An Arizona law requiring would-be voters to show proof of U.S. citizenship seemed to divide Supreme Court justices Monday in a case important to many states that want to stiffen their own voting standards. Conservative justices sounded sympathetic to Arizona’s proof-of-citizenship requirement, while more liberal justices suggested the measure might conflict with a 1993 law passed by Congress called the National Voter Registration Act. The eventual ruling will define when federal law pre-empts state efforts, a legal determination that accompanies political controversies ranging from illegal immigration to allegations of voter suppression. “Many people don’t have the documents that Arizona requires,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted pointedly at the start of the hour-long oral argument Monday. Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan, a fellow Obama administration appointee, pushed back most vigorously against the Arizona law. From the other side, though, Republican appointees, including Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel Alito, pressed questions seemingly supportive of Arizona’s actions.
The Supreme Court will struggle this week with the validity of an Arizona law that tries to keep illegal immigrants from voting by demanding all state residents show documents proving their U.S. citizenship before registering to vote in national elections. The high court will hear arguments Monday over the legality of Arizona’s voter-approved requirement that prospective voters document their U.S. citizenship in order to use a registration form produced under the federal “Motor Voter” voter registration law that doesn’t require such documentation. This case focuses on voter registration in Arizona, which has tangled frequently with the federal government over immigration issues involving the Mexican border. But it has broader implications because four other states — Alabama, Georgia, Kansas and Tennessee — have similar requirements, and 12 other states are contemplating similar legislation, officials say. The Obama administration is supporting challengers to the law.
Hispanics and African-Americans under age 30 were disproportionately hampered in their efforts to vote in the November election even in states without voter ID laws, a new study indicates. The study, “Black and Latino Youth Disproportionately Affected by Voter Identification Laws in the 2012 Election,” shows that voter ID laws are applied differently across racial and ethnic groups, said professor Cathy Cohen of the University of Chicago and assistant professor Jon C. Rogowski at Washington University. Among Hispanic youths, 8.1 percent couldn’t vote because they didn’t have the necessary identification. The numbers for blacks were even higher at 17.3 percent, but just 4.7 percent for whites. “Our study shows that without a doubt youth of color are discriminated against at the voting booth,” Rogowski said in a statement. “It doesn’t matter whether it results from conscious or unconscious bias, the result is that people of color are being disenfranchised and our nation has an obligation to put an end to it.”
With public attention focused on the Voting Rights Act, many have overlooked a second critical voting case that will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday. The latest case involves the simple question of whether Arizona can refuse to accept a federal voter registration form. But the stakes are much higher. A victory for Arizona could accelerate a nationwide trend of political operatives attempting to manipulate election rules for political gain, and could undermine the power of Congress to protect voting rights. The National Voter Registration Act requires that all states “accept and use” a single, uniform voter registration form for federal elections. States can still use their own registration forms, but they must also accept and use the Federal Form. The purpose of the Federal Form is to increase participation by preventing states from erecting barriers to voter registration.
At 10 a.m. Monday, the Supreme Court will hold one hour of oral argument on state power to require would-be voters to show proof of citizenship to register. Arguing for state and local officials in Arizona v. The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona (docket 12-71), will be Arizona Attorney General Thomas C. Horne, with thirty minutes of time. Arguing for the challengers will be Patricia A. Millett of the Washington office of the law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, with twenty minutes of time. Representing the federal government as amicus will be Deputy U.S. Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan, with ten minutes of time. With memories still fresh about widespread complaints in last year’s presidential election about efforts to tighten the requirements for voting, especially affecting minority voters, the Supreme Court takes up the constitutional puzzle — existing since the Founding era — over who controls election procedures. And in the background is the abiding partisan debate over whether such voter qualification rules are needed to combat election fraud, or are merely a cover for suppressing minority voting. The Supreme Court may not settle that political argument, but its coming ruling in the case of Arizona v. The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona could have a major influence on how elections for the presidency and for Congress are conducted in the future. And, of course, there could be a spillover effect for state and local elections, too.
Compared with what some Americans have to tolerate on Election Day, registering to vote is relatively painless. That’s partly thanks to the National Voter Registration Act, a 1993 law at the root of a case the Supreme Court will hear on Monday. The state of Arizona argues that it should be allowed to subvert the law’s obvious purpose. The court shouldn’t let it. In 1993, Congress looked at the “complicated maze” of often confusing and sometimes discriminatory state election rules, and it found that “unfair registration laws and procedures can have a direct and damaging effect on voter participation in elections for federal office.” So lawmakers established national standards. Americans could register to vote when getting driver’s licenses, which gave the act its unofficial name: the “motor voter” law. Congress also required every state to accept a simple, common, mail-in registration form drafted by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. The record indicates that Congress meant these to be among the “procedures that will increase the number of eligible citizens who register to vote in elections for federal office.”In 2004, Arizona voters approved a state law requiring evidence of U.S. citizenship in order to register to vote. As a result, state elections officials no longer accepted standard federal registration forms unless accompanied by copies of passports, birth certificates or other proof of citizenship. Native American and Hispanic groups complained, and now the dispute is before the high court.
Our state’s history of voter suppression provides a context for Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court arguments on Arizona’s 2004 voter-ID law. Ditto for election bills in Arizona’s Legislature. It’s not ancient history. The un-sunny side of Arizona was revealed at Senate hearings when Republican William Rehnquist was named to the Supreme Court in 1971. Rehnquist denied allegations that he personally challenged minority voters at the polls. But he told the Senate he witnessed Republican poll challenges in 1962 that “struck me as amounting to harassment and intimidation.” Stuff happened. And it wasn’t so long ago. And now? Two of today’s most effective strategies to increase Latino voter participation are under attack in Arizona’s GOP-controlled Legislature. … Election-law changes may be necessary. Too many people had to cast provisional ballots in November because they were on the early voting list but showed up at the polls to vote instead of sending in their ballot. But changes in election laws should be enlightened by history. All voters have not been treated the same, and all voters are not going to be affected equally by changes.
Two Bullhead City residents were denied their right to vote in Tuesday’s primary election, apparently over the county’s mapping of the street where their residence is. Shaukat and Marie Ali were told they don’t live in the city. Someone at the polling place contacted the Mohave County Voter Registration office in Kingman. “When they called up, they gave them my registration ID number, and based on the ID number, they said we didn’t live in the city,” Shaukat Ali said. “I can’t be more sorry that he was disenfranchised,” said Mohave County Voter Registration Supervisor Kim Stewart. Ali’s street, Lakeview Drive, was built in 2005 and has seven registered voters living on it, according to Stewart. The street was incorrectly shown to be in the Davis Dam Precinct, outside of the Bullhead City limits. Lakeview Drive certainly is within the city limits; it’s a U-shaped cul de sac off Desert Trails Drive east of the Bullhead Parkway. It is nowhere close to the Davis Dam Precinct, which is north of the city limits in the area of Davis Dam and Lake Mohave. “No one’s ever mentioned it to us (by asking why their ballot didn’t include city elections) so we didn’t know it was broken,” Stewart said.
California State Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Assemblyman Jeff Gorell (R-Ventura County) have introduced identical proposed state constitutional amendments that would change the top-two open primary section of the California Constitution. Lara’s bill is SCA 12 and Gorell’s is ACA 9. Article II, section 5 of the California Constitution includes the new primary rules, which say that the two candidates who get the most votes in the primary, for Congress or partisan state office, go on the November ballot. The Lara-Gorell amendment would change the language of this section to say that if the person who came in second in a primary is a write-in candidate, he or she could not be on the November ballot unless he or she received approximately 120,000 write-ins for a statewide office, 3,200 write-ins for State Senate, 1,600 write-ins for Assembly, or 2,500 write-ins for a congressional race. The specific formula is one percent of the last general election vote total for that office.
Minnesota: DFLers contol Minnesota Capitol but election overhaul ideas need GOP support | StarTribune.com
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has given Republicans virtual veto power over changes to Minnesota’s election laws, which could doom Democratic proposals to advance early voting. Although Democrats control the Legislature and have offered support for early voting, the governor of their own party has pledged not to sign any election measure that lacks “broad bipartisan support.” So far, Republicans have been cool to the idea of letting voters go to polling places before Election Day. “Any changes in election laws need broad bipartisan support so, to be honest, I haven’t looked into the details of each of the proposals yet because I’m waiting to see if anything is going to move forward on that basis,” Dayton said this week. “If it has that bipartisan support, that’s a pretty good indicator that it is good for Minnesota, good for election participation and protects the integrity, both of which are laudable goals,” he said, explaining the standard he has held since he took office. That is an unusual dictum at a time when election procedures have become sharply partisan, bringing political parties repeatedly to courts around the country to fight out who, when and how people can vote.
A Minnesota House panel has advanced a batch of election law changes that for now has some bipartisan support. The bill includes no-excuse absentee voting, higher thresholds for triggering taxpayer-funded recounts, tighter controls over felon voting rights and a reduction in Election Day vouching. It would allow one voter to vouch for a maximum of eight people, down from the current limit of 15. The bill also links the state’s electoral votes for president to the national popular vote winner. The House Elections Committee approved the omnibus bill today on a mostly favorable voice vote, sending it on to the Government Operations Committee.
Secretary of State Ross Miller’s plan to digitize Nevada polling records and add voter photos to the database was met with mixed reaction Thursday from county registrars who applauded the modernization effort but were concerned it would still allow people to cast a ballot if photos and signatures didn’t match. Miller, in presenting SB63 to the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections, said the bill was “an opportunity for state, not the voter, to ensure that every eligible voter is able to exercise their right.” He added no voter be required to “produce a piece of plastic” before casting a ballot. No action was taken by the committee. Passage appeared unlikely given the cool reception it received from Democrats and Republicans’ preference for voter identification cards.
State House Speaker Thom Tillis signaled what could be a change in messaging on voter ID Saturday – and dropped some hints about the details of upcoming legislation – during an appearance on MSNBC. The left-leaning news channel might not seem like an intuitive choice for an appearance by Tillis, a Republican, but MSNBC has spent much of the day covering the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland. Tillis was invited to appear to address his party’s push for a photo voter ID law in North Carolina.
A bill to allow Election Day voter registration died Thursday — ironically killed by election officials who worried that it could work too well, and cause them too much work, in a state that has among the worst voter turnout in the nation. HB91 died on a 10-18 vote in the Senate, after earlier passing the House 58-14. Most of the opposition cited was from county clerks who said it could create more work than they could now handle between when votes are cast and when counts must be finalized. Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, Senate sponsor of the bill, tried to overcome that by amending the bill to delay enactment for two years to give clerks time to prepare. Another amendment was added to sunset the bill after another two years — unless lawmakers decided it worked well enough to extend.
Virginia: Cuccinelli appoints commission to streamline felony voting rights restoration | Daily Press
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Gov. Bob McDonnell made some gains in their recent quest to put the state on a path to restoring the right to vote to non-violent convicted felons who have served their sentences. But the General Assembly — actually, a single subcommittee in the House of Delegates — killed the effort to begin to amend the Virginia constitution to allow for voter rights restoration. As of now, the state constitution forever bars convicted felons of the right to vote unless the governor grants them a waiver. This week, Cuccinelli announced the creation of a bipartisan “Attorney General’s Rights Restoration Advisory Committee” to examine what alternatives may be available within the framework of the state’s constitution to better restore voting rights to nonviolent felons who have completed their sentences. “Many of those who helped found Virginia came to the New World for a second chance,” Cuccinelli proclaimed in a press release. “Forgiveness and redemption are fundamental values of all great religions and all great societies.”
My participation in Legacy International’s Legislative Fellows delegation to Egypt this week has included a great deal of discussion regarding what constitutes “true” democracy. The Egyptians we’ve met have used words including “true” and “pure” to describe the democracy we have in the U.S., contrasting our system with the political system that’s been built in Egypt since the 2011 revolution, which is widely perceived by Egyptians to fall short of “true” democracy. Yes, Egypt has held parliamentary, presidential and constitutional referendum elections over the past two years, but the legitimacy of the government remains in question. Egypt’s first post-revolution parliamentary and presidential elections were held before a new constitution was drafted, under election laws that were issued by the interim “caretaker” Egyptian Military-based government but later declared unconstitutional by Egypt’s High Constitutional Court. Egypt’s new constitution was written by a government elected under the unconstitutional election laws, a government dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. In addition to the laws under which the elections were conducted being declared unconstitutional, many believe fraud was committed during the elections, including ballot box stuffing and fraudulent counting and reporting of votes cast. In short, the government of President Morsi, the new constitution and the election process itself have been heavily criticized not only by non-Islamist parties and their supporters, but also by many who actually voted for President Morsi and other Muslim Brotherhood candidates.
The runner-up in Kenya’s presidential election is filing a petition with the Supreme Court Saturday challenging the results. The party of Prime Minister Raila Odinga says it will present to the court evidence of electoral fraud. Odinga’s CORD alliance has refused to accept the first-round victory of Jubilee candidate Uhuru Kenyatta. Results released last week by the country’s electoral commission, the IEBC, declared Mr. Kenyatta had won 50.07 percent of the vote, just enough to avoid a run-off with Mr. Odinga. The vote counting was delayed by a breakdown in an electronic transmission system. CORD has raised concerns about other alleged irregularities, including mismatched numbers coming from polling stations and cases where the number of votes cast in some areas exceeded the number of registered voters.
Aides to the Zimbabwean prime minister have been arrested on unknown charges. The news came as vote counting was under way in a constitutional referendum. The three senior aides to Prime Minister Tsvangirai were arrested on Sunday. Later, Alex Magaisa, another of Tsvangirai’s advisors, told the AFP news agency that police gave no reason for the arrests. “They raided the house of the principal director responsible for research and development in the PM’s office,” said Alex Magaisa, an advisor to Tsvangirai. “He was arrested as well as his two subordinates. We don’t know the charges, but they picked up computers and a camera.” Beatrice Mtetwa, a leading human rights lawyer, was also detained.
Zimbabweans look set to endorse a new constitution curbing the presidency, early results showed on Sunday, in a step toward elections to determine whether Robert Mugabe adds to three decades in power. While the vote on the constitution, which will limit the number of times a president can serve, was largely free from violence, police raided an office of Mugabe arch-rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and arrested five people. Early results posted outside polling stations showed voters had overwhelmingly backed the new document as expected, although polls were marked by low turnout. Both Mugabe and Tsvangirai, rivals in the election expected in the second half of this year, had backed the new constitution. After a violent and disputed vote in 2008, Mugabe was pushed into a power-sharing deal with Tsvangirai, who made the referendum a condition of that deal.