Access to the polls has not always been assured for all Americans, and before the Voting Rights Act of 1965, many were subjected to so-called literacy tests and poll tax. The law was created to tackle such injustices, but in June, the Supreme Court struck a key provision of the legislation. Section 4 established a formula determining which states and localities had to get federal approval (known as pre-clearance) before changing their voting procedures. The provision applied to nine states, mainly in the South, with a history of voter discrimination. The court deemed it unconstitutional for relying on old data. It is now up to Congress to figure out where the Voting Rights Act goes from here. Both the House and Senate held hearings this past week.
The Voting Rights Act remains an effective tool for preventing discrimination against minority voters even after the Supreme Court threw out a key section last month, a key House Republican said Thursday. Democrats countered that the remaining provisions aren’t enough and said the one the court overturned needs to be replaced. That dispute played out before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, the second congressional panel this week to discuss the Supreme Court’s June 25 decision in a historic case out of Shelby County, Ala. The court’s 5-4 decision ended the 48-year-old requirement that certain states with a history of discrimination at the polls — including Alabama and South Carolina — obtain “pre-clearance” from federal officials before making any changes to their election procedures.
Editorials: The Court & the Right to Vote: A Dissent by John Paul Stevens | The New York Review of Books
… Writing for the five-man majority in Shelby County, the recently decided Supreme Court case challenging the VRA, Chief Justice John Roberts noted that “times have changed” since 1965. The tests and devices that blocked African-American access to the ballot in 1965 have been forbidden nationwide for over forty-eight years; the levels of registration and voting by African-Americans in southern states are now comparable to, or greater than, those of whites. Moreover, the two southern cities, Philadelphia, Mississippi and Selma, Alabama, where the most publicized misconduct by white police officials occurred in 1964 and 1965, now have African-American mayors. In view of the changes that have occurred in the South, the majority concluded that the current enforcement of the preclearance requirement against the few states identified in the statute violates an unwritten rule requiring Congress to treat all of the states as equal sovereigns. The Court’s heavy reliance on the importance of a “fundamental principle of equal sovereignty among the States,” while supported by language in an earlier opinion by Chief Justice Roberts, ignored the fact that Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution created a serious inequality among the states. That clause counted “three fifths” of a state’s slaves for the purpose of measuring the size of its congressional delegation and its representation in the Electoral College. That provision was offensive because it treated African-Americans as though each of them was equal to only three fifths of a white person, but it was even more offensive because it increased the power of the southern states by counting three fifths of their slaves even though those slaves were not allowed to vote. The northern states would have been politically better off if the slave population had been simply omitted from the number used to measure the voting power of the slave states.
Two elderly Yup’ik speakers and two tribal organizations have filed a federal lawsuit against Alaska, saying state election officials have failed to provide language assistance at the polls as required by law. The lawsuit was filed Friday, naming Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, the state’s top election official, as a defendant, along with his director of elections, Gail Fenumiai. Regional election officials in Fairbanks and Nome were also sued, The Anchorage Daily News reported. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court by the Anchorage office of the Native American Rights Fund, says the state is violating the federal Voting Rights Act by not providing ballots and voting instructions for speakers of Yup’ik and its dialect in Hooper Bay, Cup’ik.
Last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling voiding a key section of the Voting Rights Act requires the lines for the state’s 30 legislative districts to be redrawn before the 2014 election, an attorney for Republican interests is contending. In legal papers filed in federal court late Friday, attorney David Cantelme said the Independent Redistricting Commission’s own data shows that it overpopulated some of the districts and underpopulated others. The result, Cantelme said, was to politically disadvantage Republican candidates to the benefit of Democrats. Cantelme also pointed out to the three-judge panel hearing his legal challenge that the commission’s key legal argument for why it made those decisions was that it needed comply with the federal Voting Rights Act. More to the point, commissioners wanted to ensure that the map it drew was “precleared” by the U.S. Department of Justice as not diluting the voting strength of minorities. But the high court last month overturned a provision of that law that created a formula to identify which states and counties have a history of discrimination and therefore must submit any changes in voting laws to be precleared. That list included nine states, including Arizona, and parts of several others.
The cities of Anna Maria, Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach will have city municipality election Nov. 5 where voters will choose city commissioners, city council members and a mayor. A new system of checks in the Manatee County Office of Elections will be used to guard against absentee ballot fraud. The new system, which involves some software and coding for the ballots, has evolved over the last few months after a scandal involving phantom absentee ballots in Miami-Dade, said Michael Bennett, supervisor of Manatee’s Office of Elections. Bennett traveled to Orlando last week to meet with other Florida election office supervisors who were addressed by Miami-Dade officials. “Miami-Dade officials went over what exactly had happened to them and how they caught it,” Bennett said. “They walked us through it so we would all be on the same page going forward.” In Miami-Dade, hackers submitted thousands of phony ballot requests online at the Miami-Dade Elections Department, according to a Miami Herald investigation. More than 2,500 such requests were flagged by the Miami-Dade Elections Department after they were found to have originated from only a handful of Internet Protocol addresses.
Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s surprise entrance into the New York City comptroller race highlights one issue that will be ignored — how New York laws continue to serve incumbents and the existing political system at the expense of the voters. Spitzer’s entry was a last-minute decision. He had four days to gather 3,750 signatures on nominating petitions. This may not seem to be a high bar, but obviously Spitzer didn’t agree — he reportedly paid signature gatherers as much as $800 a day to get their John Hancocks. He said he ended up with 27,000. Why did Spitzer need to gather so many? It wasn’t because he wanted to show that he had a popular following. Nor was it an example of a gross overpayment. Instead, it was simply because New York’s ballot-access laws remain convoluted enough to require candidates to get a very large cushion of signatures to prevent them from being tossed off the ballot by party regulars who know — and make — the rules.
The North Carolina Senate on Thursday rolled out its voter identification bill, scaling back the number of acceptable photo IDs to cast a ballot in person starting in 2016 and could make it more difficult for young people to vote. The bill sets out seven qualifying forms of photo ID. But they do not include university-issued IDs, like the House allowed for University of North Carolina system and community college students when it passed a bill three months ago. The Senate also removed from its list those cards issued by local governments, for police, firefighters and other first responders, and for people receiving government assistance. Someone who doesn’t present an approved ID could cast a provisional ballot, but would have to return to an elections office with an ID for the vote to count. “We have tweaked it, tightened (it) up some with the particular IDs that will be accepted,” said Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson and chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, which neither debated nor voted on the measure Thursday.
A professor who specializes in political communication gave low grades Friday to the 2012 multimedia campaign to educate Pennsylvania voters about the state’s new voter-identification law as part of a court trial on its constitutionality. Diana Mutz, a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania and its Annenberg School for Communication, said the centerpiece of the campaign — TV ads in which people holding up photo ID cards urged voters to “show it” — seemed confusing. “It wasn’t always clear what ‘it’ was,” said Mutz, the author of several books, who testified as an expert witness on behalf of plaintiffs who sued the state in an attempt to overturn the yet-to-be-enforced March 2012 law.
Kevin Rudd will put his Labor colleagues on alert for an imminent election as he assembles the federal caucus in Sydney today to prepare for a “tough campaign” in the wake of his policy shifts on border protection and climate change. The Prime Minister is expected to overcome objections to the severity of his new policy on asylum-seekers to gain a show of support for the “no settlement” regime despite doubts among some of the party’s Left faction. Amid talk within the caucus that the federal election would be held on August 31, party members reported a positive response from voters to the Papua New Guinea solution to asylum-seekers over the weekend.
Japanese voters handed a landslide victory to the governing Liberal Democrats in parliamentary elections on Sunday, strengthening the grip of a party that promises accelerated changes to Japan’s economy and a shift away from its postwar pacifism. By securing control of both houses of Parliament for up to three years, the win offers Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — an outspoken nationalist who promises to revitalize Japan’s deflationary economy and strengthen its military — the chance to be the most transformative leader in a decade. Although a lackluster turnout indicated that Mr. Abe might not have as much of a mandate as his supporters hoped, the margin of victory was large enough to suggest he has an opportunity to also bring stability to the country’s leadership after years of short-lived and ineffective prime ministers.
A group of election workers, who were kidnapped over the weekend in northern Mali’s troubled Kidal region where they had gone to distribute voter ID cards, were released Sunday, officials said. The incident comes a week before Mali is rushing ahead with a July 28 presidential election, despite concerns over the lack of government control in the province of Kidal, which remains largely the turf of Tuareg separatists. The rebels known as the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad, or NMLA, reluctantly signed an accord last month, renouncing their claim to independence and agreeing to allow government administrators to return ahead of the election.
The Election Commission is looking into replacing the indelible ink with a biometric system as proposed by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim. Its deputy chairman Datuk Wira Wan Ahmad Wan Omar said amendments to the laws must be made if it were to scrap the use of indelible ink. “We are still scrutinising the matter internally,” he said, adding that the biometric system should be more suitable for Malaysia as it was at the forefront of digital as well as information and communication technology. He pointed out that the national registry system and MyKad were among the best in the world.
Convicted Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has arrived in Moscow after being released on bail while he appeals his conviction on embezzlement charges. Addressing a crowd of supporters who were waiting to greet him at Moscow’s Yaroslavsky train station, Navalny thanked them and credited supporters with helping gain his release from detention in Kirov so he could campaign for mayor of Russia’s capital. Navalny said his freedom was a sign of the growing power of Russia’s people. “We are a huge, powerful force and I am glad you are starting to recognize your power,” he said. The opposition leader and anticorruption blogger said the Russian authorities were starting to sense the power of the country’s people as well, and it made them nervous. “In court, their [officials’] hands were trembling and here they are trembling because in the courtroom there is no power, no authority but here [in the crowd] there is strength, here there is power,” he said. “We here are the power!”
Damning top-secret intelligence documents that expose President Robert Mugabe’s plans to rig the forthcoming election and crush his political rivals have been handed to The Mail on Sunday. The dossier reveals in astonishing detail how Mugabe is plotting to steal millions of votes with massive and systematic ballot-rigging combined with widespread intimidation by party thugs. His tactics, along with details of massive funding from named British, Chinese and African backers, are disclosed in highly confidential papers written for his closest aides. They were obtained from intelligence sources who risked their lives to expose the covert campaign to keep 89-year-old Mugabe and his military cabal in power.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission yesterday started opening, verifying and tallying ballot papers cast nationwide during the special vote held between July 14 and 15. The process was done in the presence of political parties, regional and international observers.ZEC chief elections officer Mr Lovemore Sekeramayi and his deputy Mr Utoile Silaigwana superintended over the process while some commissioners also attended. Zanu-PF and MDC-T hailed the process saying it was transparent to the extent that no manipulation of results could be done.