Voting Reform and Fair Political Practices Act

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Voting Reform and Fair Political Practices Act
Citation Proposed A-32
Considered by Open Parliament
Legislative history
Introduced on 8 February 2018
Introduced by Anaaxes
Required majority Simple majority
Status: Pending

This Act codifies years of election precedent and tradition to ensure the fair, accurate, and impartial administration of all elections and legislative votes in the Social Liberal Union, including nominations, ballot specifications, voting locations, tabulation, and resolution of voting controversies. This Act also ensures basic standards for political campaigning are upheld, and additionally provides for a voluntary Code of Fair Campaign Practices.

Contents

Article 1. General Provisions[edit]

Section 1. Types of Elections[edit]

For the purposes of this Act, there are three types of elections related to public offices, as follows:

Clause 1. Regular elections, which are held pursuant Article 2, Section 1 of this Act to execute various provisions of the Constitution.
Clause 2. Approval elections, which begin as regular elections, but are modified pursuant to Article 8, Section 7 of the Constitution.
Clause 3. Recall elections, which are held pursuant to Article 2, Section 10, Clause 2 of the Constitution.

Section 2. Provisions Severable[edit]

The provisions of this Act are severable. If any provision of this Act or the application thereof to any State or circumstance is held invalid, such invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications of this Act which can be given effect without the invalid provision or application.

Section 3. Repeal of Another Act and Effect[edit]

A-16: Elections and Voting Act is repealed in its entirety. This Act shall not affect any election or vote commenced before its enactment.

Article 2. Nominations[edit]

Section 1. Nomination Period[edit]

The nomination period for all elective public offices under the law of the Social Liberal Union in a regular election shall commence no earlier than 20 days and no later than 14 days before the expiration of the current term for that office, or, no later than 5 days following a vacancy in that office. Nomination periods, in general, shall last for at least 7 days, and may be extended if required by the Constitution or this Act.

Section 2. Informational and Nominations Thread[edit]

For each election, the Election Administrator shall create one thread on the regional forum accessible to all eligible Member States, containing general information about the election, qualified nominees, and qualified candidates.

Section 3. Manner and Validity of Nominations[edit]

All lawful and eligible nominations for that office shall be considered valid if they are posted as replies to the corresponding thread pursuant to Section 2 of this Article. The validity of nominations made on the Regional Message Board or via telegram are at the discretion of the Election Administrator. A Member State shall not be considered a legally qualified candidate for an office under the law of the Social Liberal Union unless that Member State has lawfully nominated themself, or, has publicly and affirmatively accepted the lawful nomination of another Member State.

Section 4. Applicability of Qualifications[edit]

No Member State is eligible to be elected or nominated to an elective office unless that Member State will satisfy the length of membership status qualifications for that office, if applicable, at or before the time of the conclusion of that election's voting period.

Section 5. Notice of Nomination Period[edit]

The Election Administrator or their designee shall ensure notice of the commencement or extension of the nomination period is provided to Member States on the Regional Message Board or via a mass-telegram mailing, at a minimum, within 24 hours of such an occurrence.

Article 3. Elections[edit]

Section 1. Voting Period[edit]

The voting period for all elective public offices under the law of the Social Liberal Union in a regular or approval election shall commence no later than 2 days following the conclusion of the nomination period of the same election, and shall last 7 days. The voting period for recall elections shall last between 3 and 7 days, as ordered by the Court of Justice, subject to applicable sentencing law.

Section 2. Authorized Voting Locations[edit]

An election may only be held on the regional forum, or, a secure website authorized by law or inspected and approved for use by the Speaker of the Union, which utilizes API authentication.

Section 3. Notice of Voting Period[edit]

The Election Administrator or their designee shall ensure notice of the commencement of the voting period is provided to Member States on the Regional Message Board or via a mass-telegram mailing, at a minimum, within 24 hours of such an occurrence.

Section 4. Manner of Voting[edit]

All elections held under the law of the Social Liberal Union shall be by secret ballot, subject to the requirements of the Constitution and this Act. The Election Administrator shall receive all ballots for a regular election via forum private message or via a secure form on a website permitted by Section 2 of this Article. The Election Administrator may receive all ballots for approval and recall elections as responses to a forum poll, only accessible to eligible Member States, or any other method permitted by this Section.

Article 4. Ballots[edit]

Section 1. Consolidation[edit]

If the alignment of their timing permits, two or more elections that would otherwise be held concurrently, shall be consolidated into a single ballot, to the extent possible. The order of precedence of offices on the ballot shall be as listed below for those offices:

Clause 1. World Assembly Delegate
Clause 2. Speaker of the Union
Clause 3. Chancellor
Clause 4. Minister of Immigration
Clause 5. Minister of Domestic Affairs
Clause 6. Minister of Foreign Affairs
Clause 7. Other offices in alphabetical order by the constitutional or statutory title of the office

Section 2. General Form[edit]

The Election Administrator and designee(s) shall prepare the ballots or ballot templates in accordance with the Constitution and this Article. All ballots in an election shall be in a legible font, text size, and color. The font, text size, color, and spacing of all ballot options in an election shall be uniform. Across the top of the ballot, in capital type, shall read: “OFFICIAL BALLOT.” Below this shall read the name of the election, or, if two or more ballots are consolidated, the name of the each election shall appear before each respective grouping of options.

Section 3. Regular Elections[edit]

For regular election ballots, Member States shall rank as many of the candidates, from one to the number of candidates, or abstain.

Clause 1. The instructions shall read: "INSTRUCTIONS TO VOTERS: Rank as many of the following candidates as you wish to see elected, from most to least preferable (1 to no more than [number of candidates])."
Clause 2. The options shall be the candidates in random order, as certified by the Election Administrator under penalty of perjury, followed by "Abstain."

Section 4. Approval Elections[edit]

For approval election ballots, Member States shall choose whether to approve the candidate, reject the candidate, or abstain.

Clause 1. The instructions shall read: "INSTRUCTIONS TO VOTERS: Choose one of the following options."
Clause 2. The options shall be: "Approve [name of candidate]," "Reject [name of candidate]," and "Abstain."

Section 5. Recall Elections[edit]

For recall election ballots, Member States shall choose whether to dismiss the officer in question, retain the officer in question, or abstain.

Clause 1. The instructions shall read: "INSTRUCTIONS TO VOTERS: Choose one of the following options."
Clause 2. The options shall be: "Retain [name of officer]," "Dismiss [name of officer]," and "Abstain."

Article 5. Counting of Ballots and Announcement[edit]

Section 1. Retention of Ballots[edit]

All received ballots shall be preserved for at least 14 days following the announcement of the results of an election under Section 4 of this Article, or, for longer upon judicial order or as directed by the Speaker of the Union.

Section 2. Canvass of the Vote Generally[edit]

The ballots cast in an election shall be examined and tallied by the Election Administrator, according to law, once the voting period concludes. Thereafter, they shall present their preliminary results and the returns from the election to at least one other Member State, not appearing on the ballot of that election, of their choice, for verification or rejection, as the case may be.

Section 3. Counting of Regular Elections[edit]

Section 4. Counting of Approval Elections[edit]

In an approval election, if the candidate receives more "Approve [name of candidate]" votes than "Reject [name of candidate]," they shall be considered elected. If they do not, the candidate shall not be considered elected, but shall still be eligible for re-nomination.

Section 5. Counting of Recall Elections[edit]

In a recall election, if the officer in question receives more "Dismiss [name of officer]" votes than "Retain [name of officer]," they shall be immediately removed from office. If they do not, the candidate shall continue in their office according to law.

Section 6. Announcement and Certification of Results[edit]

The statement of the result shall be made public no later than 2 days following the end of the voting period, and shall contain the following:

Clause 1. The total number of valid ballots cast
Clause 2. The votes received for each option, and the level of preference for each, if applicable
Clause 3. The number of invalid votes cast and a general reason for each invalidated vote
Clause 4. The name of the Election Administrator and the Member State which verifies the tally, with a certificate of election or vote, as applicable, subscribed by both States under penalty of perjury, to the best of their knowledge

Section 7. Voter Guarantee and Extension of Deadlines[edit]

Every Member States which casts a valid vote in an election or legislative vote in the Social Liberal Union shall have that vote counted. If a post-election deadline imposed by this Act prevents the proper tabulation or recounting of ballots, the Election Administrator or Speaker of the Union may petition the Court of Justice for an extension sufficient to permit the tabulation or recounting of ballots. The Court may grant the petition if it finds that the time limitation would prevent the counting of all votes as required by this Section or Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution.

Article 6. Controversies and Challenges[edit]

Section 1. Administrative Resolution[edit]

The returns from any election or legislative vote must be contested with the Election Administrator no later than 4 days after the announcement of the final results of the count.

Clause 1. The Election Administrator shall hear and may investigate any challenges resulting from the election or legislative vote they administered, and they shall notify the Member State which lodged the challenge, of their decision to either uphold or modify the results thereof, no later than 3 days after receiving notice of the challenge.
Clause 2. If the results are modified in any way from the final results previously announced, the Election Administrator or designee shall make a public announcement to that effect.
Clause 3. For the purposes of this Act, the Speaker of the Union (or their designee) shall be the Election Administrator for all legislative votes.
Clause 4. If an Election Administrator in any election ceases to exist, becomes incapacitated, ceases to be a Member State, or refuses to accept their office, a new one shall be appointed in the manner prescribed by Article 8, Section 3, Clause 2 of the Constitution.

Section 2. Judicial Resolution[edit]

The Court of Justice may only hear civil cases contesting the results of an election or legislative vote once the party has exhausted the administrative remedy option prescribed in Section 1 of this Article, or, is a party with sufficient standing which wishes to challenge an administrative decision already rendered, and if said case is commenced no later than 3 days after the administrative decision is rendered.

Clause 1. The Court may rule conclusively on a challenged election or legislative vote following a civil trial which shall last no longer than 5 days, or, no longer than 10 days with the consent of all candidates.
Clause 2. In the event of substantial fraud or unlawful error in an election, proven to the Court beyond a reasonable doubt, and at the request of at least one candidate in that election, the Court may order as a remedy that a new election be held according to law and with a new Election Administrator.
Clause 3. Provided, the Court may hear civil cases contesting the results of an election or legislative vote after the 3 day period, but no later than 14 days, after the administrative decision is rendered if the party bringing the action can demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence, and with leave of the Court, that substantial fraud or error likely occurred, or that the Election Administrator flagrantly acted contrary to law.
Clause 4. Further provided, no judicial officer shall preside over a case regarding a challenged election in which they are a candidate, or are an author of a bill in a challenged legislative vote.

Section 3. Subpoenas[edit]

If the returns from any election or legislative vote are incomplete, ambiguous, not properly authenticated, or otherwise defective, as part of a filed or anticipated civil case and at the request of the Speaker of the Union, a candidate in the election, an author of the bill voted on, or other State with reasonable standing, the Court of Justice may issue and serve subpoenas requiring the Election Administrator and other involved States to be examined under penalty of perjury concerning the manner in which votes were counted or the result of the count. This Section shall apply regardless of method of tabulation.

Article 7. Legislative Votes[edit]

Section 1. Legislative Votes Defined[edit]

For the purposes of this Act, a "legislative vote" refers to voting on the following types of legislation:

Clause 1. Acts of Parliament ("Acts")
Clause 2. Amendments to Acts of Parliament ("Act Amendments")
Clause 3. Resolutions of Parliament ("Resolutions")
Clause 4. Amendments to Resolutions of Parliament ("Resolution Amendments")
Clause 5. Constitutional Amendments

Section 2. Voting Location[edit]

All legislative votes shall take place on the regional forum. Provided, voting for Constitutional Amendments may alternatively utilize a secure website as permitted by Article 3, Section 2 of this Act, under the supervision of the Speaker of the Union. Further provided, in the event of malfunction of the regional forum or extraordinary popular demand by Member States, the Speaker of the Union may petition the Court of Justice for authorization to hold a legislative vote for any type of legislation on a secure website as permitted by Article 3, Section 2 of this Act.

Section 3. Bill Debate Thread and Manner of Voting[edit]

For legislative votes, the author shall create a thread on the regional forum, accessible to all eligible Member States, for the bill to be subject to public scrutiny and comment. Once the bill's mandatory public debate period (if imposed by the Constitution) has lapsed, the author thereof may create a poll on that thread, or, provide a link to a secure voting website, if permitted Section 2 of this Article, under the supervision of the Speaker of the Union. The author of a bill may withdraw their bill from consideration at any time before it is passed.

Section 4. General Form of Ballot[edit]

For all types of legislative votes, except Constitutional Amendments, the question for the poll shall read: "Shall this bill be enacted into law?" For voting on Constitutional Amendments, the question for the poll shall read: "Shall this proposed amendment to the Constitution be passed?"

Section 5. Restrictions on Deceptive Legislative Tactics[edit]

The Speaker of the Union or other Election Administrator for a legislative vote may not remove a bill at vote or a prevent a bill from being voted on, except to enforce the requirements of the Constitution and other applicable law, subject to judicial review. The author of a bill or designee may correct typos in a bill, upon notifying the Speaker, at any time before it is passed, subject to judicial review. For the purposes of this Section, typos are defined as accidental errors in grammar, spelling, and formatting. Provided, no typo correction shall be permitted to materially or fraudulently change the intentions or effect of a bill, under penalty of prosecution for a Class 1 offence.

Section 6. Special Requirements for Certain Subject Matters[edit]

No bill which has special sponsorship, voting period, or majority requirements imposed by the Constitution shall be considered passed or have any effect unless all applicable constitutional special requirements are satisfied. The Speaker of the Union, the Speaker pro tempore, and the Attorney General, during their continuance in office, shall be deemed to have sufficient standing to commence civil actions to ensure those special constitutional requirements are upheld.

Article 8. Campaigning and Fair Practices[edit]

Section 1. Code of Fair Campaign Practices[edit]

The text of the Code of Fair Campaign Practices (referred to in this Act as the "Code") shall read as follows:

"CODE OF FAIR CAMPAIGN PRACTICES:

There are basic principles of decency, honesty, and fair play which every candidate for public office in the Social Liberal Union has a moral obligation to observe and uphold in order that, after vigorously contested but fairly conducted campaigns, our Member States may exercise their constitutional right to a free and unfettered choice and the will of the citizenry may be fully and clearly expressed on the issues.

THEREFORE:

(1) I SHALL CONDUCT my campaign openly and publicly, discussing the issues as I see them, presenting my record and policies with sincerity and frankness, and criticizing without fear or favor the record and policies of my opponents that merit this criticism.
(2) I SHALL NOT USE OR PERMIT the use of character defamation, whispering campaigns, libel, slander, or scurrilous attacks on any candidate.
(3) I SHALL NOT USE OR PERMIT any appeal to negative prejudice based on a candidate’s actual or perceived race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, marital status, sexual orientation, sex, or gender identity.
(4) I SHALL NOT USE OR PERMIT any dishonest or unethical practice that tends to corrupt or undermine our system of free elections, or that hampers or prevents the full and free expression of the will of the voters including acts intended to hinder or prevent any eligible Member State voting.
(5) I SHALL IMMEDIATELY AND PUBLICLY REPUDIATE support deriving from any State or group that resorts, on behalf of my candidacy or in opposition to that of my opponent, to the methods and tactics that I condemn. I shall accept responsibility to take firm action against any subordinate who violates any provision of this code or the laws governing elections.
(6) I SHALL DEFEND AND UPHOLD the right of every qualified Social Liberal Union voter to full and equal participation in the electoral process."

Section 2. Pledge to Honor the Code[edit]

At any time before the end of the nomination period, a qualified candidate in an election for any public office may, separately or as part of their self-nomination or acceptance of nomination, declare their intent to follow the Code by posting a statement on the informational thread for that election, in substantially the following form: "I hereby voluntarily endorse and pledge myself to conduct my campaign in accordance with the Code of Fair Campaign Practices."

Section 3. Effect of Pledge and Voluntariness[edit]

The Election Administrator shall indicate on the informational forum thread for that election, but not on the ballot, which candidates have pledged to honor the Code in a timely manner, and shall provide a copy or link to the Code. Provided, in no event shall a candidate for public office be required by law or the Election Administrator to subscribe to or endorse the Code as requirement for running for, appearing on the ballot for, or holding office.

Section 4. Libelous Publications and Removal[edit]

Libel is a false publication by writing, picture, or other visual representation, which exposes any Member State to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or abuse, or which causes them to be shunned or avoided, or which has a tendency to injure them in their occupation, office, profession, or reputation. Injunctive relief to remove libelous material may only be granted if the aggrieved party can proved they actually suffered damages as a result of the alleged libel, and no other reasonable cause.

Section 5. Political Communications Defined[edit]

For the purposes of this Act, a "political communication" includes the following with respect to candidate-based elections, and, to legislative votes as much as possible, with "candidate" being substituted with "bill" and "election" being substituted with "passage":

Clause 1. Communications that contain express advocacy of the nomination or election of a candidate or the defeat of their opponent.
Clause 2. Communications that contain reference to a candidate’s candidacy for elective office, the candidate’s election campaign, or the candidate’s or their opponent’s qualifications for elective office.
Clause 3. Solicitation of political endorsements to the candidate or to third parties for use in support of the candidate or in opposition to their opponent.
Clause 4. Arranging, coordinating, developing, writing, distributing, preparing, or planning of any communication or activity described in Clauses 1 to 3, inclusive.
Clause 5. Recruiting or coordinating campaign activities of campaign volunteers on behalf of the candidate.
Clause 6. Communications directed to voters or potential voters as part of activities encouraging or assisting States to vote if the communication contains express advocacy of the nomination or election of the candidate or the defeat of their opponent.

Section 6. Restrictions on Political Communications[edit]

Repeated and willful violations of the following restrictions on political communications may result in prosecution by the Attorney General for a Class 1 offence and civil action in the form of injunctive relief by the Court of Justice, upon petition and showing of cause:

Clause 1. No State with communications authority may ever use their power to send a mass-telegram mailing containing a political communication.
Clause 2. No State may post on the Regional Message Board more than two political communications per 24 hours, under penalty of suppression by any officer with proper authority.
Clause 3. No State may send a mass-telegram mailing more than once every 60 days, but shall receive the permission of the Speaker of the Union at least 24 hours in advance of doing so, to prevent more than one non-official mass-telegram mailing from being sent out to the region more than once every 24 hours by any State. Provided, this Clause shall not apply to official government mass-telegram mailings.

Section 7. Impartiality of Election Administrators[edit]

During their service as Election Administrator, a State shall not send or post any political communications, or any other public prejudicial statements regarding the election or any candidates in the election they are administering.

Section 8. Impartiality of Official Election Publications[edit]

All informational forum threads for an election and other official election publications and communications shall be in language that is neither argumentative nor likely to create prejudice for or against any candidate or option in an election.