National: Texas Voter ID trial: closing arguments | Dallas Morning News

A 3-judge panel will now decide whether to let Texas implement its controversial voter ID law. In closing arguments at federal court, a lawyer for the state, John Hughes, insisted that even if non-white Texans lack an acceptable photo ID under the law, the “ultimate question” for the judges to consider is whether that disparity translates into people being turned away from the polls. The requirement enacted by the Legislature in May 2011, Hughes argued, “deters almost no one,” and even people eligible to vote in Texas who lack one of the acceptable forms of photo ID – a drivers license, concealed gun permit, passport, or citizenship card – should be able to easily obtain an alternative voter ID card provided for by the law. “People who want to vote already have an ID or can easily obtain it,” he insisted repeatedly. He noted that the Justice Department – which refused to let the state implement the law, prompting the state to turn to the federal courts – claims that 1.5 million Texas voters lack an acceptable photo ID. “If that were remotely true, the courtroom would be filled with such people,” he said, citing survey evidence that black and Hispanic Texas voters say they have ID in rough proportion to whites. The judges seemed deeply skeptical. “The record does tell us that there is a substantial number of registered voters that lack photo ID,” said U.S. Circuit Court Judge David Tatel. And District Court Judge Robert Wilkins noted that there was uncontested evidence that some Texans would have to travel 120 miles one way to the nearest state office where they could obtain a voter ID card – and that federal court rules bar subpoenas for anyone more than 100 miles from a courthouse on grounds that would be “unduly burdensome.”

Voting Blogs: Judges Seem Ready To Mess With Texas’ Voter ID Law | TPM

A panel of three federal judges in D.C. posed skeptical questions on Friday about Texas’ voter ID law during closing arguments in a trial about whether the measure is discriminatory. The panel of federal judges — George W. Bush appointee Rosemary M. Collyer, Clinton appointee David S. Tatel and Obama appointee Robert L. Wilkins — hopes to issue a ruling on the case in “quick order,” according to Collyer, who expressed doubts about the findings of Texas’ experts in the case. John Hughes, a lawyer for Texas, argued in his closing arguments that people who want to vote already have an ID or can easily get it. Hughes argued that if the state’s voter ID law really disenfranchised anyone the D.C. “courtroom would be filled” with Texans who couldn’t obtain voter ID. In one of the more awkward exchanges, Hughes offered a semi-defense of literacy tests after one judge said that the reason literacy tests were racist years ago was because of inequalities in the education system. The judge asked if it was Texas’ theory that there would be a problem with literacy tests today. Setting aside other laws banning literacy tests and poll taxes, Hughes said he did not believe a literacy test would violate Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

Editorials: Voter IDs on Trial in Texas |

Representative Trey Martinez Fischer, the chairman of the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus in the Texas House of Representatives, flew to Washington this week to persuade a panel of federal judges to invalidate a requirement that voters must have an ID card. His trip was less arduous than the one some residents would have to endure to get a government-issued photo ID. “In West Texas, some people would have a 200-mile round-trip drive” to the nearest state office to get a card, he testified, according to The Dallas Morning News. More than a quarter of the state’s counties don’t even have an office to get a driver’s license or voter card. Lines at the San Antonio motor vehicles offices are often more than two hours long, he said. Texas is one of 10 Republican-controlled states that have imposed a government ID requirement to vote, purportedly to reduce fraud but actually to dissuade poor and minority voters who tend to vote Democratic. (Seven other states have passed slightly less-restrictive rules.) In most cases the federal government can do little to resist this incursion on voting rights, because the Supreme Court upheld ID requirements in 2008. But Texas is different. It is covered by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which allows the Justice Department to disapprove of any change in voting procedures in areas with a history of discrimination.

National: Democrats push for campaign finance disclosure, again |

Democrats launched another push for campaign finance transparency on Thursday, aiming to combat the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling as Republicans outraise them on the campaign trail. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) dedicated the bulk of her weekly press conference to the DISCLOSE Act — which would increase disclosure requirements for campaign contributions — and Senate Democrats held a press conference Thursday afternoon to plug the bill, which will go before the Senate next week. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who joined Pelosi at the conference, said Democrats have filed a discharge petition for the bill in the House. “This is a House of Representatives that is pretending that it is one of the most open House of Representatives in recent times, and yet they have refused to even hold a hearing on the DISCLOSE Act,” Van Hollen said. Indeed, Democrats have been banging this drum for months to no avail, and there’s nothing to indicate their latest attempt will yield a different result.

Florida: Florida looks ready to repeat many of the same mistakes in how it conducts its elections | Slate

Shortly before the 2000 election, Michael Obregon contacted the Miami-Dade Office of the Supervisor of Elections. Heads up: He had a new address in the city. Where should he go to cast his vote? “I received a letter,” remembers Obregon, “one page, saying I wasn’t eligible to vote because I had a felony on my record.” He takes out the letter—he keeps it in a manila envelope labeled “Vote Problem”—and reads the warning: “The court system has notified the elections department that you are ineligible to vote. Pursuant to statute 98.093, we have removed your name from the voter registration record. You may contact the office of executive clemency.” The problem: Obregon hadn’t committed a felony. Someone had apparently stolen the Bennigan’s bartender’s identity, opened some accounts, and gotten busted. That information churned into the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which alerted the Florida Department of State, which passed the information on to the local supervisor’s office, which kicked the nonfelonious Obregon off the rolls. “I had to send my fingerprints in,” says Obregon, “so I went to the police station, they took them, they sent them in. I got back a copy of my criminal record. It said, ‘There is no felony here.’ ” Thus began a mission to convince state bureaucrats in Tallahassee that he deserved the vote. It’s an ongoing mission. Twelve years later, Obregon still isn’t on the rolls.

Voting Blogs: ‘Got Voter ID?’ States Educational Campaign Efforts Vary Widely | TPM

Mark Goins is the Coordinator of Elections in the Tennessee Secretary of State’s Office. He’s also guy in charge of educating Tennessee voters about the state’s new voter identification requirement. While other states have hired outside public relations firms to get the word out about the regulation, he’s been doing everything in-house. That includes outreach to specific communities statistically less likely to have a form of photo identification which meets the new requirements, which was conducted by members of his staff on top of their other responsibilities. “I’ve got a younger person in the office, he’s in his 20s, so he was kind of coordinating the college voters, so that was kind of his job,” Goins told TPM. “I’ve got a minority, well I hate to use the word minority, but I’ve got a person of color within the office who was the minority outreach, if you will, if you use that term. She was the person who went to some NAACP meetings.” As several states prepare to implement voter ID laws passed by their legislatures in November, TPM’s interviews with elections officials show that education efforts are all over the map.

Florida: Florida leads nation with 10 % of adults not allowed to vote | Tampa Bay Online

Nearly one-fourth of black Florida adults, and one-tenth of the state’s total voting-age population, aren’t allowed to vote because of the state’s prohibition on voting by former felons, the nation’s highest rate of disenfranchisement, according to a study by an advocacy group. The vast majority are what the report calls “ex-felons,” those convicted of a felony who have served their sentences and completed any required parole, probation or restitution. The study was done by The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit think tank on criminal justice that advocates allowing ex-felons to regain the right to vote.

Hawaii: Numbers Show Hawaiians Disappear On Election Day | Honolulu Civil Beat

Hawaii voters went to the polls in large numbers between June 1959 and November 1960, first to determine whether they wanted the islands to become the 50th state, then to elect the entire slate of state officials, including governor, lieutenant governor and Legislature, and finally to participate in the islands’ first presidential election. This flurry of political activity came just five years after the balance of political power tipped in favor of a surging Democratic Party. Public support appeared evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, and there were contested races at all levels as the new state took shape. This was heady stuff, and voter turnout was stunningly high. A record 93.6 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the statehood referendum held in June 1959, and turnout in 1960’s General Election was just a fraction of a percent lower at 93.1 percent, according to statistics compiled by the Hawaii Office of Elections. But times and politics have definitely changed. Across the country, voter turnout has been on the decline since the 1960s, but Hawaii started higher than most and has fallen farther over the years. Simply put, it appears fewer people in Hawaii bother to vote than in almost any other place. The reasons are not at all clear, but the data appears to be.

Illinois: New law could roll back some limits on campaign money | Illinois Issues

Less than two years after the state’s first caps on campaign contributions went into effect, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill today that would eliminate those limits if outside groups funnel cash into campaigns. Senate Bill 3722 would allow candidates in Illinois to ignore contribution limits when outside groups, called political action committees (PACs), spend money in a race. The bill is a response to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows PACs to take in unlimited contributions as long as their efforts are not coordinated with candidates’ campaigns. Before the ruling, PACs could accept up to $10,000 from individual donors and $20,000 from unions and corporations. Under SB 3722, is such a PAC spends more than $100,000 campaigning for a single candidate in a municipal race or a bid for the state legislature, then candidates in that race would not have to stick to limits on how much money they can accept from donors. In a statewide race, the threshold would be $250,000 spent by an outside group. Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, a sponsor of the bill, said the new law is intended to keep outside groups from deciding elections by opening potentially bottomless wallets. “I think what’s important about this bill is that no legislator is going to have to run in an election — in which somebody comes into the election with big bucks — with one hand tied behind her back,” she said.

Michigan: Special election to replace McCotter could be shelved | Detroit Free Press

Republican Nancy Cassis of Novi said Friday on public television’s “Off the Record” that she may withdraw as a candidate to avoid the $650,000 cost of a special election to fill the last six or seven weeks of former Republican Thad McCotter’s Oakland-Wayne congressional seat. If no more than one Democrat and one Republican file for the Sept. 5 special primary election, the special election – which county, city and township clerks say presents an unnecessary financial burden – would be canceled.

Ohio: Voters First Initiative Faces Opposition From Secretary of State | Ohio News Network

Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, a longtime advocate of reforming the redistricting process in Ohio, said that he opposes the Voters First initiative. “Of course we should go to a more bipartisan approach on redistricting, but the one pending before us is not the solution,” Husted said. “We can’t have each party end-running the other one to try to get their way to do this.”. Each decade, Ohio redraws legislative and congressional lines after the census. If one political party has a clear majority, those lines are often drawn to that party’s advantage. Dan Tokaji, an election law professor from the Ohio State University, advocates an overhaul of the reapportionment process. “It’s not surprising that partisan politicians and party bosses are trying to hold onto their power,” Tokaji said. “What the Voters First Initiative would install is a non-partisan independent citizens commission.”

Texas: Texas Voter ID Law Met with Skepticism At Trial | WSJ

A panel of federal judges on Friday peppered lawyers for Texas with skeptical questions about the state’s new voter identification requirement and whether it runs afoul of federal anti-discrimination laws. At the end of a week-long trial in Washington, D.C.’s District Court, the three judges questioned whether requiring voters to present government issued photo identification – such as a driver’s license or passport – was too onerous, and may disproportionately affect black and Hispanic voters. “People who want to vote already have an ID or can easily get one,’’ said John Hughes, one of the lawyers representing Texas. Among election lawyers, the case is seen as an early legal test for a number of voter ID laws recently passed or under consideration by Republican-controlled state legislatures. Texas passed its law in 2011, saying it would help prevent voter fraud. In March the Justice Department moved to block it, saying it discriminated against minorities by making it more difficult for them to vote. The Obama administration has also moved to block a voter ID law in South Carolina, a case that will be heard next month.

Jordan: Muslim Brotherhood says it is boycotting upcoming parliamentary elections | The Washington Post

Jordan’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood said Friday it will boycott upcoming parliamentary elections in protest over recent changes to the kingdom’s election laws, which it says fall short of opposition demands. A boycott would deal a blow to King Abdullah II, who has made his reform campaign the centerpiece of efforts to stave off protests similar to those that have toppled other rulers in the region’s so-called Arab Spring. Islamists have made gains all over the Middle East and show increasing strength in Jordan, where regular street protests over the past 18 months have called for wider public participation in politics andrestrictions on the king’s absolute powers.

United Kingdom: Electoral Commission wants overnight general election counts to stay | BBC

The Electoral Commission has recommended general election counts should continue to be held overnight. Before the 2010 election, a number of councils made plans to count votes the day after polling day. But a campaign by MPs and others resulted in a change of the law requiring counts to start within four hours of the close of polls. The Electoral Commission said this should only be revisited if national polls were scheduled for the same day. A report by the Commission – the independent elections watchdog – makes a number of recommendations on the timing of election counts which, it says, will “make sure voters get accurate and timely results at future elections”. It follows consultation with returning officers, who are responsible for election counts, as well as politicians, broadcasters and others with an interest in the issue.