Voting Blogs: National Voter Registration Act vs. Voter ID and Other Voter Access Challenges | Concurring Opinions

In the ongoing battle to improve access to elections and expand the electorate, civil rights groups have often used the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (and its amendments) as the preeminent weapon.  The most transformative legislation to come out of the civil rights movement, the VRA changed the complexion of this country’s elected bodies and increased access to political power for minorities through muscular remedies.  However, it is the NVRA (National Voter Registration Act), the VRA’s lesser known, younger cousin of sorts, that has been stealing headlines this week Sandwiched between the VRA and the more recent Help American Vote Act (HAVA)d passed in 2002, the 1993 NVRA is sometimes overlooked as a significant linchpin of voter access.  Indeed, the NVRA has played an important role in securing expanded registration opportunities for marginalized populations.  And, in the face of stringent voter ID laws that suppress voter turnout and shrink the electorate, both offensive strategies and defensive tools are needed.  The NVRA continues to prove that it can be effective on both fronts.

The Voting News Daily: States Shouldn’t Tamper with Voting Rights Act, Romney super PAC’s $400K gift among mysterious donations this election cycle

Editorials: States Shouldn’t Tamper with Voting Rights Act | New America Media Since the beginning of 2011, states across the country have passed new laws restricting the right to vote. From voter ID to curbs on early voting and registration drives, these controversial measures could make it harder for millions of Americans to vote this year, including…

Editorials: States Shouldn’t Tamper with Voting Rights Act | New America Media

Since the beginning of 2011, states across the country have passed new laws restricting the right to vote. From voter ID to curbs on early voting and registration drives, these controversial measures could make it harder for millions of Americans to vote this year, including a disproportionate number of minority, young, and elderly voters. The photo ID law passed by Texas, for example, could prevent hundreds of thousands of eligible voters from casting a ballot, including a disproportionate number of minorities, as the data shows. Voting rights advocates are fighting these laws in the courts, but in addition to these direct attacks on the franchise, opponents are now threatening a cornerstone of American civil rights law — the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Decades ago, our nation passed the Voting Rights Act (VRA) to combat discrimination in voting. It has successfully protected voters against decades of discriminatory measures that had disenfranchised African Americans, Latinos, and many other Americans. The VRA was even reauthorized in 2006 with overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress, and it was signed by President George W. Bush. Elected officials in both parties recognized the VRA is still needed because discrimination against minority voters continues to this day. For example, in recent years, the Justice Department forced Texas to stop discriminatory actions against voters at historically black colleges and universities.

National: Romney super PAC’s $400K gift among mysterious donations this election cycle | The Washington Post

A once-mysterious $400,000 check written to a “super” political action committee supporting Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign rekindled a nagging question this election season: Just how much disclosure is enough to satisfy transparency? The Florida husband and wife behind the contribution were identified Monday as the beneficiaries of an investment fund and are among Romney’s top Florida fundraisers. But up until then, the donation to the Restore Our Future super PAC — which reported the contribution from an unknown Florida firm called SeaSpray Partners LLC — left more questions than answers. Inquiries about the donation intensified over the weekend after a Florida man who owned a similarly named company in Palm Beach told news organizations he never donated to the pro-Romney group. It turned out that Restore Our Future listed the wrong address for the actual SeaSpray donor.

Editorials: Edwards Trial Could Be New Blow to Campaign Finance System | NationalJournal.com

The criminal trial of John Edwards has accomplished what seemed impossible for a former presidential candidate who cheated on his cancer-stricken wife: elicit sympathy. Legal – not moral — reasoning has propelled the rush to his defense, and it’s been a vociferous pushback. A cadre of influential campaign finance experts has argued that federal prosecutors might be unfairly targeting Edwards over the nearly $1 million, drawn from the coffers of two wealthy donors, spent to hide his pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter, during the 2008 presidential campaign. Their bottom line: The legality surrounding the payments is a gray area at best, and criminal, rather than civil, punishment could establish a dangerous precedent that risks increasing future political prosecutions. But as the trial began on Monday, a group of longtime campaign law observers suggested that dismissal of the case could have huge implications for federal regulation of how campaigns are financed. If the prosecution is unsuccessful and the Federal Election Commission takes no follow-up action, they say that the verdict could open yet another floodgate for well-heeled donors to wield influence over political candidates in a system already awash in money.

Delaware: A Small State Taking Big Steps to Improve its Democracy | Brennan Center for Justice

Last month, distracted by Super Tuesday, March Madness, and “The Hunger Games,” you may have missed the news from Delaware. Here’s the exciting update: Governor Jack Markell introduced two proposals to strengthen the state’s democratic processes — one to make lobbying more transparent; the other to shine light on money in politics. Together, these reforms would represent a big step for this small state. The first proposal is simple. Senate Bill 185 would require lobbyists to file reports online about their lobbying activity within five days of contacting a state official to discuss a bill, resolution, or regulation. Basically, the law would eliminate back-door meetings; when a lobbyist decides to use her clout to try to influence the legislative process, she must come through the front door and leave her calling card.

Louisiana: Official vote to be tallied in race for New Orleans City Council at large seat | wwltv.com

Tuesday morning marks a critical climax in the race for the Orleans Parish City Council at large seat. The voting machines will be opened and the results will be verified. What can often be a lackluster affair took on special significance when Stacy Head won by less than 300 votes in the unofficial tally Saturday night, and Cynthia Willard-Lewis refused to concede. The Orleans Parish voting machines are stored at 8870 Chef Menteur Hwy. They have been locked up there since the election wrapped up Saturday night. That election caused jaws to drop in political circles, as Head won by just 281 votes out of the 55,000 that were cast.

Michigan: New voter registration bills pass to Michigan House | The State News

Some lawmakers and student groups are worried a package of bills headed to the Michigan House could make it significantly harder for campus organizations to register voters. A package of bills slated for discussion today in the House Redistricting and Elections Committee would add more requirements for third party groups to register voters, requiring leaders to pass a government-run certification class before kicking off election drives. It also would require applicants to present photo identification and swear under oath that they are a U.S. citizen. The issue quickly has become a divisive debate in Michigan, reflecting a national partisan conflict about how to regulate democracy’s most fundamental practice.

Pennsylvania: Primary’s low turnout made for easy voter ID test | PennLive.com

Tuesday’s primary election was billed as a test run for Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law. But a survey of polling places throughout the midstate suggests that maybe the wrong people were being tested. Without a presidential primary race to top either party’s ballot, turnout across the area was low. Those who did vote described themselves as regulars, people who enjoy wearing a little “I voted” sticker twice a year. They follow the news. They knew poll workers were going to be asking every voter if they had identification to prepare people for the November election, when the law will require all voters to show ID.

Rhode Island: State holds presidential primary, tests voter ID law | Boston.com

Rhode Island voters casting a ballot in the state’s presidential primary Tuesday will be asked to show identification in what is the first statewide test of a new voter ID law. Turnout is expected to be light as the Republican primary race winds down and President Barack Obama stands unchallenged on his party’s primary ballot. Most polling places will open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m., an hour earlier than in past elections. Lawmakers voted last year to close the polls earlier to speed up election results and give election workers a break. “People who regularly vote later in the day should plan accordingly,” said Chris Barnett, a spokesman for Democratic Secretary of State Ralph Mollis.

Texas: US attorney general seeks delay in Texas voter ID case | Houston Chronicle

The U.S. attorney general’s office has requested a delay in the trial over Texas’ voter ID law, saying the state’s legal maneuvering is taking up too much time to meet the tight deadline. Federal lawyers complained Texas had demanded a speedy trial in order to resolve the issue in time for the Nov. 6 general election. The law passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature last year requires voters to present a government-issued identification card to cast their ballot. The law is before the district court in Washington, D.C., because Texas is covered by the Voting Right Act, which requires places with a history of racial discrimination to first clear any changes in voting laws with either the Justice Department or the Washington court. The Justice Department believes the Texas law, if enforced, will discriminate against Hispanic voters. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott insists it won’t and now it’s up to the court to decide. Republicans say the law is necessary to prevent fraud, but Democrats say it will prevent the poor and the elderly from voting.

Bahamas: Election Heats Up in Bimini | Caribbean Journal

Large billboards dominate the landscape along King’s Highway, some artful, others strongly-worded. It’s election season in the westernmost district of the Bahamas, and for a few weeks, it’s red and gold, not the typical turquoise, that define Bimini. Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham has called elections for May 7, and Bimini, which is part of the West End (of Grand Bahama) and Bimini constituency, is heating up. While a third party, the Democratic National Alliance, launched in the country in 2011, it’s the ruling Free National Movement’s red and the Progressive Liberal Party’s blue and gold that cover the island.

Egypt: ‘Disenfranchisement Law’ ratified; SPEC talks implementation | Ahram Online

The Supreme Presidential Electoral Commision (SPEC) announced on Tuesday that it would hold an emergency meeting later today to discuss ways of implementing the newly ratified Disenfranchisement Law. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) ratified late Monday the Disenfranchisement Law (officially called the Corrupting of Political Life Law), and sent it for a final vote to Parliament. An official statement was issued in the state newspaper, Al-Gareeda Al-Rasmeya on Tuesday, thus allowing for the immediate implementation of the law. The law, which was discussed and approved last week by the People’s Assembly, places limits on the political rights of certain citizens.

Ghana: Ghanaian Man with 15 voter ID cards fined GHC6,000 | MyJoyOnline

Emmanuel Archibald Laryea, the 47-year-old labourer arrested with 15 biometric voter identity cards, was on Tuesday sentenced to a fine of GHc6,000 or in default would serve a two-year-jail term for engaging in multiple registrations. In addition, the Accra District Magistrate’s Court sentenced Laryea to GHc600 fine or in default would serve nine months imprisonment for causing bodily harm. It said the sentences were to run consecutively to serve as a deterrent to others. The court presided over by Mr Ali Baba Bature ordered that all the biometric voter identity cards should be destroyed in the presence of officials of the Electoral Commission and personnel of the Ghana Police Service. Soon after the court had handed down the sentence, Laryea’s brother produced a card purportedly to show that his brother was a psychiatric patient, but the court did not accept it.

Greece: Election Spending to Be Cut by 20% to 60 Million Euros | Bloomberg

Greece will pay 20 percent less to hold a general election on May 6 than it cost in 2009, as the government tries to cut down on spending in a second year of austerity measures. The May 6 vote will cost more than 60 million euros ($79 million), according to initial estimates by the country’s Interior Ministry. Greece’s Supreme Court will announce tomorrow those parties taking part in the election. A total 9.85 million citizens are eligible to vote in one of the 20,560 polling stations in the country, that is 360,000 more than in 2009, Interior Minister Tassos Yannitsis said at a press conference in Athens today.

United Kingdom: Scottish council election: Will your vote count? | BBC News

All you have to do is vote. A sophisticated electronic system will take care of the rest. Where have we heard that before? In 2007 the message was the same: a complex voting system would be tamed by technology. Electronic counting – e-counting – would deliver election results which were secure, fast and accurate. Instead we got fiasco. Some counting machines initially refused to do their job. Thousands of voters found the ballot papers confusing. In some places the design of the papers was changed at the last minute. About 140,000 ballots were rejected as supposedly spoiled or blank. To cap it all, BBC Scotland then revealed that the overwhelming majority of those rejected votes had been ruled void automatically by the machines: no human had ever been involved in the process. And yet the 2007 burach was born from the best of intentions.