• 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.”• San Francisco voting guide for fall 2013 clocks in at 500 pages:
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.”
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.You can find more war on voting news below the fold.
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.
• 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. [...]Some Senate Democrats objected to provisions that they feel give too much leeway to local election officals.
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.
• 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.” [...]Not a happy result. But not unexpected.
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
0.002397 percent.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.
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.