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National: Justice Department backs challenges to voting laws in Ohio and Wisconsin | The Washington Post

The Justice Department on Wednesday supported legal challenges to voting laws in Ohio and Wisconsin as part of the Obama administration’s ongoing effort to challenge state legislation it believes unfairly affects the ability of minority voters to cast ballots. In Wisconsin, the department filed an amicus brief supporting a ruling by a federal judge that struck down a law that requires voters to show photo identification at the polls. In Ohio, Justice officials filed a “statement of interest” in a challenge by a civil rights group to a state law curtailing early voting and same-day registration. “These filings are necessary to confront the pernicious measures in Wisconsin and Ohio that would impose significant barriers to the most basic right of our democracy,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a statement. “These two states’ voting laws represent the latest, misguided attempts to fix a system that isn’t broken. These restrictive state laws threaten access to the ballot box.” Read More

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Missouri: Early voting initiative may miss Missouri ballot | Associated Press

A Missouri proposal to create one of the most expansive early voting periods in the nation appears to have fallen short of reaching the November ballot, according to an Associated Press analysis of initiative petition signatures. The AP review of signature counts conducted by Missouri’s local election authorities found that the proposed constitutional amendment on early voting lacks enough valid signatures of registered voters in all but two of the state’s eight congressional districts. To qualify for the ballot, initiatives must get signatures equal 8 percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election in at least six of the congressional districts. Missouri currently allows absentee voting only in limited circumstances when people attest that they won’t be able to vote in person on Election Day. The initiative proposed a 42-day, no-excuse-needed early voting period that would have been one of the longest in the nation and also would have allowed votes to be cast on weekends. Read More

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National: Eric Holder Takes Voting Rights Battle to Ohio, Wisconsin | Wall Street Journal

The Obama administration filed court papers Wednesday challenging Republican-backed election laws in Ohio and Wisconsin, as the legal fights over voting rights spread beyond traditional Southern borders. In Wisconsin, the Justice Department filed a brief supporting a previous federal court ruling against the state’s photo identification requirement, which was deemed unfair to minority voters. In Ohio, the Justice Department weighed in against a law limiting early voting and same day registration. Attorney General Eric Holder, in a statement, said the two states’ voting laws “represent the latest, misguided attempts to fix a system that isn’t broken,” adding that both measures “threaten access to the ballot box.” Mr. Holder had previously signaled his department would take legal action against Ohio and Wisconsin. Read More

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Ohio: Legislature’s request denied in voting case | Associated Press

A federal judge on Wednesday denied a request from the Ohio Legislature to become part of a lawsuit challenging early voting rules in the key swing state. The Republican-controlled General Assembly had sought to be among the lawsuit’s defendants, which include the state’s attorney general and elections chief. Attorneys argued that lawmakers had a right to defend the statutes they enact. But U.S. District Judge Peter Economus said the General Assembly failed to convince the court that its position differed from the current defendants. He also questioned the timing of the legislature’s request to intervene, saying it came more than two months after the lawsuit was filed in May. ”The General Assembly has offered no reason justifying this delay,” Economus wrote. Attorneys have asked the judge to reconsider, saying they have complied with the court’s schedule. Read More

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Wisconsin: Early Voting Begins in Wisconsin, With New Limits on Hours | WUWM

Early voting begins Monday in city clerks’ offices across Wisconsin. Voters who can’t make it to the polls on Election Day will be able to cast ballots during the two weeks prior to the August 12 primary. It’s the first election since Republicans who control the state legislature put limits on the process. Under the changes, in-person absentee voting can only be conducted during the two business weeks prior to an election. Voting is limited to 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, with no weekend hours allowed. Supporters say the changes create a uniform process, while opponents argued the limits pose a challenge in large cities such as Milwaukee. … [S]everal activist groups remain upset about the changes to early voting, and are weighing whether to take action. Scot Ross, Executive Director of One Wisconsin Now, believes the changes amount to a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise certain voters. Read More

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Editorials: Vote fraud myths meet voting rights reality | Clarence Page/Chicago Tribune

Before she was allowed to register and vote for the first time in Franklin County, N.C., Rosanell Eaton had to read the entire preamble to the U.S. Constitution out loud in front of three men in the county courthouse. Eaton is black. The three men testing her were white. The time was the early 1940s, when trying to vote was difficult and even dangerous for African-Americans. Contrived “literacy tests” were one of the milder obstacles that were deployed to suppress the black vote in the South. Now 93, Eaton is back in court. This summer she is lead plaintiff in one of two lawsuits brought by the North Carolina NAACP and others to prevent her state from raising a batch of new hurdles to voting in this November’s midterm elections. That lawsuit is one of two filed this month against a package of voter inconveniences signed into law by North Carolina’s Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. The new law includes cutbacks in early voting, new limits on voter registration, less poll workers’ assistance to voters and new voting requirements such as photo identification. Read More

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Texas: Democrats look to get in front of voter ID issue | Houston Chronicle

Texas Democrats are renewing their opposition to the state’s voter-identification law, rolling out a program to educate voters ahead of a decisive few months that could see the controversial statute become a top issue in the governor’s race. The law is considered one of the toughest of its kind in the country, requiring voters to show one of a few types of identification cards at the polls. Those whose actual names do not match the names on their IDs must sign an affidavit attesting to their identities. The gubernatorial campaign of state Sen. Wendy Davis, Battleground Texas and the Texas Democratic Party on Wednesday announced a “voter protection” program to tackle the issue by dispatching more than 8,000 volunteers to help with voter registration and making sure voters know what the law requires. Read More

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Editorials: Early-voting cuts in Ohio rightfully draw Justice Department ire: editorial | Cleveland Plain Dealer

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has signaled that the Justice Department will back pending Ohio litigation aimed at providing more early voting days for Ohioans and restoring Ohio’s voting “golden week.” Holder and his department are more than justified in doing so. At stake is one of the most precious of constitutional rights, the right to vote. That is a fundamental right Americans have died for, as, for example, three patriots – two white, one black – did 50 years ago in Neshoba County, Mississippi. In February, Ohio General Assembly Republicans passed, and Gov. John Kasich signed, Senate Bill 238. The bill, passed along party lines (Republicans for, Democrats against), abolished Ohio’s so-called golden week. This was the week right before Ohio’s voter registration deadline when an Ohioan simultaneously could register to vote, apply for and then cast an in-person, early-voting ballot at his or her county board of elections. Read More

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Tennessee: Complex ballot has voters stumped | Paris Post-Inteligencer

With the county into its fourth day of early voting for the Aug. 7 election, it’s become apparent to local election official Darrin Thompson that a large percentage of voters so far are very confused by the ballot. Thompson, Henry County’s administrator of elections, said Monday there seems to be general bewilderment about this particular election. Many voters apparently aren’t grasping the fact that there are really two elections in one — a general election in the county and primaries to decide state and federal offices. “The state primaries seem to be throwing them quite a bit,” Thompson said. “A lot of them don’t seem to be aware that it’s two elections happening at the same time — and that it’s only in the primaries that they have to choose a particular party in which to vote.” … It appears some of the confusion is stemming from the judicial races that are on the ballot. Thompson reminded voters Monday that those judicial races — for Circuit Court judgeships, chancellor, and district attorney general, among others — are part of the general election. Read More

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Editorials: The clear sin of contracting North Carolina’s voter participation | Gene Nichol/NewsObserver.com

North Carolina’s new voter ID law, currently being litigated in federal court in Winston-Salem, is an election lawyer’s dream. Ending same-day registration, cutting early voting from 17 days to 10, eliminating a popular high school civics program encouraging students to register before they turn 18, expanding poll “observers” and instituting the country’s toughest photo ID requirement, the statute is a cornucopia of voter restriction. Small wonder we’ve been sued by the federal government. Winston Churchill once rejected a dessert by saying: “Take away that pudding; it has no theme.” The same cannot be said of our voter ID bill. It changes election law in dozens of disparate and intersecting ways. The principal features have only this in common: Each makes it harder to vote than it was before. Such is life, here, at the leading edge of American voter suppression. Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that one of the potent challenges to the statute hasn’t been seen in our voting rights jurisprudence before. Seven college students from across the state argue that the oddly constructed identification measure violates the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. You remember it, the provision that reduced the voting age from 21 to 18 and says, interestingly, that the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged … on account of age.” Read More

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