Where Minnesota’s post-election hand count of the 2008 U.S. Senate election between then Sen. Norm Coleman and now Sen. Al Franken was, as we wrote at the UK’s Guardian at the time, “one of the longest and most transparent election hand-counts in the history of the US,” Wisconsin has made it extremely difficult (putting it nicely) to know what the hell is actually going on in their statewide “recount” of the April 5th, 2011, state Supreme Court election between Justice David Prosser and Asst. Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg. Where Minnesota’s chief election official, Sec. of State Mark Ritchie, oversaw a process to ensure that updated and accurate numbers were easily tracked and transparently shared with the media on a daily basis, Wisconsin’s chief election authority, their Government Accountability Board (G.A.B.), has posted (and even sometimes removed) confusing, misleading, and unclear updates, often with inaccurate information, on various schedules, and frequently with little or no explanation for wholesale changes and deletion of data. Where Minnesota counted every vote by hand with full public scrutiny, including photographs and video cameras, Wisconsin is tabulating ballots, often by the same oft-failed, easily-manipulated computer systems that counted them in the first place, behind barriers that preclude broad public oversight, under an agreement between both campaigns which disallows the use of video cameras by observers. The count, which began last Wednesday, often feels as if it’s happening in virtual darkness, at least to those of us trying to observe from afar, but the same sentiment has been shared with us by many we’ve spoken to who are there on the ground. There is an alarming lack of transparency to help the citizenry oversee the process in order to ensure accountability and an accurate count. To make matters worse, if that’s possible, chain of custody issues for the ballots appear questionable in a number of reported cases, after ballots have been kept in the same darkness by election officials — sometimes securely, sometimes not — for the three weeks following the election and prior to the “recount.” Read More
On Tuesday the Vancouver city council approved in principle a pilot project to allow online voters to cast ballots in the advance polls for the Nov. 19 civic election. In a 10-1 vote, council said the benefits — increased voter turnout, elimination of lineups and less costly elections — far outweigh some of the potential downsides, including the potential for stolen voter packages, technical difficulties and hacking attacks and difficulty in identifying voter identification. “I totally appreciate for some that voting online is a totally, totally strange thing to do,” said Coun. Andrea Reimer, who wants to see more of the city’s business done online. “To my mind there are risks to online voting but there are also risks to have so few people voting. It isn’t about forcing anyone to vote online but to give people choices.” Non-Partisan Association Coun. Suzanne Anton opposed the plan, saying she wanted more public consultation and she worries about the potential for fraud. Her motion to refer it back to staff was defeated. Read More
The state Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee approved on a party line vote (3-2) legislation that would allow citizens to register to vote via their county’s election office website. Several other states already offer online registration, yet California has lagged behind awaiting implementation of the statewide online database system known as VoteCal, which has been delayed until at least 2015. SB 397, authored by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, also puts into place greater safeguards to fraud than the current paper registration process. Under SB 397, citizens would input their voter information online and the county elections office would use the voter’s signature from the Department of Motor Vehicles to verify authenticity. That signature could be matched against the voter’s signature at the polling place. Currently, signatures at the polling place are only compared to the paper registration signature, which potentially allows for greater occurrences of fraud, says Mr. Yee. Read More
Opponents of a group of Voter ID measures in the Minnesota House and Senate — including one that could lead to a constitutional amendment initiative — are not going to go away quietly. Representatives of more than 20 nonprofit groups held a news conference today to make their case that, among others, students, seniors, homeless people and people who don’t drive would find themselves on the outside looking in when it comes to voting because of a Republican-sponsored Voter ID requirement moving quickly through legislative committees. One thing is certain: Passage of any bill could bring litigation. Another thing is certain: Any constitutional amendment move also will trigger litigation.”We won’t have any problem finding plaintiffs,” said Carolyn Jackson, the American Civil Liberties Union’s legislative consultant.The Voter ID bill passed the Senate last week.The House committee work is completed, and the bill is expected to go to the House floor soon. Read More
A proposal to require voters to present a photo ID at the polls has town clerks worried it could create a nightmare during elections. The state House of Representatives is expected to vote today on legislation intended to prevent election fraud. While some election workers think it’s a good idea, they say they are concerned about “provisional balloting.” That would give people three days to present their ID if they don’t have it when they go to the polls. “That would hold up the election count for days,” Plaistow Town Clerk Maryellen Pelletier said yesterday. Voters should have to show their IDs at the polls, Pelletier said, but she opposes provisional balloting. Other Southern New Hampshire officials also disagree with the provision, including Derry Town Clerk Denise Neale. “That is really going to mess up our system,” she said. “There are too many questions involved.” Neale and other town clerks said if the bill passes, they would still be counting ballots by the time candidates request recounts of tight races. The deadline for filing requests is three days after an election. Winners of some elections won’t be announced until after the three-day window has passed, clerks said. “New Hampshire has prided itself on its elections,” Neale said. “To do something like this, we’re going to become a question state like everyone else.” Read More
The State Supreme Court has declined to intervene in a Tulsa County lawsuit that must be moved to Oklahoma County for it to proceed with its challenge to a voter-approved state question. In an order Monday, the Supreme Court denied a request for it to take jurisdiction over a suit challenging SQ 746, the voter identification issue. SQ 746 is scheduled to take effect July 1. It was approved Nov. 2, drawing 74 percent voter approval. When the Tulsa County suit was filed Nov. 16 — alleging that SQ 746 “imposes undue restrictions on the right to vote” — then-Gov. Brad Henry was the lone defendant. A March order by District Judge Tom Thornbrugh stated that Tulsa County was not the proper venue “for an action seeking to enjoin the governor from enforcing a legislative referendum.” The case had to be moved to Oklahoma County, Thornbrugh ruled. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Delilah Christine Gentges, identified as a Tulsa County resident and an Oklahoma taxpayer, and the League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Tulsa. Read More
Two bills concerning a person’s true identity were approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday afternoon. One would require taking DNA samples from people charged with violent crimes. The other would require poll workers to check the photo IDs of voters, starting with the 2012 election season. The voter ID bill, sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts, D-Providence, was also approved, despite some dissent. Metts said he sponsored the bill in reaction to anecdotes of voter fraud at polling places in Providence, including stories of voters who had trouble spelling their own last names. “How long could I go on putting my head in the sand and turning my back on cases of voter fraud?” he said. But Providence Democrat Rhoda E. Perry called the bill a “solution to a non-problem,” adding that requiring people to show a photo ID or some form of identification at the polls would discourage them from voting, especially the poor and elderly. Perry and committee Vice Chairman Paul V. Jabour, D-Providence, voted against the bill. Read More
As the Assembly Committee on Election and Campaign Reform passed the Voter ID bill on partisan lines, Government Accountability Board Director Kevin Kennedy criticized it for creating administrative hassle and deterring student voters. The latest draft of the Voter ID bill allows the use of a student ID from an accredited university or college to vote provided that it has a current address, date of birth and signature on it. Few student IDs meet these requirements. In his letter to the Assembly Committee on Election and Campaign Reform, Kennedy said allowing student IDs would do nothing to help out-of-state students vote since university IDs do not meet the bill’s requirements. He also argued eliminating the use of certified lists of addresses for on-campus students would deter voters. “This is a demographic that has the lowest voter participation rate of all age groups,” Kennedy said in the letter. “In order to cultivate engaged, active citizens, we need to facilitate voting among our youth rather than imposing artificial barriers to participation.” Kennedy also said the bill conflicts with the MOVE Act, which helps military personnel and citizens overseas vote. Since the bill would move the partisan primary to August, there is not enough time for the 45-day transit needed between the date absentee votes are filed by these groups and the date of the primary. Read More
The first-past-the-post system is unfair
This seems incontestable. Under FPTP MPs can get elected with tiny amounts of public support. In 2005 George Galloway polled the votes of only 18.4 per cent of his constituents yet got to the Commons. It distorts the national picture as well. In 1974 the Conservatives won most votes in the February general election but Labour won most seats. In 2005 Labour won 55.2 per cent of seats with 35.2 per cent of the votes (and the support of just 21.6 per cent of the electorate). Even the 2010 election which brought in the Coalition was unfair: it took 119,780 votes to elect a Liberal Democrat MP but only 33,470 to elect a Labour one.
AV is fairer than first past the post: This is not quite so clear-cut. The AV system is a different system and, The Independent believes, a better one. But it might not invariably be fairer. Under FPTP the person with the most votes wins. Under AV voters can nominate 2nd, 3rd and 4th preferences so that if their favoured candidate is eliminated they can still have “a say” until one candidate gets more than 50 per cent of the support.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: Arguably the most persuasive argument for voting No. First past the post has served us well for generations. Why risk tampering with the system? The counter-argument is that the current system hasn’t really served us particularly well. First past the post produces strong governments.
AV would produce endless coalitions: The current Coalition Government, produced by FPTP, demonstrates the flaw in this argument. It is also far from clear that strong government is desirable, if it is unrepresentative. Read More
An exchange in the House of Lords this afternoon led Lord McNally, the Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice to exclaim, “Gosh, we are getting a lot of information today.” (contrast with David Cameron’s appearance this morning on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme) Phil Willis (Lord Willis of Knaresborough) asked Her Majesty’s Government “what they estimate will be the costs of a general election held under the alternative vote system”. Lord McNally replied that the costs of a general election under AV would be broadly the same as under the existing system. Any extra costs incurred by the count would be due to the extra time the process could take, and there are no plans to introduce counting machines. Read More
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