Egypt: Hosni Mubarak Relatives Divided as Egyptians Take Stands on Historic Presidential Election | The Daily Beast

Across Egypt, the first free presidential election getting underway today is forcing people to take a stand on some of their society’s most divisive issues—sometimes defying their own spouses or other family members. For Basheer Mubarak, it can feel like he’s standing against nearly his entire town. The 37-year-old technician lives in Kafr El-Maselha, the birth place of Hosni Mubarak, where cousins of the ousted dictator—Basheer included—fill several buildings along a city block. Many of them pine for Mubarak’s return and back the candidate whose résumé most resembles his. But not Basheer. “What did he do for this country? It’s one big dump,” he says in the garage of his three-story building on Sadat Street, named for the autocrat, Anwar Sadat, who preceded Mubarak.

Egypt: Egyptians vote in first free presidential election | Acadiana’s News Leader

More than 15 months after autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, Egyptians streamed to polling stations Wednesday to freely choose a president for the first time in generations. Waiting hours in line, some debated to the last minute over their vote in a historic election pitting old regime figures against ascending Islamists. A sense of amazement at having a choice pervaded the crowds in line, along with fervent expectation over what direction a new leader will take a country that has been in turmoil ever since mass protests toppled the man who ruled with an iron fist for nearly 30 years. Some backed veterans of Mubarak’s regime, believing they can bring stability after months of rising crime, a crumbling economy and bloody riots. Others were horrified by the thought, believing the “feloul” – or “remnants” of the regime – will keep Egypt locked under autocracy and thwart democracy.

Editorials: Do We Still Need the Voting Rights Act? | The New Yorker

The chances to remake American law—and maybe American society—are stacking up for the Supreme Court. Next month, the Justices will render their verdicts on the Affordable Care Act and on the Arizona immigration law. The fate of affirmative action in university admissions will likely be determined by the Roberts Court in its next term, and now another blockbuster appears headed for the Justices as well. The future of the Voting Rights Act—probably the Great Society’s greatest landmark—will almost certainly be in the Court’s hands next year. The heart of the Voting Rights Act is its famous Section 5, which essentially put the South on perpetual probation. In rough terms, the law requires the states of the old Confederacy (as well as a few smaller areas outside the South) to submit any changes in their electoral law to the Justice Department for what’s known as “pre-clearance”—to make sure that the changes don’t infringe on minority voting rights. Before Section 5, states and municipalities could simply change their rules—about everything from the location of polling places to the borders of district lines—and dare civil-rights activists to sue to stop them. It was a maddening, and very high-stakes, game of whack-a-mole. As a result of Section 5, though, the Justice Department monitored these moves and made sure there would be no backsliding on voting rights.

National: Ex-offenders find a reason to reclaim the vote | The Washington Post

Should American citizens who have been convicted of crimes and served their time have their right to vote restored? The question is a political issue, part of a voting-rights debate that is being fought in the states and among political candidates. To ex-felons, it can be a personal challenge, as well: Will their votes matter, and why should they care? The rapper 2 Chainz, made the case for the vote at a pre-show stop at the Urban League of Central Carolinas in Charlotte on Saturday. He told his story for 40 young people, a few with criminal records. The 35-year-old Atlanta-based performer said he was first arrested at age 15 for cocaine possession. When it came to voting, he thought he was “counted out” and didn’t know he was eligible until he picked up a brochure at a registration drive at an Atlanta mall. Along with 10 friends, he recruited from his recording studio, “I walked around with a sticker the whole day” they voted. “I felt rejuvenated,” he said. “I felt like a citizen again.”

National: Federal bill would simplify absentee voting for troops | Army Times

One absentee ballot request from military and overseas voters would be good for an entire election cycle, under legislation introduced Friday in the House of Representatives. The bill, HR 5828, is aimed at clarifying confusion created in a 2009 overhaul of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act. The change can be interpreted as requiring separate absentee ballot requests for primary and general elections.

National: Churches tread lightly on politics in 2012 election |

With the 2012 election less than six months away, congregations are getting the message that Americans want religion out of politics. But that doesn’t mean they plan to keep mum in the public square. Instead, they’re revamping how congregations mobilize voters by focusing on a broader set of issues than in the past. Preachers are largely avoiding the political fray, and hot-button social issues are relegated to simmer in low-profile church study groups. Why? For one, Americans are growing impatient with religious politicking: 54% want houses of worship to keep out of politics (up from 52% in 2008 and 43% in 1996), according to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Churches seem to be responding.

Arizona: Redistricting panel wants GOP suit tossed | Arizona Daily Star

The Independent Redistricting Commission wants a judge to throw out efforts by Republicans to void the map it created for the state’s nine congressional districts. Legal papers filed late Monday in Maricopa County Superior Court charge those seeking a new map are using “innuendo, selectively extracted transcript experts, and speculation to weave a conspiracy theory intended to cast doubt on the commission’s work.” Meanwhile, in a related lawsuit in U.S. District Court, a Democratic lawyer has questioned whether the judge hearing a challenge to the state’s 30 legislative district lines should be removed because 10 years ago he represented the Republicans in a similar fight over the redrawing of political boundaries. Republicans are challenging the new congressional and legislative district lines, saying the commission favored Democrats in drawing the lines, which will be used in elections for the next 10 years, and violated several mandates of the 2000 voter-approved initiative creating the commission, and in both cases the failure to follow procedures resulted in maps that do not meet the constitutional requirements.

Colorado: Wisconsin’s Walker echoes Colorado’s Gessler on voter fraud | The Colorado Independent

In the last two years, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler has made voter fraud prevention a top priority. His efforts have included working to stop county clerks from sending absentee ballots to inactive voters, lobbying for a controversial voter ID law and leading an unprecedented effort to determine whether non-citizens are voting in the state. Critics have questioned Gessler’s priorities, given that the number of documented incidents of voter fraud in Colorado is tiny. Yet Gessler argued his case at committee hearings in Washington and Denver by citing statistics. There were hundreds and maybethousands of non-citizens registered to vote in Colorado who may or may not be casting ballots, he said, as an example. Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has also sounded alarms on voter fraud. Taking a page from Gessler, he recently cited numbers to back up his claims.

Florida: Noncitizen voter database has flaws, local elections officials say | Tampa Bay Times

Florida election supervisors, at their annual convention in Tampa this week, find themselves focusing once again on a familiar and troubling issue: the accuracy and reliability of the state voter registration database. It’s not a problem of their making, and that only adds to their frustration. As the elections officials convene, they are simultaneously seeking to verify the legal status of about 2,700 voters who were red-flagged by the state motor vehicle agency as non-U.S. citizens and thus ineligible to vote. Problem is, some people on that list can legally vote. One of the people on the list is Manoly Castro-Williamson, 48, of Wesley Chapel, a U.S. citizen and a registered Republican who has voted in every election in Florida since 2004. She was one of 13 potential noncitizen voters forwarded to Pasco County by state elections officials.

Florida: Challenge to Florida’s Political Disclosure Law Rejected by 11th Circuit |

On May 17, 2012, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Florida’s “electioneering communications” disclosure law in National Organization for Marriage (NOM) v. Sec. State of Florida in a per curiam decision. The Florida statute under challenge requires groups to register and report as an “electioneering communications organization” if they make over $5,000 of electioneering communications in a calendar year.  In August 8, 2011, a Florida district court upheld the law, finding that the disclosure requirements were neither vague nor overbroad, and the Eleventh Circuit affirmed this decision.

Kansas: Redistricting case unlikely to move at Kobach’s pace |

Three federal judges who will set new political boundaries for Kansas told Secretary of State Kris Kobach on Monday that they are uncomfortable resolving redistricting issues as quickly as he wants and that potential administrative problems in overseeing elections are not as important as gathering different perspectives on how lines should be drawn. Kobach was in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., for a pretrial hearing as the defendant in a lawsuit over state legislators’ failure to approve any redistricting proposals this year. Lawmakers were supposed to adjust the lines of congressional, state House, state Senate and State Board of Education districts to reflect population shifts over the past decade, but a bitter feud among Republicans prevented it.

Michigan: Protesters disrupt meeting; House to vote on election law changes | The Morning Sun

Protesters disrupted a Michigan House committee meeting on Tuesday as lawmakers were approving several proposed election law changes, including one that would require residents to present photo identification or a birth certificate when registering to vote. Michigan voters must now present a photo ID when they go to a polling place to vote, but not when they register. Supports say the measure would protect against voter fraud, but opponents argue it would hamper voter registration drives and disenfranchise elderly and poor residents who may not have a photo ID.

Minnesota: Could Photo ID be scuttled even if voters approve constitutional amendment? | MinnPost

The fate of Minnesota’s Voter ID constitutional amendment hinges on the November elections in more ways than one — and it could be procedurally defeated even if approved at the polls, according to some experts. Democrats may get a final chance to soften the blow they say the measure would cause voters if it truly became part of the Minnesota Constitution. Republicans will have to watch the gamble they took in deciding to bypass the governor and to leave the specifics of a Photo ID system to the next Legislature. The amendment, which polls show highly favored by the public, would require voters to show a photo ID in order to cast a ballot. Despite highly publicized campaigns against Voter ID, many opponents seem resigned to the likelihood that it will pass. But even if it does, it would be up to the next Legislature to fill in the statutory blanks of how the system would work, since the wording of the bite-size amendment speaks only in generalities.

Pennsylvania: Frankel Announces Package of Bills to Lessen “Damaging Effects” of New Voter ID Law | Essential Public Radio

Even as Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law goes through legal challenges, one lawmaker is introducing a package of bills aimed at “fixing” parts of the bill. The so-called “Every Voter Counts” package contains three parts. The first part would create an online voter registration system. The second would require the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to use new technology and mobile outreach to help registered voters obtain needed photo identification. “They would go into communities, into senior centers, go to places where people with disabilities congregate, go into distressed areas and rural areas where people need to obtain these voter IDs,” said Representative Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny). The third part would address the step that many need to take to get ID: obtaining a birth certificate. In Pennsylvania, the cost to get one is $10, but if someone was born out of state, the costs go up, and can be prohibitive for some. “That amounts to a poll tax for many people, in my view,” said Frankel. “In other words, you’re going to have to pay something in order to get the right to vote. That’s not constitutional. So my bill would reimburse everybody up to $50 for the cost of obtaining their birth certificates.”

Texas: Abbott drops opposition to depositions in voter ID case | Austin Statesman

In an effort to move to trial more quickly, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has quietly dropped his opposition to the Department of Justice’s request to take depositions from state lawmakers in the voter identification case. In March, Abbott asked a federal court in Washington to shield 12 state lawmakers from giving depositions in the state’s voter identification case against the Justice Department. Citing legislative privilege, Abbott’s office said that the department’s requests to depose lawmakers and subpoena records amounted to “an unwarranted federal intrusion into the operations of the Texas Legislature.” But now, Abbott has decided to stop trying to prevent the depositions, said Jerry Strickland, a spokesman for Abbott. “In order to move the case forward without delay, the State agreed to allow depositions to proceed,” Strickland said in a statement.

Virginia: Voter ID Law Comes With Hefty Price Tag |

Virginia voters will see changes at the polls come November. They will now be required to provide identification within three days after the election for their vote to count. Although the new law is designed to combat voter fraud, it comes with a hefty price tag. The State Board of Elections said the cost of mailing voter cards will be about $1.36 million.

Canada: Law stripping voting rights from Canadian ex-pats unconstitutional, legal challenge argues | National Post

A law stripping voting rights from more than a million expatriate Canadians who have lived abroad for more than five years should be struck down as unconstitutional, according to a legal challenge served on the federal government Tuesday. The new application, filed in Ontario Superior Court on behalf of two Canadians living in the United States, argues the five-year rule in the Canada Elections Act is arbitrary and unreasonable. “I was very surprised to learn that I have no voting rights, that I have no capacity to interact with my government formally, that there’s no one representing me,” said Gillian Frank, 33, who works in Brooklyn, N.Y. “My sense of being disenfranchised and the fundamental unfairness of it all motivated me (to file the suit).”

Libya: Voters head to the polls in Benghazi local elections | BBC

Residents in Benghazi, the city where the Libyan uprising began, have voted in historic local elections. More than 400 people contested seats on the 44-member local council, even though the remit of local authorities has yet to be set. This was the first time such elections have been held in the city since the 1960s and turnout was high. National elections are expected to be held in June. Until then, the mandate of local councils will remain unclear.

United Kingdom: European Court Rules British Prisoners Must Be Granted Voting Rights | International Business Times

Some British MPs are outraged by a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights that prisoners must be given the right to vote in political elections. The Court supported a prior ruling that a blanket prohibition on inmates in England and Wales voting was unlawful. British prisoners have been barred from voting for 140 years. However, the court suggested that the British government could have the right to extend voting rights only to certain prisoners, that is, by withholding enfranchisement to the worst criminals, including murderers and rapists. London now has six months to comply with the court’s ruling, or face the risk of court challenges and incurring large legal costs, including possibly paying compensation to 2,500 prisoners who have filed suit to overturn the ban. However, UK MPs, who last year overwhelmingly voted to continue the prohibition on prisoners voting, may be irked by European court dictating policy to them.