National: Legal Battles on Voting May Prove a Critical Issue in Election |

The November presidential election, widely expected to rest on a final blitz of advertising and furious campaigning, may also hinge nearly as much on last-minute legal battles over when and how ballots should be cast and counted, particularly if the race remains tight in battleground states. In the last few weeks, nearly a dozen decisions in federal and state courts on early voting, provisional ballots and voter identification requirements have driven the rules in conflicting directions, some favoring Republicans demanding that voters show more identification to guard against fraud and others backing Democrats who want to make voting as easy as possible. The most closely watched cases — in the swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania — will see court arguments again this week, with the Ohio dispute possibly headed for a request for emergency review by the Supreme Court.

National: Who Benefits In Money Game, Democracy Or Donors? | NPR

There’s a new stimulus plan underway in America: $5.8 billion is being injected into the U.S. economy, particularly in states like Ohio, Virginia, Colorado and Florida. We’re talking of course about campaign spending, and this year’s elections will be the most expensive in history. In fact, by the time we all head to the voting booth on Election Day, nearly $6 billion will have been spent on campaigns — big and small — all across America. Much of that money will come from superPACs and other outside groups free to spend as much as they want, mostly on Obama and Romney ads. Pro-Republican groups are way ahead of pro-Democratic ones in raising that money, thanks in part to wealthy donors. According to New Yorker writer Jane Mayer, that has been President Obama’s Achilles’ heel — his aversion to cultivating wealthy donors for his campaign.

Florida: Voters facing a long, long ballot in November | Tampa Bay Times

Brace yourselves, Florida voters: The election ballot you’ll see this fall is longer than ever. It’s so long that voters will have to fill out multiple sheets with races on both sides, then feed those multiple pages through ballot scanners, one page at a time. It’s a pocketbook issue, too: Some people who vote by mail will have to dig deeper and pay at least 65 cents postage and up to $1.50 to return their multipage ballots in heavier envelopes. More than ever, county election supervisors say, people should vote early or request an absentee ballot to avoid predicted bottlenecks at the polls on Election Day. “This is the longest ballot I can remember,” said Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark. “The voter who sees this ballot the first time may need smelling salts.”

Minnesota: Will the voting amendment dismantle Minnesota’s current election system? | MinnPost

Ever since the Legislature first began considering the proposed voting amendment early this year, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and his staff have used nearly every venue available to hammer away on one key point. The innocuous-sounding requirement that voters must show a photo ID at the polls, they say, is only a small part of far-reaching language that actually would end up dismantling or significantly altering absentee balloting and Minnesota’s popular Election Day registration system. Ritchie made that point again Thursday in a MinnPost Community Voices piece, urging every voter to “carefully study the language of the proposed amendment on elections …. You might be surprised.” But the big question: Is Ritchie right in his interpretation of what the proposed constitutional amendment would do? Many voting amendment opponents think so, including a coalition of groups and individuals that include former Vice President Walter Mondale, former Gov. Arne Carlson and several public officials. The group Our Vote Our Future is leading the anti-amendment campaign.

Minnesota: Catholics, Lutherans and voter ID |

Me to editor: “Please headline this column ‘Lutherans and Catholics agree: Vote “no” on amendment.'” Editor to me: “Really?! That’s a big story!” Me to editor: “Well … it’s not that amendment. And it’s not the Lutheran and Catholic churches’ official governing bodies. But yeah, I think it’s a big deal.” When this state’s two leading faith-based social service agencies, Lutheran Social Services and Catholic Charities, speak out in opposition to a proposed constitutional change in voting requirements, this long-ago religion reporter smells a story. Many Lutheran synods and Minnesota’s Roman Catholic dioceses have staked out opposite sides of the proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage that’s on the Nov. 6 Minnesota ballot. Their differences have been widely trumpeted in the 15 months since that amendment went on this year’s ballot. Some Minnesotans might not appreciate the religious overtone the marriage amendment debate has acquired. But it was to be expected. Marriage is a matter about which religions claim considerable authority. What isn’t as well-known is that some prominent church folk are also talking about the “other” amendment. The governing boards of both Lutheran Social Services (LSS) and Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis (CC) think the proposed photo-ID-to-vote requirement ought to be rejected.

North Carolina: Absentee Ballot Applications Down by Nearly Half in North Carolina | Huffington Post

We are beginning to get the first early voting statistics out of North Carolina, which started mailing absentee ballots on Friday, Sept. 7. Election officials report delivering 21,875 mail ballots as of Saturday, Sept. 8, and two ballots were accepted. Congratulations Daniel and Justin, you are the first two people to vote for president in the 2012 general election! What do the number of ballot requests tell us so far? It is difficult to make a true comparison to 2008 since the first day that election administrators mailed ballots in 2008 was on Monday, Sept. 15 and in 2012, it was earlier on Friday, Sept. 7. To make the most consistent comparison as possible, I generate statistics for the this first date of mailing of ballots. The number of absentee ballot applications is down by nearly half from 2008. In 2008, election officials had received 37,539 applications compared to 20,695 in 2012, or 45 percent fewer applications. The number of applications from registered Republicans is down more than Democrats, which are also down. The percentage of registered Republicans declined by 55 percent while the percentage of registered Democrats declined 35 percent. Thus registered Republicans composed 51 percent of the earliest absentee ballot applications in 2008 and 42 percent in 2012.

North Dakota: North Dakota Investigation Implicates Petition Fraud |

Nearly 25,000 signatures submitted to place two initiatives on North Dakota’s November ballot were fraudulent, according to a state investigation, raising questions about the widespread practice of contracting out signature-gathering for ballot petitions. Both groups behind the petitions—one would have created a state conservation fund; the other would have legalized medical marijuana—hired outside help to collect signatures for the petitions. But an investigation by the state bureau of investigation found that more than 17,000 of the 37,785 signatures for the conservation fund initiative and more than 7,000 of the 20,092 signatures for the medical marijuana initiatives were falsified. Because of the invalidated signatures, neither petition earned enough support to appear on the November ballot. Jaeger’s office has charged 10 individuals for facilitating voter fraud or filing a false statement, Class A misdemeanors that could result in a yearlong prison sentence or up to $2,000 in fines. As in most other states, those filing petition signatures in North Dakota are required to sign an affidavit swearing that they witnessed the signatures and that they are genuine.

Ohio: Absentee balloting can help or hurt in Ohio |

Ohio’s chief elections officer proudly hails a new program under which every registered voter will receive an absentee ballot application as a step that will “turn their kitchen table into a voting booth” in this fall’s presidential election. Now all voters have to do is make sure that their ballots don’t end up – to stick with Secretary of State Jon Husted’s analogy – going down the electoral garbage disposal. Husted’s plan marks the first time in Ohio history that all of the state’s nearly 8 million registered voters will receive absentee applications. But as is often the case in politics, it has drawn both widespread, bipartisan praise over further easing of the voting process and concerns over potential downsides. Arguably the biggest worry is that voters who request an absentee ballot but later change their minds and decide to vote at the polls on Election Day will be forced to cast a provisional ballot. In most statewide elections, relatively minor procedural missteps by poll workers or voters routinely disqualify tens of thousands of provisional votes.

Pennsylvania: Voter ID law set for review by state Supreme Court |

Pennsylvania will take its place as a battleground state on a different political front this week as supporters and opponents argue the validity of the state’s new voter ID law before the state Supreme Court. Oral arguments are scheduled for Thursday in Philadelphia. They will be televised live on Pennsylvania Cable Network at 9:30 a.m. The six-member court — evenly split between Democrats and Republicans — will be tasked with reviewing Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson’s August ruling that permitted Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law to be implemented for the Nov. 6 election. If the justices are deadlocked, Simpson’s decisions will stand.

Pennsylvania: Native Nations’ IDs and Voting Rights Cases | New America Media

Native Nations’ IDs are both evidence and exercise of sovereignty, and they should stand on their own as validators of tribal citizens’ rights to vote in tribal, federal or state elections and to travel and return home unimpeded. This should be so for those Native Nations that issue passports to their citizens and those that issue other IDs. Whether Native people consider themselves as citizens solely of their Native Nations or as having dual citizenship, first in their Native Nations and then in the U.S., they should be on the same side as those who are opposed to overly stringent voter ID requirements by states. The Republican-led state initiatives, however nicely self-described, will most likely keep from voting the non-white, elderly, young and poor, who tend to vote for the Democrats. Or, as Mike Turzai, the Pennsylvania House Majority Leader, infamously bragged in June about the Republican checklist: “Voter ID—which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania—done!” The Pennsylvania law requires voters to produce state-approved photo identification. This can impose a substantial if not complete burden on people who do not drive or who no longer have a driver’s license; have changed residences and/or last names, but haven’t updated their Social Security card or other IDs; have misplaced or do not have a birth certificate; or who have identification from other states. What about the unlucky person who lost all required papers in a fire, burglary or flight from abuse, or who lacks the means to obtain the necessary backup documents?

Pennsylvania: Challenge Process of Libertarian Petition Pauses for Determination of Some Legal Issues | Ballot Access News

After almost three weeks of Pennsylvania state court proceedings in Philadelphia and Harrisburg, approximately 41,000 signatures on the Libertarian Pennsylvania statewide petition have been processed. There are still 8,500 unprocessed signatures. “Processed” means that both sides have looked at each processed signature, and either both sides agree that the signature is valid, or both sides agree it isn’t valid, or the two sides disagree. Many of the disagreements hinge on certain unresolved legal issues, such as whether a petition signature is valid if the signer put the month and day in the “date” column, but not the year. The printed forms all says “Revised January 2012″ at the bottom, so it is obvious that all the signatures were signed in 2012. But the challengers say those signatures aren’t valid.

Texas: Voter ID law responds to what threat, exactly? | Star-Telegram

Attorney General Greg Abbott’s decision to appeal the federal court ruling that the Texas voter ID law is discriminatory generated a lively conversation with my wife. We both believed that it was bad legislation, but the forcefulness of her convictions at first startled me and upon reflection, impressed me and made me think. At the birth of our nation, rights were not equally shared, and throughout our history the right to vote has been bitterly contested and begrudgingly granted. It took nearly 150 years to go from a state where only free male property owners could vote to one where any citizen 21 or older could vote. Even after the 13th and 19th Amendments were passed, legal hurdles like the poll tax and white primaries were set up to deny some people the right to vote. Court rulings and laws like the 1965 Voting Rights Act moved our country forward by making such practices illegal. The right to vote along with the one-person-one-vote concept is the cornerstone of democracy. People fight and die for this right. Denial of one’s right to vote is a denial of democracy, so any change to voting law demands cautious deliberation. With that in mind, I thought about Texas’ voided voter ID law and my grandmother.

Angola: MPLA takes 71.8% in Angolan election | Jacaranda FM

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos’ ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola took more than two thirds of the vote in general elections. “The MPLA has won 71.8 percent of the votes, the Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita) 18.6 percent and Casa (Broad Convergence for Angola’s Salvation) six percent,” National Electoral Commission president Andre da Silva Neto told reporters. “In light of these results Jose Eduardo dos Santos, first on the MPLA’s list, is proclaimed president of the republic and Manuel Vicente, second on the list, is proclaimed deputy president,” he added. The leader of the winning party automatically becomes head of state, according to a constitutional change in 2010. “The MPLA will have 175 deputies in the National Assembly, Unita 32, Casa eight, the PRS (Party of Social Renovation) three and the FNLA (National Liberation Front of Angola) two,” said Neto.

China: Hong Kong votes in key legislative elections | The Associated Press

Hong Kong voters cast ballots in legislative elections Sunday that will help determine the eventual shape of the full democracy that Beijing has promised the former British colony. The amount of support voters give to pro-democracy and pro-Beijing camps will indicate the level of desire for political reform in Hong Kong. Beijing has pledged to allow Hong Kong’s residents to choose their leader by 2017 and all lawmakers by 2020, but no road map has been laid out. Lawmakers elected in Sunday’s polls will help shape the arrangements for those future elections.

Netherlands: At a Glance: Dutch Elections and The Euro Crisis | Wall Street Journal

Dutch voters will head to the polls on Wednesday, Sept. 12. Polls open at 0530 GMT and close at 1900 GMT. Vote counting starts immediately after the polls close and the first — unofficial — results will be published by public broadcaster NOS just after 1900 GMT. The process normally goes on until the early hours of the following morning. Final official results will be published Monday, Sept. 17 by the national election council. The outcome of the elections may influence Europe’s austerity-focused approach to dealing with its debt crisis. The German-led austerity drive has been strongly supported by the outgoing government of Liberal Prime Minister Mark Rutte. But a large number of Dutch voters are frustrated with belt-tightening and have become increasingly wary of bailing out southern European governments. “The Dutch elections might shift the balance of power in Europe towards less austerity and reduced support for further bailouts,” according to ING.

eSwatini: Cosatu says Swaziland will be a democracy | News24

It will not be long before Swaziland is a democratic country, the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) said on Thursday. “This is not a promise but a fact, and none can deny it in the face of evidence as the regime daily demonstrates signs of collapse,” Cosatu deputy president Zingiswa Losi told reporters in Johannesburg. “The global working class has made it clear and loud, we shall be with you [Swaziland] however long it takes, wherever you are and however painful it feels.”