Election News Roundup: 5/8/09 – 5/14/09

(8 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

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 republic a disservice.

This week:  Ballot access lawsuits, Supreme Court election law cases, why the Hell Mike Gravel is in South Korea (hint: he’s not lost), one fourth of overseas votes go uncounted, universal voter registration proposed in New York state, and more!

This is cross-posted unaltered from an original post at Daily Kos.  Since I’m  new here I figured that I would post my most recent diary at Daily Kos as an essay, especially since almost everything here is still current.  In the spirit of election reform, I’ve made the poll multi-choice.

If you have a more exciting title suggestion and/or would like to volunteer to help (or just have a news tip), please say so in the comments!

Some great news sources:

Ballot Access News

Election Law Blog

Daily Voting News (RIP John Gideon)

And now, onto the news…

Last week’s poll – The question was, “What is your opinon on ballot access laws?”  4 people out of ten said (including me), ” They are way too hard, there shouldn’t be much of a limit on who can get on the ballot.”  Two people said, “They’re too hard, but not that bad.”  Two people said they like them how they are.  One said “they should be much, much harder.”  And one person said, “other,” but failed to comment.

Charlottesville Democrats to Use Ranked Choice Voting for Primary – From Ballot Access News:

This year, the Democratic Party of Charlottesville, Virginia, is using Ranked-Choice voting to choose party nominees for city council and sheriff. See this article. Thanks to Steve Rankin for the link.

West Virginia Governor Signs Ballot Access Bill – From Ballot Access News:

On May 8, West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin III signed HB 2981, the ballot access improvement bill. West Virginia now has the best independent and minor party candidate petition deadline (for office other than president) that it has had since 1919. The new deadline is August 1. In 1919, the legislature had moved that deadline from October to May, and it had remained in May for 90 years.

Sunshine Act Notice [for military and overseas voters]

ACTION: Notice of Public Meeting and Hearing Agenda.

Date & Time: Tuesday, May 19, 2009, 1 p.m.-4 p.m. EDT (Meeting & Hearing).

Place: U.S. Election Assistance Commission, 1225 New York Ave., NW., Suite 150, Washington, DC 20005, (Metro Stop: Metro Center).

Agenda: The Commission will hold a public meeting to consider administrative matters. The Commission will conduct a public hearing to receive presentations on the following topic: Military and Overseas Citizens: Counting Their Votes– Part 1.

If you want to testify, you can apply here until May 15, and they’ll accept 15 people:

Requests to speak may be sent to the EAC via e-mail at testimony@eac.gov, via mail addressed to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, 1225 New York Avenue, NW., Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20005, or by fax at 202-566-1389. All requests must include a description of what will be said, contact information which will be used to notify the requestor with status of request (phone number on which a message may be left or e-mail), and include the subject/attention line (or on the envelope if by mail): UOCAVA Hearing Request to Participate. Please note that these comments will be made available to the public at http://www.eac.gov .

TMCnet.com via Daily Voting News.

Report: One-Fourth of Overseas Votes Go Uncounted – Related to that last story, the New York Times reports that one quarter of all military voters and overseas voters are disenfranchised because of problems like poor communication, bad election laws, and stupid election officials.  Via Daily Voting News.

Universal Voter Registration for the State of New York (by Kossack YesWeCanLI) – YesWeCanLI covers the possibility of 99.99% automatic voter registration in New York state, and the recent hearings about the subject.  Youtube videos included.  Daily Kos.

What the Hell is Mike Gravel doing in South Korea? – Mike Gravel has been on a trip to Korea since mid-April.  He is attempting to start a movement for a national initiative process there (he is also doing this in the US, although thinks it is more likely to happen soon in Korea).  Recently he has been on the show “Let’s Talk Busan,” and you can listen to his interview here.  For the first half of the show he talks about the Pentagon Papers, his presidential campaign, and his previous political career.  After that he talks about direct democracy, why he thinks South Korea already has a better constitution than the United States, and why South Korea is more likely to adopt an initiative system (and why that’s a good thing).

National Popular Vote Bill passes Connecticut House – The National Popular Vote Bill has passed Connecticut’s state House, by a margin of 76-69.  If it passes the Senate and is signed by the governor, Connecticut will start awarding its electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, once enough states have ratified the compact to represent a majority of the electoral college.  The National Popular Vote Compact.

Major electoral reform fails in Canada – On Tuesday, May 12, British Columbia voters went to the polls to vote on whether or not they wanted to scrap their first-past-the-post system for electing provincial legislators and go to a proportional, single-transferable-vote system.  The “yes” side only won about 39 percent of the vote, well less than the 57 percent it won when the question was on the ballot in 2005.  This is a major defeat for electoral reform, although the referendum did receive a majority in 11 out of 85 voting districts.

Status of Ballot Access LawsuitsClick here to see the status of all of the known lawsuits against states with restrictive ballot access laws.  Ballot Access News.

U.S. Supreme Court Has 3 Election Law Decisions Pending – From Ballot Access News:

The U.S. Supreme Court will issue three election law opinions between May 18 and June 29. They are: (1) Caperton v Massey Coal Company, 08-22, on what to do when a state elects its state court judges and one side in a lawsuit has made huge campaign contributions to sitting judges; (2) Citizens United v FEC, 08-205, on whether people who make and advertise a movie which conveys a message about a federal candidate must follow federal campaign laws; (3) Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District v Holder, 08-322, on whether section 5 of the federal Voting Rights (requiring certain states and their political subdivisions to get advance approval from the federal government before changing any election laws) is constitutional.

The Nation covers election reform In an extensive series of blog posts and a print article, the nation has covered and will be covering the topic of election reform.  They have endorsed the National Popular Vote plan, called for proportional representation or instant runoff voting, called for more reliable voting techniques, and called for increased voter participation, among other things.  Read it here, here, and here.

Maine May Reduce the Number of State Legislators – The Maine House has passed a bill that would amend the state constitution and reduce the number of state legislators.  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.  Ballot Access News.

Survey Shows Strong Support for Presidential Election Reform Law – A poll in Washington state, the most recent state to sign the National Popular Vote compact into law, has shown that only 11% favor keeping a statewide winner-take-all system for electoral votes and over 70% favor the switch to the NPV.  PR Newswire.

California Assembly Passes One Bill on Instant Runoff Voting – From Ballot Access News:

On May 14, the California Assembly unanimously passed AB 308. It provides that overseas voters who are voting in an election that requires a run-off if no one gets 50% of the vote in the first round, will be sent two ballots in the same envelope. The envelope would include a normal ballot, and a separate ballot for the same election using Instant Runoff. The overseas voter is then free to mark both ballots. In the event that the election requires a run-off, that voter’s IRV ballot is used, so that there is no need to mail that voter a separate ballot for the run-off.

The California Assembly is also considering a bill that would allow ten unspecified cities to use IRV in local elections.

UPDATE: New Albany re-vote apparently changes run-off lineup but final numbers not in – Election confusion in New York, including a re-vote due to faulty election machines.  Nems360.com via Daily Voting News.

Early-voting and photo ID advance in S.C. – A bill of one good and one bad election reform advanced out of committee in South Carolina.  It would allow for early voting, but also puts up the obstacle of requiring some kind of ID at the polls for voters.  Bluffton Today via Daily Voting News.

Interview with Richard Carroll, formerly highest ranking Green official in the nation – Richard Carroll was the highest ranking elected Green official in the country, being a state legislator in Arkansas, until a few weeks ago when he switched to the Democratic Party.  I interview him last Sunday, and you can listen here.  He is a very interesting man.

Thanks for reading!

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1 comment

    • rossl on May 22, 2009 at 11:04 pm


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