A pair of Democratic congressmen is pushing an amendment that would place an affirmative right to vote in the U.S. Constitution. According to Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), who is sponsoring the legislation along with Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the amendment would protect voters from what he described as a “systematic” push to “restrict voting access” through voter ID laws, shorter early voting deadlines, and other measures that are being proposed in many states. “Most people believe that there already is something in the Constitution that gives people the right to vote, but unfortunately … there is no affirmative right to vote in the Constitution. We have a number of amendments that protect against discrimination in voting, but we don’t have an affirmative right,” Pocan told TPM last week. “Especially in an era … you know, in the last decade especially we’ve just seen a number of these measures to restrict access to voting rights in so many states. … There’s just so many of these that are out there, that it shows the real need that we have.”
When CVFC, a conservative veterans’ group in California, applied for tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service, its biggest expenditure that year was several thousand dollars in radio ads backing a Republican candidate for Congress. The Wetumpka Tea Party, from Alabama, sponsored training for a get-out-the-vote initiative dedicated to the “defeat of President Barack Obama” while the I.R.S. was weighing its application. And the head of the Ohio Liberty Coalition, whose application languished with the I.R.S. for more than two years, sent out e-mails to members about Mitt Romney campaign events and organized members to distribute Mr. Romney’s presidential campaign literature. Representatives of these organizations have cried foul in recent weeks about their treatment by the I.R.S., saying they were among dozens of conservative groups unfairly targeted by the agency, harassed with inappropriate questionnaires and put off for months or years as the agency delayed decisions on their applications.
Editorials: Cleaning up Indiana state registration offers confidence at polls | Fort Wayne News Sentinel
It’s not a lot of money in the big scheme of things, but the $2 million designated in the recent session of the General Assembly will begin the messy but necessary process of cleaning up Indiana’s voter registration rolls. Bloated voters rolls in every one of the state’s 92 counties contain the names of people who have moved away, are in prison or have died. Their presence on the registration lists make elections vulnerable to the type of shenanigans that can truly affect the outcome of elections. Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson is in charge of the state’s elections and led the charge to obtain the funds for the statewide project. She knows the importance of cleaning up the voter rolls in maintaining the integrity of the elections and meeting requirements of state and federal laws.
Editorials: North Carolina bill prolongs unfair disenfranchisement of ex-felons | Charlotte Observer
Proponents of felony disenfranchisement laws tell us these laws are only an extension of the justice system. People like Hans A. von Spakovsky, of the conservative Heritage Foundation, say that people with former felony offenses must prove themselves and that the right to vote should not be a “freebie.” But what the rhetoric does not mention is that felony disenfranchisement is not about crimes or justice, it is about suppressing the right to vote, particularly for African-American males. History tells the story. During the Reconstruction Era the black electorate expanded. Freedmen were voting at higher rates and the color of elected officials was shifting.
Gov. Bob McDonnell announced Wednesday that he will automatically restore the voting rights of nonviolent felons who have completed their sentences on an individual basis by doing away with the “subjective” application process. McDonnell streamlined the process of rights restoration when he took office in 2010, and has restored the rights of more than 4,800 felons – the most of any governor. In January he threw his support behind a measure to put a constitutional amendment to the voters that would have automatically restored voting rights to nonviolent felons, which failed in the House of Delegates. “We all are human beings,” said McDonnell who was flanked by a bipartisan group of lawmakers and Benjamin Jealous, the president of the national NAACP at the Cedar St. Baptist Church of God in Richmond. “Cloaked in our human frailty there are mistakes that are made. But once those dues are fully paid, there is going to be a clear avenue to reintegrate – with your full dignity – fully back into society.” McDonnell’s policy change comes a day after Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issued a report that said the governor could not offer a blanket automatic restoration of rights, but could broaden rights restoration on an individual basis.
Texas: GOP lawmakers poised to quickly OK legislative, congressional maps as redistricting session looms | The Dallas Morning News
After leaving it on the backburner for their regular session, lawmakers are going into overtime to consider one of the most contentious issues in politics: redistricting. The goal of Republican leaders appears to be to quickly adopt the court-ordered boundaries for congressional and legislative districts that a court put in place last year. That would set a ceiling for how well Democrats can do in next year’s elections and beyond. Most analysts expect the Legislature to ram though the maps in a matter of days, though the session could last longer if Gov. Rick Perry adds other matters. The districts, while not what Republicans had hoped for when the once-a-decade process started in 2011, are more palatable than what minorities and Democrats might score in the legal arena. Courts found “intentional discrimination” against minority voters in the Legislature’s original maps, and minority groups and Democrats say the interim maps, which have never been pre-cleared by the Justice Department, contain similar problems. Last year, in striking down temporary maps that would have benefited Democrats, the Supreme Court ruled that the will of the Legislature should be the starting point when developing electoral boundaries.
Texas: Gov. Perry Calls Special Session To End Controversy Over Voting Districts | CBS Dallas/Fort Worth
Governor Perry wants lawmakers to approve the voting maps drawn by a federal court in Washington, DC that were already used for Congressional and state legislative districts last year. But don’t tell that to Rene Martinez, Director of LULAC’s North East Texas District. Martinez says, “The Latino community has no faith or trust in whatever the Governor’s going to do or the State Legislature as is presently elected.” But Tea Party member Katrina Pierson and Republicans disagree, and say the existing maps would bring consistentcy to the process.
A state appeals court on Thursday overturned a Dane County judge’s decision that found Wisconsin’s voter ID law violated the state constitution, but the ID requirement remains blocked because of a ruling in a separate case. The 4th District Court of Appeals in Madison unanimously ruled the voter ID law did not violate a provision of the state constitution that limits what restrictions the Legislature can impose on who can vote. The case was brought by the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin. The group’s attorney, Lester Pines, said the league would decide over the next couple of weeks whether to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court. “Voter ID is not the law in Wisconsin and is unlikely to be the law in Wisconsin” because of a raft of litigation, Pines said. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican, in a written statement acknowledged the other outstanding legal actions.
More applications for felons’ restoration of voting rights could be processed if a state agency were assigned that duty, says a report commissioned by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli that is to be made public today. Applications are now processed by the governor’s staff and approved by the head of state; he’s empowered by the state Constitution “to remove political disabilities” for those who lost them because of criminal convictions. But it’s a one-at-a-time process. Gov. Bob McDonnell has sped up the system, restoring voting privileges and other civil rights to more than 4,600 citizens on his watch – a record among governors. But it’s estimated that 350,000 Virginians remain disenfranchised because of felony convictions.
Virginia: Cuccinelli set to announce findings on restoring voting rights of ex-felons | The Washington Post
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II is set to announce the findings of a committee he tasked with exploring how to make it easier for nonviolent felons to regain their voting rights, an issue Cuccinelli fought against as a state senator but has since come to support. In March, Cuccinelli, the GOP gubernatorial nominee, created an advisory committee on rights restoration after legislation to pass a constitutional amendment to automatically restore felon voting rights failed in the General Assembly, despite having the support of the attorney general and Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R). The committee is slated to release its findings Tuesday on what can and cannot be done to make the process easier.
Holding parliamentary polls has become a complex issue once again. On 26 May, the High Constitutional Court (HCC) declared 13 articles of two draft laws regulating elections – which had been approved by the Shura Council, parliament’s upper house – to be unconstitutional. According to article 177 of Egypt’s new constitution, five political laws – including two laws regulating elections – drafted by parliament must be subject to prior review by the HCC. If the court finds any of the proposed legislation unconstitutional, it must be sent back to parliament for amendment. The HCC ruling throws a massive spanner into the works once again. It is the second such ruling in six months, making the holding of parliamentary polls this year a tall order.
The recent declaration of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) to allow police and military personnel to vote in elections has drawn controversy among legal and political experts in the country. The courts ruling on Saturday deemed a ban against security members from voting “unconstitutional,” citing the new constitution approved in December 2012. For decades, security members have been prevented from voting based on a law dating back to 1976. The ban was justified as a move to keep the military and the security apparatuses off politics. The SCC, however, said that such a ban violated the country’s new constitution that states that “all” citizens have the right to vote.
Equatorial Guinea voted on Sunday in local and legislative elections denounced as a sham by the opposition, with the party of Africa’s longest serving leader expected to clinch an overwhelming victory. The small West African nation, the continent’s third-largest oil producer, has been under the iron-fisted rule of Teodoro Obiang Nguema for 34 years and successive elections have been widely seen as flawed. “These are sham elections, just like the other elections organised by the Obiang dictatorship,” said Placido Mico, the lone opposition lawmaker in a parliament where Obiang’s PDGE holds 99 of the 100 seats.
Tens of thousands of people gathered in Petaling Jaya outside Kuala Lumpur over the weekend to take part in nationwide rallies to contest the results of the May 5 elections. The series of rallies are known as 505 Suara Rakyat or People’s Voice 505 – named after the May 5 elections that saw the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition returned to power despite having lost the popular vote. Three weeks after the results were announced, Malaysians are still protesting against the outcome of the 13th general elections which they claimed were tainted by electoral fraud.
The House of Councilors enacted a law Monday that gives wards the right to vote, meaning that about 136,000 adults under legal guardianship will be able to cast ballots in the Upper House poll this summer. The Upper House of the Diet unanimously approved a bill to amend the Public Offices Election Law by removing Article 11, which prevents wards from exercising their right to vote. The bill passed the Lower House earlier. Under the revision, adults who are under guardianship will be able to exercise their voting rights via proxies. Proxy voting will also be allowed in national referendums on constitutional amendments.
Tanzania held its first multi-party General Election in 1995 and subsequent elections in 2000, 2005 and 2010, voters registration is among thorny issues that political parties and other stakeholders have complained about. At present, official statistics availed by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) show that there are some 20 million registered voters on the Permanent National Voters Register (PNVR) in Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar out of the total population of about 45 million. Cases of missing names of eligible voters, appearance of names of people long known to be dead as well as minors on the voters’ register, are among issues that have touched raw nerves of politicians and concerned citizens of this country. There were also some incidents where voters deliberately registered more than once.