Future, the Super PAC organized by the political director of Mitt Romney’s 2008 campaign and supposedly “independent” of the Romney campaign itself. On November 30, 2011, Newt Gingrich led Mitt Romney in Iowa by a 14 percentage point margin (31 percent to 17 percent), per a New York Times/CBS poll. In the next 30 days, Restore Our Future spent more than $3 million on negative, anti-Gingrich ads — twice the amount spent by the Romney campaign itself. The final result: Romney in first (barely) with 25 percent of the vote, Gingrich in fourth, with 13 percent of the vote. Read More
This election season, the term “Super PAC” has escaped from the obscure world of campaign finance lawyers to emerge on the front pages of major newspapers and political websites. Super PACs are political organizations that can take unlimited sums from individuals, corporations and labor unions to spend in support of, or opposition to, federal candidates. To do so legally, a Super PAC must avoid certain forms of coordination with candidates.
The groups played a big role in Iowa, with a pro-Mitt Romney Super PAC, “Restore Our Future,” widely credited with running ads that halted Newt Gingrich’s momentum in the polls. They are expected to play an even greater role in the fall, when control of the White House, Senate and U.S. House of Representatives will be up for grabs. Read More
As the National Popular Vote (NPV) movement steps up its effort to impose a direct election for president, attempting to enlist states with a sufficient number of electors to constitute a majority (268) and to bind them to the winner of the national popular vote, those states considering the proposal might first reflect on the nightmare aftermath of the 2000 presidential election.
Because there was a difference of less than 1,000 tabulated votes between George W. Bush and Al Gore in one state, Florida, the nation watched as 6 million votes were recounted by machine, several hundred thousand were recounted by hand in counties with differing recount standards, partisan litigators fought each other in state and federal courts, the secretary of state backed by the majority of state legislators (all Republicans) warred with the state’s majority Democratic judiciary — until 37 days after the election the U.S. Supreme Court, in a bitterly controversial 5-4 decision effectively declared Bush the winner. Read More
On Friday afternoon, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) released cost estimates that showed the hotly-contested recall of the state’s governor could cost the state more than $9 million in 2012.
GAB obtained the figures through a survey of the state’s counties and municipalities and estimated that the recall costs would break down as follows:
- + County estimated costs: $2,348,423.98
- + Municipal estimated costs: $5,821,898,.20
- + GAB estimated costs: $841,349.00
- + Total estimate: $9,011,762.18
These figures are remarkably detailed and I look forward to learning (and sharing) more about the process involved in generating the estimates. Read More
Iowa’s Republican chairman said on Saturday that the vote count from a disputed precinct had been deemed official by the Iowa Republican Party, despite multiple accounts of a vote-counting discrepancy that could potentially have made Rick Santorum the winner of the Iowa caucuses. The disputed precinct is in Appanoose County, which has already submitted its certification forms, the chairman, Matt Strawn, said in a statement to The New York Times.
“Appanoose County has submitted all its required Form E’s for all precincts in Appanoose County,” Mr. Strawn wrote in an e-mail to The Times, referring to the form by which the Republican Party of Iowa certifies its votes on a county-by-county basis. “Now that we have all the county’s forms at Iowa G.O.P. HQ for the two-week certification process, my statement from Thursday night still applies: While we will not comment on specific precinct vote totals during the two-week certification process of 1,774 precincts, the results of the Appanoose County precincts will not change the outcome of Tuesday’s vote.” Read More
Before we move on to the nightmare of democracy and secret, concealed “trust-me” vote-counting which will comprise the bulk of the “First-in-the-Nation” primary in New Hampshire, I’d like to offer a few final thoughts, for now, and for the record, on last Tuesday’s “First-in-the-Nation” GOP Caucuses of Iowa. What happened there ought to remain firmly in all of our memories as we move into what is likely to be a nightmare of democracy and secret, concealed “trust-me” vote-counting across almost the entirety of the nation in this important Presidential Election year.
I had planned to post this article (or one like it) on Friday, when I was suddenly side-tracked by the report from Ron Paul supporter Edward True that he had noticed a mis-reported tally on the Iowa GOP’s caucus results website. It was a small mis-report to be sure, but in a race that had previously been “called” for Mitt Romney by just 8 votes out of some 122,000 cast at 1,774 different caucus sites, the 20 vote error noticed by True and called to the attention of the media (and since confirmed by the Appanoose County GOP Chair) could prove to be decisive in the final certified total promised a week or so from now. Read More
The Montana Supreme Court in Helena stands just off the main drag, dramatically called Last Chance Gulch Street. The picturesque setting is fitting for an institution that has just challenged the U.S. Supreme Court to a legal showdown on the enormously important question of whether corporations should have an unfettered right to dominate elections or whether citizens have the right to adopt commonsense protections to defend democratic government from corruption. Get the kids off the streets, because this could be an epic confrontation.
In upholding the section of Montana’s Corrupt Practices Act that restricts direct corporate political spending, the Montana Supreme Court attacked the Citizens United fiction that independent expenditures aren’t corrupting and that corporate political spending isn’t a danger to democratic government. The Montana jurists’ decision in Western Tradition Partnership states unequivocally, “The impact of unlimited corporate donations creates a dominating impact on the political process and inevitably minimizes the impact of individual citizens.” The decision will no doubt be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. But two years after the Citizens United decision, there has been ample evidence of the harm it’s inflicted on our electoral system. Read More
For obvious reasons, most news coverage of the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primaries focuses on the Republican contest. With rare exceptions, incumbent presidents seeking re-election enjoy a nearly insuperable advantage in their party’s nomination process. So it’s business as usual in the Granite State, with only one candidate in the Democratic running. Or maybe not quite so usual — because that one candidate isn’t President Barack Obama. Wait… what? Read More
As the fight continues over a slew of new voting laws passed by Republicans across the country in 2011 — including requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls, a measure that could hurt Democrats in the 2012 presidential election — the media and political scrum over the issue alone has caused major confusion in some key primary states. In New Hampshire, various voting-rights groups are especially concerned that misinformation mightaffect voters in Tuesday’s primary races. Read More
In these difficult economic times, unemployment in the United States continues to hover around 9%. There is one place that has seemingly avoided the recession completely. In fact, this state is booming with jobs. The state is North Dakota. With new technology being developed in the oil and gas industry, oil reserves in the Bakken Formation once too difficult or expensive to tap are now being drilled at a furious rate.
The unemployment rate in North Dakota is now around 3.5% as the state tries to keep pace with growth. Although North Dakota’s population grew only a modest 4.7% from 2000-2010 (compared with a nationwide average of 9.7%), the oil boom is a recent phenomenon, and the true population effects are still unknown. In Williston, North Dakota, a town at the heart of the oil boom, the population grew 17.6% (to 14,716) during the same time period. Since the census, the population of Williston is now estimated to be around 20,000, a 60% increase since 2000. This population growth could have a major impact in the upcoming election in 2012. Read More
Election day glitches in other Ohio counties are forcing the Columbiana County elections board to spend an additional $10,000 it does not have. Elections board Director Adam Booth reported at this week’s meeting Ohio Secretary of State of State Jon Husted issued a directive requiring those boards with optical-scan voting systems to install new memory cards used to store voting results.
Booth said 100 memory card will have to replaced at a cost of $100 each, for a total cost of $10,000. The problem is with the internal lithium batteries used to power the memory cards. Read More
As the election year dawns, the U.S. Supreme Court is right in the thick of it. The justices return today from their holiday break to hear arguments on an expedited basis over minority voting rights in Texas’s congressional and state legislative districts. Together with disputes over immigration and health care, the redistricting case is part of a Supreme Court term with repercussions for November’s presidential and congressional elections.
The Texas case will determine the power of judges to redraw voting-district lines — and will test the strength of a central provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act: its requirement that some states get federal “preclearance” before changing election rules. Texas is asking the high court to put in place three Republican-drawn maps for this year’s elections, even though they haven’t received that preclearance.
“It would essentially give a major way for states to circumvent the Voting Rights Act,” said Pamela Karlan, a professor at Stanford Law School who represents the Texas Mexican American Legislative Caucus, one of the groups battling the state’s Republicans in court. Read More
Time and timing was of the essence Monday afternoon during Supreme Court oral argument over which legislative maps Texas may use in its fast-approaching state and federal primary elections, now slated for April. The justices appeared to recognize that they needed to craft some creative compromise to avoid a hastily written, ideologically divided opinion that could essentially hand over the Texas legislature and four new congressional seats to Republicans at the expense of the state’s increased Latino population, which primarily votes Democratic. Read More
U.S. Supreme Court justices grappled with minority voting rights in Texas’s congressional and state legislative districts, trying to find a quick fix against the backdrop of looming deadlines. During arguments today in Washington, the justices gave no clear answer as to how or when they will rule in the case, which tests the power of judges to redraw voting-district lines and the strength of a central provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Several justices lamented the lack of an easy answer in a case being considered on an expedited schedule because of the impending Texas primary, set for April 3 after a judge delayed the vote for a month. The justices discussed moving the primary date back further to give the courts handling different aspects of the case more time. Read More
If the Supreme Court were a car, it would be a Volvo. Slow, safe, and built for the long haul. In fact if Bush v. Gore taught us anything, it’s that when the court tries to be a Lamborghini, racing to meet deadlines and flipping through its day planners to forestall impending election disasters, that’s usually when the law ends up flipping a guardrail and landing upside down on the side of the road. Read More
U.S. Supreme Court justices will hear a case Monday with enormous political implications for Texas and will determine whether elections are held using redistricting maps drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature or by a federal district court to account for minority population gains.
This is not the first time the high court has weighed into the thorny area of Texas redistricting. Justices ruled in 2006 that a GOP mid-decade redistricting map by the Legislature diluted Latino voting strength to protect a Republican incumbent congressman from San Antonio. The Supreme Court has again intervened in a Lone Star political battle, with minority groups again accusing Texas of disenfranchisement through redistricting, and in the same congressional district. Read More
In an effort to save money and make the elections process more efficient during these tight budget times, Secretary of State Sam Reed is asking the Legislature to lower the cost of producing the statewide Voters’ Pamphlet, eliminate the primary for judicial races with fewer than three candidates, and implement other ideas to reduce elections costs for the state and counties.
A second bill in Reed’s modest legislative package aims to reduce the backlog of out-of-state research requests for the State Library’s small research staff. The State Library is a division of the Office of Secretary of State. The third measure in the package would allow participants in the Address Confidentiality Program, which is also run by the agency, to register in a domestic partnership confidentially.
Reed said the centerpiece of his elections cost-savings legislation is allowing the full text of ballot measures to be placed online for free on the Secretary of State’s website instead of the printed Voters’ Pamphlet, which is produced by Reed’s Elections Division. The Secretary of State is required by the Washington Constitution to send the Voters’ Pamphlet to all 3 million Washington households. Read More
Finnish voters look set to elect veteran conservative Sauli Niinisto as their next president as anti-euro sentiment takes a backseat to economic concerns. The former finance minister from the National Coalition party, with around 40 percent support in polls, is clear favourite for the January 22 election.
After the highly eurosceptic Finns Party emerged from obscurity to become the main opposition in April’s general election – on a campaign opposing EU bailouts – some expected its leader Timo Soini to be a formidable presidential candidate. But Soini is trailing with under 10 percent, according to latest media surveys, putting him behind at least one other presidential hopeful, Centre Party veteran Paavo Vayrynen. If none of the eight candidates gets more than half the votes a run-off between the top two follows two weeks later. Read More
The Cabinet yesterday decided to refer to the public prosecution a suspicious multimillion-dinar deal involving the sale of stocks of an unlisted company between two candidates running in the National Assembly polls. After hearing a report on the deal by Minister of Commerce and Industry Amani Buresli, the Cabinet decided to refer the suspected money laundering deal for a legal probe, an official statement said. The Cabinet also decided to hear another detailed report on the issue next week.
A local newspaper reported a few days ago that the value of the deal was around KD 15 million paid to one of the two candidates who is also an ex-MP and has been involved in the corruption scandal involving 12 other former lawmakers. The report said that the value of the company whose shares were sold did not exceed KD 1 million at best but was still sold for KD 15 million, raising suspicions that it was a case of money laundering or corruption. Local electronic media also reported that the candidate who received the money has decided to delay launching his election media campaign because he believes he will not be allowed to contest the parliamentary elections. Read More
Under Election Commission orders, the Uttar Pradesh administration started draping statues of chief minister Mayawati and the ruling BSP’s symbol in Noida on Sunday even as an official declared that it would be done fully in Lucknow on Monday. The Election Commission wants every statue of elephant and each statue of Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh should be covered by 5 pm on Wednesday.
Lucknow DM Anil Kumar Sagar said, “I received the written directives from the Election Commission on Sunday evening. The process of covering the statues will be started from Monday.” The work is likely to be executed by the Lucknow Development Authority (LDA).
This is going to be a mammoth task for the officials in Uttar Pradesh as there are ten Mayawati (each about 15 feet high) statues and 90 statues of elephant installed in 10 memorials and parks in Lucknow and two Mayawati statues and 52 elephant statues at the Noida park that will need to be covered. Read More
Taiwan votes on Saturday in a tight presidential contest that is being closely watched in the United States and China because it could deliver an outcome that adds to the strains in U.S.-China ties in an already
challenging year. Read More
Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou’s policy of economic opening to China has frustrated a key constituency: struggling middle- and low-income workers, who could cost him elections this week. That outcome would alarm Beijing and heighten uncertainty in an area that has long been a flashpoint in U.S.-China relations.
Following massive rallies Sunday by both the ruling Kuomintang and the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party in the capital, Taipei, Mr. Ma and DPP candidate Tsai Ing-wen were back campaigning Monday.
In the presidential office, Mr. Ma met leaders of the southern city of Kaohsiung’s Lion’s Club. He touted his recent progress in trade deals with China and other countries, calling the agreements “the winning strategy and our way to survive in the future.” Read More