The 2008 U.S. presidential election was the first in 12 years in which large numbers of Americans did not believe the result was unfairly influenced by the machinations of politically biased state election officials. But it was also the first in a dozen years that was not close, as Democrat Barack Obama cruised to a blowout victory over Republican John McCain. With 2012 shaping up to be another tight contest, experts say controversy is likely this year, especially given that 33 of the 50 state election authorities are led by partisan politicians, who are free to work for candidates’ campaigns. “People don’t pay attention to problems of partisanship until it’s too late,” said Richard Hasen, an elections law specialist at the University of California-Irvine. Read More
On June 8, the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, issued a short, thoughtless opinion in Libertarian Party v District of Columbia Board of Elections. It says that because the U.S. Supreme Court in 1992 said that the U.S. Constitution does not require states to print write-in space on ballots, therefore it follows logically that if governments do allow write-in space, the same government can refuse to count them.
Federal election law has required the public disclosure of campaign donors for nearly 40 years. But this year, outside groups are playing a powerful role in the presidential election. And some of them disclose nothing about their donors. That’s despite what the Supreme Court said in its controversial Citizens United ruling two years ago. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the Citizens Unitedopinion, which said that corporations can pay for ads expressly promoting or attacking political candidates. “Political speech is indispensable to decision making in a democracy and this is no less true because the speech comes from a corporation rather than an individual,” Kennedy said in a 9 1/2-minute summary he read from the bench. But that wasn’t the whole decision. Read More
Alaska Redistricting Board Chairman John Torgerson criticized the Alaska Supreme Court for how it handled its involvement in drawing new state election maps in a speech to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce on Thursday. “This is a separation of powers issue, the court is trying to tell a constitutionally created board how to do its work,” the former Kenai legislator said. Juneau and its Southeast neighbors got a close-up look at that involvement when they were whipsawed back and forth, with first Petersburg, then Haines and finally Petersburg again part of a Juneau-based district. That happened as the court reversed itself on how it viewed the board’s attempt to create a Native-influenced voting district in Southeast. “We came down on the side that we wanted to protect Native voting strength in Southeast,” Torgerson said. Read More
The waiting is the hardest part. With more than 830,000 primary ballots still uncounted, many candidates and campaigns in California remained on pins and needles Thursday awaiting the results of undecided races. Proposition 29, the proposal to increase taxes on tobacco products to pay for cancer research, was among the contests that remained too close to call. Election officials warned that more of the same could occur after November’s general election, when the stakes are even higher, due to California’s all-paper voting system and meticulous legal requirements for counties that tabulate results. More than half of California voters now cast ballots by mail, requiring elections officials to verify signatures and voting status. Ballots delivered to polling places on Election Day cannot be verified and counted until after polls close at 8 p.m. In addition, thousands more voters cast provisional ballots when their eligibility is in question, they move, or lose their vote-by-mail ballot. Read More
The San Diego County Registrar of Voters’ website went out of service on election night because a firewall detected an attempt to overload the site, officials said Thursday, adding that an investigation was being conducted. Sdvote.com went down soon after initial results were posted after 8 p.m. Tuesday, and the site remained inoperative for about two hours. Access to the site was also spotty after midnight. Residents and local politicos use the site to track results. The county also uses its information technology to send a direct feed of results to news media, but that feed was not interrupted. According to a county statement, sdvote.com began receiving well over 1 million hits per minute from a single Internet protocol address around 8:15 p.m., so a firewall that recognized suspicious activity shut down outside access to county websites. Investigators said they believe the “denial of service” attack was launched against the site to prevent legitimate users from obtaining information. It was unknown if the attack was meant to disrupt the election itself, according to the county. Read More
Gov. John Hickenlooper signed legislation today that sets rules for public review of voted ballots — a bill supporters say is necessary to prevent chaos in the November election, but critics call a blow to open government. Election integrity activists, members of the Colorado Lawyers Committee Election Task Force and groups such as Common Cause and Colorado Ethics Watch had flooded the governor’s office with letters asking him to veto House Bill 1036. Several of those opponents plan to file a lawsuit to stop the law from taking effect, activist Marilyn Marks said today. “Based on our familiarity with this bill and its flawed process, we believe that those legal challenges will be successful in striking down this law,” Marks said. “We hope that the litigation will have immediate impact prior to the upcoming elections where full transparency is unquestionably required.” Hickenlooper’s office is expected to issue a statement later today explaining why he signed the bill. Read More
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy vetoed a bill Wednesday that would have given local election officials discretion in deciding how many polling locations to open for a party primary. The measure also would have helped cities and towns save money. In his veto message Malloy said he understands it may have saved municipalities money, but it has the “potential for undermining the right to vote.” That’s largely what made the bill “unacceptable” to him. He said there’s a high probability of voters going to the wrong polling place and some may have difficulty reaching the alternative one or get frustrated and go home upon learning their regular polling place is closed. The bill gave local election officials 60 days to announce polling place consolidation efforts. Read More
Florida’s noncitizen voter purge looks like it’s all but over. The 67 county elections supervisors — who have final say over voter purges —are not moving forward with the purge for now because nearly all of them don’t trust the accuracy of a list of nearly 2,700 potential noncitizens identified by the state’s elections office.The U.S. Department of Justice has ordered the state to stop the purge. “We’re just not going to do this,” said Leon County’s elections supervisor, Ion Sancho, one of the most outspoken of his peers. “I’ve talked to many of the other supervisors and they agree. The list is bad. And this is illegal.” So far, more than 500 have been identified as citizens and lawful voters on the voter rolls. About 40 people statewide have been identified as noncitizens. At least four might have voted and could be guilty of a third-degree felony. The eligibility of about 2,000 have not been identified one way or the other.
Ethical questions arose Thursday at the Davison County Courthouse in Mitchell when two men with ties to Tuesday’s election participated on recount-related boards. Billy Lurken, news director for KMIT radio in Mitchell, was covering the recount process Thursday morning for the radio station when the need arose for a resolution board. A resolution board examines ballots that a vote-counting machine can’t process, possibly because of marks that are difficult for the machine to read. The members of the resolution board examine the machine-rejected ballots and decide to reject or accept them, and also determine the voter’s intent if the ballot is accepted. Read More
When Alexandria voters turn up at the polls Tuesday, many are going to confront old-school technology — paper ballots. Thanks to activists who objected to electronic voting machines because they did not provide a paper trail and because they feared hacking, the Virginia General Assembly in 2007 banned local governments from buying touch-screen machines when it came time to replace existing electronic systems. Now that time has come. Voters will be using a new eScan system, which requires voters to mark their paper ballots with blue or black ink in the polling booth and then line up to scan the ballots themselves into a machine. The votes will be recorded electronically. Read More
There is nothing pleasant about a recall election. They are expensive, distracting, and hyperpartisan. Now that the election is over, it is time for Gov. Scott Walker, the legislature and the people of Wisconsin to go back to work and find more balanced solutions to their problems. Governor Walker’s challenge to public pensions and collective bargaining can be seen as a part of the larger national conversation about sensible entitlement reforms. This conversation will be painful, but it must begin because the country is on a path that is not sustainable. However, the solutions to our challenges must require shared sacrifice. America is not about picking winners and losers, we are about upward mobility, hard work, and playing by the rules. This conversation should be all about math, not politics. The country is on a fiscal path that simply does not add up. If we don’t alter course, we will go the way of Greece. Taxes must be raised on the rich and those of us doing well. Similarly, we need to take a more realistic approach to public-employee pensions, entitlements, and corporate loopholes. As much as we might wish, we cannot provide benefits that exceed our revenue. Read More
On what was supposed to be the “Friday of Isolating Ahmed Shafiq,” a call to protest the Egyptian presidential candidate who was Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, the crowd in Tahrir Square could be counted in the hundreds, a sign that despite a week of effort there was still no agreement on how to stop Shafiq between the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi, the other candidate in next week’s presidential runoff, and the mostly secular revolutionaries whose protests toppled Mubarak 15 months ago. The Muslim Brotherhood did not erect the biggest stage in Tahrir Square, as it has previously during demonstrations that drew tens of thousands, and its top officials did not show up to lead chants. Just a few Brotherhood supporters were present, obvious from the green hats they wore bearing the Brotherhood’s slogan, “Islam is the solution.” The crowd was ironically small for Sheikh Mazhar Shahin’s sermon. Last year, the sheikh often preached to hundreds of thousands in the anti-Mubarak protests. “The enemies of the revolution succeeded in shattering our unity into parties and candidates racing for positions,” Shahin said, his familiar voice echoing through Tahrir Square’s emptiness. “There is no option but uniting once again so that our revolution succeeds.” But it was clear that the compromise that revolutionary candidates had hoped to reach with Morsi so that they could endorse him before voting begins in the runoff next Friday would not be happening. Read More
Mexico’s leftwing presidential candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has called on Enrique Peña Nieto, the current favourite to win the election on 1 July, to come clean about the alleged purchase of favourable coverage on Mexico’s biggest television network. His comments came a day after the Guardian published documents implicating the Televisa network in the sale of news and entertainment content to promote Peña Nieto’s national profile when he was the governor of Mexico state and preparing his presidential bid. “They should hand over all the information, the contracts, that they haven’t wanted to show,” López Obrador told reporters. “Of course they have them, and we need to see how much they paid, for what kind of message, and if they include all the promotion of Peña Nieto on the television.” López Obrador, who represents a coalition of leftist parties called the Progressive Movement – and who in the past has also been criticised for failing to release details of his own publicity budget – said he wanted to study the documents before saying anything more. López Obrador did not mention the PowerPoint presentation mentioned in the Guardian story that detailed an apparent strategy within Televisa to destroy his first bid for the presidency in the 2006 election. Read More