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Parliament Approves Lebanese Proportional Representation Law

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 17:14

Lebanon’s parliament approved an electoral law which will allow legislative elections to be held

Beirut (dpa) – Lebanon’s parliament on Friday approved a long-awaited electoral law, which will allow legislative elections to be held in May 2018 and usher in a new era of proportional representation. The law was passed despite objections by lawmakers like Kataeb Party leader Samy Gemayel, independent member of parliament Boutros Harb and Assem Qanso of…

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Facebook Terms and Conditions at Democracy Chronicles

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 16:32

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Legislation Introduced in Congress to Modernize Voter Registration

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 14:24

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The Automatic Voter Registration Act of 2017 seeks to fix a major barrier to higher voter turnout. From a press release by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law:

Leading members of Congress introduced the Automatic Voter Registration Act of 2017 this week, a transformative bill that could add 50 million eligible new voters to the rolls. The lawmakers are scheduled to join the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and other leading voter advocacy organizations to discuss the proposal during a Capitol Hill briefing Wednesday afternoon.

The initiative, led by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Representative Robert Brady (D-Pa.), would improve the efficiency, accuracy, cost and security of voter registration processes. It comes as momentum for these reforms continues to grow at the state level.

Under the plan, when a citizen interacts with a government agency — for example, to get a driver’s license, apply for public services, register for classes at a public university, or become a naturalized citizen — they are automatically signed up to vote, unless they decline. An individual’s information is electronically transferred to election officials, increasing convenience for voters and the accuracy of information in state databases.

Eight states and the District of Columbia have approved automatic voter registration recently, several with bipartisan support. Late last month the Illinois Legislature passed the reform unanimously in both chambers. Oregon was the first state to fully implement the plan last year, successfully expanding its number of registered voters.

The Automatic Voter Registration Act of 2017, introduced in the House Monday and the Senate today, provides guidance for state agencies that would contribute to the modernization efforts and makes clear that it is the government’s job to ensure that every eligible citizen in the United States has straightforward opportunities to register to vote.

“It is more important than ever that Congress work to strengthen our democracy,” said Rep. Robert Brady. “The Automatic Voter Registration Act of 2017 would do exactly that by registering millions of eligible voters, improving election security, building a more representative electorate, and increasing voter turnout.”

“Voting is a foundational right,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy. “America is stronger when more Americans participate in our democracy. We are better when our citizens take part in the political process, hold their elected representatives accountable, and voice their opinions on the critical issues facing our country. We can take a significant step toward fostering greater participation simply by modernizing the way Americans register to vote through nationwide automatic voter registration.”

“Automatic voter registration has made huge advances recently at the state level, and it’s time to bring the reform to the national level,” said Wendy Weiser, the director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “It reduces mistakes on the rolls, enhances security, and expands access to the ballot box for millions of eligible voters, all while bringing our election infrastructure into the 21st Century.”

“Congressional leadership is extremely important in efforts to expand access to this fundamental right in our democracy,” said Nicole Austin-Hillery, director and counsel of the Brennan Center’s Washington, D.C, office. “Thank you to Senator Leahy and Representative Brady for their work and support of this needed reform.”

“We should make it easier, not more difficult, for every eligible citizen to vote,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Automatic voter registration is the wave of the future, and it is gaining momentum in states across America, but national legislation is needed to help all voters. If every eligible citizen was automatically and securely registered to vote, it would strengthen our democracy.  We applaud Congressman Brady and Senators Leahy, Klobuchar, and Durbin for prioritizing voting rights and fighting back against efforts to block access to the ballot box.”

“The League of Women Voters strongly supports modernizing voter registration,” said Lloyd Leonard, senior director of advocacy for the League of Women Voters. “Enhanced access, better accuracy and reduced costs – this is what the Automatic Voter Registration bill is all about.  It is time for voter registration to move into the 21st Century with modern technologies.”

“Strengthening democracy requires taking bold action to make it easier for Americans to participate in elections. While the current administration has promoted a false narrative of widespread vote fraud, a handful of states are leading the way in ensuring that all eligible voters can participate through automatic voter registration,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.  “Now it is up to Congress to act.  The Automatic Voter Registration Act would make it easier for citizens in all states to register to vote and ignite voter participation rates across our country.  At a time when voting rights are under attack, passing this common sense legislation is one step that Congress can take to restore faith in our democracy and inspire citizens to engage in the electoral process.”

Learn more about automatic voter registration, and the Brennan Center’s work on voter registration modernization.

Nationwide, Poor Citizens With No ID Struggle to Vote

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 14:14

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Without ID, poor Americans can struggle for basic services from the government as well as to vote. A new article in the Washington Post by Patrick Marion Bradley, a writer in Washington, had the story:

As of 2006, according to New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, up to 11 percent of U.S. adults had no government-provided photo ID. Since then, federal requirements for IDs have grown tougher, contributing to a loop that can help keep people trapped in poverty. For poor Americans, IDs are a lifeline — a key to unlocking services and opportunities, from housing to jobs to education. And in states with strict voter ID laws, the lack of an ID can hinder voting. “This is a huge issue for people who are homeless and poor in general,” says Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. “Without an ID, basically you don’t exist.”

The cost to civil society groups looking to help is substantial as well:

Across the country, churches bear similar costs. Memphis’s First Presbyterian Church spends about $7,000 a year on its ID and birth certificate assistance. The Stewpot at Dallas’s First Presbyterian Church budgets $50,000 annually — and spent more than $60,000 in 2016. In Minneapolis, the Basilica of St. Mary’s St. Vincent de Paul Ministries spent nearly $70,000 in 2016. The basilica sends so much money to Hennepin County that the local government instituted a voucher system and directly bills the church. My calls to a Las Vegas program went to voice mail, where the greeting said the operation was out of funds.

For your reference, here is list of the acceptable forms of photo ID from Texas government as of this month:

  • Texas driver license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)
  • Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS
  • Texas personal identification card issued by DPS
  • Texas license to carry a handgun issued by DPS
  • United States military identification card containing the person’s photograph
  • United States citizenship certificate containing the person’s photograph
  • United States passport

 

Raul Castro Preparing to Step Down as President of Cuba

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 14:02

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Cuban leader Raul Castro has announced the beginning of the end of his presidency | Democracy, elections and voting at Democracy Chronicles

Cuban leader Raul Castro has announced the beginning of the end of his presidency. Castro called for municipal elections on October 22, the first step in the process towards the election of a new leader and the first vote held on the island since the death of his older brother Fidel, the revolutionary Marxist leader who…

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Chalk Girl: At the Heart of Hong Kong’s Democracy Movement

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 13:59

From The Guardian:

Two years since her arrest made her an accidental hero of the pro-democracy umbrella movement, the 16-year-old must decide whether to rejoin the battle alongside the ‘localist’ youth. As elections loom, Chalk Girl is torn between wanting to respect her family, who are concerned about the risks of her activism, and standing up to Chinese interference. Young localists see themselves as being in a fight to save their beloved city, and in the middle of it all, Chalk Girl is just a teenager wanting to feel part of something bigger.

In 2014, as a 14-year-old schoolgirl, she was arrested for drawing a chalk flower on a wall where thousands of people created protest artworks. It was the end of the umbrella revolution, in which tens of thousands of people occupied parts of downtown Hong Kong. She was detained and removed from her father’s care, and only released when international outrage began to cause embarrassment. Because she was underage, her face was obscured in the press, but a cartoon form of her image became synonymous with the fight for democracy. The world came to know her as Chalk Girl.

Now 16, she remains masked and scarred from the damage done to her and her family, but her generation of ‘umbrella soldiers’ faces a new fight. Trouble is brewing as Hong Kong gears up for the first elections since the protests, and these young people are moving away from frontline street battles to stand in mainstream politics. Government suppression has caused youth anger to grow and inspired the creation of the localist movement – groups determined to defend Hong Kong’s culture and autonomy from the creeping dominance of mainland China.

What does it mean to be an accidental hero and a teenage girl at the heart of Hong Kong’s movement for autonomy, as the city’s youth mobilise to challenge China’s influence on the territory?

Commissioned by the Guardian and Bertha Foundation

The Significance of the Old Age of African Presidents

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 12:05

Zimbabwe’s Mugabe in 1979, still in power today – link

The sharp difference between the age of the recently elected President of France, Emmanuel Macron, and that of several African Presidents, 39 years for Macron as against a range 71 – 91 for several African Presidents, has rehashed discussions on the problematic of the significance of the age of African leaders in African politics. There are several angles from which this rapport can be studied including exploring the meaning of the age of these African Presidents for democracy in Africa.

Democracy in simple terms is a form of government in which power rests with the people. The people decide on the way the affairs of the State are run either directly or through representatives who are chosen through multi-party (democratic) elections to serve in the governing institutions. Democracy is an abstract concept and one must search through its principles to choose an empirically observable characteristic.

Give them a chance – link

Since democracy is people’s government, it is essentially the opposite of one-man-rule as in the case of a monarchy. One-man-rule can happen either through the concentration of powers in the hands of a single person and/or the continued rule of a single person over a relatively long period of time. One-man-rule is incompatible with the idea of democracy because democracy builds on the reality of human and social dynamism which is seen in that people and society generally would not indefinitely endorse a single individual’s ideas on governance except if construed to do so.

All the individual citizens cannot have the same ideas as to how social problems should be tackled and therefore cannot be found to believe in only one individual’s idea on the issue. The prospection and retrospection game of elections permits the population to be able to exercise this social, natural and human characteristic of change and dynamism when it comes to choosing the leadership of a State that is supposedly democratic. That people would maintain one individual as ruler over a relatively long period of time through multi-party elections is therefore inconceivable in a democratic dispensation and incompatible with the concept of democracy as should be universally accepted.

One-man-rule through successive winnings in multi-party elections can therefore only happen through a botched democratic process transforming any such democracy into a nominal democracy. Following this, and focusing on the position of the chief executive, democracy can be captured as the extent to which a country exhibits the characteristic of being able to change its chief executive through multi-party elections over a given period of time. In order to make assurance doubly sure that this happens some democracies have, besides adopting free, fair, transparent, independent and repetitive or frequent elections, adopted limitation of mandates, usually a maximum of two mandates. Most mandates are four, five or seven years.

Therefore, we can set the “given period of time” mentioned in our attempted operationalisation of democracy between 10-14 years, that is, two to three mandates. Therefore, the level of democracy in our conceptualization can be assessed by the extent to which an incumbent can be replaced through democratic elections after no more than 14 years in power, usually two or three mandates depending on the duration of the mandate.

However, what has happened on the African continent since independence in the 1960s is that several African leaders have stayed in power for longer than this period of time. These Presidents often accumulate more than three successive mandates. Africa did see the abolition of multi-party democracy in the 1960s due to the Cold War. However, the (re)adoption of democracy since the early 1990s with the collapse of the Berlin Wall did not improve matters.

Several Presidents stayed in power for several decades securing more than three mandates or lasting in power more than 14 years. The accumulation of several mandates means that several of these presidents have grown very old in power. Following our conceptualization of democracy, the age of an African President could be taken to be an indicator of the level of democracy in an African country.

Paul Biya of Cameroun – link

Presidents Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Paul Biya of Cameroun, 91 and 84 respectively, are the most emblematic examples. When one has knowledge of an African President’s advanced age it is this issue of low level of democracy that comes to mind as seen in the difficulty to have alternation in power. Some of these Presidents who have stayed in power for so long brag about how their long stay in power is due to the fact that the people have kept voting them to power. They love to smile while they lecture the media on the merits of their misplaced and perverted conception of the people’s choice in a democracy.

However, a closer look into how their clearly nominal democracies function reveals that their electoral policies are not free, fair and transparent. Most of these long-stay Presidents have manipulated the electoral process in their favor, making it practically impossible for an opponent to win the elections. They have also put in place neo-patrimonial systems of Government and have encouraged voter apathy through various strategies. This is only normal as a nominal democracy with little or no alternation in power can be expected to have several traits of a non-democracy.

Therefore, when one comes across an aged African President one can first question how long he/she has been in power and for how many mandates and why? Usually, most of these Presidents have been in power for long and for more than two or three mandates and can be found to have maintained themselves in power through corrupt practices. As such, the significance of the age of African Presidents in African politics in terms of age and democracy can be seen in that the advanced age of African Presidents is usually an indicator of a low level of democracy. This is seen in the difficulty to obtain alternation in power as the current incumbent has maintained himself and grown old in power through manipulation of various democratic process like the constitution and the electoral manipulation and also through cooptation in a neo-patrimonial system.

Lawsuit Highlights Local Effects of Pennsylvania Redistricting System

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 11:52

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A lawsuit filed Thursday argues that Pennsylvania’s 2011 congressional district map is unconstitutional

The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and other individual voters filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging how the state draws its congressional districts. The lawsuit, which was filed Thursday in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, alleges that Pennsylvania’s 2011 congressional district map is an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. The suit cites how the Easton area’s congressional district…

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Effort to Kill the Utah Caucus Voting System is Underway

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 11:46

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UPDATE Part 2 : Caucus, Delegate & Voter Tampering. New info. Evidence. YAK info.

See part one at Democracy Chronicles.

Republish Reprint UPDATE Part 2 : Caucus, Delegate & Voter Tampering. New info. Evidence. YAK info. By Ed Wallace / June 15, 2017, Publisher at Utah Standard News To begin, I AM THE AUTHOR of this article. I did not make any contribution to the previous. I did confirm the evidence and I published after doing…

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VIDEO: The Indian Child Journalists Giving a Voice to Millions

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 11:40

In the slums of Delhi, a group of impoverished Indian children are making their voices heard and their stories told; by publishing their own newspaper, which is now being read from London to the USA. An SBS Dateline report.

Print media around the world is suffering from declining readership and revenues. Journalists and editors continue to be laid off. But in Delhi, a group of kids from the city’s sprawling slums are proving how to buck the trend – making a niche publication, and doing it successfully. Balaknama has grown in circulation in over the decade and a half of its existence and, more importantly, is giving young kids like 16-year-old reporter Jyoti, a chance to tell the stories of those around them.

About Journeyman Pictures:

Journeyman Pictures is your independent source for the world’s most powerful films, exploring the burning issues of today. We represent stories from the world’s top producers, with brand new content coming in all the time. On our channel you’ll find outstanding and controversial journalism covering any global subject you can imagine wanting to know about.

Locally Made Solar Powered Voting Machines Blocked in Nigeria

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 11:29

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Euphoria had greeted the invention of a solar-powered electronic voting machine by NASENI

Despite the euphoria that greeted the invention of a solar-powered electronic voting machine by the National Agency of Science and Engineering Infrastructure, NASENI, indications have emerged that INEC is not very enthusiastic about its deployment for the 2019 general elections. INEC chairman, Prof. Yakubu Mahmood, according to sources at the meeting, which was held behind closed…

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What Will Decide Kenyan Elections? Faith, Tribe and Hard Cash

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 11:22

Religion is omnipresent in Kenya. The line between religion and politics is often thin.

After accepting his nomination as the presidential candidate of the main opposition coalition recently, Raila Odinga likened himself to Joshua, the biblical figure who led the Jews to the Promised Land. Odinga was appealing to people disaffected with the performance of the Jubilee government. But he was also appealing to the religious sensibilities of the Kenyan…

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Long-Silenced Songs of Holocaust Survivors Are Rediscovered

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 11:17

From the PBS Newshour:

When the death camps and ghettos of Europe were liberated at the end of World War II, a psychologist from Chicago visited former prisoners and recorded their interviews. Unheard for decades, a long-missing reel of songs has been rediscovered, offering a haunting document of the horrors of the Holocaust. David C. Barnett of PBS member station WVIZ reports.

Transcript:

JUDY WOODRUFF: When the death camps and ghettos of Europe were liberated at the end of World War II, a psychologist from Chicago visited former prisoners and recorded dozens of interviews.

David Boder’s recordings are among the earliest testimonies from Holocaust survivors. And long-missing reels of songs from this collection were recently discovered at the University of Akron, Ohio.

From PBS station WVIZ ideastream in Cleveland, David C. Barnett reports.

DAVID C. BARNETT: Jon Endres gingerly threads a thin silver strand of wire through a machine that will reproduce some sounds unheard for decades.

JON ENDRES, Media Specialist, University of Akron: It runs much like a reel-to-reel tape player, if you remember those.

DAVID C. BARNETT: Endres is a media specialist at the University of Akron. His colleague James Newhall spent three years building this playback machine from spare parts scrounged from electronic stores and eBay.

The goal was to play some mysterious recordings made by psychologist David Boder over 70 years ago on a wire recorder.

DAVID BAKER, Cummings Center for the History of Psychology: One of Boder’s areas of interest and an important area of his work was his work on the measurement of trauma. That was the basis of his grant in 1946 to travel to Europe to interview a group of traumatized people. And this included many survivors of the Holocaust.

A collection of Boder material was deposited here in 1967. So, it included some instruments and apparatus, documents, and it included a box of wire recordings.

MAN: One, two, three, one two, three.

DAVID BAKER: Scholars were telling us that there was a missing reel. There was a reel of songs that were sung to Boder by Holocaust survivors in a camp in France after the war.

We had a box of reels, and scholars would ask from time to time, do you know what’s on those? And we had to say, no, we don’t.

DAVID C. BARNETT: But now they do.

MAN: We are reproducing on this spool a set of songs that have been recorded 50 kilometers of Paris at a colony of displaced persons.

DAVID C. BARNETT: Baker says the recent discovery of this long-missing reel of songs in the Cummings Center archives has sparked worldwide interest.

DAVID BAKER: Two of the songs were sung by a woman named Guta Frank. Guta Frank had survived a number of the ghettos in Poland, eventually ending up in a — doing forced labor at a munitions factory.

One song they translated for us: “Our village is burning.”

In singing the song, she changed the lyric from, “Our village is burning” to “The Jewish people are burning.” In introducing the song, Guta Frank discussed the fact that the composer’s daughter would sing this song in basements in the Krakow ghetto, inspiring people to rebel against the Nazis.

DAVID C. BARNETT: For concentration camp prisoners who had no means of writing down and preserving what was happening to them, they could sing songs about it to each other and pass the stories down in an oral tradition.

Australian researcher Joseph Toltz focuses the music of the Holocaust. And, in this specialized field, he’s heard it all.

JOSEPH TOLTZ, Researcher: This was a beloved song that traveled around the entire Yiddish-speaking world, even to America and other places.

DAVID C. BARNETT: Toltz is particularly impressed with the clarity of the Akron recordings.

JOSEPH TOLTZ: This is a technology that is 60, 70 years old and completely outdated. And they have done it in such a way that has brought a completely new quality to the sound that is sort of trapped in these wire recordings.

DAVID C. BARNETT: Jon Endres was the one who made the digital transfer.

JON ENDRES: I remember hearing Krakow. And I remember recognizing some of the more German words in Yiddish, and knowing full well they were saying things along the lines of burning and dying, and it was extremely intense.

DAVID BAKER: It’s a bit like hearing the voice of a ghost. Here are voices that have been silent for 70 years. And, all of a sudden, they’re singing. And they’re singing to us.

DAVID C. BARNETT: For the PBS NewsHour, I’m David C. Barnett in Akron, Ohio.

Private Prison Lobbyists Accused of Illegal Trump Donations

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 11:09

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Of the major money spent by the private prison lobby in the 2016 election, some of it may have been illegal. A press release from Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan organization based in Washington, D.C., titled “CLC Lawsuit Demands DOJ Provide Documents Relating to Private Prison Company GEO and Trump Super PAC” had the story. The complaint alleges that “GEO Corrections Holdings Inc. broke the law by making the contribution, and Rebuilding America Now also violated the law by accepting it”.

Also according to the Campaign Legal Center they recently filed, “a letter with the FEC providing additional evidence that private prison company GEO Group illegally contributed a total of $225,000 to the Donald Trump-affiliated super PAC Rebuilding America Now, in violation of the 75-year-old ban on government contractors making political contributions”. From the press release:

Today, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed a lawsuit demanding that the Department of Justice (DOJ) turn over documents relating to the private prison company GEO Group and a super PAC that spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to influence the 2016 presidential election.

In 2016, GEO illegally contributed $225,000 to the pro-Trump super PAC Rebuilding America Now. After President Trump was elected, his DOJ reversed the prior administration’s plans to phase out private prisons.

CLC has a pending complaint before the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging that GEO’s $225,000 contribution to Rebuilding America Now violated the prohibition on government contractors making political contributions, a 75-year-old law designed to prevent pay-to-play in the contracting process.

CLC also submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the DOJ to obtain documents that may shed light on what role GEO’s contributions played in the Trump Administration’s decision to resume funneling taxpayer dollars to private prison companies. CLC was granted expedited processing for its FOIA request but has not received any records from the DOJ, leading to today’s lawsuit.

“GEO made illegal contributions to influence the election, and now DOJ is refusing to release the documents that might show whether the Administration rewarded GEO for its illegal spending,” said Adav Noti, senior director, trial litigation and strategy at CLC, a former associate general counsel for policy at the FEC. “While we continue to wait for the FEC to hold GEO accountable, GEO seems to be reaping benefits from its illegal contribution, receiving a $110 million prison contract from the very same administration that is unlawfully withholding these documents.”

“GEO’s illegal six-figure contribution paid off with nine-figure taxpayer-funded contracts, creating the appearance or reality that government is for sale,” said Brendan Fischer, director, federal and FEC reform at CLC. “This apparent pay-to-play is only the latest evidence that a campaign system bankrolled by corporations and billionaires means that policy decisions are too often guided by the interests of big donors rather than the public interest.”

Prior to filing this lawsuit, CLC sent a final letter to DOJ on May 22, 2017 requesting the agency immediately share the documents responsive to the FOIA request.

About the Campaign Legal Center:

The Campaign Legal Center, recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, is leading that charge today. Our mission is to improve our democracy and protect the fundamental right of all Americans to participate in the political process.

For nearly 15 years, we have been the leader in our vision for reform. We are home to the premier election law experts and we are the only organization in the field exclusively dedicated to working through the entire cycle of democracy reform. We conceptualize and advise on drafting of laws, we fight for enforcement of the laws once passed and we defend these laws when challenged. Through our work, we aim to ensure that every American has the right to fully participate in shaping the laws and policies that directly impact their lives.

What is Going on With North Carolina’s Voting Map?

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 20:43

North Carolina needs an independent solution to its racial gerrymandering problem. Will it get one? You’re watching an episode of “In Session,” a weekly series exploring interesting policy changes on the state level.

Read the full transcript below.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

PHOEBE GAVIN, ThinkProgress: North Carolina has been in the headlines quite a bit recently.

WRAL: North Carolina’s congressional redistricting case is in the spotlight.

WSOC-9: A major decision by the nation’s highest court.

GAVIN: The Supreme Court ruled that NC’s districts were unlawfully drawn to dilute the influence of black votes.

GOV. ROY COOPER, North Carolina: Delay only thwarts justice.

GAVIN: And Governor Roy Cooper has asked lawmakers to redraw the map. But what a lot of people don’t know is that a bill was introduced back in February that would create an INDEPENDENT commission to do just that — And the bill is going nowhere.

HB200 creates standards for redistricting that would eliminate partisan influence, in part by creating an commission that excludes anyone who holds public office and their relatives. The bill specifies a district’s ideal shape and population size, but most importantly, it explicitly forbids manipulating district lines to secure party control.

Right now NC voters are pretty even along party lines but republicans have a super majority in both the state house and senate. This bill would help North Carolina better reflect its citizenry. It’s primary sponsors are republicans and it’s received bipartisan support.

REP CHUCK MCGRADY (R-NC117): We have to serve the people of North Carolina and make sure they have full confidence in the integrity and fairness of our elections.

REP. GRIER MARTIN (D-NC34): It is so rewarding to me to be part of a bipartisan group of North Carolina legislators, who want to be part of crafting a bipartisan solution.

GAVIN: And North Carolina’s citizens agree: 59% of voters are in favor of nonpartisan redistricting. Only 15% are opposed. Despite this support, the bill has yet to make it out of committee, And that might not be an accident. The committee is chaired by Rep. David Lewis, who also chaired the 2011 committee that drew the very maps that the courts just ruled unconstitutional.

The bill has been gathering dust for 3 months, prompting North Carolinians to hold “The People’s Hearing on HB200.”

CITIZEN 1: At stake is the very heart of our democracy, the rights of citizens to have their voices heard through the ballot box.

CITIZEN 2: We have the right to vote and we have the right to be counted in the election and counted equally. It’s time for this to stop.

CITIZEN 3: Listen to your constituents.

GAVIN: And still, crickets from the committee…

But the fact is, the map need to be redrawn. When, how and by whom is still to be determined.

Authorities Tighten Restrictions on Venezuela Journalists

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 20:01

The following is a press release from Freedom House, an “independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights”:

In response to both the harassment and controls over Venezuelan and foreign reporters by Venezuelan authorities, including the brief detention of journalists from the broadcasters NTN24 and Telemundo on June 15, 2017, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“Given the government’s tight control of Venezuela’s television broadcasters, radio stations, and print and online publications, the importance of foreign correspondents in the country is all the greater if Venezuelans are to have meaningful information about political developments,” said Carlos Ponce, director of Latin American programs at Freedom House. “The detention of a reporter and two cameramen working for foreign outlets, and the demand that they erase what they had videoed during protests in the Caracas subway against President Maduro, demonstrate the government’s fear of its citizens and of independent accounts of weeks of protests. The National Telecommunications Commission has blocked broadcasts of demonstrations since at least 2014, and has ordered local cable and satellite services to block a growing list of news channels, including NTN24, CNN en Espanol, and TV Azteca.”

Venezuela is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2017, and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2017, and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2016.

Nicolás Maduro – link

If Voting Machines Were Hacked, Would Anyone Know?

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 19:52

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Voting machines across the country are connected to potential vulnerable networks leaving experts worried. From NPR by Pam Fessler, a correspondent on NPR’s National Desk:

University of Michigan computer scientist Alex Halderman says it’s just the kind of phishing campaign someone would launch if they wanted to manipulate votes. “That’s because before every election, the voting machines have to be programmed with the design of the ballots — what are the races, who are the candidates,” says Halderman.

He notes that the programming is usually done on a computer in a central election office or by an outside vendor. The ballot program is then installed on individual voting machines with a removable memory card. “So as a remote attacker, I can target an election management system, one of these ballot programming computers. If I can infect it with malicious software, I can have that malicious software spread to the individual machines on the memory cards, and then change votes on Election Day,” says Halderman.

Here is more from a post examining voting machines ProCon:

Originally developed in the 1970s, direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines have become increasingly used nationwide. After the 2000 US presidential election’s troubles with “pregnant” and “hanging” chads and the subsequent passage of the 2002 Help America Vote Act which swelled use of DREs, electronic voting technology became widely debated.

Proponents argue that electronic voting machines are secure, able to unambiguously capture the intent of a voter, capable of preventing residual votes, reliable, easy to use, calculate and report voting results faster, and are accessible to disabled, illiterate, and non-English speaking voters.

Opponents of electronic voting machines argue that DREs give too much power over public elections to their private manufacturers, are vulnerable to hacking and other forms of tampering, do not allow for meaningful audits and recounts, and do not offer voters a trustworthy way to verify their votes

Voters Sue to Overturn Partisan Pennsylvania Gerrymander

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 19:39

Image by Democracy Chronicles founder Adrian Tawfik

Pennsylvania’s redistricting abuses have been some of the most extreme in the nation and opposition is building. Ballot Access News by Richard Winger had the following post with the latest:

On June 15, some Democratic voters in Pennsylvania, plus the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, filed a lawsuit in state court, alleging that the U.S. House districts in Pennsylvania since 2011 constitute an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. The case is based on both the U.S. constitution and the Pennsylvania constitution. League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania v Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Commonwealth Court. Here is the Complaint. Thanks to Rick Hasen for the link.

Gerrymandered districts in Pennsylvania are among the most skewed in the nation to this day. The following is an excerpt from a recent article on LancasterOnline that is based on Ballot Access News research:

A new report makes the case that Pennsylvania is one of the three most blatantly gerrymandered states in the country. Outcomes in Pennsylvania, Michigan and North Carolina “consistently have the most extreme levels of partisan bias,” according to an analysis of the last three Congressional elections released this month by the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan think tank at the New York University School of Law.

Over the years, both Republicans and Democrats have used gerrymandering to tilt elections in their favor. Gerrymandering currently gives Republicans an advantage of 16 to 17 U.S. House seats, the report said. The Brennan Center used three tests to measure gerrymandering. Pennsylvania ranked as the most skewed state on two of them, and No. 4 on the third.

Some more info from Fair Districts PA, a “nonpartisan, citizen-led, statewide coalition working to create a process for redistricting that is transparent, impartial, and fair elections”:

The current process is redistricting gone wrong—a process driven by partisan politics, mapping technology, big data, and outside money. The result is gerrymandering: the practice of manipulating voting districts to benefit parties, not people. Gerrymandered districts give voters less voice and less choice, and we get polarization instead of problem-solving in Harrisburg and Washington.

Ohio Libertarian Party Wins Compensation For GOP Harassment

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 19:31

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As usual, one of the two parties is picking on the smaller Libertarian Party in Ohio but this time it cost. A new post at Ballot Access News by Richard Winger had the story:

The Ohio Libertarian Party engaged in a long court battle, in federal court, with attorneys for the Ohio Republican Party and the Governor John Kasich re-election campaign during 2014. The issue was whether the Libertarian Party’s gubernatorial candidate should appear on the Libertarian Party primary ballot and thereby gain a place on the general election ballot. The Libertarian did not prevail on the ballot access issue.

However, the attorneys for the Libertarian candidate and the Libertarian Party did receive $42,500 in attorneys’ fees, which were awarded on May 1, 2017. This is because they did prevail on the issue of whether the party should be considered a qualified party during 2014, and on the issue of the out-of-state ban for petitioners. Those parts of the case had been won in late 2013 and early 2014.

In addition, on June 12, the federal court also awarded sanctions of $1,500 to the attorneys for the Libertarian Party, against the attorneys for the Republican Party. This is because the court determined that the Republican attorneys had filed subpoenas against the Libertarian Party attorneys that were not designed for a legitimate purpose, but “to badger or intimidate” the Libertarian Party attorneys.

An article in the Miami Herald had more:

A federal judge sanctioned an Ohio law firm on Tuesday for conduct during a long-running legal fight alleging efforts by Republicans to help Gov. John Kasich’s chances in the 2014 election. In a sharply worded opinion, U.S. District Magistrate Judge Terence Kemp ordered Zeiger, Tigges & Little to pay $1,500 in connection with two subpoenas the firm served on lawyers for the Libertarian Party of Ohio in a lawsuit the party lost last year.

The money would cover Libertarians’ legal costs in fighting the subpoenas. A message was left seeking comment from the firm, which has 14 days to appeal. Kemp said he had never seen such an extreme step as subpoenas taken on an “otherwise routine” matter in his 30 years on the bench.

Also, see this story by the Lantern with the latest:

The newest member of the Ohio State Board of trustees received a slap on the wrist for his role in a controversial case involving Gov. John Kasich’s gubernatorial election in 2014. Zeiger and his firm, Zeiger, Tigges & Little, were sanctioned and fined $1,500 Tuesday for their connection and conduct when serving two subpoenas to the Libertarian party lawyers representing Charlie Earl, a 2014 Libertarian candidate. The fine will cover the legal costs associated with fighting the subpoenas.

Zeiger, who was appointed to the Board last month by Kasich, represented a defendant, Gregory Felsoci, a former Ohio Elections Chief, who was brought to court by the Ohio Libertarian Party. The $1,500 fine imposed stems from a case in which the Libertarian Party unsuccessfully brought a lawsuit to Felsoci in 2014, claiming that he was selectively enforcing election laws in an attempt to get Earl off the ballot.

Also, from 2004:

Texas Voter Registration System Targeted by Russian Hackers

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 18:59

A top Texas election official says Russian hackers attempted to access voter registration rolls in Dallas County before November’s presidential election. (June 15)

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