Independent Voting Videos


Friday, March 27, 2015

South Dakota Limits Voter Rights

In the midst of all the Senate retirement announcements this past week, one news item has received little national media coverage, but the implications of which are far reaching.

South Dakota has passed and the Governor has signed S.B. 69, a bill which prevents Democrats and Republicans from signing the nominating petitions of any Independent candidate.  This was done just a few months after two Independent candidates, Gordon Howie, and Larry Pressler who I endorsed, took 20% of the vote in the state Senate election.

In a time when an overwhelming number of Americans are saying our government needs to change the way it behaves, South Dakota legislators have sent a very clear message with S.B. 69: They will eliminate dissent from within and competition from without.  When Americans want greater choice and better alternatives, politicians are taking steps to become further entrenched, and prevent popular will from being heard.

Past the callous disregard for the democratic rights of members of their own parties, this is about politicians openly flaunting public opinion.  This is indicative of our national challenge.  Although this happened in South Dakota, this is a national issue.

For years, members of both parties have taken steps to eliminate competition.  The most prominent strategy is gerrymandering, but most restrictions are passed quietly, by state legislatures that draw little public attention.

SB 69 was proposed by the State Board of Elections in South Dakota, which is supposed to control all changes to election law.  The restrictions against signing nominating petitions were introduced in a committee, without consultation or approval from the independent board.  They were introduced as amendments, eliminating words like "may not" to reverse the meaning of entire sentences.  The weak attempts to justify these amendments without appearing politically corrupt add to a narrative that might leave the most diehard party loyalist scratching their head.

CLICK HERE to read more about this bill.

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Google Searches Show that People Wanted to Vote But Couldn’t

Alex Street, an assistant professor of political science at Carroll College, writes about using Google searches to determine that requiring early registration hurts voter mobilization in the final days of the campaign, when interest in the election is most intense.

Some states allow voters to register right up to Election Day, others require registration as much as one month beforehand.  In the typical state in 2012, registration was closed for three weeks before the election.

Some scholars argue that requiring early registration hurts voter mobilization in the final days of the campaign, when interest in the election is most intense.  But skeptics counter that most of the people who fail to register in time have little real interest in voting.

New research shows that there is a lot of last-minute interest.  Street estimated that keeping registration open through Election Day in 2012 would have allowed an additional 3 million to 4 million Americans to register and vote.

His team used the number of Google searches for “register to vote” in the weeks leading up to the 2012 election to measure late interest in registering.  These search terms were entered millions of times, and much of the activity fell at the very end of the campaign period.

To estimate the relationship between searching online, and actually registering, They turned to state records of registered voters.  The data confirm that, in the period leading up to voter registration deadlines, the daily number of Google searches in each state was closely related to the daily number who registered.  If the same pattern had been allowed to continue up to Election Day, millions more Americans would have registered in time to vote.

Turnout is higher in states that allow voters to register on Election Day.  Despite fears over administrative difficulties, surveys show that polling place wait times are actually shorter in states with election-day registration than in the rest of the country.  Fears of voter fraud are sometimes cited as a reason against allowing election-day registration.  But all of the research shows that voter fraud is extremely rare.

In recent years, several additional states, including California and Illinois, have moved to allow election-day registration.  But others have shifted in the opposite direction: Florida and Ohio have shortened the early voting period for absentees.  North Carolina recently put an end to absentee registration and voting on the Sunday before Election Day.  This came after African American churches organized buses to take “souls to the polls” after attending service.  Legislators in Maine and Montana recently passed bills to repeal election-day registration, but were blocked by the governor or by referendum.

There research suggests that early registration requirements have real consequences.  New technologies make online registration, or same-day registration and voting, much easier to administer, and if Google searches are any indicator, these reforms would help more people vote.

CLICK HERE to read the "Estimating Voter Registration Deadline Effects with Web Search Data" report.

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Jeb Bush Aides Consider Data Selling Plan

Jeb Bush's aides are considering an ambitious data-selling system that would exist for his eventual presidential campaign and outside groups supporting it.

The concept is similar to the Data Trust established by the Republican National Committee and appears to be the first of its kind in a presidential campaign.  It would be an entity that will be specific to one candidate, as opposed to a pool of approved candidates or similar-minded groups.

The basic idea involves allies of the former Florida Governor using an existing, for-profit entity to sell data to his eventual campaign and the political action committee and “super PAC” that will support his candidacy.

The data that would be for sale could take different forms, but could potentially include information like an enhanced voter file and raw polling information.

The ability to buy the same appended voter information could increase the efficiency of the super PAC and the campaign to target voters in a parallel way, without breaking laws about coordination between campaigns and outside groups.  The entity could, in theory, eventually sell information to the Republican National Committee or other Republican committees if Mr. Bush is the nominee.

The plan has been discussed in Mr. Bush’s circle and with potential supporters over the last few weeks, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Such a move would highlight Mr. Bush’s technical savvy and would also address a potential problem that arose during Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, when his team was sometimes at odds with groups supporting it in terms of messaging and targeting voters.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Use of Freedom of Association in Ballot Access Cases

Freedom of association is the right to join or leave groups of a person's own choosing, and for the group to take collective action to pursue the interests of members.  It is both an individual right and a collective right, guaranteed by all modern and democratic legal systems, including the United States Bill of Rights.

Freedom of association is primarily manifested through the right to join a trade union, free speech or debating societies, political parties, or any other club or association such as religious groups, fraternities, or sport clubs.  It is closely linked with the freedom of assembly, particularly under the US Bill of Rights.  More specifically the freedom of assembly is understood in a political context, although depending on the source (constitution, human rights instrument, etc.) the right to freedom of association may be understood to include the right to freedom of assembly.

While the United States Constitution's First Amendment identifies the rights to assemble and to petition the government, the text of the First Amendment does not make specific mention of a right to association.  Nevertheless, the United States Supreme Court held in NAACP v. Alabama that the freedom of association is an essential part of the Freedom of Speech because, in many cases, people can engage in effective speech only when they join with others.

But in many cases of ballot access or opening the primary process, I think the courts have over extending this right.

This right gives a political party and its members the right to decide who their officers are and what issues they represent.  But that could be handled by giving a registered party voter a separate party ballot during the primary process.

The selection of presidential, congressional, and state candidates, is the right of all registered voters, regardless of party or independent status.  And since these taxpayer voters payed for the running of the selection process, their right to take part is being blocked, and isn't that "Taxation Without Representation"?

Political parties used the "Private" entity case, giving them the right of association, so if they want a closed primary system, they should pay for running this system.  So they could reimburse the state, like some states allow, for the printing of the primary ballot, rental of the polling site, rent of the equipment, and the cost of the poll workers.  Or they can run and pay for a separate selection process to select their candidates, before an open primary.

A better way would be to eliminate primaries and just have a General Election.

Louisiana uses this method but has a run-off. I would add Rank-Choice Voting to their system, so the voters only have to vote once.  In thier system, candidates get on the ballot with either collecting signatures or paying a filing fee.

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Federal Judge Orders New Redistricting Plan for 39-Seat Albany County Legislature

Albany County, New York diluted minority voting power in its 2011 redistricting plan, a federal judge ruled Tuesday in a decision that temporarily freezes this year's legislative elections until a new plan is drafted.

Senior U.S. Judge Lawrence Kahn's 81-page decision orders the county to submit an amended map of its 39 legislative districts within three weeks, a timetable aimed at minimizing disruption to an election calendar that begins in June.

The defeat marks the third straight time the county will be forced to alter its political lines amid a challenge under the federal 1965 Voting Rights Act, a landmark piece of legislation aimed at protecting the franchise of minority voters.

"With rare exceptions, there is not yet an equal, fair opportunity for minority-preferred candidates to be elected on a county level absent special circumstances," Kahn wrote, calling the county's entire redistricting process "questionable."  That reality, the judge said, persists despite the rise of "vibrant and more impactful" black leadership in recent years and "laudable progress to address racial disparities."

In ruling against the county, Kahn accepted expert analysis that white and black citizens continue to vote as a bloc in a way that usually defeats the candidate preferred by minorities.

The county offered no statistical rebuttal to that after its expert witness effectively backed out of the case.

Mary Rozak, a spokeswoman for County Executive Dan McCoy, said officials were "still reviewing all options" whether to appeal.

"This was a predictable outcome," said voting rights activist Aaron Mair of Guilderland, who testified against the county in the case and called the county's actions "a willful attempt to disenfranchise the minority community."

The loss could cost county taxpayers $1 million or more in plaintiffs' legal fees, which Kahn ordered the county to pay.

McCoy and legislative leaders missed two opportunities to limit the damage when they failed to agree with each other on settlement terms that would have capped the legal fees while meeting the plaintiffs' demands.

The heart of the lawsuit was the decision by the county's redistricting commission, endorsed by a McCoy-led legislature and then-County Executive Michael Breslin, not to draw a fifth legislative district in which minority residents are a majority.  Several members of the minority community, including then-County Legislator Wanda Willingham, sued contending a fifth district was warranted in light of demographic changes detailed in the 2010 census.  County officials claimed creating the district was not possible, but only, Kahn found, because they used the narrowest possible definition of who should count as a minority and "neither the commissioners nor the public were accurately informed of the procedures that were used."

Testimony, the judge continued, showed "that the public and commissioners were led to believe that creating five minority districts simply was not possible, even using a broad definition of minority voters, which evidence shows was untrue."

Kahn's decision sidestepped arguably the thorniest legal question in the 11-day trial this winter: whether black and Hispanic residents are politically cohesive enough to be counted together for the purposes of redistricting.  The county did not count them together despite claiming it had.  But the judge ruled he need not address that because there was cause to find the county violated the law just looking at residents who identify as black.

A keystone of the county's defense was that it relied on the demands of the minority community during the latter stages of a 2003 lawsuit to shape how it approached the redistricting in 2011.  Among those 2003 demands were that the county not count blacks and Hispanics together and that the districts be drafted with more than just a bare majority of black voters.  A federal judge eventually required the county to count the groups together.

"In the 2011 redistricting process, the County attempted to honor this request," Rozak, the county spokeswoman, said.  "It has always been the county's intent to create minority districts where voting has not been diluted and to protect the voting rights of all minorities in Albany County."

Legislature Chairman Shawn Morse, who led the 2011 redistricting commission, said Kahn's decision is anything but a victory for the minority community, which he said will now find it more difficult to elect candidates.  The county, Morse said, will be forced to draw five districts with smaller numbers of minority voters that "will not be strong, true minority districts."  "We aimed to make the minority districts with a foundation that gives them the greatest chance of winning," he said, "and it was based on their own arguments."

But in relying so heavily on the 2003 litigation, Kahn ruled, the county "plainly ignored current concerns of members of the minority community, many of whom were plaintiffs in the prior lawsuit."

Morse said his preference would be not to appeal the decision but cautioned he had to consult with Democratic Majority Leader Frank Commisso and McCoy.

The plaintiffs were represented by New York City-based lawyers from the firm Gibson Dunn and Albany attorney Paul DerOhannesian II.

Mitchell Karlan, one of the lead attorneys, said the plaintiffs "look forward to working with the county to prepare a legitimate map that protects the voting rights of all citizens of Albany County."

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Ohio Bill Requiring Student Voters to Get Ohio Licenses

In case you missed it, back in late 2012, a court overturned a New Hampshire law requiring out-of-state student voters to register their cars in the state as proof of residency.

They obviously missed it in Columbus, where Ohio GOP Senators have inserted a provision in the state transportation funding bill that would require out of state student voters registering in the Buckeye State to get a Ohio license or risk having their out-of-state license suspended.

Dismissing Democrats' cries of voter suppression, majority legislative Republicans are poised to require those who register to vote in Ohio to also obtain state driver's licenses and vehicle registrations.

The measure is part of the state transportation budget approved Tuesday by a House-Senate conference committee and headed to possible floor votes in each chamber.

Democrats tried to remove the provision, saying it constitutes a "poll tax" on out-of-state college students, who would have to spend $75 or more on license and registration fees within 30 days of registering to vote.

Rep. Alicia Reece, D-Cincinnati, voted against the transportation budget on Tuesday, she said, because her caucus had a host of concerns about the provision.

Current law has allowed people to claim Ohio residency and vote while retaining their out-of-state licenses and registrations because the law doesn't specify a deadline for new residents to obtain Ohio documentation.

Supporters of the bill say it's about cleaning up residency requirements, not suppressing votes by students:

Republicans, including Secretary of State Jon Husted, said the move is about fulfilling the responsibilities of becoming an Ohio resident, not a barrier to voting.  Husted spoke out Tuesday against what he called "hysteria," saying Democrats' objections were misleading and reckless.

"It is irresponsible for anyone to deceive the public into believing it is hard to vote in Ohio," he said.  "If the motivation of the measure was to impact voting, it missed its target."

More than 116,000 out-of-state students, including 14,000 at Ohio State University, attend Ohio's public and private colleges and universities.

Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, pointed out in a statement that Ohio is one of only six states that set no deadline for new residents to obtain an in-state driver's license.  "It's a practical, common-sense policy, and we're all getting pretty tired of the bogus voter-suppression scare tactics," he said.

If the law does get enacted, you can bet it will draw a lawsuit.

Critics say the legislation would discourage young adults from registering to vote by requiring them to pay state motor-vehicle fees.

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde, D-Kent, said Tuesday that the budget language potentially violates the federal Voting Rights Act, and invites a lawsuit, because it constitutes "intimidation and harassment" of would-be voters.

Leah Lacure, a senior from Rochester, N.Y., and student-body vice president at Ohio State, objects to the changes, saying they would impose "bureaucratic hoops and unnecessary costs" and make voting burdensome.

Key questions in any such lawsuit will be the same as the New Hampshire law: how many non-student voters don't have cars registered in the state or an in-state drivers' license, and is the percentage comparable to the student population?  If the law applies to all voters, what will the state do to enforce the law against all voters without in-state licenses?  And what effect could this controversy have on the Secretary's efforts to push online voter registration, which requires the use of DMV data to succeed?

These efforts, and the controversies they generate, are the result of our confusing and imprecise rules for determining residency for various purposes (voting, driving, taxes, tuition etc.) in the United States.  Whatever the motivation behind this Ohio push, the fact that it will have an impact on voting, however large or small, is going to draw litigation.

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Right to Vote Under Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment

This is an abstract from, Remedial Equilibration and the Right to Vote Under Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment, Michael T Morley - Barry University School of Law on March 25, 2015, at the University of Chicago Legal Forum.

Repeated legal challenges alleging that proof-of-citizenship requirements for registration, voter identification laws, and other procedures aimed at protecting the electoral process violate the constitutional “right to vote.”  In adjudicating such cases, courts make effectively subjective judgments about whether the challenged statutes or regulations make voting “too” burdensome.

Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment offers critical, and previously overlooked, insight into the scope of the right to vote.  It imposes a uniquely severe penalty, reduction in representation in the House of Representatives and Electoral College, when that right is violated.  The theory of “remedial deterrence,” a type of “remedial equilibration,” teaches that courts take into account the severity of the remedy for a violation of a legal provision when determining that provision’s scope.  Stripping a state of its seats in Congress and votes in the Electoral College is a uniquely severe penalty, effectively nullifying the results of one or more elections, disenfranchising the people who voted for the ejected representatives, diluting the vote of each member of the state’s electorate, and potentially even changing control of Congress or the outcome of a presidential election.

For such a dramatic penalty to be appropriate, a State’s actions would have to be especially egregious, a direct disenfranchisement of certain disfavored groups of people.  Facially neutral registration or voting procedures with which a person must comply in order to vote, in contrast, are insufficient to meet this highly demanding standard.  This remedial deterrence interpretation of Section 2 is consistent with both the Fourteenth Amendment’s legislative history and Congress’ contemporaneous interpretation of that provision during its immediate attempt to enforce it.  All of the state laws and constitutional provisions that Congress concluded violated Section 2 imposed additional qualifications for voting by disenfranchising entire groups of people, such as the poor, the illiterate, or racial minorities, due to their purportedly undesirable traits.  The text and structure of Section 2, the debates leading to its enactment, contemporaneous interpretation and application of that provision, and the persuasive considerations underlying remedial deterrence itself all counsel in favor of construing the Fourteenth Amendment right to vote as prohibiting the actual, direct disenfranchisement of disfavored groups of people, and not administrative procedures for registration or voting.

CLICK HERE to read the the entire document.

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