The Voting News for 19 August 2011
The Voting News for 19 August 2011
Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning wrotein an editorial on Thursday that the Justice Department had determined "all 76 provisions" of Florida's new elections law were not discriminatory, except for the four controversial parts of the law he didn't want the department to review.
In fact, Browning retracted his submission of four controversial provisions of Florida's new election law from the pre-clearance process at the Justice Department after the agency started asking questions.
Florida instead took the more expensive route of asking a federal court to decide whether additional provisions -- including one that reduces the early voting period from 14 days to eight; another that requires voters who moved from another county to cast provisional ballots; one that requires third-party groups registering voters to turn in all forms within 48 hours -- passed the smell test.
A new state law takes candidates running unopposed off your November ballot. It has election officials concerned about voter turnout for this year's Municipal Election. "I would say the reaction was shock and disappointment," said Heather Maddox.
Heather Maddox and Jared Bond, Co-Directors for the Board of Elections and Registration Office in Tippecanoe County aren't happy with House Bill 1242. Part of that new law, effective on July 1, 2011, has a provision about uncontested municipal elections.
"I expect when we start sending out absentee ballots and people start voting in the satellite voting locations, that we will get some phone calls from people saying, ‘I think my ballot was wrong’," said Bond. Lafayette voters will not be able to cast a vote for Mayor Tony Roswarski, since he has no Republican challenger.
The Jones County, Mississippi slogan is "A Great Place to Live". While they may or may not be true, I've never been there, it's clearly not a great place to vote. At least if voting in a way that is verifiably accurate for the citizenry is something one might care about. A remarkable statement by the county's Circuit Clerk, and a unanimous decision in support of it by the County's Board of Supervisors this week has made that as clear as can be.
You may recall that just last week, e-voting system failures --- such as, as e-voting machines that wouldn't start up at all, and votes that were counted twice --- led to chaos and uncertain results in Mississippi's state primaries, leading one official to declare days afterward, as they were all struggling to sort out results of several close elections: "At this point there is no election...Everyone is baffled."
Against that back drop then, behold what Jones County, MS Circuit Clerk Bart Gavinis now calling for --- and receiving unanimous approval from the Jones County Board of Supervisors for(!) --- as irresponsibly reported without even a hint of fact-checking by Laurel Leader-Call reporter Charlotte Graham under the laughably misleading headline "Improving the voting process" [emphasis added].
Baltimore mayoral candidate and state Sen. Catherine Pugh called Thursday for city officials to launch a media campaign to educate residents about the correct date for the Democratic primary after sample ballots mailed to voters listed the wrong one. Pugh said that the city should have the correct date — Tuesday, Sept. 13 — on a banner running on every show broadcast by its cable station and resend the entire corrected sample ballot.
"Please engage in corrective action that will inform the public of what this date is and, more importantly, the mistake that has been made," she said during a news conference.
The error on one part of the 2011 Official Primary Sample Ballot incorrectly stated that the primary is on Saturday, Sept. 3 — an early voting date. The date was printed correctly in other places on the ballot.
Voters across the state involved with the recent recall elections experienced first-hand some of the changes to the election process that were "effective immediately" this summer pursuant to passage of the new voter photo ID bill. The special procedures of this new legislation brought about some confusion and frustration, so I'm hoping the following information will help to clear it up.
For all elections before 2012, electors who are voting must be asked to show a photo ID but are not required to provide one in order to vote before the 2012 February primary.
Opponents of Ohio's new election overhaul were cleared Thursday to proceed with their effort to ask voters to repeal the law, which makes changes such as moving the 2012 presidential primary from March to May in the traditional presidential swing state.
Fair Elections Ohio had wanted to challenge only parts of the law — not the primary switch — but hit a snag earlier this month when Attorney General Mike DeWine ruled against wording the group planned to use to collect signatures needed to make the ballot. Based on DeWine's ruling, organizers resubmitted their phrasing to challenge the entire bill.
DeWine gave the group his approval on Thursday, and the state's top elections official also said Fair Elections Ohio had the 1,000 valid signatures it needed to continue with its effort. Opponents must now gather roughly 231,000 signatures by Sept. 29 to get a referendum on the 2012 ballot.
The Board of Examiners today approved a request for more than half a million dollars from a legislative contingency fund to pay the counties for the cost of the Sept. 13 special election in the 2nd Congressional District. The board, made up of Gov. Brian Sandoval, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Secretary of State Ross Miller, approved the $539,000 request, which will be considered Aug. 31 by the Legislature's Interim Finance Committee.
Miller said the other options to pay for the election were to pass the costs on to the counties or to use a dwindling pool of federal funds, but that the request from the contingency fund is the best choice. Requiring cash-strapped counties to pay the costs could lead to cutting corners, and Miller said it is important to ensure the integrity of the election. Miller said his office made every effort to reduce the expenditures to reasonable levels. Initial estimates put the cost at in excess of $1 million.
Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann Thursday questioned the high number of absentee votes, mostly in the Democratic-dominated Delta region, that were cast Aug. 3 in the state's primary election. The highest percentage of absentee votes, more than 29 percent, was reported in Quitman County, compared to just 2 percent in Jackson County. Only 3 percent of DeSoto County votes -- 847 out of 24,812 total -- were absentees.
"Absentee balloting appears to be increasing in this state," Hosemann, a Republican who handily won his primary race, said in a news release. About 6 percent of total ballots cast statewide were absentees. That compares of only 2 percent absentees cast in the 2008 presidential election, Hosemann said.
The Pittsburgh Port Authority discriminated against public interest groups by blocking an advertising campaign that would inform felons of their right to vote in Pennsylvania upon release from prison, the 3rd Circuit ruled. The groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Pittsburgh League of Young Voters Education Fund, wanted to run an advertisement campaign that would educate former prisoners about their voting rights.
In contrast to some other states, Pennsylvania allows former offenders to vote after they leave prison. Allegheny County Port Authority sales director Anthony Hickton and in-house counsel Chris Hess refused to run the ads on its buses, citing an advertising policy against "noncommercial" ads. When the officials "refused to budge," in the words of the opinion, the advocates filed suit under the First Amendment's free-speech clause.
After a five-day bench trial, U.S. District Judge Terrence McVerry said the Port Authority had violated the coalition's free-speech rights since other groups freely ran noncommercial ads on local buses.
The CIS observer mission head has expressed confidence that the elections to the upper house of Kazakhstan's parliament on August 19 will be transparent and will comply with all democratic principles, Itar-Tass reported. The mission's head and the CIS Executive Committee chairman, Sergei Lebedev, met with the head of the Kazakhstan's central election commission, Kuandyk Turgankulov, on Thursday.
Lebedev underlined that the CIS observer mission has been repeatedly monitoring the elections in the Central Asian republic and its goal "is to ensure transparency of the election process and citizens' expression of will." The mission that has been staying in Kazakhstan since August 11 includes 68 representatives from eight CIS member-states, except for Moldova and Azerbaijan.
The Senate elections will take place in Kazakhstan today. Election of senators will start at 10:00 am Astana time (in some regions - at 11:00). By this time all over the country about 3 thousand deputies of maslikhats of different levels will gather at polling stations to elect 16 members to the upper house of Parliament.
The Central Election Commission registered 39 Senate candidates, including 14 nominated by local representative bodies (maslikhats) and 25 self-nominated ones. According to the CEC, the average age of candidates is 54 years, while the youngest is Erlan Bazekenov, self-nominated from the Aktobe region, born in 1981, and the oldest - Erbolat Sadvakassov, self-nominated from Almaty, born in 1945.
Two main coalitions have already been formed in preparation for Egypt’s first elections following the fall of the Mubarak regime. The coalitions are: The Democratic Coalition for Egypt, formed months ago and the recently created Egyptian Bloc. Although the differences between the two are unclear, there seems to be an Islamic vs. civil split. While some say the groups are distinctly different, others argue that they have not been formed in opposition to each other.
Despite expectations that Egypt’s coming elections will have one of the highest turnout rates ever, similar to the 2011 constitutional referendum conducted months earlier, political parties and coalitions are still in the making. According to statements made by the military council and Egypt’s interim government, the elections are expected to take place in November. The candidates are to be announced by September, less than one month from now.
The Senate on Thursday endorsed the municipalities draft law for 2011 as referred from the Lower House, with some amendments. During a session chaired by Senate President Taher Masri with the attendance of Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit, members of the Senate made suggestions over the recommendations presented by the Chamber’s Legal Committee on the law before endorsing it.
The Lower House endorsed the law in late July, raising the women’s quota and ensuring more independence and funds for municipalities. Under the law, inhabitants of any district with a population of 5,000 or more can request the establishment of their own municipality or disengagement from a merger with a larger municipality.
More than 475 candidates have filed their nominations to run in parliamentary election which is slated for Sept. 24. According to the National Election Committee (NEC), the total number of registered candidates in different emirates of the UAE includes 121 in Abu Dhabi, 125 in Dubai, 97 in Sharjah, 60 in Ras Al Khaimah, 34 in Ajman, 19 in Umm Al Quwain and 21 in Fujairah.
The government sources said 477 people had registered so far to run for half the seats in the 40 member Federal National Council. The other half of the seats will be chosen by the rulers of each emirate. A number of women candidates also have filed their applications this time, especially from Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah. Every individual from among the 129,000 voters who have been chosen by the government is eligible to file nomination papers abiding by the set rules.
OSCE is preparing another report on Albania about the political situation in the country, including even the elections, which were held on 8 May of this year.
OSCE Ambassador in Tirana, Eugen Wollfarth will report to the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna, in early September on political developments in Albania.
Bulgaria's Central Electoral Commission (CEC) has made it clear it would welcome observers for the presidential and local elections on October 23, 2011, if the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe decides to send any. "We are not afraid of being observed," one of the CEC spokespersons, Biser Troyanov, stated Wednesday.
The CEC statement came in response of concerns raised Tuesday by the ethnic Turkish party DPS (Movement for Rights and Freedoms) whose Deputy Chair Lyutvi Mestan complained that the ruling center-right party GERB, the nationalist party Ataka and the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party had been cooperating in order to eliminate DPS representatives from key positions in the municipal electoral commissions around the country. That is why, the DPS party demanded observers from the OSCE.
Just over a month after a large rally in Kuala Lumpur to demand clean and fair elections rattled Malaysia's ruling elite, Prime Minister Najib Razak has announced that a bipartisan parliamentary select committee will be set up to review the electoral system. The move comes as Najib's government faces rising pressures on several political fronts, including a speculated challenge to his leadership from inside his own party.
Najib's announcement has been interpreted as an attempt to placate disquiet about the integrity of the electoral process before the next general election, which must be held before mid-2013, and to prevent any repeat protest rally to press home the demands. The political opposition has claimed elections are structurally set up to favor the long-ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO) and Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.
In a phone-in conversation with the nation, Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz reiterated his readiness to talk to the opposition and civil society. But some activists insist that no meaningful dialogue can occur without prior reforms.
"Some opposition parties pose certain conditions before the start of any dialogue, while these conditions are precisely the issues that must be addressed in the dialogue," Ould Abdel Aziz said August 5th as he marked the second anniversary of his vote of confidence. "Through a reading of the political scene, it appears that the success factors of this dialogue exist," said Mohamed Yahya Ould Horma, Vice-President of the ruling Union for the Republic (UPR).