As a handful of state legislatures around the country consider enacting stricter voter ID laws, a new study finds that young people – and especially young minorities – are disproportionately affected by those laws when they go into effect. According to the study, previewed before its release to POLITICO, significantly more minority youths age 18-29 were asked to show identification than white youth: 72.9 percent of black youth were asked for ID, compared with 60.8 percent of Latino youth and 50.8 percent of white youth. Even in states where there are no voter ID laws on the books, 65.5 percent of black youth were asked to show ID at the polls, compared with 55.3 percent of Latino youth and 42.8 percent of white youth. And for many young minority youths, even the concept of a required ID was a primary reason they didn’t go to the polls last year: 17.3 percent of black youth and 8.1 percent of Latino youth said their lack of adequate ID kept them from voting, compared with just 4.7 percent of white youth.
After the recent Supreme Court argument in the Voting Rights Act case (Shelby County v. Holder), it appears the decision may well turn on the legal standards to be applied in deciding whether Section 5 of the Act, the preclearance section, has become unconstitutional with the passage of time. The constitutional questions in the case are fundamental: how much authority does Congress possess to choose the legislative means to combat a national evil (in this case, racial discrimination in voting), and how much authority does the Supreme Court have to overrule Congress’ choice? The answers to those questions involve interpretation of the words “necessary and proper” and “appropriate legislation,” which are in the Constitution, and “congruent and proportional,” which are not in the Constitution but which the Supreme Court has adopted in recent years as aids in interpreting the first group of words.
An Arizona law designed to stop illegal immigrants from voting hangs in the balance, as the Supreme Court will take up a landmark case this month on whether the state can demand would-be voters to prove they are citizens before casting ballots in federal elections. The dispute centers on its Proposition 200 referendum passed by voters in 2004 that requires residents to show “satisfactory evidence” of citizenship — such as naturalization papers, a birth certificate, passport or Indian tribal identification — before registering to vote. A standard Arizona driver’s license also is accepted because the state requires proof of citizenship to obtain one. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — responding to a legal challenge by a group of Arizona residents, Indian tribes and civil-rights groups — ruled the citizenship requirement conflicted with the 1993 federal lawknown as the “Motor Voter Law,” drafted in part to make it easier for people to register to vote, including requiring states to offer registration at driver’s license offices. Arizona appealed and the Supreme Court agreed to take the case, with oral arguments set for Monday.
National: Justice Department’s voting rights section hurt by unprofessional behavior, report says | The Washington Post
A report released Tuesday by the Justice Department’s inspector general found the department’s voting rights section mired in deep ideological polarization and distrust, in some cases harming its ability to function over the past two administrations. The 258-page review by Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz found “numerous and troubling examples of harassment and marginalization of employees and managers.” The unprofessional behavior included racist and other inappropriate e-mails, Internet postings, blogs, and personal attacks by voting rights lawyers and staffers. The report found no evidence that enforcement decisions were made in the George W. Bush administration or the Obama administration based on race or partisan considerations. Among its responsibilities, the voting section reviews redistricting cases that can change the composition of congressional districts and voter ID laws that affect who is eligible to cast a ballot.
If skepticism from the Supreme Court’s conservative wing is any indication, a core provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 could be struck down this year. This should alarm anyone who views voting as a fundamental right and not, as Justice Scalia characterized it (to audible gasps), a “racial entitlement.” Section 5, the statute at the heart of Shelby County vs. Holder, requires areas with a history of voter discrimination to obtain federal approval before changing any election laws. The measure is considered one of the most successful anti-discrimination laws on the books and today remains key to combating voter suppression. Yet during oral arguments last week, the high court’s conservatives suggested that this critical voter protection tool has served it’s purpose and now unjustly infringes upon the rights of states and municipalities; that, essentially, the law worked too well to continue. To this point, Chief Justice Roberts rhetorically asked whether “citizens of the South are more racist than citizens of the North.” Clearly, no region has a monopoly on discrimination. But the question the court should be asking is ‘are minority voters still vulnerable to systemic disenfranchisement?’
Three conservative attorneys had harsh words for the Federal Election Commission, the government agency tasked with regulating elections, during a campaign finance-themed event today at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. Benjamin Barr, who specializes in First Amendment law, predicted that continued legal challenges would help “lessen the teeth” of the FEC, which, in an ideal world, he said, would be “shut down.” The agency’s regulatory authority “is very small,” he said, while lamenting that political activists have become “habituated” to “bowing in compliance with the federal government” by registering and reporting their financial activities to the six-member commission. The commission is now operating with five commissioners because of the resignation of Democrat Cynthia Bauerly in February. Such talk came during a week when the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics estimated that the 2012 election cost more than $6.3 million at the federal level.
A controversial bill that critics say will make it harder for Alaskans to vote by imposing new identification requirements cleared its first committee Thursday despite objections from the AARP, the Alaska Federation of Natives, the Alaska Association of Municipal Clerks and the American Civil Liberties Union. One of the sponsors, Anchorage Republican Rep. Bob Lynn, said House Bill 3 won’t stop a single person from voting and that some of the critics have misconstrued what he aims to do. “I want to emphasize that the only purpose of HB 3 is simply to help ensure that the person who shows up at the polling place is actually the person who they say they are. And I think that’s basically a pretty good idea,” said Lynn, who chairs the State Affairs Committee that passed the bill out with lukewarm support.
Alaska: Does Alaska have a voter fraud problem? – Despite controversy, voter ID bill takes next step in Alaska Legislature | Alaska Dispatch
A voter ID bill that drew sharp criticism from U.S. Sen. Mark Begich on his recent visit to the Alaska Legislature is moving forward, with its sponsor denying the senator’s claims about the bill. Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, said his House Bill 3 was the victim of “misinformation” spread by Begich, D-Alaska. “Nothing whatsoever in House Bill 3 prevents anyone from voting if they are registered and motivated to vote,” he said Thursday, while chairing the House State Affairs Committee hearing his bill. Those who don’t have photo ID can present other forms of identification or cast questioned ballots, he said. Stricter voter ID requirements was the focus of Begich’s remarks – and his criticisms were reinforced at a hearing Thursday by Jeffrey Mittman of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska and Joy Huntington of the Tanana Chiefs Conference.
It’s almost spring, and that means the usual seasonal rites in the District of Columbia: the cherry blossom trees, the deluge of students—and another case before the U.S. Supreme Court involving a controversial law passed by the state of Arizona. The Grand Canyon State has been before the justices to defend its laws or programs five times over the last three years. In 2010, the high court: upheld an Arizona immigration law that penalized businesses if they employ illegal immigrants; struck down a state law providing for matching funds for candidates for state office that was meant to put them on an equal footing with wealthy, privately financed candidates; and held that a group of taxpayers lacked standing to challenge a state program of tax credits for donations for private school tuition. Last term, the justices ruled that several provisions of the state’s controversial immigration law, SB 1070, were pre-empted by federal law. The court also declined to enjoin a provision requiring the police to verify the immigration status of people they stop or arrest. This year’s offering is Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, a case about voter registration procedures that comes with an undercurrent of concern over illegal immigration. Arguments are scheduled for March 18.
The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to rule on the constitutionality of a state requirement that voters must prove they are U.S. citizens before they register to vote and cast their ballots. The Court granted review of an Arizona case in which it previously had refused the state’s request to block a lower court decision that struck down that requirement. Arizona’s voters adopted that law when they passed “Proposition 200″ in 2004. The Court will not rule on the case until after this year’s election, so the requirement will not be in effect next month. (The case is Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc., docket 11-71.) That was the only new case granted Monday. In one significant denial, the Court refused to consider imposing a heavier duty on managers of employee retirement plans to justify investing plan assets in the company’s own stock. The Court turned aside without comment two petitions on that issue. (Gray v. Citigroup, 11-1531, and Gearren v. McGraw-Hill Companies, 11-1550.)
The state House has approved a proposed constitutional amendment to make it easier for convicted felons in Delaware to vote. The measure was approved on a 32-9 vote Tuesday with virtually no debate and now goes to the Senate for final approval. It cleared the previous legislative session but must pass two consecutive sessions of the General Assembly. The amendment would eliminate the 5-year waiting period before eligible felons who have completed their sentences can have their voting rights restored.
Florida: Democracy with headaches: Rush of last-minute absentee ballots challenges election officials | Palm Beach Post
At 6 p.m. on Tuesday, an hour before the polls closed, two supporters of Riviera Beach mayoral candidate Bishop Thomas Masters delivered 300 absentee ballots to the Supervisor of Elections Office. The ballots, collected from city residents, gave Masters enough of a lead to avoid a runoff but they also raised the ire of Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher, who presides over the time-consuming process of manually opening each envelope, comparing the signature on the absentee ballot to the voter’s registration and then tallying the vote. Most absentee ballots arrive by mail or are delivered to the supervisor’s office at least a day before the 7 p.m. deadline on election night — when the polls close. That gives Bucher and her staff time to tally the absentee ballots before machines begin counting ballots cast that day at the polls. But when absentee ballots come in at virtually the last minute, as they did Tuesday, ballot counting stalls and it takes longer to get results in all races.
Nebraskans want some kind of voter ID law, but a senator’s second attempt to bring such a bill misses the mark, according to Secretary of State John Gale. Larry Dix, executive director of the Nebraska Association of County Officials, read Gale’s statement during Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on Legislative Bill 381, Thursday, March 7. The bill, introduced by Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont, would require Nebraskans to show a photo ID when voting. Janssen, a candidate in the 2014 governor’s race, introduced a similar bill last year, which failed. Former senator Brenda Council of Omaha said LB381 might be unconstitutional. Amy Miller, ACLU Nebraska legal director, and Adam Morfeld, the Nebraskans for Civic Reform executive director, agreed. Morfeld said his group of 27 Nebraska organizations would sue the state if the bill passes.
Ohio: Expanded weekend early voting recommended by bipartisan Ohio elections officials | Columbus Dispatch
Ohio voters could cast early in-person ballots on three weekend days before a presidential election but would have fewer days overall to cast such votes under a recommendation this morning from the Ohio Association of Elections Officials. Elections offices also would be require to stay open later 15 days before an election, under the proposal from the group, made up of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. Ohio has seen regular battles over when early voting can take place, sometimes leading to court rulings within days of an election. “The Ohio Association of Election Officials is as bipartisan an organization as you can find in our state,” said Karla Herron, OAEO president, in a release. “These recommendations were arrived at with bipartisan consensus and were designed with the voters and election officials in mind, not the political parties.”
Voting Blogs: Party Nationalization after the 2013 Ecuadorian Legislative and Presidential Election | The Monkey Cage
On Friday, 8 March, the Ecuadorian National Electoral Council (Consejo Nacional Electoral, CNE) released the final voting results for the legislative and presidential elections held on 17 February. These results verify the dominance of the government party, Alianza Patria Altiva I Soberana (Alianza PAIS), and hint at a realignment of the party system. Riding the coattails of the popular incumbent president Rafael Correa, Alianza PAIS has transcended the historical tendency towards regionalization of the country’s parties through a strong performance across the country’s 34 electoral districts. This election marks an important milestone for democracy in Ecuador. President Correa is completing the first full term for an Ecuadorian president since Sixto Durán Ballén (1992-1996), and his time in office surpasses that of Isidro Ayora (1926-1931), making him the longest-serving president in the country’s history. His current mandate terminates on 10 August 2013. As expected, Correa easily won re-election in the first-round with 57% of the valid vote, and Alianza PAIS won a 92-seat majority in the 137-member unicameral legislative assembly (seat distribution is still being decided by the National Electoral Council, pending a ruling on potential voter fraud in the province of Guayas).
The Constitutional Court has turned down requests by two Nationalist candidates to recount the votes in the eighth and 13th districts, saying there was no juridical need to do so. Candidates were not going to suffer any “prejudice” because they were still going to get elected, the court ruled. Under the Constitution, four seats must be credited to the Nationalist Party to achieve representation in Parliament proportional to its number one votes. One of them is going to be assigned to Fredrick Azzopardi, a candidate for Gozo, and another to Claudette Buttigieg Pace, who contested in Birkirkara.
Zimbabweans go to the polls Saturday to vote on a new constitution that would pave the way for elections, but many believe the army and police, not voters, may ultimately decide the country’s fate. While the referendum on the constitution is largely expected to be fair, the main event — elections slated for July — may be decided by the outsize influence of a handful of those close to President Robert Mugabe, 89, the country’s leader for the past 33 years. Those allies include police chief Augustine Chihuri, who reportedly told senior police officers at a retreat late last year that anyone who did not support Mugabe’s party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), had no business being on the force.
Last month’s Supreme Court arguments over the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act served as a reminder of the long history of racial voting suppression in this country. Many of the states covered by Section 5 of the act, particularly in the South, spent decades trying every method they could think of to keep blacks and other minorities from the polls, or to reduce their voting strength. But areas that aren’t covered by the act have no reason to feel smug. Many lawmakers in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have also pursued ways to keep selected voters from the polls, using methods like ID requirements or restrictions on early voting. Though the intent is often partisan — Republican officials repressing Democratic votes — the effect is usually the same as it was during the struggles of the 1960s, having a disparate impact on blacks and other minorities, but now adding on students, the poor and the elderly.