Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) lamented the recent spate of laws aimed at restricting voting since the Supreme Court’s decision in late June to ax a centerpiece of the Voting Rights Act. But, notably, the Democratic leader tempered expectations when it comes to enacting a legislative fix to the portion of the 1965 law that the high court invalidated. “The Senate will debate the Voting Rights Act. We will examine these dangerous voter suppression efforts, and propose steps the Senate can take to ensure the right of every American to cast a ballot,” Reid said in a statement Wednesday.
When students choose to attend college in another city, they become a part of that town. Students living on campus are impacted by the decisions of elected officials in the surrounding community. In 1979, the Supreme Court ruled in Symm v. United States that students have a right to vote in their college town, yet Richard “Pete” Gilbert, Republican Party chairman of Pasquotank County in North Carolina, apparently hasn’t gotten the memo. Montravias King, a student at Elizabeth City State University in Pasquotank County, had been registered to vote at his campus address since 2009. But when he filed the paperwork to run for city council, Gilbert successfully challenged his eligibility before the County Board of Elections, arguing that a college dorm is a temporary residence and therefore insufficient for residency requirements. In North Carolina, the requirements to run for office are the same as those to vote, and Gilbert plans to file additional challenges against other ECSU students’ eligibility.
A Denver District Court judge on Thursday ruled that the office of Secretary of State Scott Gessler went overboard when establishing rules for the first-ever recall elections of state legislators. “I do not think any of the matters that we’re about to deal with were enacted or adopted by the secretary of state’s office in bad faith,” Judge Robert McGahey said. “But I think some of them were wrong.” Two Democrats — Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs and Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo — face ouster over their support for gun-control legislation during the 2013 session. Their elections are Sept. 10.
Colorado: Ortiz will open voting Friday after Denver judge approves use of voter cards | The Pueblo Chieftain
Pueblo voters can start casting ballots in the contentious Sept. 10 recall election beginning Friday at one location — the Pueblo County election’s office at 720 N. Main St., from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. County Clerk Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz made that announcement today after a Denver district court judge ruled that Ortiz could use voter information cards as a quick way to get voters through the process. All voters will have to sign a signature card affirming their identity. The recall election is for state Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo. “We’ll have that one polling place open starting Friday and also on Monday, Labor Day,” Ortiz said after Denver District Judge Robert McGahey ruled on a number of challenges to the recall rules proposed by Secretary of State Scott Gessler.
Representative Cherrish Pryor (D-Indianapolis) complains some Marion County precincts changed polling place locations last year with no notice or explanation, often in minority neighborhoods. She charges there’s no explanation other than a deliberate effort to hold down minority turnout. Pryor wants legislators to lock in polling places two months before Election Day, and require local governments to specify the reason for making a change. But Pryor says other practices arouse suspicion as well. Pryor and other Democrats have long contended voter ID laws in Indiana and elsewhere are aimed at discouraging minority votes. Then-Representative William Crawford (D-Indianapolis) was the plaintiff in the lawsuit which unsuccessfully asked the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate such laws.
Indiana’s complicated voting regulations and switching of polling locations frustrate voters and keep them away from ballot boxes, in what some see as an effort to suppress the vote, officials and voting rights advocates told a legislative panel Thursday. Indianapolis radio personality Amos Brown and Trent Deckard, Democratic co-director of the Indiana Election Division, told the Census Data Advisory Committee that unexplained relocation of polling places and 52 pages of changes approved since 2012 cause voters, especially minorities, to lose faith in the system. Brown, who is well-known for advocating on behalf of African-Americans, said his polling place, which had been at a local church within walking distance for 20 years, was suddenly switched to a golf course across the White River that could only be reached by car because there weren’t any sidewalks. “We have seen, in Marion County, instances where polling locations were just changed willy-nilly,” Brown said.
Kansas: Two legislators will file bill to change proof-of-citizenship requirement for voters | Lawrence Journal-World
Two legislators will file a bill during the special session next week that they said would fix a law that has jeopardized the voter registrations of approximately 15,000 Kansans. Sonny Scroggins, a social activist in Topeka, protested Wednesday outside Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office. Scroggins opposes the state’s new requirement, pushed by Kobach, that people show proof of U.S. citizenship to register to vote. Scroggins’ protest came on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Noting that there are elections scheduled this fall in Johnson County, state Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, said today, “Suspended voters will not be able to vote in these upcoming elections without passage of this act. We must protect the right for all people to vote.” In Kansas, approximately 15,000 Kansans cannot currently cast ballots because their voter registrations are in “suspense” because they haven’t proved their U.S. citizenship with a birth certificate or other document. The state’s proof-of-citizenship requirement became effective Jan.1 .
North Carolina’s new voter law is drawing national attention, but what are the local implications? North Carolina’s governor on Monday quietly signed a measure into law that overhauls the state’s election laws to require government-issued photo IDs at the polls and to shorten early voting, moves that drew stinging criticism and threats of legal action from the NAACP and other groups. According to the bill, voters will see the elimination of the straight-party voting option and same-day registration. Absentee ballots will gain some flexibility, but some say this could increase the chances of fraud. Lee Quick, chairman of the Richmond County Democratic Party, is not fond of the new law and said it will lengthen voting day poll lines and inconvenience voters who don’t have an ID.
The price tag to fix the foul-up in the May municipal primary election is $17,332.98, Elections Director Marisa Crispell said after the Luzerne County Board of Elections meeting Wednesday. The problem erupted when a candidate for the Hazleton Area School Board – which encompasses parts of Luzerne, Carbon and Schuylkill counties – withdrew from the race. The Luzerne County Bureau of Elections did not notify the other two counties of the withdrawal, which led to the candidate receiving votes despite bowing out. After a pair of Luzerne County judges ruled the election needed a do-over, county officials initially estimated it would cost $2,300 if conducted by mail. Instead, the counties decided to conduct a complete and more expensive re-do by opening polling places.
Virginia: Democrats don’t want candidate Cuccinelli to represent elections board | Richmond Times-Dispatch
Democrats on Wednesday formally requested that Republican Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli recuse his office from representing the State Board of Elections on legal matters related to the upcoming statewide races. The request came in a letter to the attorney general’s office from Del. Charniele L. Herring, D-Alexandria, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Virginia. It could be seen as the latest attempt to highlight conflicts Democrats argue have arisen over Cuccinelli’s refusal to leave office during his gubernatorial run. The last six elected attorneys general of Virginia resigned before the end of their terms in order to run for governor. “It is unreasonable, and a clear conflict of interest, for you to both appear on the ballot and provide legal counsel to the Board of Elections,” Herring writes to Cuccinelli.
Over the decades little has changed at polling centres on election day. Long lines of impatient voters wind around fundraising sausage sizzles set up to lure and distract hungry captive audiences. Discarded how-to-vote cards sprinkle the paths to polling booths while voters weave in and out of bunting to avoid the avalanche of party faithful ready to thrust candidate information into unresponsive hands. Finally, you’ve made it to the big tin shed or school gym and wait to have your name and address found among all the other “Smiths” and “Browns” in the important-looking folder. Once located, your name is neatly marked off the electoral roll, or certified list, with a super-sharp pencil guided in a straight line by the federal government-sponsored ruler. However, for this federal election, gone are the sharp-at-the-ready pencils and trusty rulers and in their places are laptops and flat screens for Australia’s first trial of electronic federal electoral rolls.
Of the nearly 800,000 forms issued to voters without identification for use in the July 28 election, about 270,000 were issued between the end of the voter registration period and the election itself, raising concerns among observers they could have been used fraudulently. According to National Election Committee (NEC) Secretary-General Tep Nytha, about 480,000 new Identity Certificates for Elections (ICE) forms were issued during the registration period in late 2012, while a further 270,000 were issued in the lead-up to the election. But Laura Thornton, country director of Washington-based National Democratic Institute (NDI), said it seemed highly unlikely that so many people had misplaced their identification papers and needed an ICE form as a replacement.
After four years of endless meetings in Maputo, Pretoria, Gaborone and Addis Ababa and of commitments never adhered to and agreements reneged upon, mediators believe the crisis in Madagascar might soon be over. This follows the decision by a special electoral court in Madagascar to bar the three main protagonists in the current crisis from participating in upcoming elections. Coup leader and interim president Andry Rajoelina, Lalao Ravalomanana the wife of ousted president Marc Ravalomanana, and former president Didier Ratsiraka have been disqualified on technical grounds from the October poll, something the international community believes will give a fresh start to a country mired in political disputes since the coup in March 2009. This week the Southern African Development Community (SADC) mediator of the crisis, former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano, told the Mail & Guardian that he believes an important milestone has been reached and the elections could provide an opportunity for Madagascar to emerge from the crisis. “We hope that this time the consensus will stick and it will lead the nation to the elections,” he said.
Sipping beer and staring at the ocean, tourists on Addu atoll at the southern tip of the Maldives usually ponder weighty questions such as whether to strap on a snorkel or sunbathe on the pristine beaches. An alternative exists: a political safari on the equatorial islands that bob up from the Indian Ocean. On the island of Gan, once home to a British military base, the police station is a blackened mess of glass and twisted pipes. Drive on beyond coconut trees and moored yachts and you find the burned wreck of a courthouse. Like other smashed official buildings, it is daubed with abusive graffiti. Rioters struck in February last year, furious at the ousting of the country’s first directly elected president, Mohamed Nasheed. He, not unreasonably, called it a coup, having resigned under threat of violence. His immediate sin was ordering the arrest of a judge close to politically powerful families. A new democracy, born with a fresh constitution in 2008, seemed about to die. Yet the evidence from the Maldives, where politicians campaign by speedboat, is that it struggles gamely on.
The same Voting Rights Act that grew partially from the March on Washington 50 years ago into one of the most successful civil rights-era laws has become a source of rancor, even straining the traditional coalition of Republicans and Democrats who have come together in favor of such vigilance. Marking half a century since the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. King gave voice to the aspirations of millions of African-Americans across the country is bittersweet for civil rights activists in 2013. “Within the civil rights movement, there is definitely a sense that there’s a continued war on voting and we haven’t made it to the mountain top yet,” said Katherine Culliton-González, director of Voter Protection for the Advancement project. “Here we are in 2013, at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, and we’re having to try to stop going backwards.”
During this week’s events commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington, the fight for voting rights emerged as a central cause for the civil rights movement. In 1963, few blacks could vote in the states of the Old Confederacy. In 2013, there’s a black president, but the right to vote is under the most sustained attack—in the states and the courts—since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. At the official commemoration today, Presidents Obama, Clinton and Carter voiced their dismay over the Supreme Court’s decision gutting the VRA and the rush to implement new voter suppression laws in seven Southern states since the ruling. “A great democracy does not make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon,” said Clinton, referencing a Texas voter ID law that accepts a concealed carry permit, but not a student ID, to cast a ballot. “I believe we all know how Dr. King would have reacted to the new ID requirements to exclude certain voters, especially African-Americans,” said Carter. “I think we all know how Dr. King would have reacted to the Supreme Court striking down a crucial part of the Voting Rights Act just recently passed overwhelmingly by Congress.” We must challenge “those who erect new barriers to the vote,” said Obama.
Indeed, in a column for right-wing clearinghouse World Net Daily, longtime conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly acknowledged as much with a defense of North Carolina’s new voting law, which has been criticized for its restrictions on access, among other things. Here’s Schlafly:
“The reduction in the number of days allowed for early voting is particularly important because early voting plays a major role in Obama’s ground game. The Democrats carried most states that allow many days of early voting, and Obama’s national field director admitted, shortly before last year’s election, that ‘early voting is giving us a solid lead in the battleground states that will decide this election. The Obama technocrats have developed an efficient system of identifying prospective Obama voters and then nagging them (some might say harassing them) until they actually vote. It may take several days to accomplish this, so early voting is an essential component of the Democrats’ get-out-the-vote campaign.”
She later adds that early voting “violates the spirit of the Constitution” and facilitates “illegal votes” that “cancel out the votes of honest Americans.” I’m not sure what she means by “illegal votes,” but it sounds an awful lot like voting by Democratic constituencies: students, low-income people, and minorities. Schlafly, it should be noted, isn’t the first Republican to confess the true reason for voter identification laws. Among friendly audiences, they can’t seem to help it.
The golden anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech have appropriately fostered among a great many people unalloyed feelings of pride and nostalgia. Here was a moment of peaceful assembly, a mass redress of elemental grievances of the people, by the people, and for the people, that was capped off by one of the most memorable speeches in American history — one that has eerie relevance 50 years later. That day the meek raised their voices, sounding in the name of justice, and the rest of the nation listened. Soon there was a Civil Rights Act and, a year later, the Voting Rights Act. But as we look back closely on the events of late August 1963, we are reminded, too, of how those events were (or were not) covered by the journalists of that day. It’s easy to look back and glorify the events of August 28, 1963 — to see in speaker John Lewis, for example, a portrait of the hero he would become, 559 days later, on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. But that’s not necessarily how the March and the Speech were covered in real time. There was in 1963 a level of “false equivalence” in reporting on civil rights that, in the name of “objectivity,” equated black demands for racial equality with white concerns about getting there.
The San Diego City Council unanimously voted to hold the special mayoral election on Tuesday, Nov. 19. Mayor Bob Filner recently resigned amid sexual harassment allegations and his last day will be Friday. City Council President Todd Gloria will fulfill duties of the mayor and Council President Pro Tem Sherri Lightner will lead council meetings in place of Gloria until a new mayor is elected. At least seven people have filed paperwork for candidacy, including former mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher. Other San Diego leaders, including Gloria and Councilmember Kevin Faulconer, have also considered running. The estimated cost is roughly $6 million for a polls election, which was voted for in favor of a mail election.
Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz was back in Denver District Court Wednesday challenging a rule that bars him from using county-created identification cards as proof of voter identity in the Sept. 10 recall election for state Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo. Denver District Judge Robert McGahey said he would rule on that question and others related to the recall elections Thursday. For instance, the Libertarian Party is challenging the legality of letting voters use an “emergency” email ballot that does not protect their identity. Ortiz already has sent out the yellow voter cards to Senate District 3 voters and each has the voter’s name, address and a voter identification number. Ortiz intended them for fast “express” voting. Secretary of State Scott Gessler advised Ortiz late Tuesday those cards can’t be used as proof of identity. Gessler said Ortiz must stick to previously accepted documents for voter identification, such as a utility bill, driver’s license or passport.
A Manitou Springs woman has filed a complaint against recall election candidate Bernie Herpin for ads he sent out attacking the Democratic senator he hopes to replace. The door hanger, which says “Paid for by Bernie Herpin for Senate District 11” advocates for the recall of Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs. Ann Schmitt says in the complaint that candidate committees are supposed to refrain from spending money or advocating in issue campaigns. The recall portion of the ballot is an issue campaign – with committees advocating for voters to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to kick Morse out of office. The second portion of the ballot is a candidate campaign – with the Republican candidate Herpin advocating for votes to replace Morse if he is recalled. So Morse’s campaign, which is an issue committee, would be unable to campaign against Herpin who is a candidate and vice-versa.
Reflecting the tensions that marked North Carolina’s legislative session, seven Mecklenburg lawmakers sparred with each other and their audience Wednesday night over the new voting law, education spending and Charlotte’s airport. In a lively exchange at the forum sponsored by the Observer and PNC Bank, lawmakers answered questions about what guest host Mike Collins called a “tumultuous” session. The panel’s four Republicans often found themselves on the defensive before a sometimes raucous audience at Central Piedmont Community College.
Polk County’s Election Commission is continuing to look at new voting machines. At a meeting last Thursday, they heard a presentation from Dominion Voting Sytems. Mike Beckstram of Dominion showed the commission a paper-based digital optical scan system. He said the system was currently being used in Hamilton County, but the company served voting needs all over the country and was the oldest company in the US and had more than 100,000 units in the field. According to Beckstram, once a voter has marked their ballot, it is scanned into a reader. The reader stores the scanned images, which can be compared to the hard copy if questions are ever raised. If chosen, this system will also alert voters if they have missed any categories or if their vote was not read, enabling them to have a second chance if a mistake was made. Beckstram said the machine would not accept an ambiguous vote, and the commission could set the machines so that a certain percentage of the circle would have to be filled out in order for the machine to read it. If the machine cannot read the mark it will alert the voter.
Chances are the name on your voter registration card doesn’t match that on your driver’s license, and that could create some headaches come Election Day. A preliminary comparison of the 13.8 million names on the state’s voter registration rolls against Texas Department of Public Safety records resulted in a match of only 7 million of those names. The variation between the two documents could be as simple as the addition or dropping of a middle name or initial, but according to the state voter ID law that comes into play for the Nov. 5 election, the name on the voter card has to match exactly with that on the ID card. If a voting official deems the names “substantially similar” a voter is off the hook, sort of. He or she will still be required to sign an affidavit stating he/she is the person named in the two documents. However, if the voting official cannot readily make a connection between names, the voter will have to cast a provisional ballot, which takes longer to fill out and process. The state had recommended local election administrators send out letters to voters advising them their voter cards and IDs need to match, but the postage cost has made that prohibitive. With about 890,000 registered voters in Bexar County, that mailout would have cost more than $400,000.
Now facing a Department of Justice lawsuit, the state of Texas has a familiar adversary in its effort to defend a voter ID law that represents the height of expensive political grandstanding. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced last week that he is joining other court challenges to the law, which was struck down as discriminatory by one federal court but then cleared to go under a broader Supreme Court ruling this summer on the Voting Rights Act. This newspaper hopes the new challenges to the ill-conceived law prevail. Reactions from top elected Texas officials to Holder’s lawsuit reek of irony. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst complained that there is “no end to the tricks the Obama administration will play to undermine Texas.” Actually, it was the GOP-dominated Legislature in 2011 that undermined years of Texas tradition honoring the county-issued voter certificate at the polls. In substituting five different types of government photo IDs, lawmakers used the pretext that they were fighting rampant voter fraud, a lame excuse then and now for passing what federal judges called the strictest voter ID provisions in the nation. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott decried Holder’s political motivations in siding with Democratic groups, and we aren’t blind to those bedfellows. But neither were we blind to the utter failure by Republicans in the Legislature to prove their contention that long-standing Texas election laws were widely exploited by voter impersonators at the polls.
U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, continues to campaign for Congress to restore many election monitoring powers to the federal government that a Supreme Court decision effectively stripped when it struck down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in June. The ruling did not forbid the federal government from subjecting certain jurisdictions to federal approval to make local voting changes, but it did strike down the criteria that the feds have used for nearly 50 years to determine which locales (mostly in the South) would be affected. Until Congress comes up with new criteria, no jurisdictions will be required to get federal approval for changes to their election procedures. “I am committed to restoring the Voting Rights Act as an effective tool to prevent discrimination, more so subtle discrimination now than overt discrimination,” the veteran Republican said in a speech to a Republican National Committee event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Sensenbrenner’s statement is notable for two reasons. First, he is straying from the GOP mantra that the greatest threat to elections is voter fraud, rather than voter disenfranchisement. Although Sensenbrenner supports Voter ID requirements, which Democrats criticize as disproportionately disenfranchising minority voters, Sensenbrenner is apparently not dismissing the notion that roadblocks to minority voting continue.
The Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) in Iraq announced that the campaign for the legislative elections in Iraqi Kurdistan will start on Aug. 28 and last until Sept. 17. The Sept. 21 legislative elections will be the most crucial elections in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq’s history, as it may be a turning point to change the political shape of the next parliament as well as the new government cabinet. The president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Massoud Barzani, announced on May 26 that all three elections — presidential, legislative and provincial — would be held on Sept. 21. According to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq’s parliamentary election law, presidential and legislative elections should be held simultaneously. But soon after this announcement, on June 30, parliament extended Barzani’s term for another two years. Meanwhile, IHEC delayed the provincial elections until Nov. 21.
The Greens are celebrating the Government’s decision to allow online voter enrolment before next year’s general election. Justice Minister Judith Collins has announced she’ll be bringing a bill to Parliament amending the Electoral Act. Online enrolment is the most important change to the voting process and when the system has been set up new voters will be able to use it to enrol for the first time. Existing voters will be able to use it to update their details. The Greens have been calling for it since the 2011 election.
Whatever President Barack Obama says at the March on Washington ceremony on Wednesday, his administration has already sent a loud message of its own: ramping up its push on voting rights by way of a risky strategy — and pledging more tough moves to come. The irony of the historical forces colliding at that moment won’t be lost on anyone. The nation’s first African-American president, standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King Jr. stood 50 years earlier, will speak at a time when many African-Americans and other minorities feel that the Voting Rights Act — one of the proudest accomplishments of the civil rights movement — is being dismantled. The backdrop for the big event is a surge in voter ID laws and other restrictive election measures, and the legal fight the Obama administration has picked with Texas to stop the wave. It’s suing to block the state’s voter ID law from taking effect, a clear signal to other states to think twice before they pass any more restrictions on voting rights.
This week, former Secretary of State Colin Powell — a Republican who served under President George W. Bush — called out North Carolina on its voter ID law while speaking at the CEO Forum in Raleigh. He said the law punishes minorities and is counterproductive for the Republican Party. He also said voter fraud doesn’t exist, as the News & Observer reported: “You can say what you like, but there is no voter fraud,” Powell said. “How can it be widespread and undetected?” But restrictive, discriminatory voting laws are not exclusive to the Tar Heel state. When Hillary Clinton recently said North Carolina’s Voter Information Verification Act law was “the greatest hits of voter suppression,” she was referring to the fact that it draws from a number of election laws that states have attempted to pass, mostly in the South.