Bracing for an impending Supreme Court decision that could limit the reach of the Voting Rights Act, liberal legal experts and advocates are assessing what to do if the court strikes down a central part of the law. Addressing the annual convention of the liberal lawyers’ group the American Constitution Society, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a pioneer of the civil rights movement, told an audience of more than 1,000 lawyers and law students in Washington, D.C., that as a young activist in the 1960s, he’d chosen to “get in trouble – good trouble, necessary trouble” using civil disobedience and street protests to win the right to vote. Now, Lewis said, “I think it’s time for all of us once again to get in trouble.” Referring to the high court’s imminent decision on Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, Lewis said, “We’re at a crossroads. Something’s going to happen, maybe next Monday, maybe next Thursday, the court is going to say something.” Arguing that voting rights were in jeopardy, Lewis said “I think it’s time for all of us once again to get in trouble.”
Editorials: Could Supreme Court’s Arizona Ruling Lead to Voting Messes Down the Road? | Garrett Epps/The Atlantic
On Monday, I wrote that the Court’s 7-2 decision in Arizona v. Arizona Inter Tribal Council “gave a strong affirmation to Congress’s power to regulate state voter-registration processes” and “refused to narrow the scope of Congress’s power to supervise federal election procedures in the states.” That remains the general view. (See coverage here, here, and here.) Some commentators I respect find the decision more mixed as an affirmation of federal power over state voting procedures. At SCOTUSblog, Lyle Denistonconcluded that the opinion “assured states that they retain the ultimate power to decide who gets to vote. The apparent bottom line: states cannot now require voters to show proof that they are U.S. citizens, but the Court has given them a plan that could gain them that power.” Also in SCOTUSblog, Georgetown Law Professor Martin Lederman argues that “what appears at first to be a significant victory for the federal government might in fact be something much less than that — indeed, might establish important restrictions on Congress’s authority to determine eligibility for voting in federal elections, in a way that implicates current and potential future federal legislation.” And at the Daily Beast, election-law guru Richard Hasen warns that the decision “may give states new powers to resist federal government control over elections.” It’s hard to think of three smarter people. I continue to think that the decision is a big win for Congress’s power. The storm clouds these commentators discern may be threatening, but also may pass over easily.
Contending one and maybe two congressional races were stolen from them, Republican legislators have approved a measure to finesse election laws to keep out the Libertarians who they say are taking votes from their candidates. The change, tucked into a much larger set of revisions to election laws, would sharply increase the number of signatures that Libertarian and Green Party candidates need just to get on the ballot for their own legislative and congressional primaries. Barry Hess, the Libertarian Party’s former candidate for governor, said in most cases the number of signatures required is far more than the number of people actually registered in most districts.
The latest round of letters questioning the citizenship of some Colorado registered voters has 63 out of 298 people affirming their right to vote, and most recipients are ignoring the May letters altogether. The letters are part of an ongoing effort by Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler to address what he says is a risk for voter fraud. Gessler’s office provided the latest numbers to The Associated Press this week. Another 15 people who received letters last month said they weren’t U.S. citizens and asked to be removed from voter rolls.
Colorado: Secretary of State Scott Gessler won’t face criminal charges, Denver grand jury says | Longmont Times-Call
A Denver grand jury ruled Wednesday that Secretary of State Scott Gessler did not violate the law when he used his office’s discretionary fund to pay about $1,300 to attend the Republican National Lawyers Association meeting in Sarasota in August. However, the panel rebuked Gessler for using state money on the trip, and the secretary’s subsequent trip to the Republican National Convention in Tampa. “The Grand Jury finds there was no criminal conduct related to the use of Discretionary Funds to attend the RNLA conference, in light of the Secretary of State speaking on a panel, the election law training at the conference, and the accreditation by Colorado Supreme Court for the CLE,” the report stated. “However, the Grand Jury believes that the Secretary of State’s decision regarding the use of the Discretionary Fund in order to attend a partisan and political conference like the RNLA was not prudent, especially when it was followed by a trip to the Republican National Convention.”
The Colorado secretary of state’s office on Tuesday declared that organizers behind a recall petition against a Colorado lawmaker who supported gun control had enough valid signatures to set up the first potential recall of a state lawmaker in Colorado history. The secretary of state said opponents of Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, gathered more than 10,000 valid signatures. They only needed 7,178 valid signatures, equaling 25 percent of all the votes cast in the previous state Senate election. The recall election would likely in occur in September, though legal challenges could drag the process into October. Lawyers for Morse are challenging the recall effort. They argued that the petition fails to use language defined in the Colorado constitution that “expressly include a demand for the election of a successor to the recalled official,” The Denver Post reported.
Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday used a tribute to 19th-century abolitionist Frederick Douglass to renew the call for equal voting rights for people who live in the nation’s capital. During a ceremony unveiling a statue of Douglass in the Capitol, Biden hailed Douglass’ work advocating equal justice, and noted that Douglass supported complete voting rights for residents of the District of Columbia, where Douglass once lived. Although each of the 50 states was allowed two statues of notable citizens in the Capitol, the District of Columbia was not allowed any statue until a measure passed by Congress last year. Residents chose to honor Douglass, whose home near the Anacostia River is a national historic site. Biden said he and President Barack Obama back Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting delegate to Congress, in her effort to bring statehood and full voting rights to the city.
This week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling partly blocks Georgia from enforcing a law requiring would-be voters to prove U.S. citizenship, Secretary of State Brian Kemp said Wednesday. In a 7-2 decision Monday, the court ruled a similar statute in Arizona is pre-empted by federal law. Passed in 2009, Georgia’s law requires voter registration applicants to provide proof of U.S. citizenship, such as copies of passports or birth certificates. Kemp, however, said Georgia has never been able to enforce that statute because it has not been given access to a federal immigration database it could use to confirm the U.S. citizenship of those seeking to vote. He said he is now considering asking the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to add new instructions on federal voter registration forms so Georgia can require proof of U.S. citizenship. In its ruling, the court indicated that is a possible pathway forward for Arizona. “We will put all options on the table — whether we need to talk to the governor or Legislature or the Attorney General’s Office,” Kemp said.
In a federal lawsuit, the Democratic Party of Hawaii claims the state’s primary election law is unconstitutional. Hawaii’s primary system that allows every registered voter to participate in the party’s nomination process is tantamount to forced political association, in violation of the First Amendment, according to the lawsuit filed Monday. The party prefers a primary that allows distinguishing voters by political orientation. The law prevents the party “from exerting any control over who may participate in the nomination of its candidates,” the lawsuit states, resulting in the “active, earnest and faithful” party members being “substantially outnumbered in their own nomination process, by persons unknown to (the party).”
Minnesota: Most states have both early and no-excuse absentee balloting, but not Minnesota | MinnPost
Absentee balloting has made voting much easier for Bea Arret over the last decade. Arret, an election judge for 35 years, is deeply immersed in the civic side of voting and in encouraging others to vote. The engaged 84-year-old, who resides in a Moorhead-area assisted-living facility, said she encourages her fellow residents to cast absentee ballots to make sure it’s easy for them to participate in elections. “It’s just so much more convenient,” she said. “I just encourage everybody else to do the same thing.” That’s why Arret, who worked with AARP against the voting constitutional amendment last fall, is thrilled with upcoming changes in state election practices.
Monmouth County officials are happy to hold a special election for U.S. Senator in October, but they would like the state to pay the costs up front. “We budgeted for the November election and the primary, we did not budget for this election,” Freeholder Gary Rich said. “We are reaching out to the state and asking if they could to fund this up front.” At their next meeting, the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders will consider a resolution to request that the state pay for the Oct. 16 special election and the Aug. 13 party primaries. At issue are two elections, a primary and a special election, to fill the seat vacated by the late Frank Lautenberg. Typically, counties budget to equip and staff polls each election year, and are later reimbursed by the state. “With the special elections, the state is throwing the burden on the county, and I believe the county should be paid before them,” Freeholder John Curley said. “We’re struggling as a coastal county with all the problems from Sandy, now we’re left with towns that are devastated and the tax base is deficient.”
The election scandal dogging Congressman Joe Garcia’s campaign and two state House races makes it clear: Computer techies are supplementing old-school, block-walking ballot-brokers known as boleteras. Over just a few days last July, at least two groups of schemers used computers traced to Miami, India and the United Kingdom to fraudulently request the ballots of 2,046 Miami-Dade voters. Garcia said he knew nothing of the plot that recently implicated three former campaign workers, two employed in his congressional office. Investigators, meanwhile, have hit a dead end with a larger fraud involving two state House races. A third incident cropped up Thursday in Miami’s mayoral race, but the case appears unrelated to last year’s fraud when two groups appeared to act separately from each other. They employed different tactics to target different types of voters, a University of Florida/Miami Herald analysis of election data indicates. The ultimate goal was the same: get mail-in ballots into the hands of voters, a job that many boleteras once handled on the streets of Miami-Dade. Now, it’s electronic.
Governor Christie seems to prefer slow jamming democracy more so than the news these days after deciding to contradict himself by calling for a special election, a stunt that will wind up costing the state roughly $25 million. It has caused much ire and confusion, and, in fact, lawmakers in one NJ county are going so far as to refuse to distribute the roughly $850,000 needed to fund the state’s special election for U.S. Senate in mid-October. While I still do not know exactly what the heck it is that Freeholders do and always just thought they were special people from the city of Freehold, however, are quite concerned over the needless economic burden the special election will have on tax payers. The Union County Board of Freeholders, for example, claimed the special election would create a “financial hardship” for the county. And adding more confusion, they said that they received no assurances from state officials that the county would be reimbursed for a portion of the special election’s costs. It should be noted that the board is all democratic, although freeholders aren’t exactly hardened Washingtonian partisans.
New York: State Legislators Ready To OK Lever Voting Machines For NYC 2013 Primary And Runoff | New York Daily News
The Senate and Assembly are expected to vote as early as Thursday on legislation that would allow the city Board of Elections to use lever machines in the primary and run off elections, lawmakers said Tuesday. Modern optical scan voting machines would still be used for the general election. “We need to save the Board of Elections from itself and the City of New York from an embarrassing election process,” said Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn), a sponsor of the measure.
The people of Albania are to vote on Sunday (23 June) in an election seen as an important test of the country’s ambitions to join the European Union. The vote will come four days before an EU summit at which national leaders are expected to give the go-ahead for Serbia and Kosovo to advance to the next stages of their attempts to join the EU. Those votes of confidence will contrast with the slow progress that Albania has made since it applied for membership in 2009. At the start of the election campaign, the European Commission criticised the Albanian government for planning to call a referendum to push through reforms demanded by the EU.
Iceland earned the respect of many observers of democracy around the world when, after the financial crash of 2008, its parliament decided to go back to basics and revise the country‘s constitution. A constitutional overhaul was long overdue. For nearly 70 years, Iceland’s political class had repeatedly promised and failed to revise the provisional constitution of 1944, which was drawn up in haste with minimal adjustment of the 1874 constitution as part of Iceland’s declaration of independence from Nazi-occupied Denmark. Clearly, the 1944 constitution had not prevented the executive overreach and cronyism that paved the way for the corrupt privatization of the Icelandic banks from 1998 to 2003 – and their subsequent crash a few years later. Faced by pots- and pans-banging crowds in Parliament Square in Reykjavík in late 2008 and early 2009, the politicians admitted failure, accepting the protesters’ demands for, among other things, a new constitution.
Zimbabwe’s highest court has received an application from Robert Mugabe’s party to delay crucial elections by at least two weeks following pressure from regional leaders. The president has insisted he is merely abiding by a previous court order in holding general elections on 31 July. The prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, a longtime opponent of Mugabe and opposition leader, wants the vote to be held in September. Zimbabwe’s last elections in 2008 were plagued by violence and ultimately forced Mugabe to join a power-sharing government with the opposition. Officials at the constitutional court said the papers submitted by Mugabe’s party asked the court to review the earlier ruling that called for a vote before the end of July.
New Jersey: Objection To Christie’s $24 Million Senate Special Election Spreads Across State | Huffington Post
Republican county officials are now joining with their Democratic counterparts to question the cost of New Jersey’s special U.S. Senate election. The Boards of Chosen Freeholders in Bergen County and Monmouth County on Wednesday publicly questioned how they will be able to pay for the costs of the Aug. 13 special primary election and Oct. 16 special election without the state giving counties the money upfront. Gov. Chris Christie (R) has pledged that the state will pay the $24 million bill, but by reimbursing local officials who will pay the initial costs — a process that could take as long as seven months. Last week, the Union County freeholder board passed a resolution objecting to the cost of the October election. The Union County freeholder board is all Democratic, while the Monmouth County board is all Republican. Democrats hold the majority on the Bergen County board, but the resolution passed unanimously with GOP support.