Editorials: The Justice Department’s voting rights gambit, and what it means | Washington Post

The Justice Department on Thursday announced that it is fighting back after the Supreme Court effectively invalidated part of the Voting Rights Act. In its first step, Justice signaled that it would support a lawsuit against Texas’s GOP-drawn redistricting plan and seek to get a federal judge to require the state to continue to obtain pre-clearance for any electoral changes — as it did before part of the VRA was struck down. Justice is also expect to sue to stop Texas’s new Voter ID law. The move is a significant one, for a few reasons. First, it signals that the Obama administration is not going to wait and cross its fingers hoping Congress will replace the VRA language that was struck down. The Supreme Court struck down the formula that determines which states and areas with a history of racial discrimination are required to gain pre-clearance for electoral changes — effectively rendering pre-clearance inoperable until a new formula is established. In its decision, the court noted that Congress can simply replace the formula with a new one.

Florida: Voter purge to resume after Supreme Court decision | Salon.com

A District Court in Tampa has dismissed a lawsuit challenging Florida’s voter purge, on the grounds that the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a key part of the Voting Rights Act renders the lawsuit moot. The suit, which was filed by a Hispanic civil rights group and two naturalized citizens, argued that the state needed to clear its purge of suspected non-citizens with the Department of Justice, because certain counties in Florida were covered under Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. The court also lifted a stay that prevented officials from selecting any new names of suspected non-citizens from the voter rolls.

Pennsylvania: Balancing voter ID law against voters’ rights | Associated Press

Two weeks into the trial on the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s voter-identification law, both sides profess confidence that they will prevail. That’s probably a good indication that neither is really sure. After nine days of testimony by state government bureaucrats, nationally known experts on statistics and communications and individual voters frustrated by the new photo ID requirement, Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley put the trial on hold for a four-day weekend as lawyers prepare to sum up their cases in closing arguments anticipated next week. The issue is where the line should be drawn between Pennsylvanians’ right to vote and the state’s interest in protecting the integrity of elections. So far, the debate has been largely hypothetical _ the court has blocked enforcement of the March 2012 law since before the presidential election _ but the trial verdict will be a major step toward deciding whether it is allowed to take effect. The law would require all voters to show a Pennsylvania driver’s license or another acceptable photo ID with a current expiration date before they may cast ballots in an election. Voters who go to the polls without proper ID could only cast provisional ballots, which would be counted only if they provide local officials with an acceptable ID within six days after the election.

Estonia: Volunteers to Put Internet Voting Software to the Test | ERR

A group of IT experts says it intends to carry out a test attack on Estonia’s e-voting software following the release of the source code two weeks ago. Although it was possible to test the system before the code was made public, only administrators had access to the results, reported Õhtuleht. The group of volunteers, led by security expert Renee Trisberg, says it hopes to finish testing the voluminous and complex system one month ahead of Estonia’s next local elections, on October 20 (electronic voting begins 10 days earlier). Since the general framework of the e-voting system has been public for years, Trisberg said, he believes that it is generally secure and that his team can only expect to find minor errors. “I have been a supporter of the e-elections. One must do his part to ensure that nothing happens, even just a simple mistake. Years of finger-pointing will follow if a malfunction were to occur,“ Trisberg said.

National: Attorney General opens new front on voting rights protection | Los Angeles Times

Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday the Justice Department is opening a new front in the battle for voting rights in response to a Supreme Court ruling that dealt a major setback to voter protections. In a speech to the Urban League in Philadelphia, the attorney general said the Justice Department is asking a federal court in San Antonio to require the state of Texas to obtain approval in advance before putting future voting changes in place. This requirement to obtain “pre-approval” from either the Justice Department or a federal court before making changes to voting laws is available when intentional voting discrimination is found. It is the department’s first action to protect voting rights following the Supreme Court’s decision on June 25, “but it will not be our last,” Holder said in prepared remarks.

National: FEC rules that married gay couples have same rights as straight spouses | Washington Post

The Federal Election Commission said Thursday that legally married gay couples must be treated in the same manner as opposite-sex couples under election law, reversing its previous position in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling last month that struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act. In light of the court’s decision, the election commission said that same-sex spouses can now make a single campaign contribution from a joint bank account if only one spouse has earned the income, as opposite-sex spouses are permitted to do. The commissioners also concluded that gay federal candidates who are legally married can use assets they jointly own with their spouses in their campaigns, and that same-sex spouses are considered family members of gay candidates for purposes of campaign finance rules.

National: Justice Department to take on states over voting rights | McClatchy

The Obama administration announced Thursday that it will legally contest a series of laws around the country as part of an aggressive campaign to fight a recent Supreme Court ruling that it says could reduce minority voting. The Justice Department filed its first challenge Thursday, asking a judge to require Texas to seek permission from the federal government before making voting changes because of the state’s history of discrimination. Several states in the South and Southwest could face similar lawsuits. “This is the department’s first action to protect voting rights following the (Supreme Court) decision, but it will not be our last,” Attorney General Eric Holder said at a National Urban League conference in Philadelphia on Thursday. “My colleagues and I are determined to use every tool at our disposal to stand against discrimination wherever it is found.” Civil rights groups and African-American lawmakers welcomed the decision, as did the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP.

National: Justice Department to challenge states’ voting rights laws | The Washington Post

The Justice Department is preparing to take fresh legal action in a string of voting rights cases across the nation, U.S. officials said, part of a new attempt to blunt the impact of a Supreme Court ruling that the Obama administration has warned will imperil minority representation. The decision to challenge state officials marks an aggressive effort to continue policing voting rights issues and follows a ruling by the court last month that invalidated a critical part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Justices threw out a part of the act that required certain states with a history of discrimination to be granted Justice Department or court approval before making voting law changes. In the coming weeks, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is expected to announce that the Justice Department is using other sections of the Voting Rights Act to bring lawsuits or take other legal action to prevent states from implementing certain laws, including requirements to present certain kinds of identification in order to vote. The department is also expected to try to force certain states to get approval, or “pre-clearance,” before they can change their election laws.

National: Voting rights challenge in Texas opens up new Obama-GOP fight | The Hill

Attorney General Eric Holder’s surprise decision to challenge Texas’s voting laws triggers a huge new fight between the federal government and Southern states dominated by the Republican Party. Legal experts said the decision to seek a court order requiring Texas to obtain federal clearance before changing its voting laws lays the groundwork for an aggressive push to restore as much federal oversight as possible over state voting laws. “I think they’re going to try this wherever they think they have a shot,” Richard Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, who specializes in election law, said of the Justice Department. Holder’s move is in response to the Supreme Court’s decision last month to toss out a central part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that determined which states required preclearance from the federal government before changing their voting laws.

Editorials: Voting Rights Of Black Americans Trampled By ‘New Jim Crow,’ Civil Rights Advocates Say | Huffington Post

By most standards, Desmonde Meade is an overachiever. The 46-year-old is a fourth-year law student at Florida International University. He made the 2013 dean’s list. And he’s about to start working as a regional coordinator for a national anti-violence organization. But, barring some unforeseen policy change, he won’t ever get the chance to practice law in his state. And this promising, African-American law student isn’t allowed to vote. Nearly two decades ago, after a struggle with drugs and alcohol led to a series of run-ins with the law, Meade served three years in prison. In 2005, he checked himself into a substance abuse program and stopped using drugs. Yet, because of a policy adopted by Florida Gov. Rick Scott in 2011, he is prohibited not only from voting, but also from serving on a jury and becoming a member of the Florida bar. “I was in prison because I had an addiction to drugs and alcohol,” he said. “Should I be ostracized for the rest of my life because I fell victim to the grip of addiction? No. Should I pay the price for any crimes I committed? Yes, I should pay the price. But once I serve my time, I’m still an American.”

Arizona: State Supreme Court opts not to hear campaign finance issue | East Valley Tribune

The Arizona Supreme Court refused Tuesday to step into the fight over whether legislators broke the law by sharply increasing how much candidates can take from private donors and special interests. In a brief order, the justices rejected a bid by challengers to immediately take up the issue. They gave no reason for the ruling. The move does not mean the challengers have lost. Instead it simply means they need to make their case first to a trial judge. And whatever that judge rules likely eventually will wind up before the high court — though that could take months or longer. But it is a setback for the challengers who had hoped to get a final ruling before the higher contribution limits take effect in less than two months. They had hoped to get at least an interim order blocking the law before money starts changing hands. Current law limits how much individuals and political action committees can give, both to any one candidate and to all candidates in any election cycle.

Arizona: Who controls local elections at issue in suit against state | Arizona Daily Star

Tucson will be in court today for the first round in its most recent legal battle with the state over who controls local elections. Tucson and Phoenix will jointly ask Pima County Superior Court Judge James Marner to overturn a state law mandating all elections occur in even-numbered years. The Legislature passed the bill in 2012 over the vehement opposition of most incorporated cities and towns across the state. Supporters of the measure say the bill will increase voter turnout and save money since turnout is higher in even-numbered years when national and statewide offices are on the ballot. Opponents say the bill will harm cities since municipal contests will be relegated to the bottom of a multi-page ballot.

North Carolina: Elections bill headed to McCrory | Charlotte Observer

The legislature on Thursday passed a package of strict voting measures that may invite a federal lawsuit. The bill’s supporters said the measure will restore the integrity of elections and can withstand any challenge under federal law or the state constitution. But critics say the legislation is ripe for a legal challenge. The Senate gave the bill final approval with a 33-14 vote. The House followed, sending the bill to Gov. Pat McCrory for his signature with a 73-41 vote. As the House tally was read, Democrats stood, held hands and bowed their heads. The bill was much more expansive than the relatively straight-forward voter ID legislation the House approved in April that allowed students at state universities to use their school identification cards. The Senate changed the House ID provisions and added many more rules that Democrats said would discourage minority, student and elderly voters. “This is about a fear to lose power,” said Rep. Yvonne Lewis Holley, a Raleigh Democrat. “The Senate is afraid.”

North Carolina: Voter ID Law Targets Student Voters, Too | Huffington Post

As North Carolina lawmakers prepare to pass what is widely considered one of the most restrictive voter identification bills in the country, activists arrested while protesting the law say they plan to carry on with their protests. Bree Newsome, one of six protesters arrested and taken to jail Wednesday night after staging a sit-in at the office of the Republican North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis, said the group is still demanding a meeting with Tillis, who supports the bill. “We want to ask him, ‘why do you support a bill making it more difficult for North Carolinians to vote?'” she said on Thursday. “If Representative Tillis cannot answer our question and if he cannot reasonably explain why it’s a good idea to reduce the participation of North Carolina voters, then he should kill the bill.” Tillis, who is running for the United States Senate, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But unlike many of the state voter ID laws that have taken root in recent years, the latest version of the North Carolina measure doesn’t allow students to use their school IDs to vote. Critics say that students, as well asminorities and low-income people, could see their electoral clout diminished as a result of the bill.

North Carolina: State First to Toughen Voting Laws After Ruling | Bloomberg

North Carolina is poised to become the first state to pass a more restrictive voting law after the U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down a core provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Myrna Perez, deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, had been predicting this result. “This was an enormous decision with very serious consequences,” she said. North Carolina — because of past evidence of discrimination against African Americans — was among the states previously required by Section 5 of the federal law to get U.S. approval before voting changes took effect statewide. The push by state lawmakers to tighten rules for voter identification and voting times could make it the first among several states examining voting laws following the court’s June ruling. “I don’t know what’s in hearts and minds, but one of the things that was very nice about Section 5 was that it didn’t require a showing of what was in hearts and minds,” Perez said, referring to the act’s empirical requirements for proving discrimination. “The right to vote is at stake,” she said. “Persons’ ability to have a say in our ability in the country to have free and fair elections is at stake.”

North Carolina: Opponents plan legal challenge to voting changes | WRAL.com

As the Senate takes up a raft of changes to North Carolina election laws on Wednesday, opponents said attorneys are already reviewing the proposal for a planned legal challenge. House Bill 589 initially called for voters to present photo identification at the polls, but Senate Republicans rolled out an amended bill Tuesday that included measures affecting voter registration, early voting and campaign finance. Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham, said the legislation runs afoul of the Voting Rights Act. Although the U.S. Supreme Court recently invalidated part of the federal law, saying it was outdated, other sections prohibiting voter discrimination remain intact. “Voting is being emasculated in this state,” Michaux said during a news conference by the Legislative Black Caucus.

North Carolina: Libertarians oppose more restrictions on right to vote | Examiner.com

The proposed Voter ID bill HB 589 will impose more restrictions on the right to vote and do great damage to the democratic process in North Carolina, the chair of the N.C. Libertarian Party said in a statement today. “Just when it didn’t seem possible that North Carolina’s election laws could get more restrictive, the Republican majority has come up with a massive bill that would make it even harder for people to vote,” said J.J. Summerell. He said that Republicans were using the excuse combating combat voter fraud, but were actually perpetrating a greater fraud on North Carolina voters under the guise of restoring “confidence in government. Republicans claim to be the party of limited government,” he said. “Now we see what that term really means: when Republicans say limited government, they apparently mean government limited to them and their supporters.”

Pennsylvania: AFL-CIO analysis finds state’s voter ID law disenfranchised thousands of voters | PennLive.com

While the number of voters potentially disenfranchised by the state’s voter ID law is an area of dispute in the ongoing Commonwealth Court case seeking to overturn that law, a statewide union says it can say with 99 percent certainty there were in the November 2012 election. The trial of the state’s voter ID law continues on Thursday, but meanwhile, a labor union offers up its own analysis that claims the law that has yet to be enforced has already disenfranchised voters. The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO released its analysis that indicates between 35,239 and 36,613 people were so confused about whether or not they had to produce an acceptable photo ID to vote in the last presidential election that they just stayed home. Nils Hagen-Frederikson, a spokesman for the governor’s Office of General Counsel, dismissed the analysis’ findings. “We are focused on the facts and evidence being discussed in court, not press releases or questionable claims from outside groups.” he said.

South Carolina: Four Pinocchios: The case of ‘zombie’ voters in South Carolina | The Washington Post

“We just recently learned that there are over 900 individuals who had died before the election (and had voted) and at least 600 of those individuals had died way outside the window that an absentee ballot could have been sent, so we know for a fact that there are deceased people whose identities are being used in elections in South Carolina.”— South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson (R), on Fox News, Jan. 21, 2012

“We found out that there were over 900 people who died and then subsequently voted. That number could be even higher than that.” — Wilson, on Fox News, Jan. 12, 2012

“Without Photo ID, let’s be clear, I don’t want dead people voting in the state of South Carolina.” — South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), in an interview that aired on Fox News, April 21, 2012

We don’t normally delve into statements so long after they were made, but this is an unusual case, brought to our attention by a reader. Take a look at the rather definitive statements made by South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, such as “we know for a fact that there are deceased people whose identities are being used in elections in South Carolina.” This was a rather shocking claim, which stemmed from allegations made by Kevin Schwedo, executive director of the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles. (“Well over 900 individuals appear to have voted after they died.”) One state lawmaker famously declared: “We must have certainty in South Carolina that zombies aren’t voting.”

Texas: Justice Department Targets Texas With ‘Band-Aid’ on Voting Laws | Bloomberg

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, stung by the Supreme Court’s decision gutting federal power to pre-emptively strike at state voting laws, opened a new front in the Obama administration’s fight against election laws it views as discriminatory. The first target in what Holder says may become a multi-state effort is Texas. In the face of strong objections from the state’s top officials, the Justice Department will ask a federal court to require Texas to obtain approval from the government or a federal court before making voting-law changes. “It’s very significant, but not at all surprising,” Dan Tokaji, a law professor who focuses on election law and voting rights at Ohio State University’s Moritz College Law. “It’s best viewed as a Band-Aid rather than an inoculation, which is what the old regime was.”

Texas: White House denies Rick Perry’s “end-run” allegation on Voting Rights | Dallas Morning News

The White House pushed back this afternoon against allegations from Texas Republicans that the Justice Department is overreaching its authority by trying to reimpose preemptive U.S. oversight of Texas elections. Not so, Obama spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters traveling with the president aboard Air Force One to Florida. Earnest noted that Texas political maps for years “have attracted quite a bit of controversy… I don’t think it’s a surprise to anybody that’s been following this that that’s attracted the attention of the Department of Justice.” Attorney General Eric Holder’s announced this morning that he would seek a court order forcing Texas to submit any and all election changes for federal review. The Supreme Court lifted that burden last month when it struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act.

Texas: Justice Department to Seek Curbs on Texas Voting-Law Changes | Businessweek

The U.S. Justice Department, deprived by the Supreme Court of the power to pre-emptively halt state voting laws it finds discriminatory, will seek a federal court ruling to force Texas to get approval before changing any voting laws. “We believe the state of Texas should be required to go through a preclearance process whenever it changes its voting laws and practices,” Attorney General Eric Holder Holder said in prepared remarks for the National Urban League Annual Conference in Philadelphia. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a cornerstone of the Voting Rights Act when it ruled invalid a rule that certain states, including Texas, must get Justice Department approval before changing their election rules.

Cambodia: Shifting Allegiances Shape a Tougher Than Usual Election | New York Times

A decade and a half after the last remnants of the Khmer Rouge capitulated in this northwestern town, the streets are festooned with images of their erstwhile enemy, Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is seeking to prolong his 28 years in power in an election on Sunday. In one of the many shifting allegiances of post-genocide Cambodia, former Khmer Rouge soldiers proclaim loyalty to Mr. Hun Sen, who drove them from power in 1979 alongside invading Vietnamese forces, ending their murderous attempt to build a peasant utopia. After retreating here and fighting Mr. Hun Sen well into the 1990s, Khmer Rouge veterans today credit the prime minister with orchestrating peace, building roads and schools, and helping turn Anlong Veng, once shrouded in jungle and studded with land mines, into a moderately prosperous town. This last stronghold of the Khmer Rouge now has 3G Internet access.

Ghana: Supreme Court Considers Election Challenge | allAfrica.com

Ghana’s Supreme Court is asking for final written arguments by the end of July in an opposition case challenging the 2012 election of President John Mahama. The court will rule in August on the petition to overturn the election in what is considered one of Africa’s most stable democracies. Just weeks after the December 7 election of John Mahama, the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) went to the Supreme Court complaining of election irregularities. Mahama won in the first round with 50.7 percent of the vote in an election certified as free and fair by the election commission and the international community. But the NPP alleges fraud based on data from polling stations, including over voting and voting by people not registered by the new biometric finger printing system.

Thailand: Election Commission has plans for electronic voting at next general election | Bangkok Post

The Election Commission plans to have electronic voting machines developed in Thailand ready for use at the next general election, EC secretary-general Puchong Nutrawong said. He said the equipment is being developed in coordination with Aeronautical Radio of Thailand Ltd. The latest version could cater for up to 30 candidates at a time. The voting buttons were bigger than early versions and the  candidate ballot numbers would be clearly lit up. Only the numbers of actual candidates would be available for selection. Once a number is selected a paper slip would be printed out to reassure voters that the machine has actually recorded that particular number.

Togo: Elections Marred by Technical Problems, Opposition Says | VoA News

The small West African nation of Togo held legislative elections on Thursday, nine months after they were originally scheduled.  Although the vote was calm, opposition leaders expressed concern about a number of procedural problems. Togo has been ruled by the same family for more than four decades. Eyadema Gnassingbe came to power in 1967, and his son, Faure Gnassingbe, followed suit when Eyadema died in 2005, winning a flawed and violent election that year and a more credible re-election in 2010. When the last legislative elections were held in 2007, the ruling party claimed 60 percent of the seats. But there have been signs in recent years that frustration with the party is mounting, with notably large scale protests against government policies and alleged abuses by the security forces.

Zimbabwe: Rights Group Intensifies Protests Against Electoral Fraud | allAfrica.com

Scores of human rights campaigners gathered at the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) Harare offices Monday and Tuesday, as part of on-going protests against alleged electoral fraud. The group, all members of the Restoration of Human Rights (ROHR) Zimbabwe, argues that ZEC lacks the capacity to run a credible election given the chaos and controversy that continue to hound the process. They further argue that the Commission presided over a flawed voter registration process which has left thousands of people unable to vote in next week’s election. ROHR President Ephraim Tapa said there are several aspects to the electoral process that they are not happy about.

National: Eric Holder Takes the Fight for Voting Rights to Texas | TIME.com

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder strode onto the stage before the National Urban League on Thursday and announced his intention to take the fight for voting rights — both literally and figuratively — to Texas. The subsequent Republican sputterings and wistful Democratic musings fed the faithful in both parties. Republican leaders, firmly ensconced in power, scolded an intrusive federal government to the delight of the party’s conservative base, while Democrats saw Holder as a defender of the emerging Hispanic vote that would carry the party back to the promised land. But the announcement also gave sustenance to an army of lawyers engaged in what has become a never-ending legal battle over election laws and political map-making. Holder’s announcement was prompted by last month’s U.S. Supreme Court decision, which effectively removed a vital provision of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA). The provision had required 16 jurisdictions, including several former Confederate states like Texas, to seek pre-clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) before making changes to election laws and redistricting maps. The attorney general called the court’s reasoning in the Shelby County v. Holder case “flawed”, and with little chance that a divided Congress would address the issue, the administration pledged to seek other remedies. Holder announced he would revive legal battles made moot by the high court decision by turning to other provisions in the VRA that allow plaintiffs to present specific evidence of minority disenfranchisement to the courts as a step to pre-clearance.

North Carolina: Republicans slammed over ‘suppressive’ voting bill | guardian.co.uk

North Carolina is set to introduce what experts say is the most “repressive” attack on the rights of African American voters in decades, barely a month after the US supreme court struck down a key section of the Voting Rights Act. The bill, which was passed by the state’s Republican-dominated legislature this week, puts North Carolina on collision course with Eric Holder, the attorney general, who has announced plans to protect voter rights in Texas. Civil rights advocates and experts in election law are stunned by the scope of the new law. What began in April as a 14-page bill mainly focused on introducing more stringent ID rules, ostensibly to guard against voter fraud, snowballed over the last week as it passed through the North Carolina senate. By the time it was passed by both houses late on Thursday night, the bill had become a 57-page document containing a raft of measures opposed by voting rights organisations. If the bill is passed by the state’s Republican governor, Pat McCrory, voters will be required to present government-issued photo IDs at the polls, and early voting will be shortened from 17 days to 10. Voting rights experts say studies reveal that both measures would disproportionately affect elderly and minority voters, and those likely to vote Democrat.