Maryland Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) on Wednesday said tricks designed to suppress voter turnout, especially those of historically disenfranchised minorities, require Congress to pass an update to the nation’s 50-year-old voting-rights legislation.
Cardin said he would file a bill Wednesday to make it a federal offense to produce or use fraudulent election material to try to mislead or discourage voting within 90 days of an election. For one, Cardin said the bill would allow prosecutors nationwide to guard against the kind of robocalls that a Maryland jury this month decided were intended to suppress black voter turnout in the state’s 2010 gubernatorial race.
Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich’s (R) campaign manager, Paul E. Schurick, was found guilty of four counts of election law violations stemming from ordering the calls, which told voters in Prince George’s County and in Baltimore to “relax” and to not bother going to the polls. The automated call said Democratic candidate Gov. Martin O’Malley and President Obama had already been successful. Schurick is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 16, and faces potential jail time. Read More
There has been a coordinated attack this year on voting rights. More than a dozen states have enacted laws that are intended to make it more burdensome for Americans to cast a ballot, which President Lyndon Johnson called “the basic right, without which all others are meaningless.” New requirements – for special IDs, for example–will reduce turnout among minorities, the uneducated, the poor, the elderly, the newly arrived, students and other groups that traditionally vote for Democratic candidates. (For an explanation of why voter ID laws have a discriminatory effect, see my previous post on the subject.)
Now Attorney General Eric Holder is fighting back. I was delighted to hear Mr. Holder deliver a powerful speech in Texas yesterday, during which he said his department is facing five separate lawsuits aimed at killing Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which gives the Justice Department the power to review any changes to voting rules in 16 places that have a history of discrimination. Read More
Democratic and Republican House leaders have apparently worked out a deal today on a new congressional map and a single 2012 primary on March 6, instead of the current split primary that moves presidential and congressional races to June.
Speaker William G. Batchelder, R-Medina, said the new map would contain at least two changes to an updated congressional map that Republicans offered about two months ago. He said the changes are “not major.”
“We have to make sure we get the maps circulated. Obviously I want to take all the time necessary to get that done,” he said, as House Republicans moved into a closed-door caucus to discuss the deal. “I want to make sure everyone understands what this one is. Then we’ll do a head count.” Batchelder said he does not know what the tally will be. The bill needs 66 votes in order to take effect immediately and join the primaries into a single date, and also needs a two-thirds vote in the GOP-controlled Senate. Read More
After several amendments were passed through committee, the state Senate did not consider the Voter ID bill yesterday. This means the Legislature will not be able to consider the bill until January, since they’re set to go on their long vacations this week.
The bill, as we detailed yesterday, was originally written to require a government-issued ID at the polls. It was amended to allow nursing home, college and some expired IDs. However, critics say these changes are moot and, once enacted, this legislation will still disenfranchise poor, minority and elderly voters, who often do not have ID.
The bill is opposed by several local and state groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and the Committee of Seventy. In an email blast yesterday, Seventy wrote, “The non-partisan Committee of Seventy opposes this voter ID bill. It especially hurts minority, low-income and senior voters who are more likely to lack an acceptable ID. There has been no evidence of rampant voter fraud that mandating a voter ID would prevent. Why insist on only photo IDs issued by the government? Read More
The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo today called on the country’s electoral authorities to review the issues raised by independent observers about the recent DRC presidential and parliamentary polls, saying there were “significant irregularities” in the results process.
The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO) said in a press release that it strongly urged the DRC’s Independent National Electoral Commission (known by its French acronym, CENI) to undertake “a timely and rigorous review” of the issues raised, particularly regarding the counting and tabulation of votes.
It said the review should have “the full participation of witnesses and observers, including foreign observer groups, who may offer to provide technical advice.” MONUSCO’s statement noted that the Carter Center International Election Observation Mission in the DRC and other observer missions had issued statements voicing concern about the management process. Read More
Egyptians are going to the polls in the second round of elections to a new parliament – the first since President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February. Voting has been relatively peaceful, with no major irregularities reported. The first round earlier this month was dominated by Islamist parties, with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party winning a third of vote.
They are set to consolidate their gains this week, with polling taking place in more rural and conservative areas. The long and complex election process will not be completed until next month. The aim is to elect a lower house of parliament, which will then appoint a 100-member committee to draft a new constitution.
Under Egypt’s complex electoral system, two-thirds of the 498 elected seats in the People’s Assembly will be picked through proportional representation, using lists drawn up by parties and alliances. The remaining seats are decided by a first-past-the-post-system, with individual candidates required to win more than 50% of the votes to avoid a run-off contest. Read More
The Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) will today indicate whether the final count of candidates for the upcoming General Election who were appointed during yesterday’s Nomination Day exercise remains at the 150 announced initially. Shortly after the close of Nomination Day activities yesterday, the EOJ signalled that a total 150 candidates were nominated to contest the General Election scheduled for December 29. But speaking with the Observer yesterday, Director of Elections Orette Fisher said a final count would be done today.
“I want to point out, however, and it is very important, that the count we have given is very preliminary because I cannot give a final count until the nomination forms come in from all the constituencies and we are able to go through them,” the director of elections said. Read More
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. Read More
A high-ranking editor and a top executive from one of Russia’s most respected news publications were dismissed on Tuesday after an apparent conflict over coverage that appeared to highlight widespread anger with the results of parliamentary elections this month. The dismissals followed the publication this week of an election issue of the newsmagazine Kommersant Vlast, which detailed accusations of large-scale electoral fraud by the ruling party, United Russia, and included a photograph of a ballot scrawled with profanity directed against Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin.
The firings came as tensions built between the Kremlin and a new constituency of reform-minded activists who held a protest against the election results here last weekend that drew tens of thousands of people. President Dmitri A. Medvedev announced on Tuesday that the first session of the new parliament would be held on Dec. 21, an indication that the Kremlin would not concede to increasingly vocal calls for new elections.
Meanwhile, the leaders of the protest movement met to plan what they said would be an even bigger demonstration on Dec. 24, and vowed not to relent in their demands. The tremors from this standoff have been particularly acute in the city’s print and online newsrooms. Under Mr. Putin, the authorities have generally tolerated a community of liberal-minded journalists whose criticism of the Kremlin has often been withering, but not widely broadcast. Read More
Kremlin-friendly oligarch Alisher Usmanov has fired two senior managers of the respected Kommersant publishing group over one of its publications’ coverage of alleged violations during the recent Duma elections. Usmanov says he was particularly upset about the publication of a photograph showing an obscene slogan addressed toward Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, which he described as “bordering on petty hooliganism.”
Usmanov fired the general director of the Kommersant-Holding group, Andrei Galiyev, and the editor in chief of the newsweekly “Kommersant-Vlast,” Maksim Kovalsky. In response, the general director of the Kommersant publishing group, Demyan Kudryavtsev, submitted his resignation in protest. Read More