National: Voting rights in the balance as Supreme Court about to issue decision | NBC

The Supreme Court is expected to soon announce its decision on a case which many Latino organizations are closely watching – whether Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act will be struck down.  Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requires covered states and counties to obtain “preclearance” from the Department of Justice or the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia before implementing any voting changes.  NBC News Justice correspondent Pete Williams says this is “the most potent part of a law widely considered the most important piece of civil rights legislation ever passed by Congress.” National civil rights organizations like the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), National Council of la Raza, the Brennan Center for Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union, among others, argue that Section 5 has kept some counties and states from establishing voting laws or guidelines that make it more difficult for Latinos and other minorities to vote.  Last year civil rights groups took issue with proposed voting laws in Texas and Florida which would have required stricter voter ID or would have limited early voting days, for example.  Civil rights groups said these laws would have made it more difficult for Latinos and African Americans to vote.

Editorials: Striking down voting law will set back civil rights | Raul A. Reyes/NBC

Could a county in Alabama affect your ability to vote? Absolutely. Any day now, the Supreme Court will issue its decision in Shelby County v. Holder, a case challenging Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Section 5 requires states with a history of discrimination to get approval from the federal government before they change their voting laws. Most of these states are in the South. Shelby County, Alabama says this is unfair and wants Section 5 struck down. Section 5 is not just one part of the Voting Rights Act. Section 5 is the heart of the Voting Rights Act. Getting rid of it would be a setback to civil rights. It would negatively impact Hispanic voters. And it would represent a troubling overreach by the Supreme Court into Congressional jurisdiction. The Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution states that no citizen should be denied his right to vote on account of race or color. But Southern states for years found ways to prevent African Americans from voting. So in 1965 Congress passed Section 5, to ensure an end to poll taxes, literacy tests, and other means of obstructing access to the ballot box.

Editorials: Update Section 5 of Voting Rights Act, don’t toss it | Dallas Morning News

Every time we enter a voting booth, we collectively make a national statement that each of us matters, that we are free and independent and control our destiny. That we choose to be part of a community that engages in peaceful political engagement. Voting is to democracy what praying is to religion: an expression of a belief system. Voting is how we the people have actually formed a more perfect union. It defines who we are and what we aspire to be. It marked our evolution from a country dominated by white, male landowners to one that included — in every sense of the word — women and, ultimately, minorities. Sometime this month, perhaps as early as today, the Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision that could be pivotal for voting rights. Shelby County vs. Holder may become as much a part of our popular lexicon as Roe vs. Wade and Brown vs. Board of Education.

Alaska: Judge scolds Alaska Redistricting Board | Anchorage Daily News

A Fairbanks judge gave a stern rebuke to the Alaska Redistricting Board, saying in a decision Thursday that it was not worthy of the trust placed in it by the courts and accusing it of acting in a “dilatory” and “disingenuous” manner. Superior Court Judge Michael McConahy, the judge hearing challenges to the failed redistricting plan under which the 2012 election was held, said the board’s proposal to wait until August to begin crafting a new plan was unsatisfactory. He said the board had the computer power to draw new boundaries in a matter of days should it choose. “There is no reason to delay this process further,” he said.

Connecticut: Republicans Call Move To Abolish Independent Party ‘Power Grab’ | CT News Junkie

Senate Republican leader John McKinney called draft legislation that would bar the Independent Party of Connecticut from keeping its name a “disgusting, arrogant power grab,” by the Democratic majority. The working draft of the omnibus campaign finance bill would bar the use of the word “independent” in political party names. It’s a change that would force the Independent Party of Connecticut—which cross-endorsed several Republicans in legislative and Congressional races— to change its name. Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury, said the only reason the Democratic majority included that change in the bill is because the Independent Party of Connecticut received more votes than the Working Families Party, a third party that traditionally cross-endorses Democrats.

Maryland: In Takoma Park, starting the voting habit early | Baltimore Sun

Last week, the Takoma Park City Council voted 6-1 to change its charter to become the first city in America to lower the voting age to 16. While we are the first city to adopt this policy, we have little doubt that others will follow. Maryland already has been a national leader in extending voting rights to younger voters when it opened its primaries years ago to 17-year-olds. That practice has spread to more than 20 states, and the case for a lower voting age in local elections is similarly strong. The context for action was an accompanying measure backing an affirmative right to vote in the Constitution and local actions in support of suffrage. A task force will address why — like many cities, including Baltimore — Takoma Park has local election turnout rates below 20 percent, with large disparities based on age and neighborhood. The city will also establish Election Day voter registration and extend voting rights to more people with past felony convictions, and may adopt Minnesota’s policy of ensuring that candidates have access to apartment buildings to talk with residents.

North Dakota: State adjusts November vote counts | INFORUM

More than six months after North Dakotans voted in the November general election, U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp lost 174 votes and Gov. Jack Dalrymple gained one. Vote tallies for all statewide races and local races in Walsh County were changed by the State Canvassing Board on Thursday after the federal court system realized in mid-February that Walsh County had 300 more votes cast than the number of voters. Secretary of State Al Jaeger said human error happens, and he thinks the canvassing board has never met this long after an election before.

Texas: Special session on redistricting is damage control | Associated Press

When three federal judges in San Antonio released interim maps in November 2011, Democrats jumped for joy at how many seats they’d gain in Congress and the Texas House. Their grand plans, though, were short-lived. The U.S. Supreme Court interceded and said the lower-court judges had gone too far. Since neither that court, nor the one hearing another case in Washington D.C. had made a final ruling, the San Antonio judges could only repair the most egregious constitutional violations in the Legislature’s maps for the 2012 election. The San Antonio judges therefore redrew their maps, and Republicans maintained unquestioned control over Texas politics. But earlier this year the court in Washington D.C. ruled that Texas Republican lawmakers intentionally discriminated against minorities in drawing their maps. That clears the way for the San Antonio judges to return to the drawing board, and led Gov. Rick Perry to call a special session on redistricting to do damage control.

Editorials: Restoring the Vote in Virginia | New York Times

Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia enlarged democracy on Wednesday when he announced an order requiring the automatic restoration of voting rights for nonviolent offenders who have historically had to fight through a bureaucratic maze to gain access to the polls. Governor McDonnell’s order, which could cover more than 100,000 people, reflects a growing awareness that disenfranchisement serves no rehabilitative purpose — and may, in fact, contribute to further criminal behavior by forcing former offenders to the margins of society. In all, nearly six million Americans — about 2.5 percent of the voting-age population — are barred from voting by a confusing patchwork of state laws that strip convicted felons of the right to vote, often temporarily, but sometimes for life. Nearly two dozen states have softened their disenfranchisement policies since the late 1990s, with several states repealing or scaling back lifetime bans.

Wisconsin: Elections bill would make it harder to recall municipal and school officials | Journal Sentinel

Municipal and school officials could be recalled from office only if they have been charged with a crime or ethics violation, under a sweeping elections bill quickly moving through the state Assembly. Under other provisions of the bill by Rep. Jeff Stone (R-Greendale), new limits would be enacted on when people can vote in clerks’ offices before an election, ballots could more easily be thrown out and restrictions would be eased on when lobbyists can give campaign donations to legislators and the governor. The bill wouldn’t affect state and county elected officials, who can be recalled for any reason under the Wisconsin constitution. As a result, the proposal would not have prevented the recall election of Gov. Scott Walker last year or the attempted recall of Milwaukee County Executive Tom Ament after the pension scandal in 2002.

Wisconsin: Appeals court ruling doesn’t enact voter ID law | The Cap Times

A state appeals court overturned a Dane County Circuit Court ruling Thursday morning, handing proponents of the state’s controversial voter ID law a minor legal victory. The ruling from the 4th District Court of Appeals came in a case brought by the Wisconsin League of Women Voters. The league argued the law passed in 2011 violated a provision of the Wisconsin Constitution that guarantees every person the right to vote. Thursday’s ruling, however, will not result in the voter ID law being enacted. Three other lawsuits are still pending that challenge the legality of the law. In the other case brought in state courts, Voces de la Frontera, an immigrant rights group, and the Milwaukee branch of the NAACP won a permanent injunction against the voter ID law in Dane County Circuit Court. The state Department of Justice has asked for an appeals court review of the ruling.

Wyoming: Tough to get referendum, initiative on Wyoming ballot | Laramie Boomerang

Sponsors of an effort to repeal a new state law say they were so rushed by Wyoming’s referendum deadline that they didn’t have time to count how many signatures they had collected on the petitions they submitted this week. “The referendum process needs to be changed,” said Jennifer Young, of Torrington, who was among those submitting petition signatures Tuesday, minutes before the deadline. “It’s designed for the people to fail and the legislators to not lose a bill they want.” Wyoming’s referendum process is among the most restrictive in the nation, meaning residents have little chance of reaching the statewide ballot with their cause, public policy advocates say. In the last 30 years, only one referendum on a new state law succeeded in making the general election ballot. It failed at the polls.

Estonia: In E-Voting Scandal, Suspicions Arise Over MEP Kristiina Ojuland | ERR

Prime Minister Andrus Ansip has drawn a connection in the e-voting fraud scandal with MEP Kristiina Ojuland.
Ansip told Postimees after a party meeting that Ojuland has made payments from her personal bank account to compensate the party membership dues of 39 people whose identities are suspected to have been stolen. Võru County has emerged as the second voting district to be wrapped up in the Reform Party’s leadership election scandal, in which an insider is suspected of secretly casting e-votes on behalf of elderly party members who claim not to have voted. Only a few cases of identity theft are suspected in Võru County, as opposed to dozens in Lääne-Viru County, ERR radio reported.

Estonia: Alleging Flaws, E-Voting Critics Make Request for 2011 Log Files | ERR

The Center Party, which insists the country’s vaunted electronic voting system is flawed, has made a freedom of information request to the state electoral committee to get e-voting server log files from the 2011 general elections. “In light of our deep doubts about the security of e-elections, we are asking the electoral committee about e-voting software ownership issues and the contracts under which the software was commissioned,” said MP Priit Toobal. Toobal said Center was interested in whether the 2011 e-voting software was audited and if so, what the results of the audit were. Toobal also said the party made a proposal to test the 2013 local election e-voting system and software.

France: Fake votes mar France’s first electronic election | The Independent

Former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s political party, already enfeebled by a chaotic national leadership election last year, faces further ridicule in a Paris town hall primary election which ends tonight. An “online-primary”, claimed as “fraud-proof” and “ultra secure”, has turned out to be vulnerable to multiple and fake voting. The four-day election has also the exposed the poisonous divisions created within the centre-right Union Pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) by the law permitting gay marriage which took effect last week. France’s first “electronic election” had been expected to anoint a rising star of the moderate right, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, 39, as the party’s candidate in the election for mayor of Paris next spring. The former environment minister, known as “NKM”, was runaway favourite to win in the first round  until she abstained in the final parliamentary vote on same-sex marriage in late April. … What was already shaping up as a tense and close election was thrown into utter confusion at the weekend. Journalists from the news site Metronews proved that it was easy to breach the allegedly strict security of the election and vote several times using different names.

Guinea: Deaths of protesters herald Guinea’s election | Al Jazeera

Twelve people have been killed and at least 89 injured in the West African nation of Guinea over the past week, as waves of violence grip the country ahead of legislative elections scheduled for late June. More than 50 people have died since February in clashes between government forces and the opposition. Opposition members, who come primarily from the Peuhl ethnic group, blame the deaths on government security forces which are dominated by the Malinke ethnic group. The opposition says the past week’s fatalities are the result of security forces violently repressing legal protests. In a statement released on Monday, the government confirmed that twelve people had died in violent confrontations since May 21. More than half of the fatalities were the result of gunshot wounds, according to the statement, although the “origin of the shots remains unknown”. Altercations between opponents of President Alpha Condé’s administration and security forces have been an almost weekly occurrence in the capital, Conakry, for the past several months.

Malaysia: Premier Revamps Election Commission After Disputed Poll | Bloomberg

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced measures to overhaul the election commission after the ruling coalition retained power in a vote that was marred by fraud allegations. An independent bipartisan parliamentary committee of government and opposition members will oversee the commission to “strengthen public confidence” in it, Najib said today in a statement in the administrative capital of Putrajaya, near Kuala Lumpur. Najib’s Barisan Nasional alliance won 133 seats in the 222-member Parliament in the May 5 election to extend its 55-year rule over the Southeast Asian nation. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has disputed the outcome and said May 6 that his Pakatan Rakyat group would challenge some of the results because of fraud claims.

Zimbabwe: Mugabe to Comply With Election Ruling |

President Mugabe yesterday said he will comply with the Constitutional Court ruling on Friday ordering him to proclaim dates for the harmonised elections and hold the polls before July 31, which judgment he described as fair. He said he would discuss with Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa to set the polling dates as soon as he returns home from Japan where he is attending the Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD) which ends today. The Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces was speaking in an interview with Zimbabwean journalists covering the conference. “Well, that’s the ruling of the court and when the court gives a ruling and the ruling is a judgement and the judgement is meant to establish how people should react to it, there is only one way of reacting to it which is accepting the judgement by our nation,” said President Mugabe. “We accepted that judgement and we will work in accordance with that judgement.”

France: French website casts fake votes in online Paris mayoral election |

A French news website says it was able to cast “fake” votes in France’s first digital election by registering under different names. To register a vote in the opposition UMP party’s “open primary” to select a candidate for next year’s mayoral election in Paris, voters were required to provide a name, address, date of birth and credit card payment of three euros ($3.90). But website Metronews said it used the same card to pay for multiple votes and even registered once as ex-President and UMP leader Nicolas Sarkozy, the BBC reported Monday.