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This week in the war on voting is a joint project of Joan McCarter and Meteor Blades

Voting Commission could modernize elections: President Obama announced the members of the new Presidential Commission on Election Administration Tuesday. The task of the 10-member commission is to "to identify non-partisan ways to shorten lines at polling places, promote the efficient conduct of elections, and provide better access to the polls for all voters," according to a commission press release.

The commission is co-chaired Bob Bauer—the White House counsel from December 2009 until 2011. He was also general counsel to the president’s re-election committee as well to the Democratic National Committee—and Ben Ginsberg, who served as national counsel to the Bush-Cheney presidential campaigns in 2000 and 2004, and as national counsel to the Romney for President campaigns in 2008 and 2012.

“We urge the commission to recommend bold solutions to modernize voting,” Democracy Program Director Wendy Weiser told MSNBC. “America needs to upgrade how we register voters, when we vote, and how we manage polling places.”
Nathaniel Persily, a professor at Columbia Law School who has generally been skeptical of voting restrictions aimed at combating fraud, will be the commission’s senior research director.

But some critics aren't happy that none of the members are voter-rights advocates. Rick Hasen, founder and editor/publisher of the acclaimed Election Law Blog, said this omission may have been intentional to avoid squabbling:

“While including voting-rights advocates might make sense in the abstract, the Commission is walking a difficult political line to stay above the partisan fray as much as possible,” Hasen said via email. “Including voting-rights advocates would have led those on the right to call for more balance.”

Elizabeth McNamara, the president of the League of Women Voters, criticized what she views as the panel’s narrow mandate.

“This is a weak response to a big problem,” McNamara said in a statement. “We need bold action to protect Americans from the risk of disenfranchisement.”

San Francisco voting guide for fall 2013 clocks in at 500 pages:
The phonebook-sized guide is courtesy of a city law that requires the full text of a referendum, as it was presented during the signature drive, to appear in the voter's guide.

The legal text for the referendum—regarding the height of a condo project—includes numerous pages of text from the city's planning commission, board of supervisor meeting testimony and environmental studies.

You can find more war on voting news below the fold.

New Hampshire Senate cuts number of acceptable IDs for voting: In a strictly party-line vote of 13-10 Thursday, the New Hampshire Senate passed a bill to chop the list of acceptable photo IDs from seven to four. One change: Student photo IDs are no longer in the statutory language. Local election officials will have the discretion to determine whether the IDs are good enough to allow students to vote. All those changes will have to be conferenced with the Democratic-controlled House, which had retained the list of seven acceptable forms of ID. Even if agreement can be reached, Gov. Maggie Hassan could very well veto it.

The Senate move made moot a "bipartisan" effort by the state's Young Democrats and College Republicans to change the original form of the bill because it would have treated student IDs issued by public universities as acceptable but left it up to local election officials whether to accept student IDs from private universities. In a joint letter, leaders of the two groups wrote:

“While we often have our differences on issues being debated in the State House in Concord or in Congress, we have nonetheless united to ensure the equal treatment of students in the New Hampshire electoral process with strong hopes that our counterparts in the State House and State Senate will do the same,” they concluded.
Florida Gov. Scott reinstates early voting days: The governor has signed a bill that reverses voting changes that he and conservative legislators supported two years ago. The bill reinstates additional days of early voting that contributed to a a mess at the polls in November. The new law expands early voting from eight to 14 days and extends early voting hours from eight to 12 hours a day. It also increases the number of polling places by including courthouses, civic centers, stadiums, convention centers, fairgrounds and government-owned senior and community centers. County officials can also hold early voting on the Sunday before election day, something of particular concern to black churches, many of whose congregations are traditionally encouraged to go to the polls en masse after the service is over:
The 2012 Presidential Election was a nightmare in Florida with the final tallies coming in days after Obama officially won. [...]

At least 201,000 Florida voters did not cast ballots on Election Day 2012 because they were discouraged by the long lines that ballooned at polling places.

Some Senate Democrats objected to provisions that they feel give too much leeway to local election officals.

Washington Post poll shows election officials biased against Latinos: Harvard political science graduate students Julie Faller, Noah Nathan and Ariel White conducted a nationwide study that found local election officials were less responsive to requests for voting information if they come from people with a Latino-sounding name like "Luis Rodriguez."

The three “contacted every local official or election commission responsible for overseeing elections for each county or municipality at which elections are administered in 48 states." The messages they sent asked the simple question: I’ve been hearing a lot about voter ID laws on the news. What do I need to do to vote?

When it was signed Greg Walsh, they got a very different response than when they signed it Luis Rodriguez.

After all the responses were back, they had a sample including 6,825 sent e-mails to officials in 46 states.** At least 4,557 officials replied. But the interesting story is in who they did and didn’t reply to. “Responses to Latino names,” the researchers write, “are three-and-a-half to four percentage points less likely than to non-Latino white names.”  [...]

The finding holds up when you drop certain regions, when you drop small towns, and when you control for whether officials are elected or appointed. What’s more, they find that there are actually statistically significant differences in the quality of response from officials, depending on what kind of name is used. Responses to Latino voters were likelier to be non-informative, less likely to be “absolutely accurate” (that is, giving complete and accurate information about the relevant topic), and even less likely to take a friendly tone

Not a happy result. But not unexpected.

Ohio voter fraud a speck in 2012 new report says:

0.002397 percent.

That’s how much voter fraud there was in Ohio last year, according to a report released yesterday by Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted. Out of about 5.63 million votes cast in a presidential election in this key swing state, there were 135 possible voter-fraud cases referred to law enforcement for more investigation.

Husted has been at forefront of an effort to reduce voting hours and other measures Democrats have argued reduce numbers at the polls, particularly numbers of people more likely to vote Democratic than Republican. But, nearly alone among Republican officials in Ohio and elsewhere, he has not favored passing a strict photo IDs law.
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Comment Preferences

  •  Great Project! It needs all the light we can shine (13+ / 0-)

    ... on it!

    2014 IS COMING. Build up the Senate. Win back the House : 17 seats. Plus!

    by TRPChicago on Sat May 25, 2013 at 09:08:17 AM PDT

  •  The voting commission is the "good cop." (7+ / 0-)

    The Civil Rights Division in Eric Holder's Justice Department, which has been awesome on voting rights, is the bad cop.

    Discussing the Blue Ribbon Panel in isolation doesn't provide a good picture of the administration's approach to the issue.

    Art is the handmaid of human good.

    by joe from Lowell on Sat May 25, 2013 at 09:11:13 AM PDT

  •  Bold Action From Obama? (3+ / 0-)
    Elizabeth McNamara, the president of the League of Women Voters, criticized what she views as the panel’s narrow mandate.

    “This is a weak response to a big problem,” McNamara said in a statement. “We need bold action to protect Americans from the risk of disenfranchisement.”

    That's like expecting intelligence from a GOP'er...

    I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Republican Party.

    by OnlyWords on Sat May 25, 2013 at 09:12:35 AM PDT

  •  We hear an awful lot of bluster from the right (5+ / 0-)

    about "voter fraud" but the only fraud being perpetrated here is being done by those loud voices in the GOP who would like you to think they actually like the idea of elections.

    Like with so much else, here we have an entire political class who is actively trying to subvert the right to vote, targeting students, the poor, basically, anyone who might vote Democratic, and the "very serious people" have to pretend it's just a "debate". I look at the tinkering in NH with IDs and, well, there you go.

    The voting problem isn't fraud, of course, it's that Republicans don't want you to exercise your franchise if you aren't inclined to exercise it the way they want you to. Instead, we've got expensive commissions to protect the elephant in the room. It's time for some truth telling here.

    BTW, that is NOT to say that Democrats haven't been guilty of some pretty egregious electoral practices. Of course they have, this is politics after all. But just because you can point at Mayor Daley or Mayor Curley  or the Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys doesn't make it right when the GOP wants to try to keep students, minorities, the elderly and lots of other kinds of people away from the polls.

    My prediction is that this commission will exacerbate the problem by giving the GOP's attempt in some states to limit voting rights the cover of legitimacy.

    I resent that. I demand snark, and overly so -- Markos Moulitsas.

    by commonmass on Sat May 25, 2013 at 09:25:30 AM PDT

  •  Vote by mail, people, (6+ / 0-)

    if you want to have full access, online registration (especially for changes) in general easier access.

    •  Yes, and for those who can't or would prefer not (3+ / 0-)

      to (there are some people who actually like to go to the polls, and I'm one of them though I often vote absentee because I'm registered to vote in a town where I don't live in November, usually but do live in much of the rest of the year) I think we need to look at moving our elections to Sundays. After all, for all the religiosity of some of the folks that would object to it on religious grounds, many of those voices are on the Sunday Shows when I'm at church, which I find pretty rich. People have time for football on Sundays, too. It would be a great time for people to vote.

      Any number of nations already do this or--like many states including my own--allow early voting. I say expand the opportunity as much as possible to have your voice heard.

      I resent that. I demand snark, and overly so -- Markos Moulitsas.

      by commonmass on Sat May 25, 2013 at 09:37:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I was initially leery of vote by mail (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        commonmass, Susan from 29

        because I too like going to the polls. But over the past ten years I have come to appreciate it.  For one thing participation rates are higher than average, especially in off year and primary elections.  

        I like the idea of Sunday voting tho.  

        •  Voting by mail (0+ / 0-)

          sounds good to me also , but I have faith that the GOP can screw that up also ... I am wondering what the black community of the south thinks of that idea ?

          The more I watch what goes on across the nation in big elections , the more I realize every state is different , but I still feel  nationalized rules could help address them all  , but you have to put real teeth in the rules , because we all know conservative will not follow the rules if you don't

    •  More than 43% of the votes in IA in Nov. (6+ / 0-)

      were cast by absentee ballots. Dems had a significant lead in absentee ballots requested and returned. When the ballots cast at the polls were counted, Romney won. But when absentee ballots were included, Obama won by 6 points.

  •  The San Francisco voter guide (7+ / 0-)

    It's time to say it out loud.  California's experience with direct democracy is a bust.  We have so many ballot initiatives that no one can reasonably be expected to be properly informed when going to the polls.  

    I'm a lawyer, and I read lots of long, boring documents as part of my job.  But I don't think I should be expected to read through 500 pages of gobbledygook just so that I can cast a vote on a single initiative that concerns an issue as picayune as building height.  Those are the kinds of things the Board of Supervisors is elected to decide.

    This latest ballot pamphlet is just more proof that the initiative process is out of whack.  We have local and state legislators to handle these things.  If they don't do a good job, we can vote them out.  Asking the voters to decide questions of governance and policy, both state and local, large and small, is just too much.  As I frequently say, I don't have time to govern the state of California; I already have a full time job.

    "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

    by FogCityJohn on Sat May 25, 2013 at 09:54:36 AM PDT

    •  And Texas has constitutional amedments (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric Nelson, Patango

      The Texas Constitution is a very cluttered document. Each biennium seems to have at least 10 amendments submitted to the voters. Amendments often make an exception for one of the 254 counties. An amendment requires 2/3 of both houses of the Legislature and then a simple majority of people actually voting.
      I first voted in 1962. Various local hospital districts had been created by constitutional amendment. On the November was a generic hospital district and I voted (absentee) for it. Then I got into a conversation with a campaign worker (who was also a legislative aide) who said this amendment was extremely dangerous because it could sneak hospital districts on people. A buddy of mine asked me whether I told told this aide she was crazy. You see, legislators like to be able to offer constitutional amendments to their constituents. And most voters are reluctant to incovenience people on the other side of the state.

      Censorship is rogue government.

      by scott5js on Sat May 25, 2013 at 11:12:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And conservatives in Texas (0+ / 0-)

        are all about small simple government , right? Oh the irony

        We had a rather big election for one of the spots on the Iowa Supreme Court in 2010 , the wording was so screwed up on the ballot , you could not tell if you should pick yes or no , and that was with it being published before hand , gobbledygook is spot on ...And we are support to have a pretty reliable BIPARTISAN COMMISSION over seeing these details

    •  I have been saying this for years: (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric Nelson, Patango, FogCityJohn
      We have local and state legislators to handle these things.  If they don't do a good job, we can vote them out.  Asking the voters to decide questions of governance and policy, both state and local, large and small, is just too much.  As I frequently say, I don't have time to govern the state of California; I already have a full time job.
      If I had wanted to govern California, I would have run for office.
  •  I can see why Elizabeth McNamara has concerns (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Susan from 29, Patango
    Elizabeth McNamara, the president of the League of Women Voters, criticized what she views as the panel’s narrow mandate.
    MSNBC - 4:58 PM on 05/21/2013
    In an interview with MSNBC, McNamara elaborated. ”If they’re not talking about secure online voter registration that’s available to everybody, not just those with driver’s licenses; if they’re not talking about early voting; if they’re not talking about polling place resources; if they’re not talking about permanent and portable voter registration, then we just don’t believe that they’re going to be talking about the issues that really cause the lines on Election Day,” she said
    It seems the focus as stated by the Brennan Center has been a response that takes up the republicans main BS framing: That "voter fraud"  must be addressed before all else, even though Ohio's  0.002397 percent fraud figure is typical in many other states. Practically zero

    Yet the number one concern as listed is registration. When what was/is "plaguing" voters is the republican party, Husted, Scott (who is backing off because people got pissed off imo) Or Cuccinelli and many other GOP assholes.

    Brennan Center for Justice

    There are three reforms that would dramatically reduce the excessive lines that plague voting, and have the added benefit of creating a more efficient and secure electoral system:
    1.Modernizing voter registration
     2.Providing early voting during a fixed national time period
     3.Setting minimum standards for polling place access
    Good ideas to be sure but once again the narrative put out by republicans is adopted by Dems when the solutions are sought.

    It f*cking pisses me off, how polite accomodation must always be the rule.

    Tell it like it is. The GOP need hammering in the worst way. They are guilty of voter suppression. Why be nice to them when the proper thing to do is dissect what really happened with elections - the GOP.

    Investigations and remedies have to include the republicans like GOP Rep. Turzai.

    Blatant illegal acts by the republicans. Wrong polling dates and locations put out by republicans especcially to the Latino communities. Dirty tricks of many kinds

    Instead number one step:

     1. Drop the Hammer on the GOP

     2. Modernizing voter registration

     3. Providing early voting during a fixed national time period

     4. Setting minimum standards for polling place access

    There.. fixed

    rant over

  •  soooo.... appeasement? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    “Including voting-rights advocates would have led those on the right to call for more balance.”

    "balance" meaning people sympathetic to the right-wing Voter Fraud myth. if  they believe that there is a real effort to threaten peoples ability to vote, that's Leftist and Biased and Bad. if they are concerned about voter fraud, well, that's "centrist" (not really) and that's good.

    now we'll get a bunch of squishes who will try very hard to have a "debate" on this and give even more legitimacy to the Voter Fraud lie. it's apparently worth it so that we don't offend any Republicans by calling them out on their blatantly anti-American policies

    Banking on the American people to be able to sort all this out and declare the adult in the room the winner is a very big bet. -Digby

    by Boogalord on Sat May 25, 2013 at 12:30:13 PM PDT

  •  It is hard to imagine (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson

    every DC democrat , including the Obama team , can not see what a joke this commission well be  , just look at the disaster from the Bush voting commission , I am just disgusted when I see obama present such dysfunction , it is kind of offending that they do not know better  , they will present nothing but BS by the end of it

    The comments here and the diary sum it up well , it is pretty simple

    Iowa here is 1/2 blue and red , I am not aware of any voting troubles in the red west here

    But an interesting example of dem verses GOP voting can be found in the 2012 primaries , the Iowa gop primary was full of dysfunction ,fraud , confusion , and back room deals , and it is still going on with the investigation of Michelle Bachmann lol  

    That was also seen in GOP primaries across the nation , but the bubble boys of DC still do not want to address the real culprits

  •  Amazed at voting alternatives in B.C. election (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Until I started following the War on Voting here, I'd never considered the limits on voting in my own province. I was surprised at the variety of options available to me, which I've quoted from the Elections B.C. website ( Note, paper ballot only marked with a pencil:

    Voters who meet the eligibility requirements may vote in an election under one of the following opportunities:

    General Voting Day – Voting hours on General Voting Day are from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Pacific time.

    Advance voting – Advance voting is held from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (local time) on the Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday of the week preceding General Voting Day. Advance voting is available to any voter and all advance voting places are wheelchair accessible.

    Absentee Voting – Voters who are unable to attend their assigned voting place on General Voting Day, or the advance voting place(s) in their electoral district of residence, may vote at any other voting place in the province.

    Alternative Absentee Voting
            An individual may vote by alternative absentee voting if:
            - they expect to be absent from British Columbia on General Voting Day
            - they have a physical disability, illness or injury or their mobility is impaired, or
            - they will be in a location that is remote from a voting place, or will be unable to attend a voting place because of weather or other environmental conditions or for another reason beyond the individual’s control.

        Voters who meet any one of these qualifications can vote in one of B.C.’s 91 district electoral offices, or vote by mail using a voting package.

    Voting in the district electoral office: Voting in district electoral offices between when an election is called and 4 p.m. (Pacific time) on General Voting Day.

    Vote by Mail: All B.C. voters may ask for a Vote by Mail package until 4 p.m. (Pacific time) on General Voting Day (May 14, 2013) by calling Elections BC at 1-800-661-8683, or by calling or visiting any district electoral office. Each Vote by Mail package includes instructions, a ballot, and the envelopes necessary to return the marked ballot and to protect the secrecy of the vote. Important: Completed voting packages must be returned to the issuing district electoral office before 8 p.m. (Pacific time) on General Voting Day. Packages received after that time will not be counted.

        Special Voting – The District Electoral Officer may establish special voting opportunities to assist eligible voters who wish to vote but are unable to attend a regular voting place on General Voting Day because they are in a hospital, mental health facility, remote community or work camp, long-term care facility or correctional centre.

    Voters needing assistance

    Assistance is available to voters unable to mark a ballot because of a physical disability or difficulty with reading or writing. A Voting Officer or friend of the voter may mark the voter’s ballot in accordance with the wishes of the voter. If the voter is assisted by a friend, the friend must take an oath of secrecy. A template is available at all voting places to allow voters who are visually impaired to mark their own ballots if they so choose.

    For further information on Elections BC’s accessibility services, please view our Meeting Your Needs video for voters with disabilities.

    Voters needing a translator

    The use of a translator is permitted if the voter has difficulty with the English language. In areas with large populations of voters who may need translators, District Electoral Officers attempt to hire election officials who are fluent in the language of the local community.

    BTW, CTV network called Liberal (right of center) majority at 9:27 PM with results mostly complete by 11:00 PM on May 14, 2013.

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