A nationwide discourse over numerous proposed and enacted changes to state voting laws has reached a new level of fervor in the United States. State legislative sessions in 2011 and 2012 have resulted in 180 different bills that restrict some aspect of state voting laws. Types of legislation introduced have varied from new demands for voter identification to tighter restrictions regarding voter registration periods and processes, as well as a shortening of time frames for casting early ballots ahead of election days. The majority of this activity has occurred in Southern and Midwest states, the bulk of which are controlled by Republican legislatures and governors whose ostensible premise is to increase protection against electoral fraud. Citing the findings of New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice’s Voting Law Changes in 2012 report, Democrats have criticized the wave of legislation as deliberating placing restrictions on youth, minority, elderly and poor voters. The report argues that voting will become significantly more burdensome for five million eligible voters than it was in 2008 elections. The main source of debate has revolved around the questions over an increased burden on voters in the November elections, and whether it will contribute to a marked decrease in electoral fraud. Read More
Sandwiched between its controversial immigration, campaign finance and health-care rulings last month, the Supreme Court issued a little-noticed decision in a Maryland case that gave the green light to states to eliminate the repugnant practice of “prison-based gerrymandering.” States are now unquestionably free to correct for an ancient flaw in the U.S. Census that counts incarcerated people as residents not of their homes but of the places where their prisons are located. When the prison population was small, the problem was little more than statistical trivia. Today, however, the census counts more than 2 million people as though they were residents of places where they have no community ties. Read More
Mike Turzai, the Pennsylvania House majority leader, is honest if nothing else. His exact statement to a crowd of state Republicans — that the new voter ID law “is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania” — was the most truthful accounting of why the party is pushing for allegedly more stringent voting rules across the nation. This is not about voter fraud, a claim that has never been substantiated, but about politics. Pennsylvania’s new rules will require a government photo ID to be able to vote, which disproportionately burdens those without cars: the poor, elderly, and minority voters who trend Democratic. Students without drivers’ licenses will also be stuck. Read More
The American political system is marked by legal corruption in which “wealthy people essential bribe legislators” with campaign contributions, according to one of the nation’s most influential federal judges. Speaking to foreign educators, Judge Richard Posner told the assembled that the wealthy give lots of money to legislators and that an individual legislator “knows that if he doesn’t promote the interests of the donor,” he won’t get any more money. Posner is a renowned member of the Chicago-based Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. He is not only the nation’s most prolific jurist-academic, he is seen by some as the most influential judge outside of the nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court. Read More
Faye Cochran is convinced voter fraud is rampant in Alabama, and she has her reasons. Cochran is the chairwoman of the Board of Registrars in Hale County, where two years ago, a trio of Hale County residents pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in a voter fraud investigation. Cochran believes similar cases of fraud are happening across Alabama. And she thinks Alabama’s new voter ID law, which would require a photo ID at the polls beginning in 2014, will help bring that fraud to an end. “You have to prove who you are to get a Social Security check,” she said. “You have to prove who you are to check a book out of the library. You should have to prove who you are to vote.” Voter ID is fast becoming a hot topic in this presidential election year. Just last week, in a speech at the NAACP’s national convention in Houston, Attorney General Eric Holder compared photo ID requirements to the poll taxes Southern states once imposed to keep black voters away from the polls. At the same time, Texas officials were in a federal courtroom arguing that the Lone Star State’s photo ID requirement was needed to prevent fraud at the ballot box. But it’s not at all clear, some experts say, that there’s really that much fraud to prevent — or that photo ID is the best way to do it. Read More
In a victory for Republicans, the federal government has agreed to let Florida use a law enforcement database to challenge people’s right to vote if they are suspected of not being U.S. citizens. The agreement, made in a letter to Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s administration that was obtained by The Associated Press, grants the state access to a list of resident noncitizens maintained by the Homeland Security Department. The Obama administration had denied Florida’s request for months but relented after a judge ruled in the state’s favor in a related voter-purge matter. Voting rights groups, while acknowledging that noncitizens have no right to vote, have expressed alarm about using such data for a purpose not originally intended: purging voter lists of ineligible people. They also say voter purges less than four months before a presidential election might leave insufficient time to correct mistakes stemming from faulty data or other problems. Read More
Of course, you wouldn’t know that reading the completely misleading headline in the “AP NewsBreak” story rushed to publication by theWashington Post and numerous other outlets. The real headline should be, “Florida Secretary of State Admits Identifying “Potential Noncitizens with ‘Outdated’ Data.” The pending agreement with the Department of Homeland Security is hardly a “victory” for the GOP, as the Washington Post’s headline screams. It is true that the Department of Homeland Security reached a pending agreement with the Florida Department of State to allow the Division of Elections to access the federal SAVE database — Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements — so as to more accurately identify “potential noncitizens” who might be incorrectly registered to vote in Florida. (Lord knows, the Florida Secretary of State needs help in its endeavors, as I’ve recently documented elsewhere, extensively. Read More
Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s push to uncover voter fraud has yet to lead to any criminal charges, but he says investigators still are looking into suspected instances of double-voting and non-citizens casting ballots. Schultz, a Republican serving his first term as the state’s top elections official, has made it his top priority to persuade lawmakers to pass a law requiring voters to show identification at the polls. He says doing so would prevent what he calls cheating. But critics, including the Democratic Party of Iowa, have said the state runs clean elections and the identification requirement would disenfranchise voters. Many local elections officials say fraud is not a problem. Against that backdrop, Schultz has promised in recent months that investigations by his office would prove his assertions. He told the Iowa Republican, an online news site, on Feb. 29: “We will be showing that there are cases of voter fraud in Iowa.” At a Republican Party dinner in May, he told activists he was “turning over every stone.” “I can tell you that, very soon, a clear message will be sent that you can’t cheat in Iowa. We are looking at our records,” he said. “I can tell you that we are coming on to something.” But records released by Schultz’s office last week, in response to a request from The Associated Press, show investigators could not find fraud in three cases involving voters whose qualifications were questioned after November’s elections. Read More
Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie campaigned for office six years ago pledging that he would halt the “playing politics with the office.” And now the state’s highest court will decide whether he is doing just that. With his every move scrutinized, Ritchie, a DFLer, opted to change the titles of two ballot amendments that would ban same-sex marriage and change the state’s voting system to require photo IDs and institute provisional balloting at the polls. Opponents say Ritchie’s wording is a clear injection of the bias he claims he wants to keep out of the office, but Ritchie says he is describing the amendments accurately and is within the law. “Is it uncomfortable to be the object of anger and controversy?” Ritchie said. “Yes. But I’m very thick-skinned.” Ultimately, he said, “following the law is a very comfortable position.” Read More
You can actually feel the impact of the state’s new voter-ID law coming. I don’t mean whether it’s successful in fighting fraud, as Republican leaders claim, or whether it’s successful in allowing Mitt Romney to win the state, as one Republican leader claims. I mean in the sense that it’s starting to look like a Republican overreach that could end up benefiting Democrats. It’s starting to jump the shark. Thanks largely to House GOP Leader Mike Turzai saying last month that the law will help Republican Romney, we have ongoing national attention. The Washington Post on Sunday editorialized against the law, mentioned Turzai and urged courts to halt it. On Monday, a Boston Globe editorial singled out Turzai for “making it so clear” that the law isn’t about voter integrity but about who wins elections. Read More
The process of electing representatives in the U.S. has always been a contentious one. At its core there are political parties and candidates vying for power. However, the politics of setting election procedures and policy is perhaps even more contentious than the elections themselves. The debate about the integrity of the election process and how to balance it against the basic democratic principle of expanding voter participation is not new; the Founders deliberated over the same concerns we discuss today. The question is, what trade-offs do we consent to in order to protect the integrity of the election process while expanding suffrage? The basis for integrity is honesty and fairness. If we believe that our election processes are fair and honest, we can trust their results. However, if we perceive these processes to be fraught with fraudulent practices or participants we conclude that the results are wrong and an affront to our democratic ideals. Some pundits and elected officials have focused on voter fraud as a real threat, pointing out that thousands of Americans have lost faith in the election process as a result. In this context, voter fraud usually refers to registering voters who are ineligible such as noncitizens, voting “from the grave,” or one person voting multiple times or in multiple jurisdictions (sometimes through absentee ballots). Read More
County investigators have found no evidence of criminal activity after looking into claims of alleged voter fraud at Racine polling places during the June 5 recall election. The Racine County Sheriff’s and District Attorney’s office made the announcement via a press release on Friday, stating that they will not be filing charges related to the allegations. The announcement comes after a nearly month-long investigation the two offices the made into four separate complaints of alleged voter fraud. The complaints included allegations of a poll worker soliciting voters, the discovery of suspicious voter registration documents in garbage bin, the mishandling of absentee ballots, and violations involving same-day voter registration procedures. The complaints arose after former state Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine, defeated state Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, in the June 5 recall. Read More
Congolese voters went to the polls on Sunday for the first round of legislative elections expected to maintain an overwhelming majority for allies of longtime President Denis Sassou Nguesso. The oil-rich central African country has been open to multiparty politics since 1991 but wracked by two civil wars in which Sassou Nguesso, an army colonel who first came to power in 1979, played a prominent role. Voting got off to a late start in some parts of Brazzaville, but Sassou Nguesso, who cast his vote at midday near the presidential palace, sought to reassure the nation that everything was proceeding smoothly. “The instructions I had given for the elections to take place in peace, transparency, for them to be free, fair and credible, have for the most part been followed,” he said.
After several political parties announced plans to boycott the upcoming parliamentary elections, some opinion writers in Sunday’s papers suggested that postponing the polls could be the best option to get the country out of the present political stalemate. Al Ghad Editor-in-Chief Jumana Ghneimat wrote that under the current circumstances, holding elections on time, no matter how fair and transparent, will not solve the country’s political dilemma, as ensuring maximum participation is the most important consideration. “Insisting on holding the elections under the current Elections Law will further complicate the political situation and will lead to more escalatory activities in the streets, regardless of the government’s ongoing pledges to conduct the elections with utmost integrity and neutrality,” Ghneimat said, adding that the country’s interests should take priority over any political calculations and agendas. “There is an urgent need now to find a way to reach a compromise on an elections law that convinces everyone to participate, weakens the case for abstention and makes everyone partners in change without political exclusion or attempts to monopolise power,” she added. Read More
Officials have begun recounting votes and tallying absentee ballots in elections in Libya. Meanwhile, a rights group says militias still hold 5,000 detainees, despite a deadline to transfer prisoners for trial. Libya’s election commission has announced that it is also reviewing appeals lodged by candidates after the release of partial results over the past week. The full results of Libya’s first free nationwide vote, on July 7, had been expected as early as Saturday. Now, the election commission chief says the full official results may finally be announced on Monday.