Thursday, February 24, 2011

Shelby Co. AL Voting Rights Act Challenge, Coffee Party Challenges CA "Top Two" Primary

CA: Voting rules remain vague ["Emergency Abesentee"] - Glendale News-Press

The City Council this week broached ditching so-called “emergency ballots” for last minute voters in favor of beefing up absentee vote-by-mail allowances, but stopped short of making any changes for the April 5 election. Glendale voters can request a vote-by-mail ballot up to seven days before the election, but after that deadline they can fill out an application for a so-called “emergency” vote-by-mail ballot up to Election Day. California election law allows for the late ballots for people who are disabled or who cannot make it to their precinct because of “unforeseen circumstances” — a vague term that city officials said essentially makes the application impossible to deny. Read More

CA: Candidate Files Federal Lawsuit to Block “Top Two” Primary - SB 6 / Prop 14 Lawsuit « Business & Election Law

A Coffee Party candidate running to succeed departing Congresswoman Jane Harman (CA-36) has filed a federal lawsuit to block the implementation of California’s new “Top Two” open primary. SB 6 will be used in a special election to replace departing Congresswoman Harman; current Secretary of State Debra Bowen is among the half dozen candidates who have declared their intention to run in the special election. Vote-by-mail ballots in that election could be cast in a matter of weeks. Unless an injunction is granted, voters will see a “no party preference” on the ballot for plaintiff Michael Chamness because the Coffee Party is not considered a “state recognized” political party. Under SB6, a “no party preference” label is applied to all minor-party candidates like Mr. Chamness and puts him at a disadvantage compared to Democratic or Republican candidates. Previously, minor-party candidates were allowed to use the ballot label of “Independent.” Mr. Chamness’ lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of Senate Bill 6 (SB 6), the law that implements Proposition 14’s “Top Two” Primary. The lawsuit argues that SB 6, which was passed by the Legislature in the middle of the night without opportunity for public comment, unfairly discriminates against and deprives minor-party candidates like Mr. Chamness of their fundamental rights. Read More

CO: Myers postpones testing of counting machine - Center Post Dispatch

In a Feb. 15 letter to election volunteers, Saguache County Clerk Melinda Myers postponed testing for the M650 that could destroy any remaining information about the Nov. 2, 2010 election. Denver attorney Rob Maguire, representing Aspen voting integrity activist Marilyn Marks in a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) suit filed Feb. 11, asked Myers and County Attorney Ben Gibbons to postpone the testing last week so that any possible data could be preserved. In the letter Myers wrote: “Yesterday our office received word that a complaint has been filed with District Court by parties outside Saguache County to gain access to ballots and electronic data storage from the 2010 election. In light of this pending litigation, we are unable at this time to run tests on the M650 Ballot Scanner machine. So we will be postponing the testing indefinitely till this trail is over.” Myers indicated the testing would be conducted later this year. Read More

GA: House OKs early-voting bill |

A proposal to streamline early voting passed the Georgia House of Representatives on Wednesday with bipartisan support. House Bill 92, which passed 148-20, would begin advance voting on the fourth Monday before a primary or general election. Early voting would then run through the Friday immediately before the election. Elections for federal or state office would also include voting on the second Saturday before an election. The current early-voting period begins 45 days before a state or federal election and 21 days before a local election. A review of those dates, however, shows more than 75 percent vote in the last three weeks of each period. Read More

ME: Bill would disallow ‘do-overs’ for absentee voters — Bangor Daily News

Lawmakers heard testimony Wednesday on a bill that would prohibit Mainers who cast votes by absentee ballot from asking for a do-over simply because they changed their minds. The issue of when and how voters could request a new absentee ballot arose in the final days of last fall’s gubernatorial race. Hoping to capitalize on a last-minute surge in the polls, the campaign of independent candidate Eliot Cutler sent out an e-mail one day before Election Day advising anyone who might be second-guessing their early vote to request another ballot. Read More

NY: Proposed legislation would give military personnel time to mail ballots for special elections - Empire State News

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a program bill to amend New York's Public Officers Law to provide county boards of elections additional time prior to special elections in order to allow enough time for military ballots to be mailed and counted in compliance with federal law. Passage of this bill is needed to ensure that all voters in the 26th Congressional District have an opportunity to cast legal ballots in a special election to fill the congressional seat vacancy. Under current law, special elections are held between 30 and 40 days from their announcement. Governor Cuomo's measure would more than double the length to between 70 and 80 days. Read More

NC: Opposition mounts against voter ID bill - Yes Weekly

A proposed voter ID measure that is currently being crafted by state Republicans is generating a backlash from a number of groups, including the NC Democratic Party, the state chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and students from the state’s historically black colleges and universities. The voter ID bill, a component of the NC Republican Party’s 100-day legislative agenda, would require voters to show a valid photo ID before casting their ballot in local, state and national elections. Read More

SC: Report: More Than 1,000 Richland County Votes Missing - Free Times

As state senators debate controversial legislation that would force all voters to flash a photo ID at the polls, a coalition of election watchdogs have made a disturbing discovery they say shows South Carolina’s voting process is anything but secure. At issue is the possibility that thousands of votes cast in the Nov. 2 elections were not counted. The information comes from an independent post-election audit conducted in Richland County by a pair of computer experts. At one Bluff Road precinct, more than 1,000 votes are missing from the totals that were certified by the State Election Commission for the Nov. 2 election, according to University of South Carolina computer science professor Duncan Buell and Massachusetts programmer Chip Moore, who conducted the audit. Read More


Is Anyone Watching? -

Two years ago, the Supreme Court looked over a cliff and decided not to jump. The question was whether a core section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as renewed by Congress in 2006 for another 25 years, was constitutional. A majority opinion by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. strongly suggested that it wasn’t. The section’s provisions “raise serious constitutional questions,” the chief justice said. He suggested that the administrative burdens the law places on the states where black citizens once faced nearly insurmountable obstacles to voting were no longer justified: “Things have changed in the South.” During the April 2009 argument in the case, Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District v. Holder, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, in particular, appeared exasperated by the failure of Congress to take those changes into account when it renewed the law in the same format as the previous renewal in 1982. An iconic achievement of the civil rights era seemed headed for history’s dustbin, most likely by a vote of 5 to 4, and an anticipatory outcry began to build. But then either the chief justice or Justice Kennedy, or maybe both, blinked. There was no need to reach the constitutional issue, the eventual opinion held, because the tiny Texas utility district that had brought the challenge was entitled to try to “bail out” of the law’s coverage. A successful bail-out would moot the constitutional challenge. This was a most implausible reading of a statute that offered the bail-out opportunity only to political subdivisions, which the utility district, providing sewer service to 3,500 residents of Travis County, Tex., is not. But this non-decision decision – to which only Justice Clarence Thomas objected, arguing forcefully that the court should declare the section unconstitutional then and there – served to take the justices out of a spotlight they no longer welcomed.

Against this background, the nearly complete absence of attention received by another Voting Rights Act challenge is surprising. The new case was argued earlier this month in federal district court in the District of Columbia, and will almost certainly make its way to the Supreme Court. There appears to be no convenient off-ramp. The jurisdiction bringing the case, Shelby County, Ala., can’t qualify for a bail-out because it doesn’t meet the law’s requirement of a 10-year record without voting-rights enforcement problems. Read More


Ugandan opposition calls for protests, fresh presidential elections - Monsters and Critics

Opposition leaders in Uganda on Thursday called on their supporters to stage mass protests across the country and demanded a fresh presidential poll, four days after incumbent President Yoweri Museveni was declared to have won re-election. 'We will not recognize any government formed out of these elections,' said Kizza Besigye, who as Museveni's closest challenger was said to have secured just 26 per cent of the vote. In releasing its official results on Monday, the Ugandan electoral commission said Museveni had won a fourth term in office with 68-per- cent backing from the electorate. Besigye, who was Museveni's doctor during the bush rebellion that brought the president to power in 1986, has alleged that there was voter intimidation, bribery and anomalies in the voter register. Read More

UK: Campaign for voting reform turns nasty - The Independent

Campaigners against voting reform were last night accused of exploiting an election loophole to peddle "lies" about their opponents. The acrimony surrounding the 5 May referendum on ditching the first-past-the-post system intensified as a publicity drive by the "No2AV" campaign was referred to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).The controversy centres on adverts claiming that introducing the alternative vote for Westminster elections would cost the country £250m. The message is reinforced with images of a baby in intensive care – saying the cash should be spent on a cardiac facility – and of a soldier – saying the £250m would be better spent on bulletproof vests. Polls conducted since the campaign was launched suggest that support for moving to the alternative vote has fallen. Read More

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