early voting

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National: 2016: First Presidential Election Since Voting Rights Act Gutted | Ari Berman/Rolling Stone

As a young civil rights activist, Congressman John Lewis was brutally beaten marching for the right to vote in Selma, Alabama. Lewis’s heroism spurred the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the country’s most important civil rights law. But three years ago this week, in Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court invalidated the centerpiece of the law, ruling that states with the longest histories of voting discrimination no longer needed to approve their voting changes with the federal government. “The Supreme Court stuck a dagger into the heart of the Voting Rights Act,” Lewis said after the decision. That means the 2016 election is the first presidential contest in 50 years without the full protections of the VRA — and the country is witnessing the greatest rollback of voting rights since the act was passed five decades ago. This year, 17 states have new voting restrictions in place for the first time in a presidential election cycle, including laws that make it harder to register to vote, cut back early voting and require strict forms of government-issued IDs to cast a ballot that millions of Americans don’t have. Read More


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National: The States Where Voting Laws May Affect Election Results | Governing

Changes to state voting laws — some geared toward expanding access to the polls, some intended to prevent fraud and thus making it harder to vote — have been proliferating in recent years. But how much of an impact will they have on the 2016 elections, from the presidential contest on down? While it’s still early, a review of states that have changed their election laws since the last presidential cycle suggests that the impact will be felt widely by voters but won’t necessarily affect the outcome of contests in more than a few states. All told, 17 states — most of which are solidly conservative — have tighter voting laws in place this year, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. The new laws range from strict photo ID requirements to early voting cutbacks to registration restrictions. Such laws are often decried by opponents as harmful to minorities and young voters — groups that are more likely to vote Democratic. But many of the states that have implemented such measures aren’t considered competitive in the presidential election. Nor do many of them have competitive gubernatorial elections this year. Read More

North Carolina: State Faces Tough Questions From Appeals Court on Voting Law | Wall Street Journal

A federal appeals court asked tough questions Tuesday about North Carolina’s Republican-backed law that imposed tighter rules for voting, including a photo identification requirement at the polls. The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is considering legal challenges from the Justice Department, civil rights groups and citizens who allege the North Carolina law illegally discriminated against minority voters. Allison Riggs, a lawyer for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, argued that North Carolina engaged in an unprecedented rollback of voting rights, which intentionally targeted minorities who tend to vote for Democrats. State lawmakers “knew the disparate impact of every one of these provisions,” she said. Read More

North Carolina: Appellate judges skeptical about North Carolina’s voter ID law | Associated Press

Members of a federal appeals court expressed skepticism Tuesday that North Carolina’s 2013 major rewrite to voting laws, requiring photo identification to cast in-person ballots, doesn’t discriminate against minorities. The three-judge panel met Tuesday to hear arguments over whether to overturn an April trial court ruling upholding the law. Judge Henry F. Floyd questioned the timing of the changes — done after Republicans took control of state government for the first time in a century and after the U.S. Supreme Court undid key provisions of the Voting Rights Act — and whether they weren’t done to suppress minority votes for political gain. “It looks pretty bad to me,” Floyd said. But the law’s authors said they were aiming to prevent voter fraud and increase public confidence in elections. “It was not a nefarious thing,” said Thomas A. Farr, an attorney representing the state. Read More

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Massachusetts: Towns prepare for first-ever early voting | The Boston Globe

For the first time ever, Massachusetts will hold an early-voting period ahead of the general election in November, giving residents more time to get to the polls — but worrying town clerks who must administer the new program. The early-voting law, signed in 2014 by then-Governor Deval Patrick, requires communities to let residents vote during a 10-day window immediately preceding Election Day during biennial statewide elections. This is the first year Massachusetts will try it out. Now, communities across the state must determine how to best undertake early voting — a task that is more complicated than it seems.  Read More

North Carolina: Photo ID, voting law heading to an appeals court | Associated Press

Far-reaching voting changes in North Carolina approved by Republicans three years ago and upheld by a federal judge now head to an appeals court that previously sided with those challenging the law on racial grounds. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals scheduled oral arguments Tuesday, just two months after a lower court ruled photo identification requirements to vote in person, early-voting restrictions and other changes violated neither the federal Voting Rights Act nor the Constitution. The appeals court’s decision to accelerate review of the case reinforces the stakes involved with the outcome in an election year, particularly in North Carolina. The presidential battleground state also has big races for governor and U.S. Senate on the fall ballot. “The legislative actions at issue must be analyzed in the context of the high levels of racially polarized voting in North Carolina, where many elections are sensitive to even slight shifts in voting,” lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department wrote in a brief heading into the arguments before three judges in Richmond, Virginia. Read More

Montana: Costs of Indian voting rights legal counsel released | Great Falls Tribune

Money spent by counties defending a 2012 lawsuit on Indian voting rights could have gone toward setting up satellite voting and alternative voting areas on reservations for years, Indian voting activists said. Blaine County paid $119,071 and Rosebud County paid $116,000 for outside legal counsel in the 2012 Wandering Medicine lawsuit, which was settled in 2014, a figure that could reach about $460,000 when combined with Bighorn County, which was also involved in the lawsuit, and the $100,000 paid to the plaintiffs’ attorneys, activists said. However, attorneys involved in the litigation say that is not the case. The $119,071 figure was released in a May 13 public records request to William “Snuffy” Main, a member of the Gros Ventre Tribe on the Fort Belknap Reservation, said attorney Sara Frankenstein of the South Dakota law firm of Gunderson, Palmer, Nelson & Ashmore, who represented Blaine County in the lawsuit. Read More

Editorials: GOP upends NC’s voting process | Raleigh News & Observer

North Carolina’s capital is a place where Republicans battle with Democrats, but since Republicans took full control of the General Assembly, the Supreme Court and the governor’s office, that conflict has changed. Instead of Republicans against Democrats, it’s Republicans colliding with democracy. Republican candidates and lawmakers used the district maps and election laws drawn and written by Democrats in the majority to ascend to power, but they’ve thrown out both to keep it. Political gamesmanship is to be expected, especially when a party takes full control of the state after more than a century. But what Republican lawmakers have done – and Gov. Pat McCory has abetted – goes well beyond settling scores or tilting the electoral landscape in their favor. Instead, they’ve made a hash of the state’s electoral process. They’ve gerrymandered the state’s districts to a new extreme, passed laws to suppress the vote and turned what were once nonpartisan state Supreme Court elections into expensive, highly charged partisan fights. Read More

Ohio: When It Comes to Voting-Rights Disputes, Ohio is No. 1. Why? | WKSU

Betsy Heer spent her birthday in November 2004 standing in a cold rain, waiting 10½ hours to vote. She’s runs a bed-and-breakfast in the tiny town of Gambier, Ohio. Many of the 1,300 people who joined her in line were students at Kenyon College. “So yeah, it was exhausting and it was exciting and it was frustrating and it was all those things. But it definitely was democracy in action.” And in nearly every election since, Heer has opted instead to vote early. The reason she can is an overhaul of Ohio’s early voting laws spurred by what one judge called the “disastrous” 2004 election. The changes helped make election days smooth. But they’ve also created cycle of laws and lawsuits that make courts in Ohio a big player in the national debate over voter access. “They know how to ski in Colorado, we know how to litigate elections in Ohio,” laughs Ned Foley, director of Ohio State University’s election-law program. He notes that the fights in Ohio include one that’s been dragging on for a decade. There are battles over rejected ballots and efforts to eliminate “Souls to the Polls” Sunday. Over purging voter rolls and eliminating same-day registration-and-voting. Read More

Ohio: Husted appeals 2nd ruling tossing Ohio voting laws | The Columbus Dispatch

With the vocal support of GOP legislative leaders Wednesday, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted appealed the latest of two voting rights rulings against the state, blaming them for creating “ chaos and voter confusion.” “Unfortunately, in the time span of just two weeks, the integrity of our elections has been jeopardized as two federal judges have issued decisions that directly conflict with each other and put our elections process in limbo with no clear path forward absent a clear ruling from the appellate court,” Husted said. Democrats who won both court cases say if the Republicans want someone to blame for “chaos” in Ohio’s voting laws, they should look in the mirror. “Their handiwork continues to violate the Constitution — that’s where the chaos and confusion comes from,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper. “They’re just playing games at this point.” Read More