Editorials: The US civil war is playing out again – this time over voter rights | David A Love/theguardian.com

Nearly 150 years after the end of the US civil war, the South and the federal government are poised for a rematch over the voting rights of black Americans, and ultimately over the fundamental rights of all Americans. Once again, the former Confederate states are determined to defend their traditions and way of life, while the Union forces in the North – the federal government – are positioning themselves to defend justice and equality. But this time, in an ironic twist, two black men – President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder – are leading the charge. In the 1860s, the fight between the North and the South was about slavery and the right of the Confederate states to maintain a dreaded institution that kept people of African descent in bondage. Unprecedented carnage resulted. A century later – in light of the 1954 US supreme court decision in Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, which ended racial segregation in public schools – the South struggled to maintain a Jim Crow system that kept black people legally and politically impotent, all in the name of states’ rights. Two hallmarks of the civil rights movement are the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. Passed by Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson, the legislative victories were achieved only through the blood of civil rights workers, both black and white, who were beaten, sprayed with fire hoses, shot, firebombed, bitten by police dogs and lynched.

National: Sensenbrenner Sees GOP Support to Rewrite Voting Law | CQ.com

Although many congressional Republicans so far have been noncommittal about rewriting an invalidated section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner said Wednesday that “a lot” of them want to do so. Sensenbrenner is the most prominent among a small number of GOP lawmakers who have urged a congressional rewrite of the statute after the Supreme Court partially struck it down in June. But that doesn’t mean other Republicans are not willing to join him in his effort, he told CQ Roll Call in an interview. “There are a lot of Republicans who are [on board], but they don’t want to be publicly named,” said Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., a former Judiciary Committee chairman and architect of the 2006 compromise to reauthorize the voting law. “There’s a lot of pressure, and I’m happy to take that.” Sensenbrenner said he has “no idea” when the first legislative language of a rewrite might appear, but said “we’re going to start talking about drafts after the recess.” He and other negotiators — including two Democratic working groups in the House — will need to address two basic questions, he said.

Editorials: Right to vote needs federal protection | Steve and Cokie Roberts/Albany Herald

Cokie’s mother, Lindy Claiborne Boggs, was born on a plantation in the segregated south before women could vote. When she died last week at 97, Barack and Michelle Obama celebrated “her legacy as a champion of women’s and civil rights [that] will continue to inspire generations to come.” Protecting the right to vote was the central principle of Lindy’s political career. During the Louisiana governor’s race of 1939, she organized a group of women to prevent a corrupt machine from stealing the election. One of her cohorts stayed through the night “in a rough waterfront precinct” guarding a ballot box. Another was “pasted” by a rival and wound up with “a black eye and a swollen lip,” Lindy wrote in her memoir, “Washington Through a Purple Veil.” Lindy eventually served 18 years in Congress, succeeding her husband Hale, who was killed in a plane crash in 1972. Hale risked his career to support the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and a cross was later burned on their lawn in New Orleans to protest his vote. “Hale and I strongly believed that the freedom to register and to vote were inherent rights of all citizens of the United States, and that only through the exercise of those rights could true democracy operate,” Lindy wrote.

Editorials: Quick assault on voting rights in GOP-controlled states reveals Supreme Court’s mistake | Lexington Herald-Leader

In her dissent to last month’s wrongheaded Supreme Court decision striking down the heart of the Voting Rights Act, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote that ending the preclearance requirement for districts with a history of discrimination was “like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.” Just one month later, Republican lawmakers are flooding the country with voter suppression laws masquerading as voter ID laws and redistricting plans. Texas gleefully announced within two hours of the decision its plan to institute a redistricting map and strict voter ID laws that had been challenged by the Department of Justice as discriminatory. Attorney General Eric Holder is commendably trying to battle Texas’ discriminatory laws under a different section of the Voting Rights Act, but draconian voter ID laws are rapidly spreading through Republican-controlled states. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory says he will sign a nakedly partisan voter suppression bill, though he admits that he has not read it. Perhaps he should.

Alabama: Jim Bennett takes oath of office as Alabama secretary of state for fourth time | al.com

For the fourth time, Jim Bennett took the oath of office today as Alabama’s secretary of state. Bennett, 73, was sworn in just after 5 p.m. by Gov. Robert Bentley to replace Beth Chapman, who resigned to take a job with the Alabama Farmers Federation. Bennett won’t be a candidate for the office next year. Bentley said at the time he appointed Bennett that he did not want to appoint anybody who planned to run for the office. Bennett was appointed secretary of state in 1993 and was elected to the position in 1994 and 1998. His election in 1998 marked the first time for a Republican to hold the office since Reconstruction. Bentley praised Chapman’s work and said he expected a smooth transition.

Arizona: Attorney General Horne threatens lawsuit over voter registration | Arizona Daily Star

Arizona is renewing its bid to let election officials demand proof of citizenship from everyone registering to vote, paving the way for yet another lawsuit. In a letter to Alice Miller, acting executive director of the Election Assistance Commission, state Attorney General Tom Horne demanded she allow Arizona to require proof of citizenship from those registering to vote using a commission-designed form by Aug. 19 or he will sue. Nina Perales, an attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said Horne should not expect approval. She said the commission staff rejected an identical request in 2005, a decision left intact by a 2-2 vote of the panel itself. And Perales insisted nothing has changed since then. If that happens, Horne said he will seek court review.

Louisiana: Baton Rouge redistricting case will test the future of the Voting Rights Act | Facing South

A federal trial is about to get underway in Louisiana that promises to be a case study into what happens in jurisdictions previously covered by the Voting Rights Act’s Section Five now that those protections have been vanquished by a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Section Five required federal preclearance of election changes in places with a history of racial discrimination, most of them in the South. The case, which involves questions about fair racial representation among city court judges, has been allowed to go forth after U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson found that state lawmakers have been negligent in their obligations to black voters.

Editorials: Holder’s Texas-Sized Gambit after Voting Act Loss | Rick Hasen/National Law Journal

The U.S. Department of Justice announced on July 25 that it would seek renewed federal oversight of some jurisdictions previously subject to DOJ “preclearance” because of their history of racial discrimination in voting. The DOJ’s move, which will begin with Texas, is made under the Voting Rights Act’s little-used “bail in” provision—and it is risky, both politically and legally. But given the few alternatives to protect minority voters, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder probably figures the risks are worth taking. In late June, the U.S. Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder stripped the U.S. Department of Justice of a key tool used to protect minority voters. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act required states and localities with a history of racial discrimination in voting to get approval or preclearance from the DOJ or a three-judge court in Washington D.C. before making any changes in their voting laws. The Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional the formula in Section 4 used to define jurisdictions subject to preclearance, rendering Section 5 mostly inoperable.

South Dakota: Indian voting centers not approved by state elections board | The Argus Leader

The South Dakota Board of Elections on Wednesday declined to endorse a proposal from an advocacy group that called for using federal funds to establish satellite voting centers in three predominantly Native American towns. Four Directions Inc. of Mission requested that the board endorse its plan to use money from the Help America Vote Act, which Congress passed after the contentious 2000 presidential election to modernize voting procedures and administration. The state has about $9 million remaining in HAVA funds, and for less than $50,000 an election, HAVA funds could be used to establish satellite voting centers in Wanblee, Eagle Butte and Fort Thompson. All three towns have larger populations than their respective county seats. Fort Thompson, for example, has a population of 1,375 people, while the county seat of Buffalo County, Gann Valley, has a population of 14. County seats, however, are the only places where people can cast in-person absentee ballots.

South Dakota: Board defers stand on Indian voting stations | The Bellingham Herald

A state panel declined Wednesday to go on record as supporting a plan to set up satellite voter registration and absentee voting offices on three American Indian reservations in South Dakota. The State Election Board voted 4-3 against a plan to support the satellite voting stations after some members said the state first must consult a federal agency to find out whether federal funds can legally be used for the stations. Secretary of State Jason Gant will send a formal request asking the U.S. Election Assistance Commission whether funds South Dakota received from the Help America Vote Act of 2002 can be used for the three stations. Three Indian tribes and a voting-rights group have asked South Dakota to help set up satellite voter registration and absentee voting offices for tribal members who live far from county courthouses. The state is being asked to use federal money to help operate satellite stations at Fort Thompson on the Crow Creek Reservation, at Wanblee on the Pine Ridge Reservation and at Eagle Butte on the Cheyenne River Reservation.

Pennsylvania: Voter ID law put on hold in November | The Morning Call

State lawyers agreed Thursday not to implement Pennsylvania’s voter ID law in the November election regardless of a judge’s pending decision on whether the law is constitutional. The state attorney general’s office agreed to extend a temporary injunction before the start of closing arguments in a two-week-long trial in Commonwealth Court. Some details of the agreement have yet to be worked out, said D. Alicia Hickok, the state’s attorney. Voters will be able to vote in the general election even if they do not have photo identification cards as the 2012 law requires, she said. The state would like poll workers to still ask voters to show proof of identification, she said. “Poll workers were confused. People were confused, and some were turned away from the polls [in prior elections],” Clarke said. Whatever the final agreement looks like, it will not stop Judge Bernard L. McGinley from deciding the law’s fate. In closing arguments Thursday, Clarke called the law “unreasonably and unnecessarily burdensome,” and said it infringes upon Pennsylvania citizens’ right to vote. She estimated at least 500,000 registered voters lack proper ID, based on a statistical analysis of voting records.

Editorials: Texas Shows Congress Must Update the Voting Rights Act | Spencer Overton/Huffington Post

A recent court action against Texas is important, but it should not fool us into believing that existing laws are sufficient to protect voting rights. Indeed, the central lesson from Texas is that Congress must update the Voting Rights Act. Last week, the Justice Department joined several civil rights groups in asking a federal court to require that Texas preclear its future voting changes with federal officials. The Department relied on Section three of the Voting Rights Act, which remains in force even after last month’s Supreme Court decision. Section three allows a court to “bail in” to coverage areas with contemporary, intentional voting discrimination. Significant discrimination persists in Texas, and the court should order Texas to preclear future voting changes.

Wisconsin: Dane County looks to cost share on voting machines | The Waunakee Tribune

With help from Dane County, Waunakee could be one of many municipalities replacing their vote tabulating machines by next year. Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell announced that the county would pay half of the cost to replace the machines, in a press release recently. The press release cites “reports of vote-counting machines smoking, sparking and breaking down during the last election” and urges municipalities to upgrade the equipment. While Waunakee Clerk Julee Helt has never witnessed such dramatic breakdowns in Waunakee’s machines, she does remember one snafu, she said. “We had one situation midday when we were off a number,” she said. “Sometimes, people get a ballot then decide they don’t want to vote for anybody.” But the clerks have to be accountable for each number they give out for a ballot.

Mali: Election is peaceful despite threats from Al Qaeda group | Los Angeles Times

Expectations of Mali’s presidential election were so low that everyone was pleasantly surprised when the vote passed peacefully with perhaps half of eligible voters participating. With security tight at polling booths Sunday, there were no violent attacks despite threats from an Al Qaeda-linked militia, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa. And, with the country’s peace and stability at stake, the 50% turnout estimated by European Union observers was higher than past election turnouts of around 40%. Turnout in the country’s troubled north, however, was lower. Former Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is leading the vote count, according to Malian state-owned television. If he fails to gain more than 50% of the vote, a runoff will be held next month.

Zimbabwe: Opposition says polls a ‘farce’ as Mugabe party claims win | CNN

As Zimbabweans awaited presidential election results, the ruling party declared victory Thursday as the opposition dismissed the vote as a “huge farce.” Vote counting was under way in the election that pitted incumbent President Robert Mugabe against Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai for the third time. Mugabe, 89, has been at the helm since 1980, the only president the nation has known since it gained independence from Britain. A win would extend his time in office to 38 years. Even though the nation’s electoral commission has not released any numbers, a ruling party official claimed victory.

Australia: Rudd Says He Hasn’t Decided Election Date, Wants to Attend G-20 | Businessweek

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said “no determination whatsoever” has been made on an election date and he wants to attend a Group of 20 summit in Russia on Sept. 5-6, making a vote early next month less likely. The Sydney Morning Herald reported today that Rudd will visit the governor-general tomorrow or Aug. 5 to seek approval for an election on Sept. 7, citing unidentified people. “I’ve made no determination whatsoever in terms of the date of an election,” Rudd, who’s obliged to call an election by Nov. 30, told reporters in Brisbane today. “It’s my intention to be in St. Petersburg. But I’m very mindful, also, of the other challenges which lie ahead of us.”

National: Next Citizens United? McCutcheon Supreme Court Case Targets Campaign Contribution Limits | Huffington Post

The next big campaign finance case to go before the Supreme Court began in February 2012 in the grand ballroom at the Marriott Wardman Park hotel during the “Ronald Reagan Banquet” at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Alabama electrical engineer and budding political donor Shaun McCutcheon broached a problem in conversation with conservative election lawyer Dan Backer, who one day earlier had led a CPAC panel on rolling back campaign finance laws in which he predicted that campaign contribution limits would soon rise. McCutcheon had recently learned there were overall federal campaign contribution limits on what a single donor could give during a two-year election cycle. He voiced his annoyance to Backer and wondered if he could just ignore the aggregate limits — something that a few dozen donors wound up doing, whether deliberately or inadvertently, in the 2012 election.