MIDDLESEX — U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy says he’s been consulting constitutional scholars since he’s been home in Vermont to see if they have suggestions about how to protect minority voting rights that many feel were threatened by a U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned part of the Voting Rights Act. Leahy, a Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he had consulted both liberal and conservative legal experts from around the country and he would encourage a range of witnesses at upcoming hearings of the committee. “I have no idea what the best answer is,” Leahy said Monday during an interview in Middlesex. “Then I can honestly say to both Republicans and Democrats, ‘Look, you call the witnesses you want, we’ll call witnesses. Let’s see if there is an answer,’ rather than saying this is the way it’s going to be, because it is entirely new ground.”
Two senators said Wednesday they want Congress to improve voting opportunities for hundreds of thousands of U.S. military personnel stationed abroad by tightening rules on states for getting absentee ballots to them. Ahead of the Fourth of July holiday, Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, said they want to eliminate waivers for states that that fail to mail ballots overseas 45 days before an election. States that miss the deadline would be required to mail the ballots express mail, despite the much higher expense. The measure would toughen a 2010 law governing absentee voting in the military and the counting of those ballots. A congressional report estimated that 25 percent of ballots cast by military and overseas voters in the 2008 presidential election went uncounted.
The White House Wednesday rejected an online petition requesting a 2012 presidential vote recount, saying the election was “decided fairly and democratically.” The Obama administration, which officially responds to any petition on its “We the People” website that garners at least 100,000 signatures, said in a statement that while those who signed the petition might be disappointed by the election’s outcome — in which Obama won a second term by defeating Republican challenger Mitt Romney — “this election was decided fairly and democratically, and there’s absolutely no evidence to suggest otherwise.” The administration shot down the petition’s contention that Ohio’s Wood County has 98,213 eligible voters but had 106,258 votes cast — pointing out that the Ohio secretary of state’s records show the county had 108,014 registered voters at election time and only 64,342 actually voted.
For those who still don’t vote by mail in California, going to the polls might become a bit more convenient soon. The state Senate Elections Committee has approved a bill that would increase access to elections by requiring county elections officials to open an early voting location on a Saturday prior to Election Day. “The fact that elections are held on a workday leaves many Californians in a situation where they have to choose between voting and fulfilling personal and professional obligations,” says Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, author of the bill.
Voting Blogs: Ninth Circuit Upholds Denial of “Independent” Label on California Ballots, Leaves Option for Another Lawsuit Issue of Labels for Members of Unqualified Parties | Ballot Access News
On July 3, the Ninth Circuit upheld California law that requires independent candidates for Congress and partisan state office to have “No party preference” on the ballot instead of the label “independent.” However, the ruling leaves open for a future lawsuit the related issue of whether the law is unconstitutional as applied to members of unqualified parties; the law requires “no party preference” for them as well. The case is Chamness v Bowen, 11-56303. The 26-page opinion says there is no evidence that “no party preference”, instead of “independent”, injures independent candidates. The decision does not mention the point that California still permits independent presidential candidates to use the word “independent” on the ballot.
In light of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling June 25 that struck down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, state governments are now afforded more authority in the construction of their voting processes and procedures, and some southern states are already contemplating some adjustments. In Idaho, officials are open to election reforms, but there appears to be no discussion of urgent or eminent changes nor has a consensus on the matter emerged. “We have been making changes to our voting laws all along as the need has arisen,” said Tim Hurst, deputy secretary of state. “We have done this without any federal oversight,” he added to IdahoReporter.com. In its 5-4 ruling, Supreme Court justices said the voting act’s requirement that mainly states in the South must undergo special scrutiny before changing their voting laws is based on a 40-year-old formula that is no longer relevant to the nation’s changing racial circumstances.
Kentucky: Virginia Restores Voting Rights for Ex-Felons, Kentucky Still Waiting | Floyd County Times
FRANKFORT – Ex-felons in Virginia have gotten the call. Governor Bob McDonnell has expanded voting rights to nonviolent offenders who have served their time. That leaves Kentucky as one of just three states, along with Iowa and Florida, where an individual petition is the only way ex-felons can have their voting rights restored. According to Megan Naseman, a member of Kentuckians For the Commonwealth, a citizens’ group that pushes for restoration of voting rights, such restoration would lessen recidivism. “Statistics show that when people have their right to vote back, they’re less likely to be engaged in more crime,” she said. “I mean, it makes sense, if you have a voice you can use that voice.”
BOE lawyer Steve Richman said the agency — which is awaiting Gov. Cuomo’s verdict on whether the city can redeploy its old lever machines for the Sept. 10 primaries and a possible runoff to follow — is prepared to feature Bengali regardless of which machines are used. “The board is prepared to be at full compliance” with the law, Richman said at today’s BOE meeting. But Glenn Magpantay of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, speaking on behalf of a coalition filing suit against the BOE in federal court, said the Board vowed to roll out Bengali voting materials last June — and suddenly said in August that it wasn’t happening.
The GOP majority in North Carolina is moving to pass a series of laws in response to a recent Supreme Court ruling striking down part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, sparking outrage from civil rights activists. The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that North Carolina Republicans plan to adopt stricter voter identification laws. The report also said the GOP is pushing to end the state’s early voting laws, Sunday voting and same-day voter registration. The Supreme Court ruled a week ago that states no longer can be judged by voting discrimination that went on decades ago. In a 5-4 ruling, the justices said the Voting Rights Act’s requirement that mainly Southern states undergo special scrutiny before changing their voting laws is based on a 40-year-old formula that is no longer relevant to changing racial circumstances.
South Carolina: Richland County Council agrees to pay $100K in election-related lawyers’ fees | The State
RICHLAND COUNTY, SC — Richland County Council finally agreed Tuesday to pay more than $100,000 in bills for the lawyers who cleaned up the county’s November election mess. But not until after some unusual procedural moves, a change of heart by two members and the chairman’s threat to enforce a time limit for Councilman Bill Malinowski as he questioned charges for travel and telephone conversations. The council, which had put off the decision twice before, agreed to pay $72,423.10 for lawyer Steve Hamm to investigate Election Day problems and recommend how to fix them; $9,348.75 for lawyer John Nichols, who represented demoted elections director Lillian McBride; and $17,924.20 for Helen McFadden, who kept the election results from being overturned in court. “Who didn’t have a lawyer?” Councilman Greg Pearce muttered at one point.
US Virgin Islands: Ballot review halted after group calls police to report ‘tampering’ | Virgin Islands Daily News
Tensions between Board of Elections officials and a group of former candidates who maintain that the last General Election was fraudulent have escalated, involving a call to the police, invoking a moratorium on the review of elections records and resulting in the cancellation of a Joint Board of Elections meeting that was scheduled for today. For almost two weeks, a group of unsuccessful candidates and members of the group Virgin Islands United for Social Justice and Accountability have pored over tally sheets at the St. Thomas Board of Elections office. Animosity between them and the Elections System staff and board members has risen to the degree that Joint Elections Board Chairwoman Alecia Wells characterizes the group’s behavior as bizarre and Elections staff say they are being unduly harassed by the residents.
Scuttlebutt is not normally a major part of the stock-in-trade for journalists covering elections. But in countries like Cambodia with an absence of opinion polls, access to government ministers and the usual spin doctors attempting to mold public opinion, gossip can be as good as it gets. And the rumor mill around Phnom Penh is thriving. The impressions are daunting. Increasingly, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) looks paranoid, even delusional, despite widespread expectations that it will easily win the July 28 poll, albeit with a reduced majority. This was typified over the weekend. On Friday the government announced what effectively amounted to a ban on foreign radio broadcasts inside the country in order “to ensure fair and unbiased media coverage” of the election campaign. The ban was dropped just two days later following a chorus of international criticism, led by Washington, which made CPP strategists blush.
Kibwezi West MP Patrick Musimba yesterday lost in the recount of votes cast in the March 4 general election. The High Court ordered for the recount that declared the petitioner, Kalembe Ndile, to have beat Musimba by 118 votes. Justice David Majanja sitting in Machakos said he has a choice of declaring Ndile as the Kibwezi west MP or order for a by-election. The recount conducted last week under the supervision of the Deputy Registrar of the High Court, Jane Makungu, revealed that Kalembe garnered 16,891 votes against Musimba’s 16,773. The recount was completed last Friday and the results forwarded to Majanja on Monday before he ordered the press not to publish them after Musimba filed an application challenging the results.
Legislation sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner (D-Mercer/Hunterdon) to prevent wasting $12 million in taxpayer money on a special election was passed today by the New Jersey Senate with a vote of 22-15-1. The bill, S2858, would temporarily move the regularly scheduled November 5 General election to the date of the October 16 special election scheduled by Governor Christie to fill the vacancy in the U.S. Senate after the passing of Senator Lautenberg. Senator Turner has criticized the Governor for using his authority to schedule two special elections that will cost taxpayers approximately $24 million. “Governor Christie’s October surprise election on Wednesday, less than three weeks before the General election where his name is at the top of the ballot, is all about naked political ambition for national office,” said Senator Turner. “Having three elections every other month and a fourth less than three weeks apart will also cause voter fatigue, suppress voter participation, and cost millions of dollars.”