The Voting News

North Carolina: 2 New Limits on Voting in North Carolina Are Rejected by U.S. Court | New York Times

A federal appeals court on Wednesday forced North Carolina officials to restore two provisions for ballot access that had been eliminated in a law passed by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature that civil rights groups said would disproportionately harm black voters. The 2-to-1 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit restores “same-day registration,” which allows North Carolina voters to register and cast ballots in single visits to locations for early voting. The ruling also sets aside another part of the law and directs the state to count provisional ballots that are filed outside of voters’ home precincts. The elimination of same-day registration and out-of-precinct provisional voting were two of the numerous restrictive changes enacted in the law, known as H.B. 589, that was signed by Gov. Pat McCrory in August 2013. The law was one of several passed recently in Republican-controlled statehouses on the grounds that they would protect the integrity of the electoral process or save money. But many Democrats see them as blatant efforts to suppress the turnout of minorities, young voters and others. Read More

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Editorials: Voting Rights Victory in North Carolina | Ari Berman/The Nation

Last year, North Carolina passed the most sweeping voting restrictions since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Civil rights groups like the North Carolina NAACP and ACLU asked the courts for an injunction against three major parts of the law before the midterms—a reduction in early voting by a week, the elimination of same-day registration during the early voting period and a prohibition on counting ballots accidentally cast in the wrong precinct. In early August, District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder denied the injunction, saying the plaintiffs had not proven “irreparable harm.” Two of three judges on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overruled parts of Schroeder’s ruling today, reinstating same-day registration and the counting of out-of-precinct ballots for 2014. In not-so-good news for voting rights, the appeals court also upheld: “(i) the reduction of early-voting days; (ii) the expansion of allowable voter challengers; (iii) the elimination of the discretion of county boards of elections to keep the polls open an additional hour on Election Day in ‘extraordinary circumstances’; (iv) the elimination of pre-registration of sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds who will not be eighteen years old by the next general election; and (v) the soft roll-out of voter identification requirements to go into effect in 2016.” Read More

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National: Three years later, Pentagon unit still hides Internet voting test results | McClatchy

A nonprofit watchdog group is suing an obscure Defense Department unit over its failure for three years to disclose the results of testing on the security safeguards of Internet voting systems that are increasingly being used to cast absentee ballots. The Pentagon unit, the Federal Voting Assistance Program, has effectively bankrolled many states’ shift to online voting, disbursing tens of millions of dollars in grants for the purchase of equipment that includes Internet balloting options. Its actions have drawn consternation from cyber experts, who have warned for years that Internet voting is an easy target for hackers who could tamper with or even fix election results. The government’s premier technology testing agency also has refused to endorse these systems. Now, on the eve of another federal election in which at least 31 states plan to use some form of online voting, the Electronic Privacy Information Center is pressing a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit demanding disclosure of the test results so it can disseminate the information nationwide. Read More

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Florida: Study: In 2012, Florida voters waited the longest to cast ballots | McClatchy

Voters in Florida waited far longer than those in other states to cast their votes in the 2012 election, hampered by long ballots and cutbacks in early voting options, according to a new report by congressional auditors. Voters in the state stood in line more than 34 minutes on average, significantly longer than ballot-casters did in any other state reviewed by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ watchdog. The shortest waits? Alaska, at just 1.4 minutes. Three others states had wait times about 25 or more minutes: Maryland, Virginia and South Carolina. But most of the others fell somewhere between five minutes and 20 minutes, on average. In Florida, the GAO estimated, 16 percent of voters waited 61 minutes or more to cast their ballots – tops among the states surveyed. “People should not have to stand in line for hours to exercise their constitutional right to vote,” U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, said in a statement. Read More

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Kansas: Court rules Democrats do not have to put name on US Senate ballot | Kansas First News

Three judges, ruling as a panel, Wednesday ruled the Kansas Democratic Party does not have to supply a name to the Secretary of State’s office for the upcoming general election race for US Senate. The ruling came mid-afternoon Wednesday, just before a requested deadline by Secretary of State Kris Kobach who has been trying to get the state party to provide a replacement name for Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor. Taylor was the Democratic nomination in the August primary election, but then backed out of the race in early September. Following his withdrawal, Kobach said he would not remove Taylor’s name for technical reasons – a decision that ultimately found it’s way to the Kansas State Supreme Court which ruled Taylor could indeed take his name off the ballot. Read More

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National: New online tool helps troops overseas vote | Stripes

With the midterm elections approaching, voting activists have developed a new online tool to make it easier for servicemembers deployed overseas to cast their votes. The Can I Vote Absentee? widget provides information about absentee voting rules and regulations on a state-by-state basis. It also helps people register to vote and request their ballots. … Registering and acquiring ballots are critical steps in the voting process, but Pamela Smith, the president of Verified Voting, emphasized the importance of getting the ballots mailed back in time. She encouraged troops to take advantage of the Military Postal Service’s special express mail delivery service for sending ballots. The service is free and gets each ballot back to election officials within two days on average, she told reporters. “This is really helpful because it makes it a secure and private way to get your ballot back,” she said. Read More

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North Carolina: 4th Circuit Court of Appeals hands NAACP partial victory on voter ID law | Associated Press

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a federal district court’s denial of a preliminary injunction on some parts of North Carolina’s controversial new voter ID law. The higher court will delay elimination of same-day registration and prohibition on counting out-of-precinct ballots. ”The court’s order safeguards the vote for tens of thousands of North Carolinians. It means they will continue to be able to use same-day registration, just as they have during the last three federal elections,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, in a statement.

Click here to read the full opinion (.pdf) Read More

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National: As Dark Money Floods U.S. Elections, Regulators Turn a Blind Eye | Newsweek

With apologies to the cast of Cabaret, dark money makes the political world go round. Confusing rules and a regulatory void in campaign finance have unleashed a tsunami of cash from anonymous donors that is expected to have unprecedented influence over the midterm elections in November. As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission judgment in 2010, individuals—and big corporations—received a carte blanche to make unlimited anonymous financial donations to “nondisclosing” organizations, increasingly nonprofit groups whose primary mission is defined as “social welfare.” There are some guidelines: Such groups, categorized as 501(c)(4), can devote no more than half of their funds to political spending if they want to retain their nondisclosing tax-exempt status. The trouble is, who is holding them to account? Since the Internal Revenue Service got hammered for oversight activities that were at best overzealous, at worst partisan, many of these groups can essentially do whatever they want, unchallenged. Read More

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Editorials: Why early voting is about so much more than convenience | The Washington Post

This was supposed to be “Golden Week” in Ohio, a prime window one month from the midterm election when the state’s residents could both register to vote and cast their ballots at the same time. In theory, political participation doesn’t get much easier than that. Monday, however, the Supreme Court halted the start of the state’s early voting in another 5-4 order along ideological lines that civil rights advocates fear will harm minority and poor voters in particular. The decision is a win for Republican officials in Ohio who had moved to curtail the state’s early voting with a law passed in February. Civil-rights groups including the ACLU and the NAACP had sued the state to block the law, and the Supreme Court’s order on Monday sets aside a lower-court ruling in their favor. Now, as a result, voting in Ohio that was supposed to start today won’t begin until Oct. 7. And Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, reacting swiftly to the Supreme Court order, has also rolled back evening hours and a day of Sunday voting that had been required by the earlier court decision. Read More

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Editorials: How the Supreme Court will continue helping GOP game elections | Paul Waldman/The Washington Post

The Supreme Court has granted Ohio’s request to throw out a ruling by lower courts stopping the state from implementing a law on early voting passed by the Republican state legislature. Meanwhile, cases on Republican-passed voting laws in Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Texas are also working their way through the courts, and may all wind up in front of the Supreme Court in one way or another. So here’s a prediction: Republicans are going to win every single one of these cases. No matter how compelling the arguments of the opponents are, the simple fact is that there are five conservative justices who think that almost anything a state does to restrict people’s ability to vote is just fine with them. If you’re looking for the “tell” in laws like Ohio’s, you can find it on a Sunday — namely, the Sunday before the election (or sometimes every Sunday in the early voting period), which these laws almost always eliminate as a day when early voting can take place. What’s the significance of that Sunday? It’s the day when black churches conduct “Souls to the Polls” drives, organizing parishioners to head over to vote after services are over. Read More

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