The Voting News Daily: Voting Laws In Several States Remain Unsettled, Why The Supreme Court May Soon Strike Down A Key Section Of The Voting Rights Act

National: Voting Laws In Several States Remain Unsettled | NPR Eight weeks before the presidential election, new laws passed by Republican legislatures that concern who can vote and when remain in the hands of federal and state judges. Among the cases: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court this week will hear an appeal to overturn that state’s new…

National: Voting Laws In Several States Remain Unsettled | NPR

Eight weeks before the presidential election, new laws passed by Republican legislatures that concern who can vote and when remain in the hands of federal and state judges. Among the cases: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court this week will hear an appeal to overturn that state’s new voter ID law. An appeal is expected in a case involving early voting in Ohio. And a federal court is still considering whether South Carolina can go ahead with its new voter ID law. On Aug. 28, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley drew huge applause during her Republican National Convention speech when she promoted the state’s new law, which — if upheld — would require a state-approved photo identification at the polls. “We said in South Carolina that if you have to show a picture ID to buy Sudafed, if you have to show a picture ID to set foot on an airplane, then you should have to show picture ID to protect one of the most valuable, most central, sacred rights we are blessed with in America — the right to vote,” said Haley.

National: Why The Supreme Court May Soon Strike Down A Key Section Of The Voting Rights Act | The New Republic

Six years ago, to much fanfare, Congress extended the lifespan of the Voting Rights Act’s crucial preclearance provision, Section 5, by twenty-five years. (Section 5 requires covered jurisdictions, mostly in the South, to get permission from the federal government before enacting any new electoral laws.) But Congress didn’t just renew Section 5; it also revised it. Section 5 now bars covered jurisdictions from diminishing minority groups’ “ability to elect” the candidates of their choice. The provision now also forbids these jurisdictions from passing election laws with “any discriminatory purpose.” At the time these amendments were made, their consequences were highly uncertain. No one knew whether minorities would be able to elect more or fewer candidates as a result, or whether Democrats or Republicans would benefit. As Columbia professor Nathaniel Persily wrote in 2007, “there is disagreement about . . . how one determines minorities’ ‘ability to elect,’” and “[t]he potential interpretations of the law run the gamut from entrenching either Republican or Democratic gerrymanders.”

National: Prelude to a Supreme Court Showdown: Voting Rights Rulings in Texas and Florida Offer New Evidence of Racial Discrimination in Voting | Constitutional Accountability Center

The Fifteenth Amendment prohibits racial discrimination in voting and expressly empowers Congress to enforce this guarantee, which it has done primarily through the passage and repeated reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act.  Recent events only bolster Congress’ repeated invocation of its express constitutional power to protect the right to vote free from racial discrimination.  In Shelby County v. Holder, an Alabama county, joined by a host of conservative states, including Alabama, Georgia, Texas and South Carolina, and right-leaning legal groups as amici curiae, are urging the Supreme Court to review the case and strike down a key part of the Voting Rights Act as beyond the scope of Congress’ power to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment’s prohibition on racial discrimination in voting.  The core of the conservative attack on the “preclearance” requirement of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (which requires jurisdictions that have a history of engaging in racial discrimination in voting to obtain federal permission before altering their voting laws and regulations) is that this strong medicine is now outdated and unnecessary.   In reauthorizing the Act in 2006, Congress disagreed, amassing a 15,000-page legislative record demonstrating that racial discrimination in voting continues to exist and remains concentrated in jurisdictions covered by the Voting Rights Act’s preclearance requirement.

Editorials: Voter ID laws are a fraud | Washington Times

“This right to vote is the basic right without which all others are meaningless. It gives people, people as individuals, control over their own destinies.” Lyndon B. Johnson

Voter ID laws are discriminatory. The restrictive laws, especially those that require voters present state-issued photo ID cards, actively curb the ability of millions of eligible voters to cast ballots.  While supporters of the law innocently defend the effort as an attempt to avoid fraud, hard data disputes that claim. In fact, the true motivation of the proponents of the law is to exclude certain groups of voters from casting ballots and swaying the outcome of the election. State voter identification laws simply say that in order to cast a ballot, a voter must present specific types of identification at the polls. Thirty-one US states now require voters to present some form of state-issued ID in order to cast a ballot. Seventeen states require photo IDs in order to vote.  Currently, several of those laws are facing legal challenges and could be overturned. So what’s the problem with requiring a photo ID to vote?  Proponents of the law quip that you need a photo ID to drive or board an airplane or even to cash a check at a bank. But flying and driving are privileges. Voting is a right.

Alaska: Anchorage Lawmakers Consider Election Law Changes |

The Anchorage Assembly is closer to deciding what changes might be in store for next year’s Anchorage city election. In April, several polling places ran out of ballots, sending voters across town to try and find a place to vote. The changes, meant to avoid a similar ballot shortage next year, may involve everything from where extra ballots are stored, to when people can protest a decision from the city’s election commission.

Arizona: ‘Top 2′ primary can be on ballot, Arizona high court rules | Tucson Citizen

Voters will get a chance this fall to decide whether the state should replace its partisan-primary system with one in which all candidates would compete on a single ballot. The Arizona Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that a hotly contested proposition to create a so-called top-two primary system can remain on the Nov. 6 ballot. The ruling came just one day before the hard deadline for printing the ballot, which will have nine propositions. The Open Elections/Open Government initiative, or Proposition 121, would change the current system — in which candidates are winnowed down through party primaries — to one in which all candidates for a given office appear on a single primary-election ballot. Party labels would be optional. The top-two finishers would then advance to the general election. The system would apply to all local, county, state and federal offices, except for presidential elections. Read the court’s ruling

Connecticut: Ballot-Line Fight Goes To Supreme Court Wednesday | Hartford Courant

The state Supreme Court, moving swiftly, will hear oral arguments Wednesday on whether Republicans should replace Democrats at the top of the ballot in November. In a lawsuit that it filed just last month, the state Republican Party argued that it should receive the top ballot line after the complicated results of the 2010 gubernatorial election. The high court’s ruling will have a direct effect in November, when much of Connecticut’s political world is up for election: a U.S. Senate seat, all five congressional offices, 151 seats in the state House of Representative and 36 in the state Senate. The matter will be determined by the seven Supreme Court justices, who have been nominated by governors and approved by the legislature through the years. Although Democrat Dannel P. Malloy won the governor’s race in 2010, he did it with a combination of votes from both the Democratic Party and the union-backed Working Families Party. In the tight race, Republican Tom Foley captured more votes on the Republican line than Malloy did on the Democratic line. With that result, Republicans say that their party should get the top line because they received more votes than any other party.

Louisiana: Secretary of State defends inactive-voter list |

Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler is disputing Democratic allegations that state residents are being stripped from voting rolls without adequate notice. He said the state, as required by state and federal law, checks voting rolls against other databases and puts people who have moved outside their parishes on an inactive list. The state sends two separate postcards to the address listed on the voting rolls, allowing a voter who was incorrectly made inactive to correct the record and return to active voting status, Schedler said. Voters can also correct the record by filling out an online form. Even if inactive voters don’t respond to the postcards and show up to vote on Election Day, they can still cast ballots by certifying they still live at their original addresses.

Maryland: Democrat quits congressional race amid vote fraud allegations | The Washington Post

A Maryland Democratic candidate quit her congressional race Monday after her own party told state officials that she had committed fraud by voting in both Maryland and Florida in recent elections. Wendy Rosen, a small-business owner running against freshman Rep. Andy Harris (R) in the Eastern Shore-based 1st Congressional District, released a statement saying that “with great regret, and much sorrow” she was resigning from the contest. “Personal issues have made this the hardest decision that I have had to make,” Rosen said Rosen’s announcement came the same day the state Democratic party released a letter to state Attorney General Douglas Gansler and state prosecutors reporting the allegations against Rosen.

Michigan: Secretary of State keeping citizen check-off box | The Detroit News

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson vows that a check-off box asking voters to confirm their U.S. citizenship will once again appear on November ballot applications, raising concerns among voting rights advocates who argue it’s unnecessary, intimidating and could suppress voting. Johnson defends her decision to keep the box she ordered in the February and August primary elections as a legal and appropriate extra step to ensure only citizens participate in elections — even after fellow Republican Gov. Rick Snyder recently vetoed a bill that included a requirement for voters to check a similar citizenship box. “The secretary of state has the authority under state law to prescribe forms, including the ballot application form,” said department spokesman Fred Woodhams, who added this past week she’s pressing forward after a coalition led by the nonpartisan Michigan Election Coalition said it sent her a letter urging her to “immediately halt” using the citizenship check-off.

Minnesota: Photo ID edict could hit 215,000 Minnesota voters |

Showing photo identification is a no-brainer for the vast majority of Minnesotans who have the magic card in their wallets and purses and produce it regularly to conduct even the most routine transactions. But a strict ID requirement, such as is being proposed in a constitutional amendment this November, can be a significant barrier for anyone who lives off the ID grid. According to the Minnesota secretary of state’s office, that number could run as high as 84,000. In addition to the 2.7 percent of registered voters who appear to lack a state-issued ID, the office estimates that another 4 percent — 131,000 — hold IDs that do not show their current voting address. The amendment would require all voters to show government-approved photo IDs before casting their ballots.

Pennsylvania: Supreme Court faces key question on voter ID appeal | Philadelphia Inquirer

Many opponents of the state’s voter ID law, like Bea Bookler of Devon, were shocked when Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson Jr. upheld the law in a ruling last month. “My first reaction was unprintable,” Bookler, 94, one of the plaintiffs trying to get the law overturned, said in a telephone interview. “My second reaction was to get in bed and say I don’t want to be alive in a world where people are prevented from voting.” While Simpson turned down a bid to stop the new voter ID requirements from taking effect with the Nov. 6 election, his opinion made clear that the judge was looking over his shoulder to an appeal in the state Supreme Court, however he ruled. Simpson himself teed up what could be the a major point of contention facing the six Supreme Court justices when they hear that appeal Thursday in their Philadelphia courtroom on the fourth floor of City Hall. The issue: What level of judicial scrutiny should be applied to the legislature setting new, more stringent rules for potential voters showing up at their polling places? A relatively flexible standard, deferring to the legislature’s authority to set the rules for running Pennsylvania elections? Or a strict standard, recognizing the right to vote as a fundamental civil right and putting a burden on the state to justify any new laws that might interfere with individuals trying to vote?

Pennsylvania: As other states move to early voting or online registration, Pennsylvania puts off action | Associated Press

When it comes to liberalizing voting laws, the dark ages are catching up to Pennsylvania. The decision by Pennsylvania state election officials to set aside plans for online voter registration this year ensures that Pennsylvania will lag farther behind most other states in the effort to expand access to voting and voter registration. Based on an analysis of information from the National Conference of State Legislatures, Pennsylvania is now the most populous state that has not legalized at least one of four processes that other states are increasingly adopting: online voter registration or election-day registration, early voting and no-excuse absentee balloting. New York’s move last month to make online voter registration available leaves Pennsylvania among 10 states that do not allow early voting or online or election-day registration, while requiring an excuse from a voter — such as an illness or travel — to cast an absentee ballot.

Ohio: Two Democrats sue Ohio secretary of state over firing | Akron Beacon Journal

Two Democratic county elections officials fired in a dispute over extended voting hours filed a federal lawsuit against the Republican secretary of state on Monday, charging wrongful termination. Former Montgomery County Elections Board members Dennis Lieberman and Thomas Ritchie Sr. said in the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Dayton, that Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted unjustly fired them after they voted to continue to allow early voting on weekends. Husted has directed election boards in Ohio’s 88 counties to have the same early in-person voting hours on weekdays and no hours on weekends. He fired Ritchie and Lieberman on Aug. 28 after saying they violated that order by pushing to extend early voting to the weekends.

Belarus: Milošoski: Election campaign in Belarus is slow |

The head of the mission of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Antonio Milošoski stated that the parliamentary campaign in Belarus with the elections to take place literally in a couple of days runs with “the very low level of activity.” According to him, the mission finishes the interim report about the election campaign in Belarus.
The head of the ODIHR mission said that the report will contain information about the legal aspects of the elections, media issues, candidates’ registration and about all the rest that happened during the election campaign, reports BelaPAN. The report will be available for public on September 13th. As Antonio Milošoski noted, at the moment the mission’s representatives are still analyzing the information incoming from the ODIHR long-term observers in the regions. In the near future the information will be systemized and then presented.

China: Hong Kong Votes for Autonomy – the chief executive gave in to protesters on the election eve | Wall Street Journal

Parents, students, hunger strikers, pop stars and other public figures camped out around Hong Kong government offices last week demanding that the government scrap a requirement that state-funded schools teach children to love the motherland and respect the Communist Party. The confrontation took on a nastier tone, and the crowds swelled, after pro-Beijing media suggested that the protesters were pawns of the American and British governments. This showdown put the current Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in an awkward position, since Beijing’s local representatives insisted that the education plan go ahead. He capitulated on the eve of the weekend election of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council and announced instead that the classes would no longer be mandatory. (Legco will soon negotiate the system under which the next chief executive will be elected by universal suffrage in 2017). That probably saved pro-Beijing candidates from a disastrous showing, but the controversy still helped pro-democracy candidates win 27 out of 70 seats in the legislature. That’s not as many as they hoped for, but then the convoluted electoral system is rigged against pro-democracy candidates. They garnered almost 60% of the popular vote, up from 57% in 2008, and won 39% of the seats. Most importantly, they have enough votes to block any plans from Beijing to curtail civil liberties. Many of the new lawmakers are more radical than their predecessors.

Ukraine: Council of Europe Secretary General Praises Ukraine’s Landmark Electoral Reforms | MarketWatch

The Council of Europe’s Secretary General praised Ukraine’s government for its “very ambitious” new electoral law. Thorbjorn Jagland said the new law would be “very important,” paving the way to “free and fair” elections to be held in the country on October 28th. Speaking to the press on Monday, Mr. Jagland said: “I’m very glad to see that a very ambitious plan is being implemented very well.” The Council of Europe is providing assistance to Ukraine in implementing the new electoral law, which was written with the advice of European Union officials. The electoral reforms, which were approved by 80 percent of the Ukrainian parliament last year, will be used nationally for the first time at the election in October. The new law received support not only from the governing coalition but also from the opposition party led by Yulia Tymoschenko, which also voted in favor.