Election reform is one of the most important issues facing our country and our world right now, even if it doesn’t get the coverage of torture or abortion. The way that we run our elections and initiative processes determines who makes policy, the type of policy made, and the tone of our political discourse. If we ignore it or take advantage of the electoral system, we our doing ourselves and our country a disservice.
This week: Voter ID bill (aka poll tax) foiled in Texas by Democrats, corrupt Bush officials leading the charge for unsafe online voting, instant runoff voting’s failures, Ralph Nader accuses Terry McAuliffe of bribery, McAuliffe’s history of disenfranchising voters, FOX lies about Eric Holder, and more!
And now, onto the news…
Terry McAuliffe a fraud? No… (by me) – This is a diary I wrote about Terry McAuliffe’s proven undemocratic acts of keeping Ralph Nader off the ballot in swing states in 2004 and how the story has recently been in the news because of McAuliffe’s claims of wanting a more open democracy in his race for Virginia governor. One of the more shocking aspects of this story is that 12 legislative aides in Pennsylvania were convicted in court because of the work they did to dishonestly keep Nader off of the ballot and the way in which they were paid for that work. Read more here (in the diary there are links to news articles about it, too).
Internet voting in Hawaii looks like it might be faulty and dangerous – Recently, Honolulu conducted the first election in the nation that was entirely held over the internet. It was hailed as progress (including in a press release printed as an opinion article on Huffington Post), but it could be just the opposite.
It turns out that the Chief Operating Officer of the company that set up the system for the election was the disastrous US Election Assistance Commission chair from 2003 to 2007. According to Barbara Simmons and Justin Moore on Huffington Post and Brad Friedman on The Brad Blog, internet voting is not secure or reliable, and is nothing but another phony solution put together by some of the very corporate neocons who stole the presidential elections for Bush.
Ellen Theisen of Daily Voting News sums up the problems with internet voting:
* In 2004, a panel of experts commissioned by the U.S. Department of Defense concluded that it was not possible to ensure the privacy, security, or accuracy of votes cast over the Internet with its current architecture. They said the attempt to provide secure, all-electronic Internet voting was “an essentially impossible task.”
* In 2007, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that email and Internet voting is “more vulnerable to privacy and security compromises than the conventional methods now in use” and that “available safeguards may not adequately reduce the risks of compromise.”
* In 2008, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) wrote, “Technology that is widely deployed today is not able to mitigate many of the threats to casting ballots via the web.”
* In 2008, thirty leading computer science experts and professors at major universities signed a statement asserting that until “serious, potentially insurmountable, technical challenges” are overcome, permitting the Internet to be used for public elections “is an extraordinary and unnecessary risk to democracy.”
The Brad Blog has a very extensive, well-researched, and good article about this situation here. Barbara Simmons and Justin Moore have a shorter, but just as to-the-point, opinion piece on Huffington Post about it. Via Daily Voting News.
Illinois Legislature Passes Bill Making it More Difficult for Qualified Parties to Nominate – The Illinois legislature has passed a bill restricting the rights of ballot-qualified parties, by making it hard for them to nominate someone if they didn’t have a primary. This disproportionately hurts the Green Party, which is the only ballot-qualified minor party in Illinois, because it has less primaries than the Democratic or Republican Parties. Hopefully the governor won’t sign this into law. Ballot Access News.
This update from Ballot Access News:
On May 29, the Illinois Green Party issued a press release, asking Governor Pat Quinn to veto HB 723, which makes it more difficult for ballot-qualified parties to nominate candidates. Specifically, if ballot-qualified parties wish to nominate someone after the February primary is over with, by committee meeting, they can no longer do that unless they submit a petition for each nominee.
The press release points out that, already, one-candidate general elections for the state legislature are very common. In November 2008, 59 of 118 State House races had only one nominee on the ballot, and 20 of 40 State Senate races had only one person on the ballot. The press release also points out that during the years 2002 through 2008, 42 Republicans, 29 Democrats, and 15 Greens were nominated after the primary. If the post-primary method were severely restricted, the number of one-candidate races would be even higher.
On June 1, Free & Equal faxed a letter to Governor Quinn, asking for a veto and reminding him that he has always championed himself as a reformer.
Ironically, even though Pat Quinn is definitely a “reformer,” that reform has not always been in a positive direction. In 1980 he was part of the effort to get rid of multi-member districts for the Illinois state legislature, a successful effort that got rid of perhaps the most representative and progressively structured legislature in the nation. Hopefully Pat Quinn will side with the better reformer on this issue and veto the bill.
California ponders instant runoff voting – Ballot Access News has this story about how San Jose (the 10th largest city in the country) is considering using instant runoff voting for municipal elections and this article about how the California General Assembly passed a bill allowing 10 cities to adopt local instant runoff voting.
The Brad Blog (via Daily Voting News) offers a critical look at instant runoff voting, saying that money shouldn’t be a huge factor in elections, IRV voting machines are unreliable, and it makes elections a lot less transparent. In the comments, Brad suggests that approval voting (where you vote for as many candidates as you want and the candidate with the most votes wins) might be the best solution for fairness and transparency.
Connecticut House Passes Election-Day Registration Bill – From Ballot Access News:
On May 26, the Connecticut House passed HB 6435, to let people register to vote at the polls on election day. Such voters would need to show a drivers license or a utility bill, confirming their address. Now the bill goes to the Senate.
Oklahoma Governor Signs One Bill Easing Ballot Access for Initiatives – From Ballot Access News:
On May 26, Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry signed SB 800, which lets people who plan to circulate an initiative submit a description of their initiative for public scrutiny before they gather the signatures. Anyone who wishes to challenge the initiative’s subject matter, or the description of the initiative that will appear on the petition, must challenge early in the process.
Still pending on the Governor’s desk is HB 2246, which expands the period for collecting signatures for initiatives from 90 days to one year.
Since Richard Winger wrote that, HB 2246 passed and was signed into law. These are both very good things because ballot access for minor parties and ballot initiatives has previously been unfairly tough in Oklahoma. The more open and accessible the democratic process, the better.
Texas GOP Voter ID Bill Fails – Daily Kos diarist number six reposted a letter from a Texas Democratic Party leader praising the party for their successful efforts to stop a misguided and dishonest attempt by Republicans to pass a bill requiring some form of voter ID at the polls. number six at Daily Kos. Read more about it here.
Maine House Passes Bill to Shrink Itself – From Ballot Access News:
On May 29, the Maine House passed LD 144. This bill shrinks the size of the House from 151 members to 131 members.
I previously wrote about this:
Currently, a legislator covers a district of about 8,500 people, but that would be increased to about 10,000 people. It still needs to be approved by the Senate and by referendum (that’s the way the constitution works in Maine). This is supposedly an effort to save money, but if you follow the patterns of election reform politics, it seems like just another example of incumbents trying to shut out competition, centralize power, and keep elections uncompetitive. It would make it less likely for the Green Party in Maine to elect another state legislator and it would increase the size of each district, making government less representative in Maine. This would be a terrible mistake if it passes, and if you live in Maine I strongly encourage you to contact your state Senators and tell them to vote against this, and to vote against it when you have the chance at the ballot box.
U.S. Justice Department Objects to Georgia’s Voter Registration Rules – The US Justice Department has rejected a program in Georgia requiring some form of ID to register to vote are disproportionately targeting minority voters. It has done this because Georgia election law is subject to review under the Voting Rights Act. Since the implementation of the program, about 200,000 registration forms were rejected because of improper identification. More info here, via Ballot Access News and Election Law Blog.
Video update from Citizens in Charge – Citizens in Charge is an organization led by Paul Jacob that works to limit and get rid of restrictions on the initiative process and expand the process. Here is a video update from them (note: their leadership is right-wing, but I don’t think the aims of the organization are right-wing at all):
Rhode Island Ballot Access Victory – The Moderate Party of Rhode Island has succeeded, through a lawsuit, in getting the law that groups cannot circulate petitions in order to form a political party in odd years stricken down. Looks like they fought for their right to party… Ballot Access News.
Texas Bill, Relaxing Deadline for a Qualified Party to Certify Presidential Nominee, Passes Legislature – From Ballot Access News:
Late on the evening of May 27, the Texas legislature passed HB 1193, which relaxes the deadline for qualified parties to certify the names of their presidential and vice-presidential nominees. The old deadline was not met by either the Democratic nor Republican Parties in 2008, but the Secretary of State placed their nominees on the November ballot anyway. HB 1193 sets the deadline as one business day after the national convention of any qualified party adjourns.
If the old law had been followed by the Secretary of State, only Bob Barr (the Libertarian presidential nominee in 2008) would have appeared on the general election ballot in Texas.
Fox Nation falsely claimed Holder “[s]ays” it’s “[r]acist” to only have “[c]itizens [v]oting” –
SUMMARY: A Fox Nation headline falsely claimed that Attorney General Eric Holder “[s]ays” it is “[r]acist” to allow only citizens to vote in Georgia. In fact, the AP article Fox Nation linked to made clear that the Justice Department opposes Georgia’s voter verification program because it illegally denies some citizens, and disproportionately minorities, the right to vote.
UNESIX Electronic Voting Technology Workshop Conference – Take a look at the conference’s schedule of speakers and events. It’s August 10 and 11 in Montreal, Canada, if you’re in the area. Via Daily Voting News.
Nevada Legislature Passes Distribution Requirement for Initiatives – From Ballot Access News:
On the evening of June 1, the Nevada legislature passed SB 212, which provides for a distribution requirement for statewide initiatives. For 2010, the bill would provide that a substantial number of signatures come from each of the three U.S. House districts. Afterwards, the legislature will be drawing an unspecified number of districts that apply only to the initiative petition procedure.
Most states with the initiative do not have distribution requirements. When a bill passes a legislature, no one worries about whether the legislators who vote for the bill represent all sections of the state. The only thing that matters is whether it receives a majority of the vote in that legislative chamber. Also, when a bill is introduced in a legislature, no state requires that the bill be co-sponsored by legislators from diverse ends of the state. By analogy, then, one wonders why only initiatives are required to show support in all ends of a state.