Shelby County’s name is on the case, but a one-man Washington, D.C., legal defense fund with private donors is the driving force behind one of the most important constitutional challenges to the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Project on Fair Representation is the nonprofit run by Edward Blum, a one-time congressional candidate in Texas with two decades of experience in litigation over affirmative action, redistricting and voting rights. After the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009 expressed some reservations about the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act but no official ruling, Blum found in Shelby County a potential litigant to try again: a local government that had grown weary of the burdens of the Voting Rights Act and a willingness to take that complaint all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. So the Shelby County Commission agreed to let Blum’s Project on Fair Representation hire the lawyers and file the case that alleges two key parts of the landmark civil rights law are outdated and no longer necessary.
Florida: Confusion feared since ballots bear names of presidential contenders no longer in race | Palm Beach Post
Only four candidates are facing-off in Tuesday’s Republican presidential primary, but there are nine names to choose from on the ballot. Although five candidates have dropped out of the race, including Minnesota Congressman Michele Bachmann and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, their names are still on the ballot. Palm Beach County elections chief Susan Bucher said Friday she is worried the ballots may confuse voters. She wants to make sure residents don’t “waste” their vote by choosing a candidate who dropped out. “It is a statewide issue,” said Bucher, who has discussed her concerns with the Secretary of State’s office. “I am just concerned that people will waste their vote, in what appears to be a very close election.”
Indiana’s top elections official is himself facing allegations of voter fraud. Secretary of State Charlie White, a Republican, is in the unusual position of being the person entrusted to protect the integrity of the ballot box, while at the same time fighting seven felony charges involving allegations he registered to vote at his ex-wife’s house and served as a local councilman when he actually lived outside the district. Jury selection in White’s trial is set to begin this morning at the Hamilton County Superior Courthouse, in Noblesville, Ind. “We’ve always abided by the law,” White told Fox News in an interview last November. Through a spokesman, he declined another interview on the eve of the trial.
Indiana: Recount prompts vote center questions – County won’t use vote centers in this year because of privacy concerns | Palladium-Item
Vote centers might go statewide in this election year after a multi-year pilot test by Wayne and two other counties and a law change last year that allows it. Fayette County, though, is abandoning vote centers in 2012, after its first experience during the 2011 city election, an election that went to a recount. Fayette County Clerk Melinda Sudhoff said the Fayette County Election Board agreed late last week not to use vote centers for this year’s presidential elections. The idea will be revisited in 2014, she said. Vote centers eliminate precinct voting and allow voters to vote at any of several locations before or on Election Day. The system reduces the number of polling places, equipment and workers, which cuts costs. Vote centers also make voting more convenient for some voters, but when they vote early at the centers, voters are actually casting absentee ballots, according to the law.
A jury has been set in the criminal trial of Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White in Hamilton County. White is charged with seven felonies, including voter fraud and perjury, stemming from allegations that he lied about where he lived in 2010 so he could continue collecting his salary as a member of the town council in Fishers, just north of Indianapolis. Slightly fewer than 50 potential jurors were called for questioning Monday morning, RTV6’s Derrik Thomas reported.
North Dakota: Secretary of State warns against lax handling of ballot measure petitions | The Republic
North Dakota’s secretary of state says people who sign ballot measure petitions should make sure the petition carrier sees them do it. Al Jaeger says he’s heard reports of petitions being left unattended for people to sign. Jaeger says that’s against the law, and signatures on those petitions may not be counted. Jaeger says sometimes petitions are downloaded and circulated by people who may not be aware of the rules.
The speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Monday asked a federal judge to rule that the state legislative district maps in place for the past decade are unconstitutional and may not be used for any future elections. Revisions to the state’s legislative map that reflect population shifts from the 2010 census are in limbo for now after a new map was rejected by the state Supreme Court last week. A spokesman for Speaker Sam Smith said the federal lawsuit was filed to resolve the ensuing “chaos” the state court’s decision creates for candidates seeking to run in special elections to fill six House vacancies.
The majority leaders of the state House and Senate have filed bills that could open doors for more people to have a valid photo identification card for voting under a law that was approved in last year’s legislative session. One bill filed Thursday by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Colliverville, and House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, would authorize county election commissions to issue a free photo ID. The bill (SB3707) would apply to registered voters who sign an affidavit stating they currently have no ID that is valid under current law. It is similar to a measure filed by House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, and Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney of Jackson. (HB2305).
Monday, Feb. 6. That’s the deadline set by the San Antonio redistricting panel for all parties to agree on interim House, Senate and Congressional maps, or they’ll miss the deadline for the April 3 primary. But what will the minority voting rights groups want from those maps, and can they stay on the same page? There were rumors floating around all weekend that there could be a deal struck as early as today, but with all parties heading to DC to catch closing arguments in the preclearance hearing tomorrow, Jan. 31, that seems unlikely. The Mexican American Legislative Caucus told the Chronicle this morning that a deal is not imminent, even though they are all working towards some kind of agreement.
Rick Perry — the states’ rights champion who claimed in court that the state of Virginia did not have the constitutional right to adopt its restrictive election laws — has quietly dropped a challenge to Virginia’s rules for ballot petitions. The state of Virginia barred Perry from the state’s March 6 presidential primary ballot after the Texas governor failed to garner the required number of legitimate signatures on his nominating petitions. Perry filed suit to win a place on the ballot — a subject that became moot when the Texan pulled the plug on his unsuccessful White House effort on Jan. 19.