Republicans in state legislatures across the country have spent the past year mounting an all-out assault on voting rights, pushing a slew of voter ID and redistricting measures that are widely expected to dilute the power of minority and low-income voters in next November’s elections. Now that effort has come to Capitol Hill, where a congressional committee will vote Thursday on a GOP-backed bill to eviscerate the Election Assistance Commission (EAC)—the last line of defense against fraud and tampering in electronic voting systems around the country.
The EAC was created in the wake of 2000’s controversial presidential election as a means of improving the quality standards for electronic voting systems. Its four commissioners (two Republicans and two Democrats) are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The commission tests voting equipment for states and localities, distributes grants to help improve voting standards, and offers helpful guidance on proofing ballots to some 4,600 local election jurisdictions. It also collects information on overseas and military voters and tracks the return rate for absentee ballots sent to these voters.
On Friday, a House subcommittee on elections will vote on Rep. Gregg Harper’s (R-Miss.) bill eliminating the EAC along with the longstanding public financing system for presidential campaigns. Republicans claim that the commission has already achieved its aim of cleaning up elections. Its responsibilities, they argue, can be reabsorbed by the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which oversaw voting machine certification prior to the EAC’s creation in 2002. Ending the EAC, Republicans estimate, will save $33 million over the next five years. Read More
Democrats said Thursday they are planning a major effort to protect voting rights in the 2012 election after several states passed voter identification laws and restrictions on early voting and same day registration. Concerned over what they call voter suppression efforts in states, party officials said they were organizing on a number of fronts to overturn some of the measures, educate voters on the types of documents necessary to vote and pursue lawsuits if necessary.
“We have a history of challenging these matters in court if need be. We’ll be more than prepared to continue that into the future,” said Will Crossley, the Democratic National Committee’s counsel and director of voter protection.
Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin have passed laws this year that allow voters without the required photo ID to cast provisional ballots, but the voters must return to a specific location with that ID within a certain time limit for their ballots to count. Efforts to restrict early voting have been approved in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin. Read More
The House voted today to end taxpayer financing of presidential elections.
In a 235-190 vote, the House approved a measure to terminate the Presidential Election Campaign Fund and shut down the Election Assistance Commission, a national clearinghouse on the mechanics of voting.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the bill has no chance in the Senate, harshly criticizing House Republicans for advancing it. “Instead of making it so it’s easier for people to vote, they want to do everything they can to make it easier to make it harder for people to vote. I don’t understand this,” Reid said. “They want to have as few people to vote as possible.” Read More
In an effort to beat back what Democrats are calling a Republican assault on the voting rights of blacks, Hispanics and other minority groups ahead of the 2012 presidential election, the Democratic National Committee has launched a new initiative to educate voters on restrictive mostly Republican-sponsored voter ID laws.
The initiative includes the release of a report, “A Reversal in Progress: Restricting Voting Rights for Electoral Gain,” and the launch of a websitewww.protectingthevote.org. Both are intended to “expose efforts by the Republican party to limit the right to vote for political gain,” said Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz during a conference call this morning.
Schultz called the laws “a full-scale assault” on the voting rights of mostly minority voters in states where both groups strongly supported the president in 2008. And that the laws are “essentially designed to rig an election when Republicans can’t win these election on the merits.” Read More
States all over the country are bringing or joining lawsuits that claim the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional. Against this backdrop, redistricting battles in states that are tinged with racial and ethnic overtones are beginning to spill into federal territory. There can no longer be any doubt: As the 2012 election season rolls around, the constitutional fate of the Voting Rights Act will have a considerable impact on the political playing field.
In the most dramatic episode thus far, Texas directly petitioned the Supreme Court this week to delay the implementation of a redistricting plan recently drawn up by three federal judges for temporary use as election season begins. The latest federal Census shows a sharp growth in Texas’s Hispanic population, thus making the redistricting politics there especially contentious. Read More
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. Read More
Earlier this year, North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue vetoed voter photo ID legislation bucking a nationwide trend that has seen voter photo ID laws grow this year. The General Assembly failed to override the veto and is again currently in special session with that on the agenda, but according to media reports the prospects of overturning the veto appear slim.
While debate continues at the state level, some counties in North Carolina are taking matters into their own hands. Recently several counties approved resolutions asking their state representatives to introduce legislation that would allow them to require voter photo ID at the county level.
Local election administrators are taking a wait and see approach about how the legislation — if enacted — would impact them, although many admitted that the first time they heard about the resolutions was through the local media. “My office was not consulted or made aware of any pending voter ID resolution before it was approved by the Gaston County Commission,” explained Adam Ragan, director of elections for Gaston County. “I first heard about the resolution after it was passed by reading about it in our local newspaper.” Read More
The District of Sechelt won’t likely be using voting machines made by Election Systems and Software ever again, after two of four machines provided by the company broke down during the 2011 municipal election.
“Needless to say, I will be recommending that we do not use the same machine supplier again in the future,” said Sechelt’s chief election officer Jo-Anne Frank. The first machine broke down during advanced voting at the Seaside Centre. A faulty sensor was found to be the issue. Read More
Egypt will hear the results of elections which Islamist parties expect to win on Friday, and protesters gathered at a rally to remember 42 people killed in clashes with police last month.
Islamist success at the polls in the most populous Arab nation would reinforce a trend in North Africa. Moderate Islamists lead governments in Morocco and post-uprising Tunisia after election wins in the last two months.
Egyptians voting freely for the first time since army officers ousted the king in 1952 seem willing to give Islamists a chance. “We tried everyone, why not try sharia (Islamic law) once?” asked Ramadan Abdel Fattah, 48, a bearded civil servant. Read More
Islamists appear to have taken a strong majority of seats in the first round of Egypt’s first parliamentary vote since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, a trend that if confirmed would give religious parties a popular mandate in the struggle to win control from the ruling military and ultimately reshape a key U.S. ally.
Final results, expected Friday, will be the clearest indication in decades of Egyptians’ true political views and give the long-banned Muslim Brotherhood a major role in the country’s first freely elected parliament. An Islamist majority could also herald a greater role for conservative Islam in Egyptian social life and shifts in foreign policy, especially toward Israel and the Palestinians. Read More
Electoral officials in Guyana say Donald Ramotar of the governing People’s Progressive Party (PPP/C) is to be the next president. But the party, mainly backed by Guyana’s ethnic-Indians, lost its parliamentary majority for the first time in 19 years. This could make it difficult for Mr Ramotar if opposition parties opt to work together, analysts say. A delay in announcing Monday’s poll results had heightened tensions.
The Guyana Election Commission (GECOM) said the People’s Progressive Party had won 32 seats, the opposition coalition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) 26 seats, and the Alliance for Change seven seats. Read More
State prosecutors paid a surprise visit to the Moscow office of Golos (‘Voice’), a Western-sponsored but operationally independent election watchdog, on Thursday and served it with legal papers accusing it of breaking the country’s election law. Demanding that its representatives appear in a Moscow courtroom on Friday morning, prosecutors accused the group of consistently painting a negative picture of an unnamed political party, an overt reference to Mr Putin’s United Russia party.
“It is obvious that the people who organised this campaign against us are the same people who are committing electoral fraud across the country,” GrigoryMelkonyants, Golos’ executive director, told The Daily Telegraph. “It is an act of administrative (government pressure). It is a special operation designed to put us out of action and to destroy the only independent election watchdog in Russia.” Read More
South Ossetia, a tiny central-Asian state, had a presidential election this weekend. If you are wondering why you’ve never heard of the country, its probably because most of the world doesn’t recognize it. After the Russian-Georgian conflict in 2008, breakaway Russian-dominated state South Ossetia was recognized by Russia and a few other countries, such as Venezuela, Nicaragua and the two Pacific island nations of Tuvalu and Nauru. The rest of the world still views it as a part of Georgia
And when we say an election, that word should be used with caution too. Time’s Simon Schuster does a good job setting the scene for the somewhat crazy situation before the election even started as pro-Kremlin groups tried to ensure the pro-Kremlin president remained in power:
“In June, a group of armed men, representing the South Ossetian army and the office of the presidential guard, walked into the parliament building and demanded that the lawmakers allow President Kokoity to stay for a third term in office. This would require changing the constitution, which the lawmakers refused to do. Several of them, barricaded inside the chamber by the armed intruders, called the press to complain of a “military coup,” and Kokoity quickly got nervous. Read More