To Allison Riggs, a voting rights lawyer, North Carolina’s 1st Congressional District looks like an octopus with its arms stretched menacingly in all directions. Each arm, Riggs says, sucks in black voters to pack them into the district and dilutes their voting strength in nearby districts — “a cynical strategy to disenfranchise blacks.” With Republicans adding the governor’s mansion last fall to their control, on top of the North Carolina Legislature, Riggs and other civil rights activists have counted on protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act to prevent GOP geographical empire-building through redistricting. Nine states and parts of six others, including 40 of North Carolina’s 100 counties, were covered by a provision of the legislation that required federal approval of any changes in election laws. But a U.S. Supreme Court decision Tuesday gutted the law, striking down the so-called preclearance provisions, and Republican leaders here already are revving up to push through voting procedure changes.
The man who taxpayers are paying more than $70,000 to investigate what caused Richland County’s election meltdown eight months ago explained his final findings to a nearly empty room last week. Attorney Steve Hamm presented his completed report to the county board of elections June 26. There were hardly any bombshells, nor members of the public there to hear them had they dropped. Perhaps the biggest news was that Hamm confirmed he’d alerted law enforcement to the actions of a male part-time elections agency employee he said had “sabotaged” the number of voting machines deployed to precincts, causing long lines and some voters to leave before casting ballots. The Nov. 6 county election was plagued by snarled lines, broken machines — too few of them — and ballots that were never even counted. Much of that can be attributed to the actions of one unnamed person, Hamm said, although he wagged a finger at the elections board and agency management for not catching the problems early. That one elections worker, Hamm found in his investigation, had coaxed another employee into writing down wrong numbers on a spreadsheet, drastically reducing the number of voting machines that would be allocated to Election Day precincts. Hamm said he doesn’t know why the unnamed man might have wanted to choke off the number of voting machines on Election Day. He said he wondered if law enforcement might be able to find out.
For more than 40 years, the state of Texas has had to ask official permission in Washington before it could put into effect any change in the way its citizens vote. A week ago, state officials — relying on the Supreme Court’s new ruling on federal voting rights law — said they would no longer have to do that. Now, however, efforts have begun in two federal courts, 1,600 miles apart, to keep that obligation intact. Those efforts — in Washington, D.C., and San Antonio — are quick sequels to the Court’s decision last week in Shelby County v. Holder (docket 12-96), striking down one key section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but leaving other parts of the law on the books and presumably functioning. One of those other parts, the 1965 law’s Section 3, could provide a method for keeping in force Washington’s legal supervision of Texas voting laws and procedures under another, still-standing provision, Section 5.
Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C,), the man House Democrats have tapped to lead their push for revising the Voting Rights Act after last week’s Supreme Court decision gutted the law’s Section 4, urged the creation of national voting standards that would likely replace the special restrictions for a bloc of Southern states under the current law. While not ruling out a new kind of “pre-clearance” system, which had required parts or all of 15 states to get federal approval for changing their voting provisions, Clyburn said Democrats were mostly debating a new provision that would mandate every state abide by certain “minimum standards.” Clyburn said such a law, for example, might require every state have at least nine days of early voting. States could chose to have many more days, but could not have fewer than nine, he said. Similar federal standards would apply to redistricting and ballot access concerns, such as voter ID laws, although he did not provide details.
Editorials: Voting Rights Act ruling changes course of history | Natasha Korgaonkar/The Detroit News
In justifying the decision to quash the protections of the Voting Rights Act for African-American, Latino and other voters of color, John Roberts, chief justice of the Supreme Court, wrote that “things have changed.” In a sense, Roberts is correct: As this nation has tumbled through time grappling with its own history, the persistence of states of the former Confederacy in suppressing African-American voting power has adapted, shape-shifted and adopted clever disguises. Efforts to extend voter suppression against Latino, Native, and Asian-American voters in these states have also proliferated. Indeed, things have changed. Of course, there has been significant progress for voters of color since 1965, when hundreds of heroes risked their lives in crossing a small bridge in Selma, Ala. — a bridge named after Confederate brigadier and “Grand Dragon” Edmund Pettus.
This week’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down a key piece of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) could generate controversy in an empty bar. Amid all the anger and shouting, let’s take a closer look at the background and context of this case and the statute at its heart. The problem with what the Court did in Shelby County v. Holder is that it missed the subtle ways in which state and local governments have used their power to regulate the vote to dilute and even suppress it. The problem focuses on an early success of the VRA. In early 1969, VRA enforcement stood at a crossroads. As originally conceived, the Act attacked the wide range of voter exclusion strategies adopted by Southern states to deny African Americans access to the polls — for example, (1) unfairly applied literacy and/or understanding tests requiring voters to read, understand, and interpret any section of the state constitution to the satisfaction of a white (usually hostile) election official, (2) complicated registration requirements excluding minority voters on technical grounds and (3) financial barriers such as poll taxes. One simple way to undermine the black vote was to set up polling places in areas inconvenient for blacks for instance, in distant locations or in the middle of white sections of the town or county. By 1969, those methods were all but dead, thanks to combination of court rulings and the effective use of the pre-clearance provisions of the Act’s Section Five.
Editorials: Voting rights ruling a dagger in heart of civil rights movement | Leonard Pitts Jr./Miami Herald
Last week was bittersweet for the cause of human dignity. On one hand, the Supreme Court gave us reason for applause, striking down barriers against the full citizenship of gay men and lesbians. On the other, it gave us reason for dread, gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The 5-4 decision was stunning and despicable, but not unexpected. The country has been moving in this direction for years. The act is sometimes called the crown jewel of the Civil Rights Movement, but it was even more than that, the most important piece of legislation in the cause of African-American freedom since Reconstruction. And in shredding it, the Court commits its gravest crime against that freedom since Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. That decision ratified segregation, capping a 30-year campaign by conservative Southern Democrats to overturn the results of the Civil War. Given that the Voting Rights Act now lies in tatters even as Republicans embrace Voter I.D. schemes to suppress the black vote, given that GOP star Rand Paul has questioned the constitutionality of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, one has to wonder if the results of the Civil Rights Movement do not face a similar fate. Or, as Georgia Rep. John Lewis put it when I spoke with him Monday, “Can history repeat itself?”
A group opposed to a new law overhauling the early voting process in Arizona and making it more difficult for third-party candidates to get on the ballot has filed for a citizen’s referendum. The Protect Your Right to Vote Committee filed the referendum on Monday. If it collects 86,405 valid signatures by Sept. 12 the law will be put on hold until the November 2014 general election.
A pair of bills aimed at altering the special U.S. Senate election were passed in the state Senate Thursday following a spirited debate and with votes split along party lines. The first bill, sponsored by Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer, calls for moving the Nov. 5 general election to the Oct. 16 polling date called by Gov. Chris Christie to elect a U.S. Senator to replace late Sen. Frank Lautenberg. The second bill, sponsored by Sen. Nia H.Gill, D-Bergen, would allow registered voters the opportunity to vote in the Nov. 5 election at the same time and polling place as the Oct. 16 special election. Both bills, which were each passed in the state Assembly on Monday, were passed 22-15. They will now be sent to Christie for his signature.
Democrats and civil rights advocates worried last week that the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn a key section of the Voting Rights Act would lead to a new round of legislation designed to make voting more difficult for minorities. And if North Carolina Republicans go ahead with ambitious plans to rejigger voting rules, those worst fears could be realized sooner rather than later. North Carolina state Sen. Tom Apodaca, the Republican chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, is working on a package of election law changes that would curb — perhaps end — early voting, Sunday voting and same-day voter registration, the Los Angeles Times reported this weekend. Before the Supreme Court’s ruling, 40 of North Carolina’s 100 counties needed to receive Justice Department pre-clearance before making changes to voting procedures. Without Section 4, which the Court said last week is unconstitutional, the state can now make many changes it wants without getting Washington’s approval.
The May 30 ruling of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, District 4, which found Wisconsin’s voter ID law to be constitutional, was ill thought out and inconsistent in its arguments. Yet there are many Wisconsinites who suggest that the state Supreme Court will uphold the ruling because the court is so politicized that it will simply take the side of Gov. Scott Walker and his legislative allies. The governor and irresponsible legislators have advanced a number of voter suppression initiatives and the theory is that the court is so biased in favor of Walker’s political project that the justices will simply rubber-stamp the restrictive voter ID scheme. But we refuse to accept that the majority of justices on the high court have rejected the rule of law.
The political arm of the global whistleblower organisation WikiLeaks has been formally registered by the Australian Electoral Commission in time for the federal election where the party plans to contest Senate seats in three Australian states. The WikiLeaks party received formal registration on Tuesday and was registered under the name of Gail Malone, a member of the party’s national council and described as a “peace activist” on their website. The registration lists an address in Fitzroy, Melbourne as the party’s correspondence address.
Australia: Queensland moves to have electronic, and potentially online voting, within six years | The Telegraph
Queenslanders who fail to vote in State Elections will continue to cop a fine after the Newman Government decided not to scrap compulsory voting. But the Government will eventually make it more convenient to vote, moving to introduce electronic, and potentially online voting, within six years. Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie yesterday announced Cabinet had decided against removing fines for voters who fail to show up on polling day. It comes after The Courier-Mail revealed in January the Government was reviewing compulsory voting among other reforms. Other changes include a new requirement for voters to show proof of identification at the polling booth, a move that could affect pensioners.
Egypt’s military suspended the constitution Wednesday and ordered new elections, ousting the country’s first freely elected president after he defied army demands to implement radical reforms or step down. Army chief of staff Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, speaking on national television in front of a row of prominent political and religious leaders, said the military was forced to act after President Mohammed Morsi had refused for weeks to set up a national reconciliation government. Al-Sisi said the chief judge of the constitutional court, backed by technical experts, would have full powers to run the country until the constitution is amended and new elections are held. Adli al-Mansour, the 67-year-old head of Egypt’s supreme constitutional court, is to be sworn in Thursday as interim president, state media reported. The army said the interim government would set the timetable for elections.
Acting Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has submitted a bill to the Moscow City Duma that would abolish the use of absentee ballots in city elections, but he said the proposed change would not be implemented before the upcoming mayoral election, a news report said Tuesday. Election observers say the widespread use of absentee ballots is among the techniques that made it possible for fraudsters to rig the results of several key recent elections in Russia, including the 2011 State Duma elections and last year’s presidential vote.
The popular mayor of the Volga industrial city of Yaroslavl, Yevgeny Urlashov, has been detained on suspicion of corruption and extortion, just a few months before he was to head an opposition ticket in upcoming regional elections. Mr. Urlashov insisted Wednesday in an interview with the Internet TV station Dozhd that the charges against him are politically motivated. “I had been warned that they would get me out of the picture by any means possible,” he said. The Kremlin’s Investigative Committee said he and two aides are under suspicion of soliciting a $425,000 bribe from a private company in exchange for lucrative contracts to perform municipal services. Urlashov says his accuser is a prominent member of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party. Urlashov left United Russia in 2011, complaining of the party’s high-handed tactics, and joined the Civic Platform party led by liberal billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. Running as an independent in the April 2012 mayoral polls in Yaroslavl, he overwhelmingly defeated the Kremlin’s chosen candidate, Yakov Yakushev, with almost 70 percent of the vote.
A shadowy group which claims to be working in partnership with another group calling itself Institute for a Democratic Alternative for Zimbabwe (IdaZim) has created an online platform where people were able to check if their names appear on the voters’ roll. The data is found on their website www.myzimvote.com where one simply logs in their national identity number and instantly receives information, including their full names, ID, their Ward number and constituency where they were registered to vote if they voted in previous elections. The normal procedure prevailing if one wanted to check for the same information was to personally visit voter registration centres where one was expected to produce their identity particulars before the information could be checked for them by officials from the Registrar-General’s (RG) Office. Zimbabweans seeking this service have been complaining about enduring long queues and spending a lot of time at the registration centres just to have this information checked for them. Zec chairperson Justice Rita Makarau yesterday said the commission was aware of the website and was carrying out investigations to establish who was responsible for it.