In a city that thrives on power, being attacked is often a sign that you have some. So in mid-December, when President Obama’s advisers took aim at Americans Elect, a bipartisan clutch of political elites planning to bankroll a third candidate in the 2012 presidential election, the group’s members reacted with dramatized indignation that couldn’t quite disguise their glee. “On the left, the Democrats are worried,” says Doug Schoen, Bill Clinton’s former pollster and a frequent Obama critic. “On the right, the Republicans are worried. That tells us we are doing something right.”
What Americans Elect has done is fashion a new twist to the quadrennial quest for a credible third-party contender. Instead of an outside party, it has crafted a parallel nominating process: a nonpartisan online convention. Anyone with a valid ID and an Internet hookup is eligible to become a “delegate,” and candidates can either register by completing a questionnaire or be drafted by popular support. Through a series of online ballots, the slate of contenders will be whittled down to six in April, and then to a single winner in June. In keeping with the group’s shibboleths, the nominee must tap a member of a different party as a running mate, forming a “unity ticket” that will occupy the chasm in the political center. Read More
The venerable Florida League of Women Voters has decided to make a federal case out of a restrictive, punitive and politically motivated voting law approved this year by the state Legislature. Good for the league, and its co-plaintiffs.
The league is one of three groups that filed a lawsuit last week in a Tallahassee federal court, challenging the law. The suit asserts that the state law violates the plaintiffs’ rights to free speech and conflicts with the National Voter Registration Act. Joining the league were Rock the Vote — a national organization that engages young Americans in voting — and the Florida Public Interest Group Education Fund. This lawsuit is one of two federal cases involving the Florida voting law. Read More
Americans Elect certainly is stirring up 2012 presidential politics as it seeks a path for a centrist alternative to challenge President Barack Obama and whoever the Republican nominee might be. The upstart organization has successfully obtained a place for an as-yet unnamed candidate on California’s 2012 presidential ballot. By year’s end, Americans Elect hopes to have gained access to ballots in 30 states, toward a goal of having ballot space in all 50 states.
To the extent that competition for the two-party system is good, this nonprofit group offers value. But there are serious questions about an organization whose logo includes a question mark. The biggest one: Who are all the funders of Americans Elect? To finance the ballot access drive, Americans Elect’s leaders say donors have given $30 million. The money pays for signature-gathering efforts in some states and legal fees to help meet requirements in other states.
But other than saying that its founder, investor Peter Ackerman, has donated $5.5 million, Americans Elect hasn’t identified its contributors. The reason, according Ackerman’s son and Americans Elect’s chief operating officer Elliot Ackerman, is that donors worry about consequences if they’re identified. Read More
The new, improved Gov. Bill Haslam — willing to weigh in on issues — should use his new leadership to urge solutions to what is a messed-up voter photo ID law. He’s dropping hints that he might intervene, saying the state’s driver’s license stations were not ready for the lines of voters seeking a photo ID so they can vote. Haslam is not asking lawmakers to postpone the law. But he used an interesting little word: “yet.”
“We haven’t made that recommendation to them yet,” Haslam said. The driver’s license centers need to be “a little more customer friendly,” the governor told reporters, and “they’re not where they need to be yet.” Haslam could do this and offer political cover to both parties. He could, for example, ask that the legislature push back the start date by a year to make more improvements to reduce driver’s license station wait times.
He could float an amended bill, allowing college students to use their student IDs at the polls and exempt seniors. He could push lawmakers to grandfather all existing registered voters in, and begin requiring a photo on voter registration cards from here on out. He could create a new system in which you get a new registration card with a picture taken at the time you go vote. That would phase in a new system nicely over time. Even some supporters concede that, as is, this has the potential to be a complete mess on Election Day. Read More
The GOP’s efforts to narrow voting rights in Florida have now engendered legal resistance. The League of Women Voters and other civic groups, claiming that a new state law unconstitutionally “burdens their efforts” to simply register voters, filed suit in state court last week seeking to dismantle the new legislation.
Attorneys for the League of Women Voters of Florida, Rock the Vote and the Florida Public Interest Research Group argue that Florida’s new law 40 requires so-called “third party voter registration” organizations such as theirs to pre-register with the state and satisfy a number of cumbersome disclosure requirements before engaging in any voter registration activities. Under the law, they are now also required to continually submit updates about their organization’s status, an act the groups call “burdensome.”
“There is no indication that Florida’s existing law was inadequate in addressing the state’s interest in preventing voter registration fraud and ensuring the integrity of the registration process,” the complaint reads. “Furthermore, even if the state had discovered shortcomings in the existing law, the new law burdens far more speech and associated activity than is necessary to accomplish any legitimate government interest.” Read More
South Carolina has taken steps to protect the security of the electronic systems it will use in its presidential primary following reports that an alleged “hacktivist” group might try to shut down the Iowa caucuses.
The alleged threat comes as attention focuses on the Republican presidential primary’s early nominating states, many of which use online or electronic systems to compile vote counts reported by local elections officials. “Any time you are dealing with an Internet site, you have something that could be compromised,” said Chris Whitmire, a public information officer with the South Carolina Election Commission.
South Carolina employs an online system that logs vote counts entered by elections officials and posts them to the Internet. It has asked for extra vigilance from the Web providers that host the database. “But even in the worst-case scenario, if the site is compromised, we will know it. The actual results on Jan. 21 won’t be touched,” Whitmire said. Read More
Egypt’s two leading Islamist parties said on Sunday their separate party lists secured about three-quarters of votes cast in the second round of a parliamentary election, extending their lead in the three-stage vote.
A source from the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party said it was on track to win about 40 percent of votes for party lists, based on results from most districts. A spokesman for the ultra-conservative Salafi al-Nour Party said its list received about 35 percent of votes. In the first round of the six-week poll, the FJP won about 37 percent of votes for lists and Nour secured about 24 percent.
The poll is the first since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February. The West long looked to strongmen in the region like Mubarak to keep a lid on Islamists, and has watched warily as they have come top in votes in Tunisia, Morocco and now Egypt. Read More
Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) Professor Errol Miller says Jamaica can be proud of its electoral system, which has improved significantly since Universal Adult Suffrage in 1944 and continues to advance through the leadership of the ECJ.
“The reform of the country’s electoral process is one of the great accomplishments of the Jamaican people since Independence,” he told JIS News. “We have reached a stage where our electoral process is recognised around the world, and measures we have developed here are being adopted elsewhere. We are called upon to assist many countries in the Caribbean and outside, and our people serve on various committees and are part of various bodies,” he said.
According to Professor Miller, Jamaica adopted from its colonial masters a “flawed electoral process” and from 1944 until 1979 the electoral process was managed ‘colonial style, on a winner take all’ system. “The party in Government sets the laws, conducts the elections, and Parliament itself sets the boundaries of constituencies all to their advantage,” he said. Read More
Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee will be challenging the verdict delivered by Punjab and Haryana high court granting voting rights to Sehajdhari Sikhs, in the Supreme Court.
A day after the Punjab and Haryana high court gave a verdict the SGPC and the SAD went into a huddle to discuss the issue. The matter will also come up for in depth discussion in core committee meeting of SAD scheduled for Thursday evening.
“The SGPC will not take it lying down,” said Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, senior SAD leader. The newly elected SGPC is also likely to appeal to the Sikh Gurdwara Commission not to issue orders of re-election but to challenge the matter in the Supreme Court. On the flip side, on Wednesday, a delegation of Sehajdhari Sikhs met Sikh Gurdwara Commission chief H S Brar, and handed him over a copy of the HC verdict quashing the notification denying voting rights to them. Read More
Dagmein Khaseinova beams with pride recalling the day her Chechen village, devastated a decade ago in a war launched by Vladimir Putin, gave the Russian ruler’s party nearly 100 percent support in a parliamentary vote this month. Her little village of Mekhketi, she said, is even on the way to winning the cash prize she says authorities have promised for the polling station registering the biggest turnout.
“We’ve already won the regional competition. In a few days we’ll hear whether we won throughout all of Chechnya,” Khaseinova, 53, said, wearing a traditional Chechen scarf over her head and squinting in the cold mountain air. “The organizers of the polling station have been promised some kind of prize money if they win,” she adds, hiding a smile. Putin’s United Russia recorded a higher percentage of votes in predominantly Muslim Chechnya, where federal troops fought two wars since the fall of the Soviet Union, than anywhere else in the country. Official results show support at 99.5% and voter turnout of 99.4%.
Nationwide, the party won just under half the votes, securing a slim majority in the State Duma. Even that outcome, critics said, was the result of ballot stuffing and fraud. Countless complaints have been filed; but not in Chechnya. Official monitors here have not lodged a single complaint of voting violations, but among many local residents, the outcome has stirred some incredulity, albeit cautiously expressed.
“United Russia is the party of Putin, and Chechnya would never vote for Putin,” said one middle-aged resident of the regional capital of Grozny, who declined to give his name for fear of retribution. “In the mind of every Chechen he is associated with the bombing that destroyed Grozny and other cities all over the region. Voting for Putin is about as absurd as any vote with a 99% outcome,” he said. Read More