The Voting News Daily: FEC releases election law documents after subpoena threat, Supreme Court should let Voting Rights Act ruling stand

National: FEC releases election law documents after subpoena threat | Responding to the threat of a congressional subpoena, the Federal Election Commission this afternoon released reams of previously secret documents that detail how it enforces election law. It appears to end — for the moment — a months-long row between the House Administration Committee and…

National: FEC releases election law documents after subpoena threat |

Responding to the threat of a congressional subpoena, the Federal Election Commission this afternoon released reams of previously secret documents that detail how it enforces election law. It appears to end — for the moment — a months-long row between the House Administration Committee and election commissioners over how transparent the commission is and should be. The documents made public today include the commission’s enforcement and audit manuals and details of the procedures used by the FEC’s Reports Analysis Division.

Editorials: Supreme Court should let Voting Rights Act ruling stand |

A federal appeals court in Washington has upheld a key part of the Voting Rights Act, one that requires states and localities with a history of discrimination against minorities to “pre-clear” changes in their election procedures with the Department of Justice or a federal court. The reasoning behind the 2-1 ruling is persuasive; Chief JusticeJohn G. Roberts Jr.and other members of the Supreme Court should exercise judicial restraint by refusing to reconsider it. In an earlier, 2009 decision, the chief justice recognized that Congress has the power to enforce the 15th Amendment’s guarantee of a right to vote. But he warned ominously that the pre-clearance requirement in Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, and the formula under which states were subjected to it, raised “serious constitutional questions.

Voting Blogs: Formula for Change: The Shelby County Case and Section 5 | Election Academy

Last Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an opinion in Shelby County v Holder, voting 2-1 to uphold the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires certain states and jurisdictions to obtain federal approval of election changes before they can go into effect. I’ve already blogged about the effects of Section 5, especially in the context of current national fights over voter ID – and any change in Section 5 that reduces federal oversight in covered jurisdictions would be significant to the combatants on either side of that and other debates.

Alaska: Anchorage Assembly Certifies Election Recount, Denies Public Testimony |

The Anchorage Assembly certified the recount of the April 3rd Municipal Election Tuesday evening. Several Assembly members pushed for public comment on the certification, but the chair denied it. KSKA’s Daysha Eaton was there and filed this report. The Chair of the Election Recount Board, Denise Stephens presented a report of their work to the Assembly. She explained that 13 of the 15 precincts the Board reviewed closely matched with a few of the precincts off by 1 or 2. At Precinct 840, Service High School, the Board could not find 8 ballots for voters that had signed the register. One possible explanation is that these 8 voters left the precinct without voting after having signed the precinct register. Precinct 660 had a similar result with 6 signatures more than corresponding ballots. The recount resulted in no change in the outcome of the election. Stephens noted that the Election Board did investigate the voting machines.The April 3rd Municipal Election was fraught with problems. An Election Commission report blamed the Clerk’s Office for not distributing enough ballots. More than half of the precincts ran out of ballots.  Assembly members Harriet Drummond requested public comment on the certification.

Arizona: Redistricting headed to two courts | Arizona Daily Sun

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 charge that 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.” Attorneys for the commission also said the lawsuit never says that the maps, which will be used beginning this year, do not meet the constitutional goals. These range from requirements to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act to creating compact districts and protecting communities of interest. Instead, Mary O’Grady and Joe Kanefield, the two lead attorneys for the commission, told Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Mark Brain that the complaint is instead focused on “manufacturing flaws” about the procedures used to draw the map.

California: Voter Fraud or Voter-Fraud Fantasy? | Santa Barbara Independent

Our elections are overwhelmed with voter fraud, or so say Steve Pappas and Nancy Crawford-Hall, the publisher of the Santa Ynez Valley Journal. In her columns over recent months, Crawford-Hall has laid out what she claims is the evidence of this massive fraud. Does voter fraud threaten our system of democracy? Should we be worried? No. Pappas and Crawford-Hall have confused registration fraud, which is a petty crime that threatens nothing of much importance, with voting fraud, which actually is a serious crime. Out of this confusion, they have spun a fantastic story about democracy under attack. It isn’t true. The only threat to democracy came from Steve Pappas, who sought to strip 18,000 American citizens of their voting rights, a threat which the courts dismissed for a complete lack of evidence. Let me explain. Voting fraud is casting ballots illegally. Registering under a thousand different names and voting on behalf of these thousand fictitious people in an attempt to change the outcome of an election is an attempt to subvert democracy. Even a single case of casting a fraudulent vote is a serious crime. In contrast, registration fraud is typically petty theft. Many campaigns pay people to register voters for their side. If a dishonest deputy registrar fills out a few fake registration forms and registers his dog Fido, he gets paid for it. He is stealing from the campaign. But if it is theft, it ends there. A few family pets may end up on the voter rolls, but if they don’t vote, democracy suffers no harm.

Florida: Governor started push to remove voters from rolls |

Florida’s quest to identify and remove non-U.S. citizens from the voter rolls was started at the direct urging of Gov. Rick Scott, the state’s former top elections official said. Ex-Secretary of State Kurt Browning, who resigned this year, told The Associated Press that Scott asked him whether or not non-U.S. citizens were registered and if those people were voting. Browning explained to the governor during a face-to-face meeting last year that people who register and falsely claim they are citizens can be charged with a crime. “He says to me – well, people lie,” Browning recalled this week. “Yes, people do. But we have always had to err on the side of the voter.” Browning said the conversation prompted state election officials to begin working to identify non-U.S. citizens. The state’s initial list – compiled by comparing driver’s licenses with voter registration data – showed that as many as 182,000 registered voters were eligible to be in the country but ineligible to vote.

Illinois: Humidity apparent cause of ballot problems during March primary |

Unusually high humidity may be to blame for problems with paper ballots throughout Illinois during the primary election March 20, state election officials said Tuesday. The state experienced record-setting temperatures and unseasonably high humidity the day of the primary, apparently affecting the “hydroexpansivity” — the tendency of paper to expand when it absorbs moisture — of the paper ballots and rendering them difficult or impossible to feed into the ballot scanners at some precincts. The moisture caused the dimensions of the ballot to expand and be off slightly. “It is possible that the problem ballots were just so close to the limits of the acceptable width tolerance that the additional humidity alone was enough to put them out of tolerance,” according to a report by State Board of Elections officials who investigated the matter. In all, 26 Illinois voting jurisdictions had problems with the ballots. Some had just a few ballots that would not feed into the scanner, while at least one had difficulty with all of its ballots. Election judges chose to either trim the edges of the ballots so they would fit into the scanners or to remake the ballots on proper-width ballot stock.

Missouri: Voter photo ID measure kept off ballot | Waynesville Daily Guide

A state constitutional amendment that would clear the way for a photo identification requirement at Missouri polls will not appear on this year’s ballot, the secretary of state’s office said. The Republican-led Missouri Legislature passed a proposed constitutional amendment last year that would have allowed separate legislation to require voters to show government-issued photo identification and to permit an advanced voting period. Lawmakers wrote their own ballot language, but Cole County Circuit Judge Pat Joyce struck down the summary this spring after concluding the statement was insufficient. Joyce in her ruling allowed lawmakers to revise the ballot summary, but the Legislature adjourned last week without doing so. State elections officials told the Jefferson City News Tribune that means the proposal will not appear on the ballot.

Ohio: Republicans want to disallow ballots with errors caused by poll workers | Slate Magazine

So much ink has been spilled on how vote suppression will affect the 2012 presidential election, one hesitates to write another word. Ari Berman has done terrific work uncovering the ways in which the new voting laws have aimed at suppressing the votes of elderly, minority, student, and other voters—particularly in swing states—who tend to vote for Democratic candidates. Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Center for Justice has an indispensible primer on the 22 new laws and two executive actions that will severely restrict voting in 17 states in November. These laws, often modeled on draft legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council, a consortium of conservative state legislators, will have the effect of disenfranchising millions of voters, all in order to address a vote fraud “epidemic” that should be filed somewhere between the Loch Ness Monster and the Tooth Fairy in the annals of modern fairy tales. As Weiser notes, none of this is casual or accidental: “If you want to find another period in which this many new laws were passed restricting voting, you have to go back more than a century—to the post-Reconstruction era, when Southern states passed a host of Jim Crow voting laws and Northern states targeted immigrants and the poor.” Whether it’s onerous (and expensive) voter ID rules that will render as many as 10 percent of Americans ineligible to vote, proof of citizenship measures, restricting registration drives,cancellation of Sunday voting, or claims that voting should be a privilege as opposed to a right, efforts to discount and discredit the vote have grown bolder in recent years, despite vanishingly rare claims of actual vote fraud. The sole objective appears to be ensuring that fewer Americans vote in 2012 than voted in 2008. But as strange as the reasons to purge certain votes have been around the nation, things have grown even stranger in recent weeks in Ohio, where GOP lawmakers have gone after not only voters but the federal courts, in an effort to wiggle out of statewide voting rules.

Rhode Island: Who passed Rhode Island’s voter ID law? | Providence Phoenix

Two months ago Hans von Spakovsky of the conservative Heritage Foundation, de facto apologist for a new wave of conservative-inspired voter ID laws, appeared on PBSNewsHour to defend the cause. The laws, passed in eight states last year, are widely viewed as a Republican ploy to disenfranchise minorities and older voters who are less likely to have the photo identification the measures require at the polls. But von Spakovsky, flashing a blue tie and tight smile, brushed aside criticism with what has become a standard talking point on the right. “While many Republican legislatures have passed these kind of requirements,” he said, “we know that in Rhode Island, Democrats passed it.”  Rhode Island is, indeed, the curious exception to the rule: the only state with a Democratic legislature and left-leaning governor to approve a voter ID law last year. And with the measure set to face its first big test in this fall’s elections, civil rights activists and Democratic operatives — local and national — are still scratching their heads: how is it that one of the bluest states in the nation enacted a law so red?

Voting Blogs: Rhode Island voter ID followup | Justin Levitt/Election Law Blog

Rick links to an excellent Providence Phoenix article on the Rhode Island voter ID law.  It’s a great in-depth look at the political calculus.  But the lede poses a question — “how is it that one of the bluest states in the nation enacted a law so red?” — that may set the piece in a misleading light. The question seems to presume that Rhode Island’s new law is the same as the restrictive laws recently passed in, say, Kansas or Tennessee or Texas or Wisconsin. It’s not. As the article itself notes (buried in the political who-dun-it), Rhode Island not only phases its requirement in over several years, but also allows eligible voters without one of the specified photo ID cards to vote a ballot that will count.  In Rhode Island — as in Florida — voters without photo ID vote a provisional ballot, and if there’s no other reason to think the ballot is invalid (including a signature match to the registration form), the ballot counts.

South Carolina: Senate Democrats fail in efforts to defund voter ID |

Democratic state senators failed Wednesday in their efforts to remove funding from the proposed 2012-13 budget for the voter ID lawsuit, as floor debate on the spending plan continued for a second full week. The Senate defeated 24-17 an amendment stripping $1 million from the attorney general’s office for its fight with the federal government on a state law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. Subsequent attempts also failed. Republicans have argued the law is about preventing voter fraud. The federal government blocked the law in December, saying it could keep minorities from casting ballots. Attorney General Alan Wilson then sued in February.

South Carolina: Atlantic Beach election under the microscope |

Tuesday, Atlantic Beach held an election that was ordered by Governor Nikki Haley in March. “When the governor issues an executive order for a state agency to do something, we react,” said State Election Commission spokesperson Chris Whitmire. “We want the voters to have an opportunity to cast a ballot today in a fair election and have the reassurance that their votes will count.” Governor Haley issued the order because she felt the town’s election commission did not act swiftly enough. Atlantic Beach’s Election Commission threw out the town’s November 2011 election after some of the losing candidates appealed the results, but the commission did not set a new election date. The governor’s order also included Horry County overseeing the election instead of Atlantic Beach.

West Virginia: Officials question ballot procedures – Tennant still under fire for inmate on ballot | News and Sentinel

The West Virginia Legislature can control who can get on a primary election ballot, but it can’t exceed federal law on a candidate’s eligibility, election officials said. State officials and others have been looking at options after imprisoned felon Keith Judd attracted nearly 41 percent of the vote against President Barack Obama this month in the West Virginia primary. While there have been criticisms Judd should never have gotten on the ballot, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said Judd met all of the legal requirements to be on the ballot. Judd qualified for the Democratic primary ballot after he mailed in a candidacy form and paid a $2,500 filing fee from Texas. He’s serving a 17-year federal prison sentence in Texas. Statewide results from the May 8 primary show Judd with 73,138 votes to Obama’s 106,770.

Canada: Tories ask court to toss election challenge | Ottawa Citizen

The Conservative party has asked a court to toss out a series of legal challenges that are attempting to overturn the results from seven ridings in the last federal election, saying the litigation offers no solid evidence that anyone was denied the right to vote. The Conservative candidates who won the seats also claim in motions that the legal action, brought by the citizen advocacy group Council of Canadians, was filed well beyond the 30-day time limit. Citing a pattern of misleading telephone calls made before the May 2 vote, the council in March asked the Federal Court of Canada to set aside the results in seven ridings across the country, a move that would trigger a series of by-elections. Under the Elections Act, any voter can challenge a result by bringing evidence to court showing that electoral fraud or other improprieties affected the result in a riding.

Egypt: Egyptians Vote for President in Their First Free Elections |

Egyptians went to the polls Wednesday to choose their first freely elected president in a vote that could end 15 chaotic months of military rule and define the future of political Islam. It was a new climax in a cascade of scenes that would have been unthinkable just two years ago, when election days meant that state television would film former President Hosni Mubarak walking a red carpet to his special polling place in a predictably fraudulent plebiscite. But on Wednesday, millions of Egyptians waited patiently in long lines, often holding scraps of cardboard against the desert sun, and debated with their neighbors over which of the five leading contenders most deserved their vote. “It is like honey to my heart,” said Mohamed Mustafa Seif, 36, an accountant voting in downtown Cairo. “For the first time in my life, I feel like I have a role to play. My vote could possibly make a difference.”

United Kingdom: UK can decide which prisoners vote, says European Court | BBC

The European Court of Human Rights has said individual governments can decide how to implement a ban on convicted prisoners voting. The judgement means the UK will be able to decide for itself how to resolve the long-standing row over votes for inmates. But the court says the UK only has six months to outline its proposed reforms. In a landmark judgment the court found that an Italian prisoner’s rights had not been breached.