The Voting News for 29 August 2011
The Voting News for 29 August 2011
Last week, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said he is considering banning the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections from processing applications from individuals who wish to vote by mail, if county government moves forward with a plan to mail unsolicited applications to all its active registered voters.
Today, county Executive Ed FitzGerald said his office is fighting back, and is looking at legal action if Husted makes good on his threat. Fitzgerald said information may be forwarded to the U.S. Justice Department. Speaking outside the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections building, FitzGerald accused Husted of threatening voters.
“That comment stepped way over the line,” FitzGerald said today. “The fact is, Jon Husted can’t order the Board of Elections to refuse to allow citizens to vote by mail. For him to suggest that he can creates a real risk of sowing confusion among Cuyahoga County residents about this election.”
Pennsylvanians may soon find out whether voting will join buying a drink, boarding a plane, cashing a check, and purchasing a train ticket on the list of activities that require photo identification.
The state House has approved the Republican majority's plan to require all voters to show a government-issued photo ID every time the go to the polls - a step that proponents say would prevent illegal voting. Democrats say that there is no evidence the state has a serious problem with voter fraud, and that the bill would only dissuade many voters, especially minorities and the elderly, from casting ballots.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R., Butler), is pending in the Senate, which is expected to take it up sometime after senators reconvene Sept. 19. In the House, the bill spawned three days of acrimonious debate before the GOP majority used parliamentary maneuvers to shut it down and send the measure to the Senate in June. Even with lawmakers on summer recess, the proposal continues to provoke debate.
A decision could come as early as Monday from the U.S. Justice Department on whether voters will have to show state or federal photographic identification for the first time when they vote in South Carolina elections.
Monday marks the end of a 60 day review period for the new law, said Chris Whitmire, spokesman for the state Election Commission. "We expect to hear something by Monday," Whitmire said. That word could mean approval, rejection or that the Justice Department has more questions and will take more time to review the law. South Carolina's history of voting rights violations require federal oversight of election law changes, including requiring voters to show photographic identification.
Phoenix, the nation’s sixth largest city, aims to save money and add convenience by allowing its 650,000 registered voters to cast ballots for Tuesday’s city election at any of 26 voting centers. The centers replace 128 assigned polling places. While most Phoenix voters cast early ballots, typically mailing them in, those who vote in person formerly had to vote in their precincts.
Arizona is among nine states that either permit jurisdictions to replace precincts with vote centers or authorize pilot projects in selected administrations, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The centers don’t necessarily boost overall turnout but can save money for governmental jurisdictions, a 2010 study by the Bowen Center for Public Affairs at Indiana’s Ball State University found.
Phoenix, the first Arizona city to use voting centers, likely will save up to $350,000 on the previous $1 million cost of a city election, with reduced spending for hiring election workers, renting polling places and preprinting ballots, City Clerk Cris Meyer said.
In a few days, U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn will grant or deny a preliminary injunction against numerous provisions of the "Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act." Three suits by a coalition of organizations and individuals, the federal government, and Bishops of the Episcopal, United Methodist, and Catholic Churches challenged numerous provisions of the Act. But I did not find a challenge to Section 29 (see page 61 of the Scribd copy of the Act) which deals with voter registration.
I only want to look at the sloppy drafting of the Act. Well, actually, Section 29 is drafted in a way superior to most Alabama legislation. Most bills seems to be drafted with extremely long sections with a variety of topics in each section. Section 29 actually has a structure that aids -- rather than impedes -- reading it. There are three provisions I want to point out as indicating the author(s) of the bill either did not understand Alabama governmental structure or did not understand federal law.
When a reporter asked us why Louisiana, Missisissippi, New Jersey and Virginia have state elections in odd-numbered years, Tim Storey and I replied that it was probably the same reason that states have moved their gubernatorial elections into non-presidential election years: to insulate them from national political trends. After doing some research, though, it turns out that the reasons are sometimes more prosaic and quirky.
In some cases, the odd-year elections have to do with when new constitutions were adopted. Until the mid-19th century, the Virginia General Assembly, not the voters, elected the governor. A new constitution was adopted in 1851, and the first governor was directly elected in December 1851. They have been holding state elections in the odd-numbered years ever since. (See "Virginia's Off-Off-Year Elections.")
The election watchdog’s staff used taxpayers’ money to buy fruit for their lunches, credit for their mobile phones and a leaving card for a colleague, it was revealed yesterday. The Electoral Commission used government-issued credit cards to pay for everything from milk to London Underground fares.
Thousands of pounds were charged to the cards for conference rooms just a few miles from the quango’s head office. Staff at the commission, which is charged with ensuring clean and efficient elections, racked up a total of £345,553.70 on the cards in the financial year that ended in March.
The period included last year’s general election, which saw the organisation and its head, Jenny Watson, receive heavy criticism over the late-night queues that developed outside some polling stations, preventing many voters from casting their ballots.
Anna Hazare's call on Sunday for theright to reject and right to recall rekindled the debate about these electoral concepts that have been going on in some corners. Right to reject - the idea that there should be an option on a ballot paper (or a voting machine) to reject all candidates - has been debated in India for some time. This proposal was part of the recommendations on electoral reforms the Election Commission made to the government in 2004, when TS Krishnamurthy was chief election commissioner.
This idea is also known as negative voting or neutral voting. Currently, if a person does not wish to cast her vote for any candidate, there is an option to record this decision with the presiding officer under Section 49 (o) of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. However, this has no bearing on the poll outcome. The neutral voting concept, on the contrary, will have a bearing on the poll outcome. Various filters can be designed to disqualify a candidate rejected by a majority of the people. Swami Agnivesh and several others have been supporters on the right to reject idea.
Singapore's first contested presidential election in nearly two decades went into a recount of votes early Sunday morning due to a knife-edge fight between the two leading contenders. The ballot is regarded as a further test of support for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's People's Action Party (PAP), which posted its worst result since 1965 in the May general election.
Medical doctor and former PAP legislator Tan Cheng Bock, 71, and former deputy prime minister Tony Tan, 71, emerged as the two candidates with the most votes, said the elections department.
For nearly one million Malaysians based abroad, postal voting will soon become a reality. The Elections Commission (EC) has rightly been commended for this move, which respects the right of voters to vote even when based overseas, makes it convenient for them to do so, and helps them maintain ties with their home country.
So far, only full-time Malaysian students as well as civil servants and their spouses abroad may cast postal ballots, with many others employed in the private sector left out. Widening the option of postal voting is definitely an improvement, but the EC should go further. The procedure for postal voting takes time, is circuitous, and thus may raise doubts about the security and confidentiality of the ballots.
Two residents of Nungua near Accra have sued the Electoral Commission (EC) and Attorney-General (A-G) at the Supreme Court seeking an order to compel the EC to review the 230 constituencies.
They want the EC to alter the constituencies, following the publication of the enumeration figures after the 2010 Population Census and in accordance with the egalitarian principle of fair representation embodied in the 1992 Constitution, especially Article 47(3) and (4) of the 1992 Constitution which emphasise more on population distribution. The plaintiffs are further seeking any or further reliefs as the court may deem fit.
Elections for the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, are approaching; the vote is scheduled for December. This election differs from previous ones, however, in that the deputies who are elected will remain in office for five years instead of four, as was the case previously. The constitutional majority currently held by the United Russia party, headed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, is also at stake. This majority has formally enabled the party of power to pass legislation without regard for the opinion of other deputies.
So the main question of the December elections is whether the opposition will be able to force United Russia to make room for them in the State Duma. The results of the vote could also affect the March 2012 presidential election, in which Russia’s head of state will for the first time be elected for a six-year term, rather than four-year term.
Ethnic Hungarians should vote on individual candidates rather then party lists in Hungary’s next general election, national daily Magyar Nemzet said on Friday, citing Parliamentary Speaker Laszlo Kover as saying.
“I would prefer Hungarian citizens living abroad to send individual deputies to Hungarian Parliament,” Kover said recently at a youth camp, organised for ethnic Hungarians in Szentendre near Budapest. The MPs delegated this way should be independent politicians, he added.