The Voting News Daily: Overseas Vote Foundation Launches In-U.S. Voter Registration Service, Foreign donations a risk in US presidential race

National: Overseas Vote Foundation Launches In-U.S. Voter Registration Service | TechPresident The Overseas Vote Foundation is launching a new domestic voter registration and absentee ballot site in this election season that aims to make it easy for voters to fill out and access state-specific election forms. OVF announced the new initiative, the U.S. Vote Foundation, at…

Editorials: The Past is not Past – Why We Still Need Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act | Jonathan Brater/Boston Review

Today the state of South Carolina sued the Justice Department for blocking its new law requiring citizens to show government-issued photo identification to vote. This is just the latest broadside in what promises to be a protracted battle over the constitutionality of state voting laws and federal protections against discrimination. For decades, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has been a cornerstone of civil rights law. The provision requires certain jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination to get federal “preclearance” before enforcing new voting laws. Today, opponents of the law are trying to dismantle this foundation of our democracy, bringing several court challenges in recent months. They argue that, 50 years after the worst abuses of the Jim Crow era, the law should be struck down as unconstitutional, and that federal protection of minority rights in these jurisdictions is no longer needed. Do they have a point? To paraphrase William Faulkner, the past is not past.

National: Overseas Vote Foundation Launches In-U.S. Voter Registration Service | TechPresident

The Overseas Vote Foundation is launching a new domestic voter registration and absentee ballot site in this election season that aims to make it easy for voters to fill out and access state-specific election forms. OVF announced the new initiative, the U.S. Vote Foundation, at its summit at the end of January. The Overseas Vote Foundation, founded in 2005, has been dedicated to making the overseas registration process more accessible through its websites dedicated to military service members as well as the general population of Americans abroad. “We know that one of the things that election officials want the most is that voters use the forms that their state provides,” said Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, OVF’s president and CEO. “Some states use the NVRA to send the voter yet another form.”

Editorials: Foreign donations a risk in US presidential race |

Money pouring into the U.S. presidential election from new super political action committees and nonprofit campaign groups appears so far to be strictly American in origin, donated by U.S. companies, unions and millionaires. But it’s easier than ever to conceal the source of money and the identities of contributors, making conditions ripe for illegal donations from foreigners, overseas companies or governments attempting to help a favored candidate for the White House.

National: Project Seeks to Help Students Overcome Barriers to Voting | The Chronicle of Higher Education

A national advocacy organization that focuses on increasing voter registration for underrepresented groups announced on Wednesday a campaign to spur student participation in elections and to help students overcome voting barriers. The Fair Elections Legal Network kicked off its campaign, the Campus Vote Project, at George Washington University’s Law School. At the event, members of an advisory board on student voting met to talk about ways to create campuswide policies and programs that make voting more accessible for students. “Voting is a universal right,” said Victor Sánchez, president of the United States Student Association and member of the advisory board. “With help and guidance, there should be better ways to help go about increasing access to voter registration and increasing voters on campus.”

Voting Blogs: New Citizens United sequel (UPDATED) | SCOTUSblog

The lawyers who pursued the case that led to the Supreme Court’s controversial ruling in 2010 freeing corporations to spend heavily on political campaigns asked the Supreme Court on Friday to overturn a Montana Supreme Court ruling that they argued defies the Court’s decision.   The state court ruling, the new filing argued, is so flatly contradictory to the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission precedent that it should be summarily overturned.

Connecticut: Secretary of State Merrill voices call for new tech, laws to get people voting | Greenwich Post

The ability to use more technology, Election Day registration and increased outreach are what Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill called “modest first steps” to addressing the crisis of poor voter turnout numbers. In an appearance at Town Hall last Thursday, Feb. 2, Ms. Merrill discussed election issues and looked ahead to what can be done to get more people educated and motivated to vote. The Greenwich League of Women Voters invited Ms. Merrill to speak so residents could hear about the latest initiatives coming out of her office. She discussed the impacts of technology and where she sees voting trends going in years to come.

Florida: Congressional Redistricting Map Moves Toward Court | At the Races

The Republican-controlled Florida Senate passed a redistricting map today, sending Congressional lines that cement a strong Republican majority in the delegation to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk. Democrats immediately announced they had filed a lawsuit alleging that the map violates a 2010 popularly enacted state constitutional amendment that prohibits crafting Congressional lines with “the intent to favor or disfavor a political party or an incumbent.” Democrats blasted the state GOP, which also controls the state House.

Voting Blogs: Jim Bopp Goes for Broke in Montana Campaign Finance Case, and Just Might Get It | Election Law Blog

Today the James Madison Center filed this application for a stay of the Montana Supreme Court ruling upholding state law barring corporate independent spending in state elections.  As I have explained,the opinion upholds Montana’s ban on independent corporate spending on state elections, and it seems to run headlong into the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in Citizens United.  Eugene Volokh predicts the Court will hear the case and reverse, and Calvin Massey predicts a summary reversal.  (More analysis from SCOTUSBlog.)

Voting Blogs: Plaintiffs in Favors v Cuomo Lawsuit Appeal to Court to Take Over New York Redistricting

Back in November 2011, a group of New York community leaders, and persons interested in government and elections, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, asking the Court to take over redistricting of U.S. House and legislative districts, on the theory that the New York legislature had proved itself incapable of doing the job in a timely manner. That case is Favors v Cuomo, 11-cv-5632. It is before U.S. District Court Judge Dora Irizarry. On February 10, the plaintiffs wrote a letter to Judge Irizarry, pleading for quick appointment of a 3-judge court, which would be needed for the court to take over redistricting. The letter says, in part, “The March 20 start to the candidate petitioning period is less than six weeks away, yet no congressional lines have even been proposed through New York’s legislative process.

South Carolina: Bill in South Carolina House would add requirements to register voters | Aiken Standard

Advocates for the poor and minorities said Wednesday that a proposal to put new requirements on groups that register voters represents a bid to suppress voting among those most likely to vote for Democrats. But the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Alan Clemmons, contends it’s about holding third-party groups accountable for properly handling a person’s right to vote and applies to all groups spanning the political spectrum. The House measure requires any group that conducts voter registration drives to register with the state Elections Commission and turn in voters’ forms within five days of signing them up. Fines for not turning them in start at $50. Intentional violations would bring a maximum fine of $1,000. All employees and volunteers participating in voter drives must sign a statement swearing they will uphold state election laws.

Texas: Redistricting Judges to Lawyers: Get to Work | The Texas Tribune

With hearings on redistricting scheduled for next week and deadlines for April primaries pending, a panel of federal judges told lawyers Friday afternoon to redouble their efforts to reach a quick settlement on interim political maps for the state’s congressional and legislative elections. That’s not the first time they’ve told the lawyers to talk, but negotiations stalled this week when the state and some plaintiffs reached an agreement that several other plaintiffs didn’t like. In their order this afternoon, the judges said that proposal is still very much alive. They said they want to set an April primary. And they want negotiations to resume “with all due effort” before the hearings that begin next Tuesday.

Virginia: Newman amendment would ease voting ID requirements for Virginia students | The News & Advance

The politically charged voter identification bill passed by the state Senate this week was amended on the floor at the request of Sen. Steve Newman to make it easier for students at private colleges to vote. Newman, R-Lynchburg, asked for the list of approved voter identification to be expanded to include any valid student ID issued by a four-year college, public or private, in Virginia. Current state law only allows election officials to accept public university IDs, because state institutions issue them. Private university IDs did not make the grade. Under SB1, voters who do not present valid ID at the polls will be required to cast a provisional ballot and submit proper identification later to ensure their vote is counted. This has ignited a contentious debate in Richmond, with Democrats arguing it will suppress the vote of minorities, the elderly and poor.

Bermuda: MPs to discuss fixed term elections and ethical governance | Bermuda Politics

Fixed term elections, an independent electoral commission and ethical governance are among a raft of items due to be discussed today in a take note motion led by United Bermuda Party MP Kim Swan. They feature in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s recommended benchmarks for democratic legislatures in the Caribbean, Americas and Atlantic Region developed last summer. The take note motion will kick off debate on the benchmarks, which were tabled in the form of a brochure last week.

Czech Republic: Czech President to Be Elected in Public Vote | ABC News

Czech citizens will be able to choose their future presidents after a constitutional change approved Wednesday by Parliament that took the decision on who occupies the largely ceremonial post out of lawmakers’ hands. The Senate, which is controlled by the opposition Social Democrats, voted 49-22 on Wednesday in favor of the change. Parliament’s lower house gave its green light in December. Both the country’s presidents since the 1989 Velvet Revolution — the late Vaclav Havel and his political archrival Vaclav Klaus — were elected by Parliament. But bickering among lawmakers during those votes led to calls for the change.

South Africa: Motlanthe calls for a political solution to the ANCYL problem | Mail & Guardian Online

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe has called for a political solution to the ANC Youth League leadership’s disciplinary woes. Speaking at the league’s lekgotla, being held in Centurion this weekend, Motlanthe said “There is no need that at any given point the relations between the ANC Youth League and the mother body should be fractured.” Youth league president Julius Malema and his deputies are still engaged in a disciplinary hearing with the ANC. They were found guilty of sowing divisions within the mother body and bringing the party into disrepute. Malema received a five-year suspension from the party’s National Disciplinary Committee but has been given leave to argue in mitigation of his sentence.

Zimbabwe: Outrage over Zimbabwe’s 1st draft constitution | News24

Zimbabwe’s first draft constitution has sparked outrage with legal experts equating it to an orchestrated attack on the country’s moral, cultural and revolutionary pillars, Herald online reported on Friday. Principal drafters of the new constitution have produced the much-awaited first draft of the country’s new charter that is now being reviewed by the Constitution Select Committee (Copac). According to the report legal experts queried how the drafters could come up with a whole draft in the absence of an officially publicised National Report. The experts are said to have described the draft as an “organically-flawed” regime change document that does not reflect the views of the people.