Editorials: From Rosa Parks to the Voting Rights Act: making equal rights a reality for all | Barbara Boxer/theGrio

I will never forget watching President Obama unveil the statue of one of my personal heroes in Statuary Hall last month – allowing civil rights icon Rosa Parks to take her rightful place in our nation’s Capitol. At the same time, just across the street, the fundamental promise that Rosa Parks spent her whole life fighting for – equal treatment for all Americans under the law – was under attack at the U.S. Supreme Court. While Parks was being celebrated for helping to bring down “the entire edifice of segregation,” as the President eloquently put it, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was busy declaring that the basic protections provided to the American people by the Voting Rights Act were a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.” His stunning remark shows clearly that our dream of justice and equality for all is still unfinished – even 57 years after Rosa Parks courageously refused to budge from her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.

Editorials: In the defense of our voting rights | Clyde Hughes/Journal and Courier

It is hard to imagine in a country built on the idea of democracy and one person/one vote, that there would be such a debate today over voting rights. Yet, here we are in 2013, and there is a debate over the rules of the voting game that has the potential of curtailing those rights. It seemed too ironic that we celebrated the 100th anniversary of a historic Washington, D.C., march for women’s suffrage on March 3, when days before the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on stripping the 1965 Voting Rights Act of a key provision that protects minority representation in much of the South. The National Women Suffrage Parade was held in 1913, the day before the inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson, in an effort to bring attention to the issue. It would take seven years before the 19th Amendment would pass, guaranteeing women the right to vote.

Editorials: We’ve Known How to Fix Voting Since 1975—We Don’t Need Another Panel | J. Ray Kennedy/The Atlantic

Many Americans learned a valuable lesson in 2000: The technologies that emerged over the previous century for casting and counting votes are not always as reliable as they need to be, especially in close elections. Those tools — mechanical lever machines, punch cards, optical-mark readers and, most recently, touch-screen and push-button electronic units — emerged as urban populations grew and as pressure intensified for rapid tallying of results, largely from candidates and broadcasters. For years, they were widely accepted as accurate. But as early as 1975, Roy Saltman, an engineer at the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology), undertook a privately funded study of voting and vote-counting technology and recommended that punch-card systems be dropped as soon as possible due to problems like hanging chads. Alarm. Yawn. Hit the snooze button. A 1988 update had the same reaction. In 1990, after extensive public hearings, the Federal Election Commission’s Office of Election Administration issued voluntary guidelines regarding the testing and certification of voting and vote-counting technologies. America was beginning to wake up. Around the same time, the House Subcommittee on Elections of the Committee on Administration held hearings on emerging voting technologies. The report of those hearings was a cornucopia of information. Another sign of awakening. Yet in 1994, one of the first actions of the new Republican majority was to eliminate the Subcommittee on Elections. Big yawn. Hit the snooze button.

Editorials: Voting rights: Americans died for it, the free world admires it, the Supreme Court should preserve it | Brent Budowsky/The Hill

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy recently made an important and wise comment when he said that with gridlock plaguing our political system, “A democracy should not be dependent for its major decisions on what nine unelected people from a narrow legal background have to say.” Considering the controversial history of recent Supreme Court decisions regarding elections, and the pending case regarding the Voting Rights Act, the nine unelected justices should uphold the Voting Rights Act, which was not passed under gridlock but was passed by overwhelming majorities of both parties, in both the House and Senate, including those representing states covered by the act. In my view the act should be upheld, period. For conservative justices who might be inclined to overturn the act or Section 5 of the act, I would suggest they consider that this would violate the conservative principle against extreme judicial activism. It would violate the conservative principle of avoiding political decisions. It would violate the conservative principle against the unelected judicial branch negating overwhelming agreement of the elected executive and legislative branches, which have substantially more expertise regarding free elections than those of “narrow legal background.”

Iowa: Legislative panel doesn’t stop voter purge rule | Associated Press

A controversial voting rule targeting immigrants without U.S. citizenship will take effect this month after a state oversight committee failed to stop it Friday, but activists are threating an immediate court fight. The rule, proposed by Secretary of State Matt Schultz, establishes a way to remove from voter registration lists an individual whose citizenship is questioned. The Republican says the change is needed to reduce voter fraud, which he’s made his key issue, but opponents say the rule intimidates immigrants who are citizens. The Administrative Rules Review Committee voted 5-5 along party lines on a motion to object to the rule. But since the objection needed six votes to pass, the rule will automatically take effect March 27. The legislative panel oversees state government agency rules and is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Schultz first proposed the change just a few weeks before November’s general election, but a Polk County judge blocked it after a lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa. The ACLU said Friday it would do the same on the day the new rule takes effect.

Hawaii: Legislature Considering Allowing Election-Day Registration | Big Island Now

Residents who procrastinate and fail to register to vote by the deadline would still be able to cast ballots on election day under a bill approved by the state House of Representatives. House Bill 321, which has been referred to several Senate committees, would permit residents to register at the same time they went in to vote. Current state law requires that voters register 30 days before the election. The change to allow election-day registration has been proposed as a way of increasing voting participation, lawmakers say.

Maryland: Use of old voting machines angers state senators | Baltimore Post-Examiner

Sen. Richard Madaleno said Thursday on the floor of the Senate he was shocked by the news that Maryland will not be replacing old touchscreen voting machines with more advanced technology before the 2014 election. “I was under the impression that we were going to have new voting machines in place by then,” Madaleno said during debate on a bill to make voting easier. He added he was concerned that an amendment on that bill calling for the State Board of Elections to research voters’ wait times would distract the board from the urgent task of purchasing modern voting machines. “I’m worried that we’re inadvertently giving the State Board of Elections an excuse to say that they’re not able to get the new voting system,” said Madaleno, a Montgomery County Democrat. The amendment was later passed.

Michigan: Election official seeks more transparency | The Morning Sun

Michigan’s top elections official wants to require political campaigns to report financial contributions within 48 hours after they receive them, one of several proposals aimed at giving voters nearly real-time information about the money behind the candidates. As part of this week’s observance of National Sunshine Week, an initiative aimed at improving government transparency, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said she is working with lawmakers to draft legislation and push through some long-elusive changes to the state’s campaign finance system. Under current law, voters often have to wait months before being able to access critical information about contributors to groups funding the candidates. “That’s a long time not to have that information, with lots of voting going on and lots of decision making,” she said.

Nebraska: Voter ID debate rages in Nebraska committee hearing | The Grand Island Independent

Opponents of a voter identification bill threatened a lawsuit Thursday if Nebraska lawmakers approve it, while supporters cast the measure as a preventive effort to protect against voter fraud. The issue triggered a heated debate during a legislative hearing, where opponents outnumbered supporters by a nearly 5-to-1 margin. Some compared the bill to poll taxes levied in the post-Civil War South to keep minorities from voting. The head of a Nebraska taxpayers’ group argued that any person who was “too lazy” to request a free state-issued ID probably wouldn’t vote on Election Day. Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont, a Republican candidate for governor, introduced the bill. He’s tried similar measures several times, with last year’s attempt making it to the floor after supporters failed to overcome an eight-hour filibuster. Voter ID, an issue throughout the nation’s statehouses, is trumpeted by Republicans as a way to prevent voter fraud, while Democrats call it a political ploy to suppress voters who may not have proper identification, particularly groups that typically vote Democratic. No cases of voter fraud have been reported in Nebraska. The bill would entitle voters without a driver’s license to a free, state-issued identification card. The Department of Motor Vehicles would give free cards to voters who are indigent, and voters without IDs would still be allowed to cast provisional ballots.

Editorials: Ohio election law needs an upgrade | The Columbus Dispatch

Four or five months ago, Secretary of State Jon Husted probably would have been grateful for people to forget about Ohio elections for a while. Now, however, he needs the attention of state and federal lawmakers. When in-state and out-of-state partisans are done besieging this swing state during presidential-election years — trumping up charges of widespread voter fraud or voter suppression to rally their troops across the country — it seems they forget all about the importance of smooth, valid elections in Ohio. But Husted’s job remains the same: ensuring that every election is well run. The General Assembly should do its part to help, by enacting the common-sense reforms for which Husted has asked, starting with allowing online voter registration and establishing uniform days and hours for voting.

Ohio: Redistricting reform stalling in Ohio House | Dayton Daily News

Despite calls for urgency from fellow Republicans, the Ohio House and its leader are pumping the breaks on the latest round of legislation that would overhaul how Ohio draws its election maps. Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, said passing a plan that would require both Republicans and Democrats to sign off on congressional and state legislative districts is a top priority. The Ohio Senate approved that plan 32-1 in December. Senators reintroduced a bipartisan new version in the new legislative session that began this year. “I’d expect the senate to act soon,” Faber said. But the Ohio House, led by Speaker William Batchelder, R-Medina, is taking a more deliberate approach. Rather than address the Senate plan directly in the legislature, Batchelder has decided that redistricting reform should be first taken up by the Constitutional Modernization Commission, a 32-member advisory body that meets four times a year. The commission has 10 years to recommend changes to Ohio’s constitution. Any changes would ultimately require the approval of the legislature.

Australia: Electoral Commission bids for change | Bunbury Mail

Many people who turned up to cast their vote on Saturday were surprised to find out they were one of 240,000 West Australians that were not listed on the electoral roll, prompting the WA Electoral Commission to look to other states for a solution. WA Electoral Commissioner Warwick Gately said while the commission often contacted people at what were believed to be their new addresses, the onus was for voters to respond and provide their details so they could be enrolled. Some people simply chose not to turn up, despite voting being compulsory. Mr Gately said a solution which had been picked up in New South Wales, was to enrol people automatically as a result of change of address information supplied to government departments. For this to happen, legislative change is required.

Kenya: Audit after ‘count errors’ | BBC News

Kenya’s electoral commission has said it is auditing election results so far tallied to iron out discrepancies that have been detected. With 87% of constituencies declared from Monday’s vote, Uhuru Kenyatta retains a significant lead over his rival Prime Minister Raila Odinga. He has 50% of the vote, against 43.3% for Mr Odinga. A candidate needs more than 50% to avoid a run-off. Officials had said the results would be finalised on Friday. “There may have been errors and discrepancies here and there. Some we have already detected and we are working on them,” Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper quotes James Oswago, chief executive of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), as saying. … Mr Oswago’s announcement came after Mr Odinga’s Cord alliance had complained that the votes from 11 constituencies were missing from the 254 officially tallied so far, the Daily Nation reports. This meant that Mr Odinga was missing 281,611 votes compared to 25,863 for Mr Kenyatta for those constituencies, Cord said.

Kenya: Kenyatta Leads in Kenyan Election as Opponent Urges Recount | Bloomberg

Uhuru Kenyatta, facing crimes against humanity charges, led Kenya’s presidential vote as the electoral commission rejected his opponent’s call to stop tallying because of flaws and alleged manipulation. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission said it had found no cases where votes cast exceeded the number of registered voters, as Prime Minister Raila Odinga’sCoalition for Reform and Democracy, or CORD, alleged earlier in the day, Chairman Issack Hassan said. “With the rigorous verification in place, there is no room to doctor the results whatsoever by any election official,” he told reporters in Nairobi, the capital. “We cannot stop tallying. This is a legal process.” Kenyatta, a deputy prime minister, received 3.13 million votes and Odinga got 2.56 million of the ballots declared from 45 percent of constituencies, according to the commission. Accusations by Odinga that he was robbed of victory in the last presidential election in December 2007 sparked two months of clashes that left more than 1,100 people dead and another 350,000 homeless.

Venezuela: Date Set To Elect Chavez’s Successor | NPR

Venezuela’s elections commission announced Saturday that voters will go to the polls on April 14 to choose a successor to President Hugo Chavez, who died this week after a battle with cancer. The nation’s constitution mandated that an election be called within 30 days of Chavez’s death on March 5, but the scheduled date falls outside of that window. Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s vice president, was sworn in as interim leader on Friday. Opposition coalition leader and state governor Henrique Capriles, who ran against Chavez in the October election, has disputed Maduro’s right to be interim leader. Capriles is expected to be the opposition candidate against Maduro in the special election, though many in his party are concerned about the vote’s fairness.