One side effect of the Supreme Court’s decision to stop enforcement of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is clear: a flood of new lawsuits that have already begun. The ruling all but guarantees that voting rights advocates will pivot toward filing lawsuits relying on a separate piece of the law, Section 2, to challenge procedures which might impede voters. Nine states, mostly in the South, and other jurisdictions in places from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Shannon County, S.D., had been covered by Section 5 of the law which required election officials to get either the Justice Department or a federal judge to pre-approve changes in voting procedures. Section 2, on the other hand, bans voting procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership in one of the language minority groups — such as speakers of Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, or Navajo — identified in the VRA. In its decision Tuesday in a case involving Shelby County, Ala., the high court essentially made Section 5 unenforceable for now. It found that the formula to determine which jurisdictions were covered under the VRA was flawed, and Congress seems unlikely to write a new formula before the 2014 elections. Texas Secretary of State John Steen immediately announced that his state’s voter photo identification law — which had been passed by the Texas legislature in 2011, but then barred by a federal judge using section 5 of the Voting Rights Act — will now be in effect.
Advocacy groups here are reacting with frustration as several southern U.S. states have moved to enact stricter voting requirements in the wake of a recent Supreme Court decision that rolled back key legislation that had safeguarded minority voters for decades. Following last week’s five-to-four Supreme Court decision overturning a key part of the Voting Rights Act, nine southern states with a history of discriminatory voting requirements are now able to change their election laws without approval from the federal government. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, stating: “Our country has changed. While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation is passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.” Yet just 48 hours after the decision, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina announced plans to push through together voting restrictions that critics are warning could disenfranchise minority voters.
Republicans face tough questions with no easy answers over how, and where, to attract voters even GOP leaders say the party needs to stay nationally competitive when the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights act last week. The decision caught Republicans between newfound state autonomy that conservatives covet and the law’s popularity among minority, young and poor voters who tend to align with Democrats. It’s those voters that Republicans are eyeing to expand and invigorate the GOP’s core of older, white Americans. National GOP Chairman Reince Priebus began that effort well before the court’s decision by promising, among other initiatives, to hire non-white party activists to engage directly with black and Latino voters. Yet state and national Republicans reacted to the Voting Rights Act decision with a flurry of activity and comments that may not fit neatly into the national party’s vision. In Washington, Republicans like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia embraced the nuances of the ruling. The court didn’t actually strike down preclearance, instead tossing rules that determined which jurisdictions got oversight. Congress is free to rewrite those parameters and revive advance review.
In striking down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act last week, members of the Supreme Court didn’t just neuter a major component of landmark civil rights law. The justices also eliminated the workload of several dozen federal employees. Until the Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder on June 25, a few dozen of the 100 or so employees of the Voting Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division had been assigned to review the 14,000 to 20,000 voting changes submitted each year by jurisdictions that needed DOJ permission before implementing new rules or, say, changing the location of a polling place. DOJ is reassigning those attorneys and support staff after the Supreme Court ruled that the Voting Rights Act Section 4 — the part of the law that defined which localities needed to have their laws precleared under Section 5 — was unconstitutional. The court’s Section 4 declaration effectively eliminates Section 5 enforcement.
The Supreme Court dealt a blow to the Voting Rights Act last week, only two weeks after ruling that an Arizona law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote is unconstitutional. The Court’s decision last Tuesday and the idea underpinning it – that voter suppression of ethnic minority and poor voters is no longer an issue that warrants the same federal protections as it once did – sits at odds with their ruling on the Arizona voter ID law, which was a clear acknowledgment that state laws can, at times, be discriminatory. “Arizona is the poster child of the need for federal oversight,” said Democratic Senator Steve Gallardo. In a 5 to 4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court did away with Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) that required Arizona and other states to get pre-approval from the federal government before implementing changes to their state voter laws.
Seventeen-year-olds who turn 18 before the November 2014 general election will be able to vote in the March primary, under an Illinois law enacted Wednesday. Gov. Pat Quinn signed the law, dubbed “Suffrage at 17” by its champions, at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire. Government teacher Andrew Conneen and many of his students have lobbied for the proposal for years. Conneen, students and others looked on as Quinn signed the law on the running track outside the school. Behind him, the scoreboard clock read 2:26, the official number of the House bill.
A trial is tentatively set for February 2014 to decide whether New Hampshire will be allowed to use controversial language on its voter registration forms that was previously blocked by a judge. With last year’s general election approaching, Strafford County Superior Court Judge John Lewis issued a temporary injunction preventing the state from using new voter registration forms that included a paragraph discussing motor vehicle and residency requirements. Under state law, voters aren’t required to be permanent residents of New Hampshire to cast ballots here. Anyone who maintains a “domicile” in the state is eligible to vote in New Hampshire, including college students. However, Republican lawmakers enacted changes in 2012 that were intended to require anyone who chooses to vote in New Hampshire to also become a resident, falling under the purview of motor vehicle laws.
When New York voters go to the polls for the primary on Sept. 10, South Asians in Queens will for the first time find ballots translated into Bengali, the first new language to be introduced at city polling booths in more than a decade, election officials said. The addition of Bengali-language ballots at 60 polling sites in Queens comes nearly two years after the federal government ordered the city to provide language assistance to South Asian minorities under a provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The federal government had previously ordered the city’s English ballots to be translated into Spanish, and more recently Chinese, in 1993, and Korean, in 2001. The delay in the appearance of Bengali ballots prompted advocates for South Asian voters to sue the city’s Board of Elections on Tuesday over what they called its repeated failure to provide adequate language assistance in elections until now.
Editorials: North Carolina Speeds Up to Run Election Red Light? | Michael P. McDonald/Huffington Post
Republicans are at it again, making it harder to vote. This time, North Carolina Republicans are contemplating reducing the number of days of in-person early voting, including the Sunday before the election; axing the state’s “one-stop” voting which allows people to register and vote in-person early, and implementing a new voter photo identification law that may adversely affect seniors, students and minorities. It is no coincidence that these major voting changes are being considered a week after the Supreme Court struck down the coverage formula in Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act in the recent decision, Shelby County v Holder. As a result, North Carolina and other states are no longer bound to seek approval from the federal government before implementing their new election laws, formerly required under Section 5.
Arrows thud into a wooden target, and the men with bows sing in celebration. One of those watching the archery tournament is Gyeltshen, an 89-year-old who remembers Thimphu, Bhutan’s sprawling capital, as a “few houses and a forest”. Entering it without wearing your gho, a knee-length Bhutanese robe, meant risking arrest and a fine. Much is changing. He approves of how the king “granted us democracy” in 2008, when the Himalayan country had its first election. On July 13th Mr Gyeltshen will vote in the second. Like many in Thimphu, he says the ruling Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (Peace and Prosperity Party) kept its promises to build roads and airports and to provide hydro power. Almost everyone has a mobile phone, and most of the country has electricity. The party expects to win.
Guinea’s government and opposition parties reached a deal on Wednesday to hold long-delayed legislative elections at the end of September to complete the mineral-rich nation’s transition to civilian rule. Elections scheduled for June 30 were postponed after a wave of protests, with the opposition accusing President Alpha Conde of planning to rig the poll. Conde won a 2010 election in Guinea’s first democratic transition of power, but his victory was contested by the opposition. “We have reached an agreement,” Mouctar Diallo, one of the opposition’s leaders, told Reuters. “I hope the international community will guarantee the implementation of this deal.”
Campaigning for the July 21 parliamentary election began across Japan on Thursday, with opinion polls forecasting major gains for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his economic revival plan. At stake in the election are half of the seats in the upper house of Parliament, where his main opponents, the Democratic Party, now have control. Mr. Abe’s conservative governing party, the Liberal Democrats, soundly defeated the Democrats in December in elections for the more powerful lower house of Parliament, and the polls so far suggest that they will repeat that feat in the upper house. If they succeed, Mr. Abe will be the first Japanese prime minister in years to break a rapid cycle of rise and fall for the country’s leaders. Control of both houses of Parliament would give Mr. Abe more freedom to push forward a doctrine that his party now proudly calls Abenomics, a cocktail of monetary stimulus, government spending and promised economic changes meant to jolt Japan out of its long deflationary slump.
Malawi: Mesn lauds Malawi Electoral Commission for permitting 2014 election’s parallel vote tally centres | Malawi Nyasa Times
The Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) has applauded the Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) for its decision to allow the conduct of Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) in 2014 tripartite elections. The electoral body’s chairperson Justice Maxon Mbendera made the announcement at a highly consultative meeting with political parties and all electoral stakeholders held at Cross Roads Hotel in Lilongwe on June 28, 2013. The decision, according Mesn, is a right direction in enhancing accountability and credibility of election results.
Elections to choose a new government in Zimbabwe will go ahead on July 31, the disputed date that President Robert Mugabe, had unilaterally set, the country’s top court ruled on Thursday. The court dismissed appeals by both Mugabe and his nemesis Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, to have the date postponed following pressure from regional leaders. “Elections should proceed on the 31st of July 2013 in terms of the proclamation by the president in compliance with the order of this court,” chief justice Godfrey Chidyausiku ruled. The presidential vote will be held on the same day as parliamentary elections to replace an uneasy power-sharing deal between Mugabe and Tsvangirai in place since 2009. Mugabe had lodged an appeal to shift by two weeks the date that he had himself set, after regional bloc the Southern African Development Community (SADC) asked him to allow more time for preparations.