Editorials: Holder’s Legacy | Jeffrey Toobin/The New Yorker

Two years ago, the Supreme Court decided a case that may, it now appears, save Barack Obama’s chances at reëlection—and, more importantly, preserve a precious corner of American democracy.

For many years now, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been under assault. The law requires that any changes in voting rules in certain states, mostly in the South, be “pre-cleared” by the Justice Department, to make sure that they do not impinge on the voting rights of minorities. Many people in these states and elsewhere have argued that the law is now obsolete and that its pre-clearance provisions stigmatize and demean places that have long ago reformed from their racist pasts. In the 2009 case of Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder, the Court had a chance to invalidate the law—and ducked. Instead, by a vote of 8-1, the Justices disposed of the case on procedural grounds and left the larger fight for another day. (Clarence Thomas dissented, arguing that the Voting Rights Act is indeed obsolete and unconstitutional.) The Voting Rights Act, and its pre-clearance provisions, remained intact.

The importance of the Northwest Austin case was apparent last week when the Justice Department rejected South Carolina’s new law to impose a photo-identification requirement for voters in 2012. “According to the state’s statistics, there are 81,938 minority citizens who are already registered to vote and who lack D.M.V.-issued identification,” Thomas E. Perez, the chief of the department’s civil-rights division, said in a letter to South Carolina officials. The only reason the Justice Department had the chance to rule on the South Carolina changes is because of the pre-clearance rules. (South Carolina may challenge the Justice Department decision in court, thus possibly setting up another test of the Voting Rights Act in the Supreme Court.)

Editorials: 2011, the year of the recall – Why has the recall vote suddenly become so popular? You may think it’s anger, but it’s really technology | Joshua Spivak/latimes.com

This year an enraged electorate has made its presence felt, through Occupying events and a roller-coaster Republican presidential primary process. But the most obvious sign of political activism has been the unprecedented use of recall elections. The numbers tell the tale: In 2011, at least 150 elected officials in 17 states faced recall votes.

Recalls stretched from the Arizona state Senate to the Miami-Dade mayor’s office to the school board in Grenora, N.D. Eleven state legislators faced recall — including nine in Wisconsin. Thirty mayors were subject to recall votes in 2011. At least three municipalities adopted the recall. Nineteen U.S. states allow recalls, with more — South Carolina among them — seriously considering adopting the process. It’s even grown internationally, with governments in India, Britain and Australia all considering adopting the recall in some form.

Alaska: Debate continues over election results | The Arctic Sounder

Despite the appointment of an impartial third party investigator, debate over the recent election of North Slope Borough mayor continues with lawyers dueling over the release of election information, police records and who should investigate allegations of vote-buying.

After allegedly losing his bid for the borough mayor seat by 62 votes, George Ahmaogak filed a contest of the election, citing numerous vote-count inconsistencies as well as questions of vote-buying and proper care for ballots in transit. The borough certified the election, despite the contest, but appointed attorney Dennis E. “Skip” Cook to investigate the matter for the borough as an impartial third party. But progress in the case has been stalled by borough staff holiday vacations as well as other issues.

California: Printing the elections: Mail processing’s role in the season Locals say consolidation affects campaigns, ballots | Times-Standard

If the U.S. Postal Service’s proposed mail processing center consolidation is implemented, local officials are concerned about possible repercussions on the upcoming election season. In addition to impacting the timeliness of mail-in votes, the consolidation may also raise the cost of printing and shipping ballots, according to local officials and Times Printing Co., the company that prints local election materials.

Postal Service spokesman James Wigdel said concerns surrounding the election, and others, are being discussed. ”That’s something that we would consider prior to a decision being made about the move,” he said.

At the Dec. 15 meeting regarding the consolidation of the Eureka mail processing center with one in Medford, Ore., Humboldt County Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich said the delay in processing could pose a problem for election mailings, especially mail-in ballots. Seventy-two percent of the voters in Humboldt County’s last election voted by mail. Crnich said the delay could mean ballots arriving late and not being counted.

Illinois: Voting woes not resolved in southern Illinois county | Quad City Times

It’s been more than a year since Alexander County officials learned they had more registered voters than voting-age residents, but local officials appear to have taken no steps to remedy the problem.

Francis Lee, the top election official in the state’s southernmost county, said she has received no money to conduct a purge of her voting rolls, which show more than 7,800 registered voters in a county with a population of 7,100 residents over the age of 18. “We’re having financial problems all around,” said Lee, who was appointed county clerk in November 2009.

Although Lee contends the situation has not led to any voting irregularities, the county has experienced voter fraud issues in the past. The fact that nothing is being done is troubling to some residents. “I am not at all surprised that nothing has been done to clean up the voter rolls,” said Curtis Miller, a Tamms resident who began raising red flags about the problem more than a year ago.

Indiana: What’s Next in the Charlie White Case? | WIBC Indianapolis

A Marion County Circuit Court Judge’s ruling on Secretary of State Charlie White’s eligibility to run for office is likely heading for appeal, so what happens after that?

Judge Louis Rosenberg ruled that White was ineligible to run for office because he was not legally registered to vote when he filed for candidacy. That ruling reversed an earlier unanimous decision by the Indiana Recount Commission. White’s attorney, Jonathan Sturgill, has requested a hearing which is set for next Thursday to seek a stay in Judge Rosenberg’s ruling.

Kansas: Southwest Kansas election is first test of new voter ID law | kansascity.com

A southwestern Kansas town’s election next month on the financing of a new municipal swimming pool will be the first test of a much-debated state law that requires voters to show photo identification at the polls.

The law takes effect Sunday. On Jan. 10, the 2,200 residents of Cimarron, about 175 miles west of Wichita, will decide whether to impose a 1.25 percent sales tax to help finance the new pool and cover its operating costs.

Gray County Clerk Bonnie Swartz said Tuesday that she’s not anticipating significant problems, though she expects some voters will be frustrated if they forget to bring ID. She said if turnout is strong, 40 percent of registered voters, or about 480 people, may cast ballots.

“There are going to be some who say, `You know who I am,“’ she said. “It’s harder to enforce this type of a law in a small community because everybody knows everybody.”

Tennessee: Court ruling on South Carolina voter ID law heartens repeal efforts in Tennessee | Nooga.com

Hamilton County Democrats heralded the first successful strike against state photo ID voting laws and pledged to step up efforts to repeal a similar Tennessee law, set to go into effect next month.

A federal judge last week rejected the South Carolina voter ID law, labeling it discriminatory against minorities. State Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, said the decision gave Tennesseans “much needed leverage of our efforts to repeal the law.”

In a statement released Sunday, Favors, who founded the Tennessee Voters Assistance Coalition (TVAC) following passage of the GOP-sponsored bill, said the law was spurred by the large increase of minority voters in the 2008 election.

“Preventing voter fraud was the reason cited for passing this law, but that is absolutely not a legitimate argument for it,” Favors said. “There is no evidence of any widespread fraud. The real reason for passage of this law is voter suppression. The 2008 election turned out massive numbers of minority voters and the law is an attempt to suppress that.”

Texas: Rejection of South Carolina voter ID law may put Texas’ law on shakier ground | statesman.com

The U.S. Department of Justice on Friday rejected as discriminatory a South Carolina law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. The action by the department’s civil rights division, coupled with Attorney General Eric Holder’s call 10 days earlier in Austin for more aggressive federal review of such laws, appears to increase the likelihood that the Texas version could meet a similar fate. Texas Republicans criticized the decision, calling it improper and vowing to defend Texas’ voter ID law.

The Justice Department said the South Carolina law makes it harder for members of minority groups to cast ballots, to the point that tens of thousands of them might be turned away at the polls because they lack the required photo ID. The law requires a state-issued driver’s license or ID card, a U.S. military ID or a U.S. passport.

The Texas law, which was signed by Gov. Rick Perry in May, requires voters to show a valid government-issued photo ID, such as a Texas driver’s license, Department of Public Safety identification card, state concealed handgun license, U.S. military ID or U.S. passport. Like the South Carolina law, the Texas law needs approval from the Justice Department under the 1965 federal Voting Rights Act. Such “pre-clearance” to ensure that minority political power is not harmed is required in states that failed to protect minority voting rights in the past.

Virginia: State unlikely to change law to allow Gingrich write-in | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Newt Gingrich wants Virginia legislators to change the law in time for him to mount a write-in campaign in Virginia’s March 6 presidential primary. But that appears virtually impossible, for practical as well as political reasons.

NBC 4, the network’s Washington affiliate, caught up with Gingrich on Christmas Day at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, the nation’s largest Roman Catholic Church. Gingrich’s wife, Callista, was singing in the choir.

“We’re disappointed, but it was our fault,” Gingrich, a McLean resident, said of his campaign’s failure to qualify for Virginia’s primary ballot. “And we hope to launch a write-in campaign. We’re getting an amazing number of people who … believe Virginians ought to have the right to choose and shouldn’t be restricted to two people.” When a reporter noted that state law prohibits write-in votes in Virginia primaries, Gingrich said: “There’s time for them to change it. If something’s wrong, they ought to fix it.”

Virginia: Rick Perry files federal lawsuit challenging Virginia ballot-access law | dallasnews.com

Rick Perry , a vocal advocate of states rights, has gone to federal court in a bid to overturn the Virginia state law governing access of its ballot. Perry failed to meet the requirements of the state law by submitting enough signatures for the GOP primary in Virginia. The Perry campaign announced it has filed suit challenging the constitutional validity of the Virginia statute that regulates access to the ballot by presidential candidates. Perry’s lawyers say it might be state law, but it limits the rights of voters to vote for the candidate of their choice — i.e. Rick Perry. The Texas governor won’t be on the Virginia primary ballot due to the Perry camp’s failure to get enough signatures.

Perry’s campaign appeared to recognize the problem of touting states rights on one hand while asking the federal government to overrule a states’ law on the other. In a statement, campaign manager Ray Sullivan said: “Gov. Perry greatly respects the citizens and history of the Commonwealth of Virginia and believes Virginia Republicans should have greater access to vote for one of the several candidates for President of the United States. “Virginia ballot access rules are among the most onerous and are particularly problematic in a multi-candidate election. We believe that the Virginia provisions unconstitutionally restrict the rights of candidates and voters by severely restricting access to the ballot, and we hope to have those provisions overturned or modified to provide greater ballot access to Virginia voters and the candidates seeking to earn their support.”

Iraq: Sadrists Call for New Elections | VOA News

The Iraqi political bloc led by anti-American Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has issued a call to dissolve Iraq’s parliament and hold early elections, in a move that could escalate the country’s growing sectarian crisis. The Sadrists said Monday that new elections are the only way to resolve Iraq’s deepening political problems because the current government “cannot find solutions” for the issues that “threaten to divide” the country.

Tensions are rising after Iraq’s Shi’ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered the arrest of Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi on suspicion of running a death squad. Hashemi denies the charge and fled to northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region to avoid detention. Mr. Maliki also asked parliament to fire Sunni Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq. The political crisis comes amid a wave of attacks on the capital, Baghdad, by suspected al-Qaida-linked Sunni extremists.

Yemen: Preparation of security plan for early presidential elections starts | Yemen Observer

The Reconciliation Government has approved the budget of early elections scheduled on next February 21, according to memorandum from the Finance Minister following agreement with the Supreme Elections and Referendum Committee (SERC). Meanwhile, the security committees in the governorates continued their meetings that are designated for carrying out early presidential elections on February 21, 2012, that is approved by the SERC.

The security plan includes securing escorts for the original and sub-committees at the general and local constituencies, during the stages prior to the voting process, as well as securing the voting, guarding the polling process, polling committees, boxes and documents, according to the timed program that  is approved according to the organizing forms and instructions.

The security committee for elections in Taiz has approved the elections plan and the mechanism for distributing the security tasks on the military and security units participating in the elections. The security committee in al-Mahwait has also approved the elections security plan.