The Voting News Daily: Challenges to Voting Laws May Play Havoc On and After Election Day, Easy Case for the Constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act

National: Challenges to Voting Laws May Play Havoc On and After Election Day | Roll Call Democratic Rep. Mark Critz’s chances of hanging onto his seat representing Southwestern Pennsylvania could hinge on a lawsuit filed by a 93-year-old great grandmother over the state’s new voter identification law. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania is hearing Viviette…

National: Challenges to Voting Laws May Play Havoc On and After Election Day | Roll Call

Democratic Rep. Mark Critz’s chances of hanging onto his seat representing Southwestern Pennsylvania could hinge on a lawsuit filed by a 93-year-old great grandmother over the state’s new voter identification law.
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania is hearing Viviette Applewhite’s appeal today so it can decide whether the recently enacted statute is so burdensome on some citizens that it violates Pennsylvania’s constitution. Like other lawsuits across the country, it pits Republicans concerned about voter fraud against Democrats worried about voter suppression. The outcome could affect turnout on Election Day and spawn legal challenges afterward.

Voting Blogs: The Surprisingly Easy Case for the Constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act | CAC

The next big showdown over the constitutional powers of the federal government is nearly upon us.  When the Supreme Court reconvenes in October, the Court is widely expected to grant review in Shelby County v Holder, a constitutional challenge to Congress’ 2006 renewal of the preclearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act, one of the Act’s most important and successful provisions in preventing and deterring racial discrimination in voting. Since it was first enacted in 1965, the Voting Right Act has required jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting to get permission – “preclearance” – from the U.S. Department of Justice or a three-judge federal court in Washington D.C. before changing their  voting laws and regulations.  Recent court opinions written by judges across the ideological spectrum illustrate just how vital preclearance remains as a tool for preventing racial discrimination in voting.

California: ‘Top-Two’ Election Change in California Upends Races |

Running against the Vietnam War, Representative Pete Stark entered Congress the year Richard M. Nixon was re-elected president. Since then, ensconced in Democratic strongholds here in the Bay Area, Mr. Stark was easily re-elected 19 times. Ricky Gill, a Republican, is trying to unseat Representative Jerry McNerney, a Democrat running in a redrawn district in the Central Valley. But Mr. Stark, 80, the dean of California’s Congressional delegation, is facing a serious challenge for the first time. That is because Eric Swalwell, a fellow Democrat who became a city councilman less than two years ago in Dublin, his hometown near here, came just a few points behind Mr. Stark in the primary Now Mr. Swalwell gets to carry the fight into November — thanks to a new primary system in California under which the top two vote getters advance to the general election, regardless of party affiliation. “I wouldn’t have had a chance before,” Mr. Swalwell, 31, said before a recent afternoon and evening of campaigning.

Florida: Florida early voting cuts survive | Washington Post

A federal judge won’t block Florida’s plan to cut the required early voting days from 14 down to eight. Judge Timothy Corrigan ruled that there was not enough proof that the change burdened the ability of African-Americans to vote. Nor did opponents prove that the law was discriminatory in intent or effect, he wrote.  In addition to cutting the number of mandatory early voting days, the new Florida law eliminates early voting on the Sunday before Election Day, a day when high percentages of minority voters headed to the polls in 2008. (That surge might be in part due to black church activism, known as “Souls to the Polls.”) The new law mandates two Saturdays and one Sunday for early voting, but not the Sunday before Election Day.

Iowa: Election officials in Iowa, other states finding little evidence of voter fraud | TheGazette

Republican election officials who promised to root out voter fraud so far are finding little evidence of a widespread problem. State officials in key presidential battleground states have found only a tiny fraction of the illegal voters they initially suspected existed. Searches in Colorado and Florida have yielded numbers that amount to less than one-tenth of 1 percent of all registered voters in either state. Democrats say the searches waste time and, worse, could disenfranchise eligible voters who are swept up in the checks. “I find it offensive that I’m being required to do more than any other citizen to prove that I can vote,” said Samantha Meiring, 37, a Colorado voter and South African immigrant who became a U.S. citizen in 2010. Meiring was among 3,903 registered voters who received letters last month from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office questioning their right to vote.

Oklahoma: Law shakes up ID requirements for voters — especially out-of-state students |

Out-of-state students preparing to vote in the November elections will likely need to dig up their voter registration card or U.S. passport if they plan to cast their ballot in Oklahoma. Because of the state’s voter ID law, Oklahoma voters are required to show some form of identification before receiving a ballot. The catch, however, is driver licenses from out of state do not qualify, said Jim Williams, Cleveland County Election Board secretary. “That is another unique feature of the Oklahoma law; it does have to be an Oklahoma driver license,” Williams said. “So if you have an out-of-state driver license, you’ll need some other form of ID for voting.” Other acceptable IDs include a state-issued ID, a U.S. passport, a military ID — all of which are photo IDs — but there is one exception: voter registration cards, he said.

Pennsylvania: Voter ID requirements change | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The state judge listening to a new round of arguments on the state’s voter identification law concluded the day-long session by directing attorneys to come prepared Thursday to argue what they think a potential injunction should look like. Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson said it’s his responsibility to consider the possibility of halting the new law — which requires all voters present a photo ID card with an expiration date in order to cast a ballot — and how to tailor such an action so that it addresses why the law isn’t being properly implemented. “I think it’s possible there could be an injunction entered here,” he said. “I need some input from people who have been thinking about this longer than I have.”

Pennsylvania: Weeks before election, Pennsylvania voter ID law back in court | Reuters

A judge who will decide whether Pennsylvania’s new voter-identification law should be blocked heard testimony on Tuesday from one witness who said fears that the measure placed an unfair burden on residents were overblown. The witness, Kurt Myers, a deputy secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, said about 11,000 voters have gotten the mandated ID cards at the center of the controversial law and thousands more were set to get theirs before the November 6 election. “We’re in the business of issuing IDs, not denying IDs,” Myers told Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson.

South Carolina: Judges tough on both sides in South Carolina voter-ID case |

Federal judges grilled attorneys Monday over South Carolina’s controversial voter-ID law, which opponents said would disenfranchise thousands of minorities but supporters said would have ample protection against discrimination at the polls. During closing arguments in a six-day federal trial over the law, the three-judge panel challenged attorneys for the state over election officials’ shifting stances on how they’d implement it, and the judges asked opposing attorneys why they’re rejecting clear efforts by those officials to soften possible harmful impact on African-American voters. The South Carolina law, which Attorney General Eric Holder blocked after its May 2011 enactment, has national implications that pit a state’s legal right to prevent electoral fraud against the federal government’s mandate under the 1965 Voting Rights Act to ensure equal access to the polls for minority Americans.

South Carolina: Closing arguments for South Carolina voter ID law |

South Carolina’s voter ID law doesn’t discriminate against blacks and allows minorities to cast ballots even if they don’t have proper identification, attorneys for the state told a panel of federal judges Monday.
Attorneys for the Justice Department and the League of Women Voters of South Carolina countered that the law is designed to disenfranchise tens of thousands of black state residents by making it harder for them to vote. Monday’s closing arguments followed a week-long trial that will decide if the ID law, which requires a valid government-issued ID to vote, will take effect.

Virginia: Homeless Discuss Difficulty of Getting a Voter ID Card | WHSV

Even if you do not have a roof over your head, you can still cast a vote in the presidential election this November. Homeless people around the community can still register and get the new voter ID cards. For some, it may be the only ID they will have. Frankie Good is a homeless man in the area, and he said why he wants to vote this year. “I’d like to vote because I’d like to see the economy get back on its feet,” said Good. Good lives at the Mercy House in Harrisonburg because he is homeless. He has never voted, but he has always had an ID if he wanted one. Some homeless people, like James McNeil Wilson Jr., are not as lucky. “You have to fill out the applications. I can’t see. I don’t understand half of it anyways,” said McNeil.

Virginia: Officials to spend $2M on voter ID compliance |

State election officials will spend nearly $2 million to prepare citizens for compliance with a new voter identification law intended to tamp down on election fraud in Virginia, where its prevalence is questionable. Much of that money – $1.36 million – is the cost of printing and mailing voter registration cards to millions of registered Virginia voters, as Gov. Bob McDonnell ordered when he signed the law last May. Another $550,000 is for a voter education contract awarded to a vendor selected from five bidders. A mix of state and federal funds are paying for the outreach. That’s a significant outlay for the State Board of Elections, which in 2008 relied on the state Department of General Services for public relations services under a $50,000 annual contract.

Belarus: Boycotted Belarus election declared valid |

Enough residents voted in otherwise-boycotted Parliamentary elections in Belarus to make the results valid, the country’s Central Election Commission has declared. The commission ruled Sunday that more than 50 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the elections for all 110 seats in the Belarus National Assembly, the nation’s lower house of Parliament, RIA Novosti reported. The country’s two main opposition parties — the United Civic and BPF parties –boycotted the polls because of alleged fraud, urging voters to skip what they called “pseudo-elections” for the “rubber-stamp” lower house.

Belarus: Elections in Belarus: lack of neutrality, competitiveness and impartiality | New Europe

Elections to appoint the House of Representatives in Belarus took place on 23 September 2012. According to the preliminary conclusions of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and their Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) AND OSCE PA* international observers in the country, the elections were not administered in an impartial manner and the complaints and appeals process did not guarantee effective remedy. Furthermore, the preliminary report seems to indicate that the lack of neutrality and impartiality on the part of election commissions severely undermined public confidence in the process, while the lack of proper counting procedures or ways for observers to verify the results raised serious concerns.

Ukraine: Last Elections in a Divided Country? | New Eastern Europe

Ukraine gained independence in 1991 and political scientist Andrew Wilson has famously called the Ukrainians “an unexpected nation”. In 2012, however, the country is still mired in a post-Soviet swamp of unaccountable and corrupt governance amidst low quality of life and widespread poverty. For many in Western Europe it remains a grey, if not dark, place somewhere on the outskirts of Russia. But what British journalist Lancelot Lawton called “the Ukrainian question” in his 1935 address to the House of Commons Committee is as topical as ever. Each election in Ukraine is deemed crucial for the country’s statehood, and whilst it is usual for the regions of a country to be divided on ideological lines, here such a division is at its widest.

Venezuela: Chavez’s rival gains ground in Venezuela election push | Reuters

The crowds are bigger, his speeches slicker, and Venezuela’s young opposition leader Henrique Capriles is on a roll in a final, frenzied push to end President Hugo Chavez’s socialist rule. With just 12 days left before the OPEC nation’s presidential election, the 40-year-old state governor is whipping up crowds like never before, creeping up in the polls and becoming increasingly aggressive in his attacks on Chavez’s policies. “We’ve never had a candidate like him,” gushed shopkeeper Andrea Gomez, 42, screaming at Capriles like a teenage girl at a pop concert as he went by, blowing kisses during an open-top cavalcade along the Caribbean coast north of Caracas. “It’s like Chavez in 1998, when he won the presidency. But Henrique has surpassed that. He is closer to the people.”