County Executive Dan McCoy told a federal judge Wednesday that he kept his hands off the county’s controversial 2011 redistricting process after he created the commission charged with carrying it out. ”When I put the commission together, I gave them no guidance after that,” said McCoy, who was at the time chairman of the Albany County Legislature and the county Democratic Party. His testimony, which last 35 minutes, came on day nine of the trial in a lawsuit challenging the political map. McCoy asserted he did not recall many of the details of the contentious political maneuvering that embroiled the legislature’s sharply divided Democratic majority during passage of the electoral map nearly four years ago. Democrats including McCoy split 16-14 in favor of the law creating the map, which ultimately passed 22-14 with Republican support.
For most people, Ferguson, Mo., will be remembered for one awful August afternoon, when a white police officer there shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown. But that incident was only a snapshot in the town’s long and complicated racial history — a history characterized by entrenched segregation and economic inequality, as well as by familiar and systemic obstacles that have kept black residents from holding positions of political power. Ferguson’s population is two-thirds African-American, and yet its mayor, city manager and five of its six City Council members are white. So are its police chief and all but three officers on its 53-member police force. The school board for the Ferguson-Florissant School District is much the same: More than three-quarters of the district’s 12,000 students are black, but the seven-member board includes only one African-American.
County lawmakers on Monday forcefully rejected a proposed settlement to a three-year-old voting rights lawsuit, sending the case back to federal court with an emphatic rebuke of County Executive Dan McCoy. The settlement would have ended the complex and increasingly costly case alleging racial imbalances in the county’s political map by, among other things, establishing a fifth legislative district in which minority voters are a majority. And while several of the majority Democratic lawmakers said that they support that goal, they blasted McCoy for freezing the legislature out of the settlement process and accused him of overstepping his authority in trying to dictate how the new lines would be drawn. High on the list of grievances is that the settlement would have prescribed the makeup of the county’s redistricting commission, a task legislative leaders said is clearly lawmakers’ prerogative. The vote was 34-3, with even some of the Democratic executive’s Republican allies opposing it.
National: Voters encounter faulty machines, website crashes and other sporadic Election Day problems | Associated Press
Voters around the country encountered malfunctioning machines, website crashes and delayed polling place openings, but the problems for the most part appeared sporadic rather than systemic and there was no immediate indication that they factored in the outcome of an election. Beyond routine mechanical problems, the midterm elections Tuesday also represented for some states the first major tests of new voter identification laws that opponents say disenfranchise minorities and the poor. In Texas, where the U.S. Supreme Court last month let stand a strict photo ID law, there were reports of “voter confusion about how and whether their votes would be counted,” according to Election Protection, a voter advocacy coalition. The law, which Democrats had said would prevent roughly 650,000 people from casting a ballot, meant voters had to show one of seven approved kinds of photo identification. The law has not previously been used in congressional elections or a high-profile race for governor such as the one Tuesday, won by Republican Greg Abbott.
A get-out-the-vote drive that encouraged minority voters to cast their ballots Sunday saw record-breaking turnout Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties —three of the largest and heavily Democratic counties in the state. Statewide vote totals for the two-weeks of early voting — won’t be known until number-crunchers for both parties finish analyzing data to determine whether “Souls to the Polls” brought in enough ballots to close the GOP’s 125,000 vote advantage. In Palm Beach County, Sunday’s turnout was 11,069, compared to Oct. 31 — the second-highest turnout — when 9,060 ballots were cast.
Every document Casper Pryor could think of that bore his name was folded in the back pocket of his jeans. But sitting on a curb Thursday, a can of Sprite in hand, Pryor wasn’t sure whether those papers and the hour-long bus ride he had taken to get to Holman Street would result in a crucial new piece of ID. An ID that would allow the 33-year-old Houston native to vote. Election identification certificates were designed for the 600,000 to 750,000 voters who lack any of the six officially recognized forms of photo ID needed at the polls, according to estimates developed by the Texas secretary of state and the U.S. Department of Justice. Legislators created the EICs, which are free, in part to quell criticism that enforcing the state’s much-litigated ID law amounted to a poll tax that could disenfranchise low-income and minority voters. But as of Thursday, only 371 EICs had been issued across Texas since June 2013. By comparison, Georgia issued 2,182 free voter ID cards during its first year enforcing a voter ID law in 2006, and Mississippi has issued 2,539 in the 10 months its new law has been in place. Both states accept more forms of photo identification at polls than Texas does, so fewer voters there would need to apply for election-specific IDs. In Texas, some would-be voters are hitting roadblocks.
On Monday, October 27, eight activists with Moral Monday Georgia occupied the office of Georgia GOP Secretary of State Brian Kemp, holding signs that read “Let Us Vote.” There are 800,000 unregistered African-American, Hispanic and Asian eligible voters in Georgia. This year, the New Georgia Project registered 85,000 of them. After the applications were submitted, Kemp subpoenaed the group’s records and accused them of voter registration fraud. It turned out that only 25 of the forms were fraudulent and the group was required by law to turn them in regardless. Despite the scant evidence of voter fraud, 40,000 new voter registration applications have yet to be processed in the state, according to the New Georgia Project. Civil rights groups sued Kemp and voter registration boards in five heavily populated urban counties, but on Wednesday a Fulton County judge dismissed the lawsuit. It was the latest court decision restricting voting rights this election year.
A Georgia state judge is weighing whether it’s appropriate for him to intervene in a dispute over more than 50,000 voter registration records in one of the nation’s most politically contested states. Lawyers for the NAACP and a voter registration group that recruited new minority voters allege that elections officials have misplaced or mishandled more than half of the 86,000 voter registration applications that they collected ahead of an Oct. 6 deadline. Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp and elections officials in several counties — most of them majority Democratic — say they are correctly processing all the forms. Attorneys for the groups said they feared that would-be voters, several of whom attended Friday’s hearing, would not have their ballots counted, and they asked Fulton County Superior Court Judge Christopher Brasher to compel the counties and Kemp to confirm the voters’ registration or explain any denials. “What does the law require that they haven’t done?” Brasher asked, noting that Georgia election law doesn’t set specific deadlines for county elections boards to process applications.
A bitter feud between a voter registration group and Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State has seen a lawsuit, claims of voter suppression, a politically motivated effort to hype voter fraud, and fears that large numbers of minority voters could be disenfranchised. But in the final analysis, it perhaps says just as much about less sensational but more intractable problems in the way we run elections. How the fracas gets resolved may play a key role in Georgia’s tight U.S. Senate race, which could hang on minority turnout, and might end up determining control of the chamber next year. The latest twist in the saga came Monday evening, when a local news report cast doubt on claims made by Secretary of State Brian Kemp to justify a controversial investigation he launched last month into the New Georgia Project (NGP), a voter registration group working in minority areas.
Documents obtained from Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office appear to contradict Kemp’s claim that a voter fraud probe was based on numerous complaints from counties across Georgia. For weeks, Democrats have hinted that Secretary of State Brian Kemp is trying to keep newly registered Democrats off the voters rolls. Kemp, a Republican, makes no apologies for investigating the New Georgia Project — which has focused on registering Democratic-leaning minority voters. Last week, Kemp said again that reports of potential voter fraud led to the probe.