It was a battle that attorney Armand Derfner thought he had helped win almost five decades ago. In 1968, Derfner represented black Mississippi voters before the Supreme Court in one of the first constitutional tests of a key Voting Rights Act provision. Derfner and a team of civil rights lawyers prevailed, expanding the provision’s scope and keeping the protection in place. Today, Derfner, 74, is watching the Voting Rights Act confront a new challenge — on the same issue he argued 45 years ago.
The state’s ethics commission on Friday again postponed release of an ethics probe of Secretary of State Scott Gessler after his legal team filed motions accusing the commission, one of its members and its executive director of unfairness. “There is a cloud over the commission’s preliminary handling of this case,” the motions from Gessler argue. A Denver district judge last week denied Gessler’s effort to halt the investigation by the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission. Gessler’s attorneys have argued the commission has no jurisdiction in what may be a criminal case arising from allegations the Republican misspent state funds for political purposes by attending a meeting of GOP lawyers last year and piggybacking on a trip to the Republican National Convention.
Florida: Supreme Court to weigh constitutionality of voting rights protection | Tallahassee Democrat
Iron-fisted enforcement of the 1965 Voting Rights Act transformed American politics, especially in the South, by making sure minorities had a clear path to the ballot box and an equal shot at public service. Forty-eight years later, after the re-election of an African-American president, the heart of that law is on trial. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Feb. 27 in a case that is sure to ignite a national debate over how far the country has progressed on racial issues and whether minority voters still need extra protection. Shelby County, Ala., opposed by the Justice Department and civil rights groups, wants two key sections of the Voting Rights Act declared unconstitutional. Section 5 bars election officials in jurisdictions with a history of discrimination from changing their voting procedures unless they first prove the changes won’t hurt minorities. Section 4b uses a formula to determine which states, counties and municipalities are subject to Section 5. Though they are not challenging the law, five Florida counties — Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe — are covered by the Voting Rights Act.
Idaho: Early Voting Bill, Streamlining Process, Gets Affirmative Vote From Idaho House Committee | Boise Weekly
Following unprecedented lines of early voters leading up to last November’s election, state officials want to dramatically alter the process of moving ballots. A proposed measure that would change early voting procedures—and presumably speed up the vote count—moved through an Idaho legislative committee this morning with a “do pass” recommendation to the full membership of the Idaho House. “In Ada County, our population has grown 33 percent while our election costs have grown 313 percent,” Phil McGrane, Ada County chief deputy clerk, told members of the House State Affairs Committee today. “The cost and complexity has risen dramatically. But we’re trying to reduce the complexity so that we can focus on the accuracy and integrity of the voting process.” McGrane told lawmakers that Ada County needed to hire 90 additional workers on Election Night simply to open envelopes containing early ballots.
Allegations such as voters being offered pizza coupons and campaign workers insisting on handling mail-in ballots for town residents have sprung up in Cicero as the heated race for town president heads into its final week. The Cook County clerk’s office has notified law enforcement officials, including the state’s attorney’s office and the U.S. Department of Justice, of such allegations and other claims of voter intimidation and voter fraud in the western suburb. Incumbent Larry Dominick is seeking his third term as town president. He will face former McPier executive Juan Ochoa and former town senior services director Joe Pontarelli next Tuesday. “The state’s attorney is out there (in Cicero) this week interviewing people about the allegations,” Cook County Clerk David Orr said Monday at a news conference. Orr said his office has gotten several complaints from voters. He said he is disturbed about town employees in uniforms who are allegedly campaigning and knocking on doors.
Kentucky: Advocates for felons’ voting rights hope changes in legislature prove beneficial to bill | Kentucky.com
In describing Jesse Crenshaw, the average person could call him a long-time state representative who was first elected to serve the 77th District in 1993. But for convicted felons who have paid their debt to society, the adjectives used could be determined, persistent, unflagging and resolute. That’s because for years Crenshaw has introduced a bill in the House that would call for the automatic restoration of voting rights for all felons except those who convicted of “treason, intentional killing, a sex crime or bribery.” “It is one of the most important rights a person can have,” Crenshaw said. “From a Christian standpoint, it is about redemption.” There are more than 234,000 Kentuckians with felony convictions, he said, “and most of those are already out of prison. These are people in our society who deserve to be able to vote.”
Even if photo voter I.D. legislation finally passes in the Missouri Legislature this session there may still be court challenges at the federal level. That, from professor of Constitutional Law at Washington University, Greg Magarian. Lawmakers in Jefferson City are currently working on a Voter I.D. law that would require a constitutional amendment and be approved by voters. “That would clear Missouri courts” says Professor Magarian but there would still be questions that the U.S. Supreme Court might raise. “How easy or difficult is it to get a necessary form of I.D., what findings are there about how many people this would effectively block out from voting.” said professor Magarian.
The Virginia General Assembly’s Senate Privileges and Elections Committee has approved a bill that supporters say would thwart voter fraud but opponents say would make it harder to vote. The committee voted 8-6 along party lines for a bill that would limit the number of acceptable forms of voter identification — the types of documents someone must present in order to cast a ballot. Currently, voters can identify themselves by presenting a voter registration card, a driver’s license or various other documents. House Bill 1337, proposed by Delegate Mark Cole, R-Fredericksburg, would remove utility bills, bank statements and paychecks from the list of documents that would be accepted at polling places.
Under debate right now is the issue of what type of identification you need in order to vote in Virginia. Right now, all you have to present is something that identifies you, like a bank statement, or even a utility bill. Some feel you should show more, an actual photo ID when you head to the polls. There’s less than a week left in the Virginia General Assembly and the push behind Senate Bill 1256 is creating a lot of controversy. “Virginia has an ugly history of making it harder for some communities to vote,” said Sen. Mamie Locke. If you ask the Virginia House Democratic Caucus, the long lines we saw last Election Day provided fuel for republicans to try to change who can vote. “This is going to have a very extremely negative impact on senior citizens,” Locke said.
Democratic lawmakers continued to bash their Republican colleagues over voting rights legislation Monday, saying the GOP has gone out of its way to kill measures to deal with long lines at the polls while pushing ahead with stricter voter identification requirements. After many Virginians waited four to five hours to vote in November, House of Delegates Democratic Caucus Chairman Mark Sickles of Fairfax said members of both parties came to Richmond in January “with an urgent mandate to make real change and improve our democracy.” Yet measures put forward by both Republicans and Democrats that would have allowed early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, absentee voting for people over the age of 65, absentee voting for people with children under the age of four, increased voting machines at polling places, and keeping polls open until 8 p.m. have all been defeated. Even legislation supported by Gov. Bob McDonnell such as the automatic restoration of voting rights for felons convicted of nonviolent offenses were killed in the House, Sickles said.
Wisconsin: Report says nding Election Day voter registration would cost up to $14.5 million | Wisconsin State Journal
Ending Wisconsin’s practice of allowing people to register to vote on Election Day would cost up to $14.5 million when the expenses of several state agencies are taken into account, a spokesman for the state Government Accountability Board said Monday. Some Republicans have pushed for an earlier registration deadline, saying it would make it harder for anyone to vote illegally. The staff of the GAB, which oversees the state’s elections, studied the idea and in a preliminary report in December estimated its costs for the first two years after a change would increase by $5.2 million. The estimate increased dramatically Monday for two reasons. Since December, four affected state departments — transportation, workforce development, health services and children and families — have submitted their own cost estimates totaling between $9.9 million and $10.5 million, said GAB spokesman Reid Magney. Meanwhile, GAB staff has determined that depending on how state laws were changed, the election agency’s main costs could be held to $3.9 million.
President Serzh Sargsyan of Armenia easily won re-election to a second five-year term, according to preliminary returns released on Tuesday by the Central Election Commission. The preliminary results showed Mr. Sargsyan with about 59 percent of the vote, enough to win the presidency outright and avoid a runoff. The former foreign minister, Raffi Hovanessian, was a distant second with about 37 percent, the returns showed. Armenians went to the polls on Monday with Mr. Sargsyan heavily favored to win and maintain stability in a country that has become an increasingly important, if uneasy, United States ally in monitoring Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
The government’s IT systems withstood a cyber attack which attempted to block the release of election results on Sunday.
Authorities were on alert throughout election day after a group of hackers threatened to disrupt the elections by targeting state websites. A video posted on Saturday on the Internet by a group claiming to be the Cyprus branch of ‘Anonymous’ called on sympathisers to launch the attack at exactly 6pm on Sunday – the designated deadline for the start of the ballot count. Interior Ministry officials claim that these sorts of attacks happen sporadically, while police re-assured the public that it would be extra vigilant during the run-up to the second round of elections this coming Sunday. “There was a DDOS (distributed denial of service) attack, also known as a cyber attack on Sunday, in an attempt to prevent the interior ministry from showing the results but also unauthorised attempts to reach other sites that were related to the elections,” chief official for the Department of Information Technology Services (DITS), Andreas Kyprianou said.
The president of the National Electoral Council (CNE) of Ecuador, Domingo Paredes , revealed on Sunday that it has detected an attempt to penetrate your computer system while the Ecuadorians go to the polls to elect President , Vice President and legislators.”I could not give more details, it is under investigation,” Paredes said Efe, stating that, in any case, are showing “that there is no control of the situation “and that the software developed is “highly confident”. The head of the CNE declared that entity investigating who tried to break into the system, something that happened this morning , he explained. He added that there have been also other “acts of God”, but noted that “there is no reason to generalize or scandalized” because “everything is under control.”
The Electoral Commission (EC), has stated that it has not directed any of its officials to get people to sign any documents pertaining to the 2012 elections. After the declaration of the election results, “It was absolutely unnecessary to sign any form,” EC Public Relations Director, Mr Owusu Parry told this source. He was reacting to the arrest of three of its officials inTamale at the weekend, for possessing some unsigned pink sheets which they allegedly attempted to validate at Savelugu. They are the Deputy Northern Regional Director of the EC, Mr. Godfred Oakley, the Savelugu/Nanton district director of the commission, Mr. Benjamin Akomanua and a national service person, Salamatu Osman. Mr. Akomanua and Salamatu were alleged to have asked some returning officers in the area to sign 15 pink sheets that were in their possession at Savelugu on Sunday morning. They were however apprehended by some operatives of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and handed over to the Savelugu police.
The Solomon Islands Electoral Commission has warned contesting candidates to be vigilant and to make sure their act of campaigning is legitimate. “Elections have laws that guide candidates, officials and voters and the general public and individuals that are in breached of these laws or electoral offenses face their penalties when found guilty in court. There are several election petitions court cases that have been filed in the past against winning candidates and officials and have resulted in some candidates loosing their parliamentary seats,” Mr Polycap Haununu.