The Voting News for August 6, 2011
Two weeks after announcing it would potentially close 16 Division of Motor Vehicles centers, the state reversed course Thursday and said it will maintain all of its licensing centers and will open four new locations.
The Legislature required the DMV this year to develop the most cost-effective program possible to implement a new law requiring people to show photo ID to vote and to ensure that voters will be able to obtain the state-issued photo IDs. The IDs will be required for voting starting in the spring.
Under an original proposal released July 22, the division said it may close 16 locations and open nine new ones, for a net loss of seven centers. The plan called for expanding hours at others. DMV Operations Manager Patrick Fernan said pressure from state lawmakers and citizens to keep the DMV accessible led to the decision not to close any branches. "It became clear that there was a strong desire to maintain service in all current locations," Fernan said.
States’ rights is code for discrimination. A century and a half ago, some states asserted the right to leave the union. We fought the nation’s bloodiest conflict, then admitted the traitors back into the country on generous terms. Though our Confederate brothers and sisters died defending the enslavement of African-Americans, we did this in the name of peace and forgiveness.
Fast forward, to the 1960’s, all Americans were free from legalized slavery — but blacks were still routinely denied the ballot. Some states blocked access to the ballot with the same ferocity, and on the same grounds, that they stood in schoolhouse doors with ax handles — states’ rights. Denial of the ballot was based on the right of states to control all election procedures.
By eradicating widespread disenfranchisement in Dixie and in urban areas outside the Old South, the Voting Rights Act - enacted Aug. 6, 1965 - proved one of the most powerful pieces of federal legislation. It ranks with the 14th Amendment and the Commerce Clause in changing the lives of Americans everywhere — for the better.
It ushered in what we call “King Democracy” as in Martin Luther King Jr., on the way to forging a more perfect union and putting “Jeffersonian Democracy,” where democracy coexisted with slavery and then legal segregation, behind us.
A coalition of six S.C. groups moved Friday to halt a new state law that requires voters to present a picture ID to cast a ballot at the polls. About 178,000 S.C. voters do not have photo IDs, such as a valid S.C. driver’s license, and would be affected by the change, according to 2010 State Election Commission data. Previously voters could present their voter registration cards, which do not include a photo, at the polls.
The coalition, including the ACLU and the League of Women Voters of South Carolina, sent a letter to the U.S. Justice Department, arguing the new law should be blocked because it is discriminatory. The groups said African-Americans are less likely than whites to have a driver’s license or other state-issued identification, as required by the law.
“We’re rolling back a basic right,” said Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina. “Voting is not a privilege in a democracy.” Advocates of the new law, approved by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Nikki Haley this year, tout it as a way to curb voter fraud and safeguard state elections.
College campuses in Wisconsin are now trying to make changes to student IDs for students to be able to use them to vote.
A last-minute change to the law permitted student IDs to be used at the polls, but some schools will have to make big changes for them to comply with the law requirements. According to the Voter ID law, student identification can be used at the polls if they have a photo, a signature and expire in two years. Students at University of Wisconsin-Platteville migh see these changes this fall. Officials said that they've remade the identification cards.
The foundation of Florida's election-law changes -- the bedrock belief that spurred major reforms this spring - was the notion that voter fraud is rampant. So the Legislature passed and Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a bill that limits early voting, makes it harder for some groups to register voters and will cause headaches for voters who've recently moved. Their ballots might not even be counted.
And guess what? We've known for months the "voter fraud" excuse was phony.
Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux and Susan Blackwell, president of the Okaloosa chapter of the League of Women Voters, said that instances of fraud are rare. It just isn't a big problem. Richard Means, a former Illinois prosecutor, wrote an essay denouncing some states' new "voter ID" requirements. Those laws, too, were applied after lawmakers raised the specter of voter fraud.
A jobs group that has been under fire from Republicans filed a complaint Friday with election officials, saying Sen. Alberta Darling's campaign and others intimidated voters.
Wisconsin Jobs Now has been holding get-out-the-vote "block parties" and busing voters to Milwaukee City Hall for early voting in Darling's recall election. The state Republican Party and conservative group Media Trackers have filed complaints with the state Government Accountability Board because free food and drawings for prizes were offered at the events. State law bars providing anything of value for voting; Wisconsin Jobs Now argues it complied with the law.
On Friday, Wisconsin Jobs Now filed its own complaint with the accountability board, which oversees the state's election laws. It alleged Darling's campaign and the group We're Watching Wisconsin Elections photographed and recorded voters and the buses for extensive periods.
New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley filed a Right-to-Know Law request to learn if state election officials knew House Speaker William O’Brien’s son was simultaneously registered to vote in Mont Vernon and Maine where he attended college.
“Hopefully that will help determine what exactly took place and clear up any confusion,” Buckley said Thursday. A Mont Vernon resident filed a complaint with Attorney General Michael Delaney’s office earlier this week alleging O’Brien’s wife and other election officials in that town did not follow procedures to prevent her son, Brendan, from being registered to vote in both states.
Las Vegas resident Greg Mich'l didn't just wake up one morning and decide to cast a ballot in the contentious Ward 4 City Council race in North Las Vegas. He first had to register to vote.
As we now know, every vote counted in the race between incumbent Richard Cherchio and challenger Wade Wagner. Wagner defeated Cherchio on June 7 by a single ballot. The outcome was further complicated, Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax has stated in an affidavit, after a vote was cast improperly because of a pollworker's error. Cherchio has sued to have the election overturned and a new vote ordered.
But it's Mich'l's vote that has me intrigued. When I interviewed him recently at his home on Villa Pintura Avenue several miles outside Ward 4, Mich'l admitted he wasn't up on all the laws when he registered to vote using his brother's address.
The state National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Department of Justice said Louisiana isn't doing enough to register minority and low-income citizens. Both groups have sued the state in federal court.
"The allegation is that the Department of Health and Hospitals and Social Service personnel, the Department of Children and Families, did not offer on a routine basis, at least on the secret shopper interviews, the voter registration application," said Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Shedler.
Swaziland's banned opposition criticised on Thursday South Africa's decision to grant the monarchy a $355m bailout before first requiring democratic reform, including allowing political parties. South Africa announced on Wednesday a R2.4bn ($355m) loan to neighbouring Swaziland on condition that King Mswati III opens talks on reforms in Africa's last absolute monarchy.
The People's United Democratic Movement (Pudemo) said it was disappointed South Africa had not heeded calls from Swazi activists to withhold the loan until Mswati agreed to allow political parties, banned in 1973. Activists including Pudemo have also called for a transitional government to pave the way for elections within four years.
A Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) central committee meeting on Monday resolved to create a framework for the 2014 general elections, Mmegi is informed. In an interview yesterday, the Secretary General of the BDP, Kentse Rammidi, said they met with sub-committees about galvanising the party faithful into the right mood for the elections.
Regarding tactics to fend off the force of a combined opposition after four parties recently announced the formation of a united front for the next elections, Rammidi said the BDP was not threatened by the development. His party was far ahead because while the opposition were still working on an umbrella model for the 2014 elections, "we are intact and are simply preparing for the elections", he said.
Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament and Rapporteur on Montenegro Charles Tannock has stated that the non-adoption of the election law may slow down Montenegro on its way to the EU.
The adoption of the election law will affect the report by the European Commission (EC) on the implementation of recommendations for the beginning of talks and if the law is not adopted quickly, Montenegro's EU approach may be slowed down. The things are quite clear. You do not have time to waste, Tannock said.
The Bulgarian cabinet is setting aside BGN 35 M for the October 23 local and presidential elections. The decision will be made Wednesday, during the regularly scheduled Council of Ministers meeting. In comparison, the cost of local elections in 2007 is estimated at BGN 18.5 M.
About a month ago, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Simeon Djankov, announced a different amount – BGN 26 M, with BGN 9 M lower than the one to be slated by the cabinet. The current estimates of the Finance Minister forecast the wages of the members of election committees as the biggest expense – BGN 18.5 M. Another BNG 1 M will be needed for the Central Election Commission, CEC.
President Bronislaw Komorowski announced this morning that Poland’s general election will take place on 9 October.
“According to the article 98 of the Polish Constitution, from today 4 August, we officially start the election calendar,” Komrowski said, signaling the start of the election campaign. “We have already set a date for the electoral day for the Parliament and Senate, which will be on the 9th October 2011,” he added. On the idea mooted that the election should take place over two, and not one, day – in an attempt to boost Poland’s moderate turnout during ballots.
Constituencies in the future will be based on a new system of geographical districts to be introduced in 2013, daily Magyar Hirlap said on Monday quoting a draft ministry programme.
In line with the Magyary programme of the Ministry of Public Administration and Justice, districts will replace subregions from 2013. Hungary will be divided into 150-250 districts in the new public administration system and according to the paper, it would be logical to have each district elect an MP.