A few weeks ago, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said that a key provision of the Voting Rights Act was motivated by a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.” Now comes word that on Monday night, Scalia told a group of students that the provision is an “embedded” form of “racial preferment.” He believes the provision is a racial entitlement because the federal government does not take a similar interest in protecting the voting rights of whites. Even aside from improperly commenting on a pending case, Scalia is wrong. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act — currently under review by the Court — is not a quota system to elect minority candidates. Instead, it is an enforcement tool to prevent voting discrimination. Section 5 requires that covered states “preclear” their proposed election law changes with federal officials to ensure the changes are not discriminatory. Nine states plus parts of six others are “covered.” States and localities that maintain a clean record for 10 years can “bail out” of coverage.
Editorials: A Simple Plan to Drastically Improve Voting, Stop Fraud, and Save Money | Trevor Potter/The Atlantic
Bipartisan agreements seem possible on immigration and perhaps even on guns. Could election reform be next? Is there an opportunity to move past the partisan rancor of the voting wars and modernize America’s out-of-date election system? We all know it needs improvement. Long lines on Election Day are only the most visible symptom, as some voters from Florida to Virginia to Ohio waited up to seven hours to make their voice heard in last year’s election. The culprit often turns out to be the old-fashioned, paper-based registration system used across the country. According to the Pew Center on the States, approximately 51 million Americans are not registered to vote but should qualify to do so. One in eight registrations contain errors or are no longer valid. Nearly 2 million dead people appear on the voter rolls. In 2008, estimates are that at least 3 million voters who thought they were registered showed up at the polls, only to be turned away because of registration problems.
Editorials: Scalia’s take on Voting Rights Act a slap in the face to civil rights advocates | theGrio
Is the U.S. Supreme Court ready to kill the Voting Rights Act? If Justice Antonin Scalia’s recent comments are any indication, we’re in for some trouble. On Monday at the University of California Washington Center, the high court judge said that the law an “embedded” form of “racial preferment.” According to Scalia’s interpretation, the Voting Rights Act was enacted as an emergency measure, but now amounts to a federal racial preference system for black people that discriminates against whites. “Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes,” Scalia said. “Even the name of it is wonderful, the Voting Rights Act. Who’s going to vote against that?”
A plan to revamp the state’s recall laws for all future elections fell apart Thursday as some Republican senators broke party ranks. On an 18-10 vote the Senate killed a House-passed measure which would have required both a primary and a general election in the event of a recall. Foes said they saw no reason to alter a system that has been in place since the early days of Arizona statehood. And its fate may have been sealed by a late alteration that created an even more convoluted system where a recalled official actually could be defeated in his or her own partisan primary and yet still be on the general election ballot.
House Democrats pushed through a controversial bill that would change how Coloradans vote after more than six hours of debate on the House floor Thursday afternoon. Republicans spend hours arguing against the massive overhaul of elections law, that would send a mail ballot to every registered Colorado voter whether or not they request one, install a state-of-the-art electronic database to monitor registration and voting information and detect fraud in real-time and, most controversially, allow people to register to vote as late as Election Day. But they didn’t have the votes to stop the measure, which got an initial okay on a voice vote and could see a final, recorded vote on Friday. “We need to update our systems into the 21st century,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, told FOX31 Denver. “We will know when someone’s voted and we will be able to track that.” Pabon has the support of the Colorado Association of County Clerks on his side. The group helped draft the legislation, along with other groups like Common Cause and AFSCME.
The legislation that could either modernize, economize and simplify the state’s election system — or open it up to voter fraud, depending on who you believe — is expected to go to the floor of the state House of Representatives for a vote Thursday. The so-called Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act passed out of its second House committee this week early Wednesday morning. The Appropriations Committee gave it an 8-4 approval on a party-line vote. The House’s State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee gave it a 7-4 party line vote Monday night. Though backers have called it a bipartisan bill, so far it’s yet to pick up a single Republican vote or any endorsement from GOP lawmakers or organizations.
The state House of Representatives has passed a joint resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to remove the requirement that people vote in person on Election Day. The resolution passed by a 90-49 vote, with 12 members absent. It goes next to the Senate and then to a public vote in the 2014 election. Currently, the state constitution exempts people from voting in person if they are out of town on Election Day, are sick, have a physical disability or hold religious tenets that prohibit voting on Election Day. The only alternative to voting in person is by absentee ballot.
Changes under Republican Gov. Rick Scott are making it more difficult for Florida’s former felons to get their voting rights restored, which critics say has suppressed the minority vote and hurt Democratic candidates. As one of his first actions after taking office in 2011, Scott, as chairman of the Florida Board of Executive Clemency, undid automatic restoration of voting rights for nonviolent ex-offenders that previous Gov. Charlie Crist helped adopt in 2007. Since then, the number of former felons who have had their voting rights restored has slowed to a trickle, even compared with the year before Crist and the clemency board helped make the process easier.
Former Secretary of State Kurt Browning called a provision included in the Senate’s election package yesterday allowing the secretary of state to dock election supervisors pay and essentially put them on probation “bad public policy.” Browning served more than two decades as the Pasco County supervisor of elections before going to work for Gov. Charlie Crist as secretary of state in 2006. Browning stepped down from the post for the second time last year and was elected Pasco County schools superintendent in November. Browning was in the Capitol on Wednesday for school superintendents’ meeting with his one-time boss, Gov. Rick Scott.
State Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston persuaded a Senate committee today to advance his plan to abolish the local electoral boards that decide whether challenged candidates stay on the ballot. If signed into law, Senate Bill 1689 would assign the controversial panels’ duties to county election officials. “Our ballot access process should be as transparent and easy to navigate as possible, so newcomers and outsiders don’t find themselves at a disadvantage,” said Biss. “The current system, with its unnecessary and inefficient proliferation of boards stocked with incumbents, favors candidates who already know how to play the game.”
The Montana House of Representatives debated and passed a referendum on Tuesday which would eliminate same day voter registration. Senate Bill 405 lets voters decide if they want people lining up on election day and registering to vote. Republicans say same day voter registration is a bad idea, saying it contributes to long lines, chaos at the polls, and plus they say voters should be more organized and get their paperwork filed early.
Legislation to require voters to show a photo ID began moving through the state House on Wednesday after a debate that touched on some of the most sensitive subjects in politics – vote stealing, race, newly arrived Hispanic voters, and voter suppression. The House Election Committee, in a party-line Republican 23-11 vote, passed a bill requiring voters to produce a government-approved photo ID before being allowed to vote in the 2016 election. But poll workers would begin asking for photos on a voluntary basis next year under the bill. The measure heads to the House floor next week – after several quick stops in two other House committees – before going to the Senate.
The Walsh County election canvassing board spent more than seven hours Tuesday without successfully finding the source of a 301-vote discrepancy in the Nov. 6 general election. That is, there were 4,603 people that voted, but the tally came to 4,904 votes. The board was still working, with no decision, late Tuesday evening. It’s possible, but officials believe unlikely, that one Walsh County Commission seat may hang in the balance.
Texas Republicans proposed legislation Thursday that would adopt the current political maps, but Democrats promised to fight the effort. Amarillo Sen. Kel Seliger offered a redistricting bill to the Senate State Affairs Committee that would formally adopt interim maps drawn by a federal court in San Antonio last year. The maps for congressional, state Senate and House districts were used for the 2012 election while a federal court in Washington, D.C., reviewed maps drawn by the Legislature after minority groups filed a lawsuit to block them.
Voting Blogs: Kenya 2013 elections: reflections on the Supreme Court ruling and the role of the judiciary in democratisation | openDemocracy
If the peaceful conduct of Kenya’s recent presidential elections was any kind of test of the development of the country’s new democratic culture, what happened in its aftermath bears even greater testimony to the fact that the culture of rule of law, democracy and constitutionalism may finally be taking root in Kenya as a nation and Kenyans as a people. After Kenya’s election body – the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) of Kenya – declared Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Kenya’s first President, the winner of the March 4 presidential elections by a slim margin (50.07%), his main rival, Raila Odinga, seized the Supreme Court, contesting the results. Considering promises by all sides during the campaigns to respect the outcome of the process, Odinga’s unexpected volte face not only froze the electoral process; it also upped anxieties and fears – as people were reminded of the violent experience of the 2007 elections – on what this might mean in the event of a ruling confirming, or voiding, the IEBC results.
The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has released the final projected budget for the 2014 tripartite elections which has been pegged at K18 billion. MEC Commissioner Reverend Chinkwita Phiri said this on Thursday to reporters after a consultative meeting on Malawi’s preparedness for the 2014 tripartite elections organized by Malawi Electoral Support Network (MESN) in the capital Lilongwe. Chinkwita Phiri said the budget is on the higher side compared to previous electoral budgets because of several factors.
If all goes according to plan, election-watchers of all sorts will be thick on the ground for Malaysia’s upcoming thirteenth general elections. Admittedly, that plan is dependent upon rounding up and training an extraordinary number of volunteers, and doubtless will be forced to exclude the least accessible, but purportedly most watch-worthy districts. But what tends to get lost in the tea leaf-reading and data-crunching of this long-awaited showdown is the why behind such widespread interest in process and participation, which extends well beyond the polls themselves. Malaysia has seen heightened mobilization since 2008, if not since Reformasi in the late 1990s—part of why the unusually prolonged run-up to the polls has seemed so, well, long. This more sustained mobilization represents a true trend toward “democratization” in Malaysia, beyond the mere act of voting.
Venezuela’s electoral council announced Thursday night that it would audit the 46 percent the vote not scrutinized on election night in a concession to opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, who said he believes it will prove he is the president. “We are where we want to be,” a satisfied but cautious-looking Capriles told a news conference after the announcement. “I think I will have the universe of voters needed to get where I want to be.”
Venezuela’s President-elect Nicolas Maduro has agreed to a full audit of the votes cast as the opposition continues to contest the country’s closest election in 45 years. Mr Maduro’s campaign chief, Jorge Rodriguez, made the announcement after opposition leader Henrique Capriles called off a march on Wednesday to protest against the results of Sunday’s presidential election. Mr Capriles, who requested a manual recount of the 15 million votes, acted after Mr Maduro said he would come down with a ”firm hand” on opposition supporters and violence led to eight deaths.