The ACLU of Virginia and more than a dozen other groups concerned about voting rights today sent a letter to Governor Bob McDonnell urging him to veto legislation that imposes stricter identification requirements at the polls, which the groups expect will limit eligible voters’ access on Election Day. “We all agree that the integrity of our electoral process is paramount,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga. “And part of maintaining the integrity of the process is ensuring that no eligible voter is denied the right to vote. Last year, Virginia changed its voter ID laws and spent $2 million in taxpayer dollars to issue new voter registration cards and launch a voter education campaign,” added Gastañaga. “Now, following an election with long lines but no instances of fraud, we are looking at legislation that imposes even stricter ID requirements that are unnecessary and will be burdensome, particularly for voters who are elderly, racial and ethnic minorities, students, persons with disabilities, and low-income.”
National: Bill would require states to allow people to register to vote on the same day as the election | Hometown Source
U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Jon Tester (D-MT) today introduced legislation to help make voting easier for all Americans. The Same Day Registration Act would require states to allow people to register to vote for a federal election on the same day as the election. … Klobuchar recently traveled to Alabama with Congressman John Lewis and visited several key sites of the civil rights movement including the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. Klobuchar also spoke to Attorney General Eric Holder at a Senate Judiciary hearing last week about protecting the right to vote and encouraging voter participation.
The Justice Department’s inspector general found numerous examples of harassment in the department’s voting rights division, but determined it did not prioritize cases in a partisan manner under either Presidents Obama or George W. Bush. The lengthy inspector general report released Tuesday found that the often ideologically divisive nature of the voting rights section’s work — including reviews of redistricting cases, voter ID laws and voter registration issues — resulted in instances of harassment within the DOJ. “Our investigation revealed several incidents in which deep ideological polarization fueled disputes and mistrust that harmed the functioning of the voting section,” states the IG report. “We found that people on different sides of internal disputes about particular cases in the voting section have been quick to suspect those on the other side of partisan motivations, heightening the sense of polarization in the section.” Inspector General Michael Horowitz initiated the investigation at lawmakers’ request, and out of a concern for political favoritism within the department. Investigators interviewed more than 80 people and reviewed more than 100,000 pages of DOJ documents.
Arizona: Proof of citizenship voter registration requirement heads to Supreme Court | Arizona Capitol Times
To Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, the state law requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration is “common sense,” not a burden. To opponents, Arizona’s Proposition 200 is just another obstacle that would restrict access to the polls for the young, elderly and minorities. The U.S. Supreme Court will weigh in this month in a hearing that will be watched closely by voting rights advocates and by several other states with similar laws. At issue in the March 18 hearing is a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said federal law trumped state law on voter registration requirements. The appeals court said in April that voters could use a federal mail-in registration form, established by the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, which only requires that they attest to their citizenship through a signature.
The Maryland Senate on Monday night passed Gov. Martin O’Malley’s bill to expand early voting and allow same-day registration.
The Senate voted 35-12 to approve Senate Bill 279, Election Law — Improving Access to Voting. The House version of the bill, House Bill 224, still awaits a vote in the House Ways and Means Committee. If passed in the House, the measure would give Marylanders two more early voting days. It would also allow people to register to vote and immediately cast ballots at early voting centers, and give them the opportunity to obtain absentee ballots online. Opponents of the bill raised concerns about the potential for voter fraud, suggesting the bill should be delayed until security can be improved. Proponents say the measure is a sound solution to a problem that caused long lines at early voting centers, depriving some of a chance to vote last fall.
N.C. lawmakers are scrambling to sponsor bills that would impact voter identification and straight party balloting. State Sen. Joel Ford, a Charlotte Democrat, introduced legislation last week that would ensure registered voters can cast a ballot even if they lack identification. Ford’s bill, SB 235, would allow voters to present identification at a polling place or have their photo taken on site before casting a ballot. Ford, a freshman lawmaker, is pitching the legislation as an alternative to Republican-backed bills that would require ID in advance of voting. Democrats and progressive-leaning activists have complained that stringent voter ID laws unfairly disenfranchise the young, elderly and racial minorities – core voters in the Democratic camp. Military personnel and absentee voters – who historically vote Republican – wouldn’t be required to present identification.
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit in which five candidates who ran unsuccessfully were seeking to throw out the territory’s 2012 General Election results. Senior District Court Judge Raymond Finch on Thursday issued a memorandum opinion and order dismissing the case on a number of grounds. He ruled that the plaintiffs – senatorial candidate Lawrence Olive, Senate At-large candidate Wilma Marsh-Monsanto, Delegate to Congress candidate Norma Pickard-Samuel and Board of Elections candidates Harriet Mercer and Diane Magras – failed to articulate specific wrongs in their December complaint. “Plaintiffs’ allegations do not distinguish their concerns – about the use of certain voting machines in the election or the election results in general – from concerns of other voters or even other candidates,” Finch wrote.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is looking for a legal work-around to restore voting rights to certain non-violents felons after the weight Gov. Bob McDonnell and he threw behind the cause was insufficient to get legislation to do that through the General Assembly. Cuccinelli, the Republican nominee for governor this year, Tuesday announced he’s establishing a committee to examine alternate ways under current law to restore rights to eligible ex-offenders who completed all terms of their sentences. “There are many people in our communities who have committed certain low-level, nonviolent offenses in the past, paid their debts to society, and then gone on to live law-abiding lives” he said in a statement about his Rights Restoration Advisory Committee.
The tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan will go to polls for the second time in its history next month for elections which will consolidate its transformation to democracy, according to a royal decree. A vote for the 25-member upper house will take place on April 23, said the decree which was posted online. An election date for the larger and more influential lower house has yet to be announced but is widely expected in May. “It is important that all voters take their right and duty seriously, exercise their franchise and choose the most competent and deserving candidate as their representative,” said the decree.
Residents in Strathcona County will not be using internet voting as an option for the 2013 municipal election. Tuesday afternoon, county councillors were set to vote on whether or not to move ahead with a project that would see online ballots cast as part of the advanced polls in October’s civic election. However, Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths put the brakes on the idea before council had the chance to vote. “I support continued research and experience with internet voting systems, but at this time, I am not prepared to support the use of internet voting for the October 2013 general election,” Griffiths wrote in a letter sent to Strathcona County Mayor, Linda Osinchuk.
An Egyptian court will hear an appeal on Sunday against a ruling that led to the cancellation of parliamentary elections called by President Mohamed Mursi, the latest hurdle in Egypt’s tortuous political transition. A body representing the state said it had lodged an appeal with the Administrative Court against its ruling last week which canceled Mursi’s decision to hold the four-stage parliamentary vote from April 22 onwards. Mursi and his Islamist backers in the Muslim Brotherhood are keen that the lower house election should go ahead quickly, seeing it as the final stage of the transition that followed Hosni Mubarak’s removal from power more than two years ago.
Allies of Kenya’s defeated presidential contender Raila Odinga filed a petition on Tuesday asking the High Court to compel the electoral commission and mobile operator Safaricom to release documents to bolster their claim the vote was stolen. Uhuru Kenyatta, indicted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC), was declared the winner in a tightly contested election, which passed largely peacefully without a repeat of the violence that erupted after the last election in 2007, in which at least 1,200 people were killed. Odinga, Kenya’s prime minister, has so far refused to concede defeat. He says he will appeal to nullify Kenyatta’s victory on grounds of fraud, in what will be the first major substantive case for a new Supreme Court formed under a constitution adopted in 2010 referendum. Safaricom ran a mobile network that was used to transmit provisional results, until the election commission’s servers seized up and the commission switched to manual transmission.
Zimbabwe: Rights groups plan to boycott Saturday vote monitoring to protest bans on activists | The Washington Post
Scores of in independent civic, pro-democracy and rights groups said Tuesday they will boycott monitoring upcoming voting for a referendum on a new constitution unless the state election commission withdraws bans on activists that affect several key local organizations. The commission has so far refused to accredit as poll monitors the members of the Zimbabwe Association of Human Rights and says any groups under police investigation will also be barred access to the March 16 polling. At least four main groups have been raided by police searching for alleged subversive materials this year. None has been convicted of any wrongdoing.