State restrictions on early voting, voter ID laws and regulations on voter registration groups have been getting a lot of attention this year because of the impact they could have on the 2012 election. But there’s at least one voting issue that advocates say deserves more focus: the disenfranchisement of former felons. Nationwide, the approximately 5.3 million Americans with felonies (and, in several states, those with misdemeanor convictions) are kept away from the polls, according to the American Civil Liberties Unions (ACLU). The organization is sponsoring the Democracy Restoration Act, a bill introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), which would create a federal standard for restoring the voting rights of felons. The ACLU doesn’t have any pipe dreams about passing the law this year, but they’re holding out hope it will have a chance with a more favorable Congress.
Field workers for President Obama’s campaign are fanning across the country this weekend in an effort to confront a barrage of new voter identification laws that strategists say threaten the campaign’s hopes for registering new voters ahead of the November election. In Wisconsin, where a new state law requires those registering voters to be deputized in each of the state’s 1,800 municipalities, the campaign has sent a team of trainers armed with instructions for complying with the new regulations. In Florida, the campaign’s voter registration aides are traveling across the state to train volunteers on a new requirement that voter registration signatures be handed into state officials within 48 hours after they are collected. And in Ohio, Mr. Obama’s staff members are beginning outreach to let voters know about new laws that discourage precinct workers from telling voters where to go if they show up at the wrong precinct.
Some Pennsylvania lawmakers are challenging a new law — a law so new it hasn’t even been fully implemented yet. The state’s new voter ID law went through a dry run in last week’s primary. Starting with November’s general election, voters will be required to show photo identification. State Rep. Dwight Evans, D-Philadelphia, intends to introduce legislation Monday to repeal the law. “We have 75 co-sponsors on this particular bill already. You need 102 votes in order for it to become law,” Evans said. “So we’re going out to the public. We’re going to be having our own form of hearings around the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to raise the consciousness of people.”
South Carolina: Deadline Monday for South Carolina to say if implementing voter ID would be possible this year | GoUpstate.com
A federal court has given the state of South Carolina until Monday to clarify whether it would be feasible to implement a statewide voter identification requirement in time for this year’s general elections. State elections officials have said that, in order to take appropriate steps to use the law for the Nov. 6 general election, the requirement that voters present government-issued photo identification at the polls must go into effect no later than Aug. 1 of this year. Now, it will be up to state Attorney General Alan Wilson to outline what steps the state would need to take to create photo voter ID cards and make sure voters know the rules in enough time for the general election. The deadlines for the state would be tight. But one of the three judges hearing the case said the speedy schedule is necessary if state officials want to be able to use the law — if approved — this year.
The arguments are far from over for a voter ID law now on the governor’s desk in Virginia. Democrats are continuing to express concern about voter suppression and are urging Gov. Bob McDonnell to veto the bill passed this past session by the Virginia General Assembly. “We’re making it harder for folks to vote, especially those who are perhaps frail or elderly or minorities,” says Senator Mark Herring, D-Loudoun. “It tends to have a disproportionate impact on them.” The bill would require voters to show identification at the polls in order for their vote to count. Otherwise, they would have to go back to the registrar at a later date to prove who they are.
The unprecedented nature of the upcoming recall primary elections has led a state board to determine that voting rules will differ from past primaries, allowing voters to vote for both Democrats and Republicans instead of receiving a single party primary ballot. Normal primaries, like the one that will occur on August 14, are considered one election, Government Accountability Board spokesperson Reid Magney said. However, he said because of the upcoming recall election, there will be six primaries, one for governor, one for lieutenant governor and four for the state senators, which are legally separate but held on the same day. Even though the elections are separate, there will only be one ballot, Magney said. Because there is also only one Republican primary election in the case of Gov. Scott Walker running against Madison citizen Arthur Kohl-Riggs, Magney said, those who wish to also participate can vote in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor and the four senators. However, voters will not be able to vote in both the Republican and the Democratic primary for governor, Magney said.
Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus, widely criticized over the conduct of elections in her county, announced Saturday she has decided not to seek re-election in November. But the embattled clerk said in a prepared statement that she would not relinquish “any authority or responsibility” for upcoming elections through the end of her term because “I am the Waukesha County constitutional officer charged with the responsibility of elections.” After problems in the election earlier this month, Nickolaus reportedly agreed under pressure from County Executive Dan Vrakas to cede election responsibilities to her deputy for the upcoming recall races. Her campaign manager said Saturday she “never ever agreed to hand over the responsibility given to her constitutionally as clerk” to administer the elections. “Kathy is still in charge,” said the manager, Dan Hunt, adding Nickolaus was unavailable for comment.
“Recall Walker” bumper stickers dotted the workers’ parking lot at the Georgia Pacific paper mill on Day Street here one recent afternoon, proof of their union’s role in the effort to oust Gov. Scott Walker from office early for his legislation limiting public employees’ bargaining rights. But among the largest donors to Mr. Walker and his cause are the plant’s owners, the billionaire industrialists Charles G. and David H. Koch, the latter of whom has said of the recall election to be held in June, “If the unions win the recall, there will be no stopping union power.” The recall vote here has been billed as a critical test of labor muscle versus corporate money. But it is only a warm-up for a confrontation that will play out during the presidential election, which both sides view as the biggest political showdown in at least 30 years between pro- and anti-union forces — a labor-management fight writ large.
Afghanistan’s election commission has drafted proposed changes to the country’s election law in a bid to prevent fraud in future parliamentary votes, an official said Sunday. Afghanistan’s 2009 presidential election and the parliamentary election held a year later were both characterised by widespread electoral fraud. “We have used the previous election experiences to prepare the new draft to improve future elections,” Independent Election Commission spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor told AFP. “In the new draft around 50 percent of the electoral law will be changed.”
Greece opened its first purpose-built detention centre for illegal migrants on Sunday in Athens, a week before a national election where illegal immigration has emerged as a key issue. About 130,000 immigrants cross the country’s porous sea and land borders every year, the vast majority via Turkey, and the authorities are forced to release those who are arrested because of a lack of permanent housing. With Greece in its fifth year of recession and worries over rising crime levels, illegal immigration has become a major issue in the run up of the May 6 election. The once-obscure far-right Golden Dawn, which wants to deport all immigrants, is among the parties that has benefitted most from the mood among voters, and is expected to win its first seats in parliament.