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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.)

Full Article: Comment: Holder’s Legacy : The New Yorker.

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.

Full Article: Joshua Spivak: 2011, the year of the recall - latimes.com.

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.

Full Article: Debate continues over election results - The Arctic Sounder.

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.

Full Article: Printing the elections: Mail processing's role in the season Locals say consolidation affects campaigns, ballots - Times-Standard Online.

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.

Full Article: Voting woes not resolved in southern Illinois county.

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.

Full Article: What's Next in the Charlie White Case? | Indy's News Center - 93.1 WIBC Indianapolis - Live. Local. First..

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.”

Full Article: Southwest Kansas election is first test of new voter ID law - KansasCity.com.

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.

Full Article: Rejection of South Carolina voter ID law may put Texas' law on shakier ground.

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.”

Full Article: Va. unlikely to change law to allow Gingrich write-in | Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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.”

Full Article: Rick Perry files federal lawsuit challenging Virginia ballot-access law | Trail Blazers Blog | dallasnews.com.

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.

Full Article: Sadrists Call for New Elections in Iraq « VOA Breaking News.

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.

Full Article: Preparation of Yemen’s security plan for early presidential elections starts.

National: Americans Elect Makes Plans to Broker the 2012 Presidential Election | Irregular Times

Richard Winger and Mark B. identify a revealing section of the Americans Elect corporate bylaws recently posted online by the states of Nevada and Florida. The Americans Elect corporation, which aims to arrange the election of its own candidates for President and Vice President of the United States, imagines a circumstance in which Americans Elect [“AE”] wins one or more states but not enough to win the presidency for itself. What will its designated electors do then?

Elector agrees that Elector shall remain unpledged until convening of votes for the Electoral College, with the exception of the following conditions:

a. Plurality or Majority Vote for AE Ticket: If the AE ticket receives more votes nationally than any other ticket, the Elector shall solely vote in the affirmative for the AE nominees and for no other candidate;

b. Coalition Agreement: If the AE ticket receives fewer popular votes nationally than the ticket of at least one of the major political parties but no party has attained a majority of the national popular vote and the AE delegates have convened in the Convention after the general election but before the Electoral College vote and endorsed a candidate of either major political party on such terms as may be reflected in the vote of endorsement, the Elector shall vote solely for the candidates as instructed by the Delegates and for no other candidate.

Under the law, of course, presidential electors are free to support whichever candidate they please. But according to the bylaws, Americans Elect will require its electors to sign a contract agreeing to the above plan or to pay a penalty of half a million dollars:

Full Article: Americans Elect Makes Plans to Broker the 2012 Presidential Election | Irregular Times.

National: New laws in 2012: More voter ID | MJ Lee/Politico.com

Even as the feds move to block South Carolina from requiring voters to show a photo ID, a handful of other states are set to ring in 2012 with new laws mandating that voters produce picture identification cards before they are permitted to cast ballots. Beginning on Jan. 1, new laws will take effect in Kansas, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Texas requiring residents present a certified government-issued ID if they want to vote, according to a list of new 2012 laws compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Civil rights groups like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which co-authored an extensive report earlier this month detailing 25 voter restriction measures that passed in 2011 – eight of which were photo ID laws — say the measures represent a coordinated conservative effort to repress the voting rights of minority groups.

“Many surprises came out of the 2008 elections, including record turnout, registration and participation,” said Hilary Shelton, NAACP’s Washington bureau director, who called the number of voter laws that passed last year “unprecedented.”

Full Article: New laws in 2012: More voter ID - MJ Lee - POLITICO.com.

Colorado: Should military members who did not vote in 2010 receive a ballot? | State of Elections

It may sound like a simple issue, but Colorado is currently in an uproar over this issue. The City of Denver had been planning to send mail ballots to all registered voters, including inactive military voters. In response, Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler made the controversial move of filing suit against the city, arguing that Colorado law only allows localities to mail ballots to those on the active voting list. The full complaint can be found here. Because the election is mere weeks away, John Tomasic of The Colorado Independent notes that this new directive seems likely to effectively disenfranchise the effected soldiers.

Colorado law requires ballots to be sent out to all active registered voters, but it does not explicitly prohibit county clerks from being more proactive. According to The Daily Sentinel, Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner argued that counties should be able to do more if they wish. “I had made a decision early on not to include the inactive voters because it wasn’t required,” Reiner said. “But I have to agree with the Denver County clerk and recorder that the statute requirements are only a minimum, and in many areas clerks often go over and above depending on the needs of their counties.”

Full Article: CO (military voters): Should military members who did not vote in 2010 receive a ballot? : State of Elections.

Mississippi: Mississippi’s voter ID amendment faces federal scrutiny | SunHerald.com

Mississippi officials are confident the state’s new voter ID constitutional amendment will pass muster despite the Justice Department’s rejection of a similar South Carolina law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls.

“The Supreme Court has ruled that voter ID is constitutional and we believe that Mississippi’s plan for implementing voter ID will be constitutional as well,” Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, a Republican, said Saturday.

Under the federal 1965 Voting Rights Act, both states must seek clearance in advance from federal officials before making changes to election procedures because of their history of discrimination against black voters. Sixty-two percent of Mississippi voters approved the voter ID initiative Nov. 8.
Hosemann has said he hopes to have voter ID working before the 2012 presidential election.

Full Article: Mississippi’s voter ID amendment faces fed scrutiny - Legislature - SunHerald.com.

Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Voter ID Bill: The Embodiment of Discrimination or Weapon Against Voter Fraud? | State of Elections

Imagine that after months of living off of your meager savings, you can longer pay your rent and are subsequently evicted from your home. You, like an estimated 15,096 Pennsylvanians, have no permanent home. Regrettably, your homelessness could hinder your ability to vote.

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R – Butler County) introduced House Bill 934 on March 4, 2011. It passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives by a 108-88 vote and is currently before the Senate.  As it stands, the current election laws require voters to show identification the first time they vote at a new polling location. If approved, the bill will require voters to show valid photo identification every time they vote, even though they may have voted at that particular polling location in the past.

The primary justification for this “common-sense safeguard” is to prevent voter fraud. In an interview with Comcast Newsmakers, Rep. Metcalfe stated that voter fraud is still a relevant concern as demonstrated by the 2009 investigation of ACORN employees in Pittsburgh for fraud. He also discussed how thousands of fraudulent voter registrations were filed in Philadelphia in 2005 and how 1500 of those registrations were turned over to the District Attorney for further investigation.

Full Article: PA (voter id): Pennsylvania Voter ID Bill: The Embodiment of Discrimination or Weapon Against Voter Fraud? : State of Elections.

Philippines: Smartmatic’s participation in 2013 polls up to advisory council | The Philippine Star

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is leaving it to the Comelec Advisory Council (CAC) to decide if Smartmatic International Corp. can participate in the 2013 midterm polls. “If the CAC feels there are grounds to, say, recommend a different technology and they also have to come up with an explanation if they want to block out a certain bidder,” said Comelec spokesman James Jimenez.

Smartmatic is the Venezuelan company that supplied the 82,200 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines used in the May 2010 presidential election. Jimenez was reacting to the call of the poll watchdog Automated Election System Watch (AES Watch) to disqualify Smartmatic from the 2013 polls for the defects in the counting machines it supplied.

The Comelec had declared the election a success but AES and other election watchdogs cited the wrong configuration of the compact flash cards and the disabling of the built-in scanners and digital signature features of the machines.

Full Article: 'Smartmatic's participation in 2013 polls up to advisory council' - The Philippine Star » News » Headlines.

Virginia: Gingrich faces long odds to compete in Virginia presidential primary | The Washington Post

In the wake of the Virginia Republican Party’s announcement Saturday morning that Newt Gingrich had not secured the required 10,000 valid signatures to run in the state’s March 6 presidential primary, a campaign spokesman declared that Gingrich is “exploring alternative methods to compete in Virginia — stay tuned.”

On Gingrich’s Facebook page, campaign director Michael Krull noted that he had spoken on Saturday morning about the Virginia setback with Gingrich, who “stated this is not catastrophic,” Krull said. But being left off the ballot in his adopted state on Super Tuesday, when Republican contests in nine other states will be fought in addition to Virginia’s, would be both a potent political and symbolic blow to the candidate who was enjoying a lead over GOP rivals in the Dominion State, according to the Quinnipiac Poll.

With analysts and some party insiders having raised doubts about the depth and skill of Gingrich’s organization, the latest news out of Virginia is certain to exacerbate concerns about the candidate’s long-term viability. Krull was quick to remind skeptics that doom had been forecast for the campaign before, in the wake of a Gingrich staff shake-up. “Remember that it was only a few months ago that pundits and the press declared us dead after the paid consultants left . . . ,” he said. “Some again will state that this is fatal.”

Full Article: Gingrich faces long odds to compete in Virginia presidential primary - The Washington Post.