Virginia argues that they don’t need to send out military absentee ballots in time to vote

Last year, we covered some of the problems in the counting of military absentee ballots in Virginia, as did others. This problem has not gone away. It has just moved. The day before election day 2008, the McCain campaign filed a complaint in the Eastern District of Virginia to force Virginia to count military absentee ballots that came in after election day. McCain lost Virginia by more than enough votes, but the case went on with the Department of Justice replacing the McCain campaign.There were filings last month and will likely be a hearing this month. So what?

The Virginia State Board of Elections argued in their most recent filing that they have no legal obligation to send out military absentee ballots in a timely manner. Restated, the State of Virginia has argued in a federal court filing that they can legally send out absentee ballots to active duty soldiers the day before an election. Restated again, the Democratic Chairwoman of the Virginia State Board of Election (appointed by the Democratic National Committee Chair Tim Kaine, in his capacity as Virginia Governor) Jean Cunningham just claimed a legal basis for massively raising the barrier to voting for soldiers at war.

Really. Read on for details.

The details of the legal proceedings are at the invaluable Election Law@Moritz. Let’s start with the most recent filing on behalf of the defendant

There is no federal statute that requires States to mail absentee ballots to UOCAVA voters a minimum number of days before an election. The Complaint in Intervention is based entirely on a “determination” by the Federal Voting Assistance Program of the Department of Defense that such ballots be mailed at least 30 days before an election, and a “recommendation” that States allow 45 days for round-trip mailing of absentee ballots.

This is remarkable, and the implications of this should be understood. First of all, some counties in both Virginia and New Jersey haven’t sent out absentee ballots yet in violation of their own laws. Whether due to maliciousness or simply being overburdened and understaffed is always up for debate. If Virginia prevails, there would be a legal argument for putting the ballots of active duty military at the back of the bus, as it were.

Second, this whole debate concerns only federal elections. States have to pass laws that allow for military voting in non-federal elections. I do not believe that either state has done that. Virginia’s filing notes that many of these questions are irrelevant in many ways because of the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot, but their flier on military voting notes "Virginia allows you use the FWAB as an absentee ballot for Federal Offices only". In other words, not state and local elections. In fact, state laws have to do more to let active duty military vote in state elections.

Third, if ballots were even to be sent out in a reasonable time, a question is them getting back in time. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Rep. Dan Boren, Sen. John Cornyn, and Sen. Mark Begich have a proposal to have DoD pay for ballots to be returned by express mail, but Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi are blocking consideration in the House, even though it passed the Senate last year

In discussing last year’s issues, Marc Ambinder noted, "Democrats insist they’re biased towards access… so will they try to intervene on behalf of these voters?"

Good question.

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Virginia argues that they don’t need to send out military absentee ballots in time to vote

Last year, we covered some of the problems in the counting of military absentee ballots in Virginia, as did others. This problem has not gone away. It has just moved. The day before election day 2008, the McCain campaign filed a complaint in the Eastern District of Virginia to force Virginia to count military absentee ballots that came in after election day. McCain lost Virginia by more than enough votes, but the case went on with the Department of Justice replacing the McCain campaign.There were filings last month and will likely be a hearing this month. So what?

The Virginia State Board of Elections argued in their most recent filing that they have no legal obligation to send out military absentee ballots in a timely manner. Restated, the State of Virginia has argued in a federal court filing that they can legally send out absentee ballots to active duty soldiers the day before an election. Restated again, the Democratic Chairwoman of the Virginia State Board of Election (appointed by the Democratic National Committee Chair Tim Kaine, in his capacity as Virginia Governor) Jean Cunningham just claimed a legal basis for massively raising the barrier to voting for soldiers at war.

Really. Read on for details.

The details of the legal proceedings are at the invaluable Election Law@Moritz. Let’s start with the most recent filing on behalf of the defendant

There is no federal statute that requires States to mail absentee ballots to UOCAVA voters a minimum number of days before an election. The Complaint in Intervention is based entirely on a “determination” by the Federal Voting Assistance Program of the Department of Defense that such ballots be mailed at least 30 days before an election, and a “recommendation” that States allow 45 days for round-trip mailing of absentee ballots.

This is remarkable, and the implications of this should be understood. First of all, some counties in both Virginia and New Jersey haven’t sent out absentee ballots yet in violation of their own laws. Whether due to maliciousness or simply being overburdened and understaffed is always up for debate. If Virginia prevails, there would be a legal argument for putting the ballots of active duty military at the back of the bus, as it were.

Second, this whole debate concerns only federal elections. States have to pass laws that allow for military voting in non-federal elections. I do not believe that either state has done that. Virginia’s filing notes that many of these questions are irrelevant in many ways because of the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot, but their flier on military voting notes "Virginia allows you use the FWAB as an absentee ballot for Federal Offices only". In other words, not state and local elections. In fact, state laws have to do more to let active duty military vote in state elections.

Third, if ballots were even to be sent out in a reasonable time, a question is them getting back in time. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Rep. Dan Boren, Sen. John Cornyn, and Sen. Mark Begich have a proposal to have DoD pay for ballots to be returned by express mail, but Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi are blocking consideration in the House, even though it passed the Senate last year

In discussing last year’s issues, Marc Ambinder noted, "Democrats insist they’re biased towards access… so will they try to intervene on behalf of these voters?"

Good question.

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What the German elections teach us

 This weekend’s German election has some lessons for our political context. Der Speigel sees a new German political pattern emerging from this:

After Sunday’s election, Germany’s political landscape has been shaken up, perhaps for ever. Angela Merkel’s conservatives will be able to form a coalition government with the business-friendly FDP, but the balance of power between the two parties has fundamentally shifted. And the once-powerful Social Democrats may never recover from their defeat.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has probably saved her chancellorship — but the price that her conservatives will have to pay for it is high. The election result for the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), is lower than in 2005. Nevertheless, she can form a coalition government with the business-friendly Free Democratic Party because support for the FDP has increased in a way that until recently pollsters would scarcely have thought possible.

Just as in the European elections, we are seeing a splinter of the political scene. On the left, the far left gained, the Greens gain, the centrist-left collapsed, the center-right shrunk slightly, and the liberal party gained massively. The right (center-right + liberals) has grown, but not hugely.

Several things to take away from this in the time of an economic downturn:

First, the appeal of libertarian positions has grown. Even in Europe and Germany there has been an anti-government, anti-entitlement, pro-reform movement that is growing massively. We see this here in the tea party movement.

The response to the economic crisis has been more freedom and less government. Somehow government is getting the blame, at the ballot box, for the downturn.

Second, the center-left has lost credibility, but the numbers on the left are still large if you include the far-left. It is hard to imagine a victory of the German left without the Left Party, but it is also questionable whether this turns off swing voters between the center-right and center-left. Some on the American left will try to learn the lesson that they need to move to the left — isn’t that always the lesson? — but one wonders if, like the SPD, the Democrats would suffer from highlighting their relationship with the far-left.

All in all, we are in a situation in which right-leaning parties are sweeping elections or performing at historic highs. These things happen in response to global events. It will be interesting to see if this pattern continues into the next year. 

 

 

5
Your rating: None Average: 5 (4 votes)

What the German elections teach us

 This weekend’s German election has some lessons for our political context. Der Speigel sees a new German political pattern emerging from this:

After Sunday’s election, Germany’s political landscape has been shaken up, perhaps for ever. Angela Merkel’s conservatives will be able to form a coalition government with the business-friendly FDP, but the balance of power between the two parties has fundamentally shifted. And the once-powerful Social Democrats may never recover from their defeat.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has probably saved her chancellorship — but the price that her conservatives will have to pay for it is high. The election result for the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), is lower than in 2005. Nevertheless, she can form a coalition government with the business-friendly Free Democratic Party because support for the FDP has increased in a way that until recently pollsters would scarcely have thought possible.

Just as in the European elections, we are seeing a splinter of the political scene. On the left, the far left gained, the Greens gain, the centrist-left collapsed, the center-right shrunk slightly, and the liberal party gained massively. The right (center-right + liberals) has grown, but not hugely.

Several things to take away from this in the time of an economic downturn:

First, the appeal of libertarian positions has grown. Even in Europe and Germany there has been an anti-government, anti-entitlement, pro-reform movement that is growing massively. We see this here in the tea party movement.

The response to the economic crisis has been more freedom and less government. Somehow government is getting the blame, at the ballot box, for the downturn.

Second, the center-left has lost credibility, but the numbers on the left are still large if you include the far-left. It is hard to imagine a victory of the German left without the Left Party, but it is also questionable whether this turns off swing voters between the center-right and center-left. Some on the American left will try to learn the lesson that they need to move to the left — isn’t that always the lesson? — but one wonders if, like the SPD, the Democrats would suffer from highlighting their relationship with the far-left.

All in all, we are in a situation in which right-leaning parties are sweeping elections or performing at historic highs. These things happen in response to global events. It will be interesting to see if this pattern continues into the next year. 

 

 

5
Your rating: None Average: 5 (4 votes)

What the German elections teach us

 This weekend’s German election has some lessons for our political context. Der Speigel sees a new German political pattern emerging from this:

After Sunday’s election, Germany’s political landscape has been shaken up, perhaps for ever. Angela Merkel’s conservatives will be able to form a coalition government with the business-friendly FDP, but the balance of power between the two parties has fundamentally shifted. And the once-powerful Social Democrats may never recover from their defeat.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has probably saved her chancellorship — but the price that her conservatives will have to pay for it is high. The election result for the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), is lower than in 2005. Nevertheless, she can form a coalition government with the business-friendly Free Democratic Party because support for the FDP has increased in a way that until recently pollsters would scarcely have thought possible.

Just as in the European elections, we are seeing a splinter of the political scene. On the left, the far left gained, the Greens gain, the centrist-left collapsed, the center-right shrunk slightly, and the liberal party gained massively. The right (center-right + liberals) has grown, but not hugely.

Several things to take away from this in the time of an economic downturn:

First, the appeal of libertarian positions has grown. Even in Europe and Germany there has been an anti-government, anti-entitlement, pro-reform movement that is growing massively. We see this here in the tea party movement.

The response to the economic crisis has been more freedom and less government. Somehow government is getting the blame, at the ballot box, for the downturn.

Second, the center-left has lost credibility, but the numbers on the left are still large if you include the far-left. It is hard to imagine a victory of the German left without the Left Party, but it is also questionable whether this turns off swing voters between the center-right and center-left. Some on the American left will try to learn the lesson that they need to move to the left — isn’t that always the lesson? — but one wonders if, like the SPD, the Democrats would suffer from highlighting their relationship with the far-left.

All in all, we are in a situation in which right-leaning parties are sweeping elections or performing at historic highs. These things happen in response to global events. It will be interesting to see if this pattern continues into the next year. 

 

 

5
Your rating: None Average: 5 (4 votes)

PSA: Tell your friends in the military how to vote by absentee

(Posted on behalf of some Virginia activists who appreciate that those who serve deserve the right to vote)

For all the attention paid to the recent voting in Iraq and Afghanistan, one would think that the process for getting absentee ballots to our own service men and women should be simple and straightforward. Unfortunately, it’s a rather convoluted process and easy to miss the deadlines – especially if you’re deployed in a war zone.

For service personnel who claim residence in Virginia and New Jersey, this is a pressing issue, as the deadlines for requesting ballots for the statewide elections this November are fast approaching. A couple of organizations in Virginia, the Dominion Leadership Trust and ProjectVirginia are working to publicize how service men and women can vote in these two states’ 2009 elections.

The important first step of this process is to alert military personnel that they are eligible to vote absentee and give them the information to navigate the process for requesting a ballot. While both of these organizations are supporting Republican candidates, the information they are providing is a non-partisan step-by-step guide to navigating the process. They are simply asking everyone who knows someone in the military or a military family to email them this information – a small request to support our men and women in uniform.  You can use the links below:

Virginia: http://www.ProjectVirginia.com/military-vote

New Jersey: http://www.ProjectVirginia.com/military-vote-nj

The voting difficulties faced by deployed military personnel are not new – and cut across federal, state and local elections. As Peter Roff of US News & World Report wrote in May 2009, the PEW Center on the States found that only 26 percent of the absentee ballots requested by military personnel were ever actually counted in 2006. The widespread difficulties with military absentee voting in 2008 led Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Mark Beigich (D-AK) to sponsor a bipartisan bill, the Military Voting Protection Act and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to sponsor the bill in the House, earlier this year. While this legislation is a worthwhile effort, it is aimed at 2010 – so the rest of us need to step up just a little in 2009 and help spread the word to the troops and their families today.

 

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PSA: Tell your friends in the military how to vote by absentee

(Posted on behalf of some Virginia activists who appreciate that those who serve deserve the right to vote)

For all the attention paid to the recent voting in Iraq and Afghanistan, one would think that the process for getting absentee ballots to our own service men and women should be simple and straightforward. Unfortunately, it’s a rather convoluted process and easy to miss the deadlines – especially if you’re deployed in a war zone.

For service personnel who claim residence in Virginia and New Jersey, this is a pressing issue, as the deadlines for requesting ballots for the statewide elections this November are fast approaching. A couple of organizations in Virginia, the Dominion Leadership Trust and ProjectVirginia are working to publicize how service men and women can vote in these two states’ 2009 elections.

The important first step of this process is to alert military personnel that they are eligible to vote absentee and give them the information to navigate the process for requesting a ballot. While both of these organizations are supporting Republican candidates, the information they are providing is a non-partisan step-by-step guide to navigating the process. They are simply asking everyone who knows someone in the military or a military family to email them this information – a small request to support our men and women in uniform.  You can use the links below:

Virginia: http://www.ProjectVirginia.com/military-vote

New Jersey: http://www.ProjectVirginia.com/military-vote-nj

The voting difficulties faced by deployed military personnel are not new – and cut across federal, state and local elections. As Peter Roff of US News & World Report wrote in May 2009, the PEW Center on the States found that only 26 percent of the absentee ballots requested by military personnel were ever actually counted in 2006. The widespread difficulties with military absentee voting in 2008 led Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Mark Beigich (D-AK) to sponsor a bipartisan bill, the Military Voting Protection Act and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to sponsor the bill in the House, earlier this year. While this legislation is a worthwhile effort, it is aimed at 2010 – so the rest of us need to step up just a little in 2009 and help spread the word to the troops and their families today.

 

0
Your rating: None

PSA: Tell your friends in the military how to vote by absentee

(Posted on behalf of some Virginia activists who appreciate that those who serve deserve the right to vote)

For all the attention paid to the recent voting in Iraq and Afghanistan, one would think that the process for getting absentee ballots to our own service men and women should be simple and straightforward. Unfortunately, it’s a rather convoluted process and easy to miss the deadlines – especially if you’re deployed in a war zone.

For service personnel who claim residence in Virginia and New Jersey, this is a pressing issue, as the deadlines for requesting ballots for the statewide elections this November are fast approaching. A couple of organizations in Virginia, the Dominion Leadership Trust and ProjectVirginia are working to publicize how service men and women can vote in these two states’ 2009 elections.

The important first step of this process is to alert military personnel that they are eligible to vote absentee and give them the information to navigate the process for requesting a ballot. While both of these organizations are supporting Republican candidates, the information they are providing is a non-partisan step-by-step guide to navigating the process. They are simply asking everyone who knows someone in the military or a military family to email them this information – a small request to support our men and women in uniform.  You can use the links below:

Virginia: http://www.ProjectVirginia.com/military-vote

New Jersey: http://www.ProjectVirginia.com/military-vote-nj

The voting difficulties faced by deployed military personnel are not new – and cut across federal, state and local elections. As Peter Roff of US News & World Report wrote in May 2009, the PEW Center on the States found that only 26 percent of the absentee ballots requested by military personnel were ever actually counted in 2006. The widespread difficulties with military absentee voting in 2008 led Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Mark Beigich (D-AK) to sponsor a bipartisan bill, the Military Voting Protection Act and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to sponsor the bill in the House, earlier this year. While this legislation is a worthwhile effort, it is aimed at 2010 – so the rest of us need to step up just a little in 2009 and help spread the word to the troops and their families today.

 

0
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Boehner and Read the Bill: A sign that Congressional Republicans are starting to get it and the media isn’t

I have argued for a while that Repubicans need to pick up the mantle of transparency. It is useful tactically and strategically. On the tactical level, the guys in leadership always play "hide the ball with what they are doing". This gives Republicans a morally secure high-ground to attack whatever the Democrats do. Strategically, it gives us an issue that can both rally our base and makes good sense to independents and many Democrats.

On Friday, House Republican Leader John Boehner issued a statement on transparency. The key passage:

It’s just common sense: Americans should be allowed to read the text of major bills before Congress votes on them.  Previous Congresses, including Republican ones, failed to live up to this standard.  But never before has the failure been as blatant as it has been in the past nine months under Speaker Pelosi.   Things have to change.

There are two key parts to this. First, he grabbed the policy issue and framed it in the adult and serious way "Americans" (not "Members of Congress", which seems like only a populist argument, although some in the media have grabbed the straw man to give the Democrats aircover) should know what Congress is doing so that we can hold them accountable.

The second part is, perhaps, more important. John Boehner has now explicitly rejected the way that he ran the House, said "we have learned", and established a new line in the sand. Furthermore, one of the reforms that he advocates, in this case, a waiting period before legislation can be acted on, actually may impact many of the wasteful spending concerns that actually helped drive him out of office. 

What is so fascinating is the rejection by Senate Democrats and the silence of lefty advocacy groups other than the Sunlight Foundation. In an effort to get a public copy of the healthcare bill before a vote, John Kerry said:

"This is fundamentally a delay tactic," the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate said. "I mean, let’s be honest about it. The legislative language, everybody knows, is relatively arcane, legalistic, and most people don’t read the legislative language."

That’s right. But people who are interested do. People who are experts or people being impacted do, or they hire people to.

And this gets to the final point. Where is the press? Huffington Post is being sent around by Demcorats, because they are giving cover to Democrats. But they aren’t really press. But where is the Fourth Estate demanding that they have the information to tell the American people what the debate is about.

Crickets.

You would think that John Boehner repudiating how Republicans ran the House would be worthy of news.

Crickets.

You would think that John Kerry giving cover to the Senate acting without even having legislation (I’m not talking about reading the bill here …) would be newsworthy.

Crickets outside of Fox and the Washington Times.

4.4
Your rating: None Average: 4.4 (5 votes)

Boehner and Read the Bill: A sign that Congressional Republicans are starting to get it and the media isn’t

I have argued for a while that Repubicans need to pick up the mantle of transparency. It is useful tactically and strategically. On the tactical level, the guys in leadership always play "hide the ball with what they are doing". This gives Republicans a morally secure high-ground to attack whatever the Democrats do. Strategically, it gives us an issue that can both rally our base and makes good sense to independents and many Democrats.

On Friday, House Republican Leader John Boehner issued a statement on transparency. The key passage:

It’s just common sense: Americans should be allowed to read the text of major bills before Congress votes on them.  Previous Congresses, including Republican ones, failed to live up to this standard.  But never before has the failure been as blatant as it has been in the past nine months under Speaker Pelosi.   Things have to change.

There are two key parts to this. First, he grabbed the policy issue and framed it in the adult and serious way "Americans" (not "Members of Congress", which seems like only a populist argument, although some in the media have grabbed the straw man to give the Democrats aircover) should know what Congress is doing so that we can hold them accountable.

The second part is, perhaps, more important. John Boehner has now explicitly rejected the way that he ran the House, said "we have learned", and established a new line in the sand. Furthermore, one of the reforms that he advocates, in this case, a waiting period before legislation can be acted on, actually may impact many of the wasteful spending concerns that actually helped drive him out of office. 

What is so fascinating is the rejection by Senate Democrats and the silence of lefty advocacy groups other than the Sunlight Foundation. In an effort to get a public copy of the healthcare bill before a vote, John Kerry said:

"This is fundamentally a delay tactic," the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate said. "I mean, let’s be honest about it. The legislative language, everybody knows, is relatively arcane, legalistic, and most people don’t read the legislative language."

That’s right. But people who are interested do. People who are experts or people being impacted do, or they hire people to.

And this gets to the final point. Where is the press? Huffington Post is being sent around by Demcorats, because they are giving cover to Democrats. But they aren’t really press. But where is the Fourth Estate demanding that they have the information to tell the American people what the debate is about.

Crickets.

You would think that John Boehner repudiating how Republicans ran the House would be worthy of news.

Crickets.

You would think that John Kerry giving cover to the Senate acting without even having legislation (I’m not talking about reading the bill here …) would be newsworthy.

Crickets outside of Fox and the Washington Times.

4.4
Your rating: None Average: 4.4 (5 votes)