In June, the United States Supreme Court struck down a key formula of the Voting Rights Act. Section IV of the 1965 law determined which states needed to get federal approval before changing any voting laws. Alaska was one of nine states subject to that rule known as preclearance. Immediately following the ruling, a frustrated Attorney General Eric Holder condemned the decision. “Existing statutes cannot totally fill the void left by today’s Supreme Court ruling,” Holder said. “And I am hopeful new protections can and will pass in this session of Congress.” Congressional action is highly unlikely anytime soon. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his opinion that voter discrimination still exists. The court did not invalidate the entire act, just the formula determining which states need federal scrutiny. Those states include Alaska, and there have always been those in the states who have thought that was unfair, including Governor Sean Parnell, who ordered the state to join the lawsuit against it.
John Lewis was the 23-year-old son of Alabama sharecroppers and already a veteran of the civil rights movement when he came to the capital 50 years ago this month to deliver a fiery call for justice on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. As we prepare to cover the anniversary of the march and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s beloved “I Have a Dream” address, we want to hear from people who were there. Mr. Lewis’s urgent cry — “We want our freedom, and we want it now!” — was eclipsed on the steps that day by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech. But two years later, after Alabama State Police officers beat him and fractured his skull while he led a march in Selma, he was back in Washington to witness President Lyndon B. Johnson sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Today Mr. Lewis is a congressman from Georgia and the sole surviving speaker from the March on Washington in August 1963. His history makes him the closest thing to a moral voice in the divided Congress. At 73, he is still battling a half-century later. With the Voting Rights Act in jeopardy now that the Supreme Court has invalidated one of its central provisions, Mr. Lewis, a Democrat, is fighting an uphill battle to reauthorize it. He is using his stature as a civil rights icon to prod colleagues like the Republican leader, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, to get on board. He has also met with the mother of Trayvon Martin and compared his shooting to the 1955 murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till.
Even as polls show Americans broadly oppose electioneering from the pulpit, a new report by a group of faith leaders working closely with Capitol Hill argues for ending the decades-old ban on explicit clergy endorsements. The report being given Wednesday to Sen. Charles E. Grassley — the Iowa Republican whose office for years has been probing potential abuses by tax-exempt groups — comes as the ban has become a culture-war flashpoint. More than 1,100 mostly conservative Christian pastors for the past few springs have been explicitly preaching politics — they call the annual event “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” — in an effort to lure the Internal Revenue Service into a court showdown. Meanwhile, groups that favor a strong church-state separation are going to courtto demand that the IRS more aggressively enforce the ban that dates to 1954.
Denver District Judge Robert McGahey has ruled there will be no mail ballots in the Sept. 10 recall election because the state constitution requires that alternative candidates should have until 15 days before the election to qualify for the ballot. The ruling overrides the provisions of a new election law passed this year calling for mail ballots in all elections, but McGahey said the Constitution is blunt in saying candidates may petition onto the ballot until 15 days before the election. The judge’s decision means Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz will have to withhold the mail ballots he’s already prepared for the recall election for state Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo.
Former Secretary of State Charlie White’s case of voter fraud has always been fraught with contradictions and irony. Elected as the man to enforce Indiana’s election laws, he was convicted of voter fraud for casting a ballot in a part of Fishers where he didn’t live. His attorney was a high profile former prosecutor who was known for taking on the tough cases personally, but White claims he surrendered his case without putting up a fight. White will appear before a judge in Hamilton County Thursday, seeking post conviction relief for the jury verdict that booted him from office. Behind his appeal is White’s contention that former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi practiced legal malpractice in failing to mount a defense during his trial in the winter of 2012. “Absolutely I got convicted because of ineffective counsel,” White told Fox59 News in his first interview since he filed a lawsuit against Brizzi last month. “My appeals attorney, after he read it, asked me if Carl Brizzi had ever done a trial on his own before.”
The American Civil Liberties Union today notified Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach that it will file a lawsuit in 90 days if the state doesn’t address the issue of approximately 14,000 voter registration applications that are in limbo. “Kansans are simply trying to exercise their constitutional right to vote,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “This is the most fundamental freedom we have as Americans, yet Secretary of State Kobach is blocking thousands upon thousands of Kansans from their rightful participation in the political process. This is un-American, unconstitutional and must end immediately.” The dispute is over thousands of voter registration applications in Kansas since January when a new state law took effect that requires new registrations to include proof of U.S. citizenship with a document such as a birth certificate or passport.
CLU letter to Kobach ( .PDF )
North Carolina’s sweeping new voting law is facing multiple legal challenges from civil rights groups that argue it discriminates against black and young voters. Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill — one of the toughest voting measures in the country — into law on Monday. It requires voters to bring photo ID to the polls, cuts down early voting time by one week, eliminates same-day voter registration and bans pre-registration for youth voters who will turn 18 on Election Day. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), along with two other groups, filed a legal challenge that argues the law attempts to suppress minority voters, thereby violating the Constitution and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The NAACP has filed a similar suit. “Today’s lawsuit is about ensuring that all voters are able to participate in the political process,” Allison Riggs, a staff attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said in a statement. “Taken together, the new restrictions in this law will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of eligible voters, depriving many of our most vulnerable citizens from being able to easily exercise a constitutional right.”
North Carolina Gov. Patrick McCrory has signed a sweeping voting reform bill that imposes strict photo identification requirements on the state’s 4.5 million voters, rolls back the early voting period and repeals one-stop registration during early voting. Almost immediately following the signing, civil rights groups filed lawsuits in federal court challenging the law. McCrory, a Republican elected last November, called the bill – passed by the legislature along party lines on July 25 – “a common sense law” that is supported by 70 percent of North Carolinians polled. “Common practices like boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed require photo ID, and we should expect nothing less for the protection of our right to vote,” McCrory said in a written statement. Defending the law in an on camera statement posted to YouTube, he criticized opponents’ “from the extreme left” for using “scare tactics.”
U.S. Senator Kay Hagan, a North Carolina Democrat expected to face a tough battle to retain her seat in 2014, on Tuesday asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to review a restrictive new state voting law championed by Republicans that she said will undermine the right to vote in her state. In a letter to Holder, Hagan said she was “deeply concerned” that the new law, which includes a requirement that voters bring photo identification to the polls, will deny voting rights to minorities, young people, the elderly and the poor. “Protecting the fundamental right of our citizens to vote should be among the federal government’s highest priorities,” Hagan wrote. On Monday, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, a Republican, signed into law sweeping new election reforms, making his the first state to enact new restrictions since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down parts of a Civil Rights-era law designed to protect minority voters.
On the campus of AB Tech students are trickling back for the fall semester. Beyond the looming, marathon study sessions and exams is concern over a new requirement of the Voter I.D. bill signed into law Monday. Students now have to show a government I.D. to vote. “It kind of doesn’t make sense at all, actually,” said Takidra Young. Young’s college doesn’t count even though AB Tech is a state-run college. “I disagree with that,” said AB Tech student Brock Thurber. Just because it’s an inconvenience to the student.” Said Young, “it doesn’t make sense because you have to use a government I.D. to get the student I.D. anyway.”
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory on Monday signed into law changes in how residents can vote that includes requiring them to show a photo ID at polling stations, a move that triggered threats of legal action from the NAACP and other groups. The American Civil Liberties Union joined two other groups in announcing that they were filing suit against key parts of the package. This came hours after McCrory said in a statement that he had signed the measure, without a ceremony. “Common practices like boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed require photo ID, and we should expect nothing less for the protection of our right to vote,” the Republican governor said in a statement.
Today North Carolina’s governor signed one of the most restrictive voting laws in the Nation. I have been trying to think of another state law passed since the 1965 Voting Rights Act to rival this law but I cannot. It is a combination of cutbacks in early voting, restrictions on voter registration, imposition of new requirements on voters such as photo identification in voting, limitations on poll worker activity to help voters, and other actions which as a whole cannot be interpreted as anything other than an effort to make it harder for some people—and likely poor people, people of color, old people and others likely to “skew Democratic”—to vote. And yet I don’t expect that the entirety of this law will fall through one of the lawsuits filed or to be filed against it.
For the first time since her 2008 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton has stepped into the partisan politics of the moment. Speaking to the American Bar Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco yesterday, the former secretary of state slammed a “sweeping effort to construct new obstacles to voting, often under cover of addressing a phantom epidemic of ‘election fraud.’” What’s more, she argued, we must fix the “hole opened up” by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder which gutted a core provision of the Voting Rights Act. Otherwise, she warned, “[C]itizens will be disenfranchised, victimized by the law instead of served by it and that progress, that historical progress toward a more perfect union, will go backwards instead of forwards.” That Clinton gave a speech on voting rights was fortuitous, since yesterday was also when North Carolina Republicans passed a sweeping set of changes to the state’s election law. These measures were proposed just one week after the Court’s ruling, and were rushed through the state legislature. GOP Governor Pat McCrory calls them “common sense” measures, designed to “ensure the integrity” of the ballot box and “provide greater equality in access to voting to North Carolinians.” And that’s true, if you rob those words of their actual meaning.
Plaintiffs and defendants both claimed victory on August 6, when U.S. District Court Judge Karen Schreier dismissed the Native voting-rights lawsuit Brooks v. Gant. Oglala Sioux Tribe members had sued South Dakota state and county officials, seeking a satellite early-voting and registration office that would give them elections in their own county and equal to those other South Dakotans enjoy. Once the lawsuit got underway, the state and county defendants promised to use federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) money to give the 25 plaintiffs what they wanted through 2018. According to Judge Schreier, this meant the plaintiffs could no longer show the required “immediate injury,” so she dismissed their claim. However, she noted, her decision was “without prejudice,” meaning that, if necessary, the plaintiffs can sue again. “They caved,” said OJ Semans, Rosebud Sioux civil rights leader and co-director of voting-advocacy group Four Directions. “The court established what the plaintiffs stood up for and what Four Directions has been fighting for since 2004. Right now, there’s full equality for most of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, the largest group of Indian voters in the state.”
The major political parties have launched a pitch for the votes of thousands of expatriate Australians who could influence the final result in this year’s federal election. The Australian Electoral Commission says over 74,000 votes were cast from overseas at the previous federal election in 2010 and it’s expecting similar numbers this time. The major parties are distributing campaign material to potential voters overseas and say they will have volunteers handing out how to vote cards around the world in the lead up to polling day. The Australian Electoral Commission is encouraging voters who are likely to be overseas on the date of the federal election to cast a vote through Australian embassies and consulates. Voters who will be overseas for a short time can fill in an AEC form with details of their electoral division and cast a vote either through the post or through voting centres which will be set up at diplomatic missions.
Preferential voting is required in Australia. It’s largely unique to our political scene, reflecting the number and diversity of smaller parties that participate in elections. It is a system of voting that allows a citizen to individually number and rank all candidates for both houses of parliament according to their preferences. It is employed when no one candidate or party wins outright, based on first preference votes. It means a citizen’s vote can still be counted, even if their first choice of candidate is eliminated due to a lack of votes. On a ballot paper, placing a number one against a candidate is considered the first preference or primary vote. If no candidate secures an absolute majority of primary votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is then eliminated from the count.
Cambodia’s National Election Commission (NEC) on Monday confirmed that the ruling party has narrowly won the general election. Announcing the preliminary official results, The Cambodian People’s Party (CPP)-controlled National Election Commission (NEC) said that the CPP won 3.2 million votes against the Opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), which secured 2.9 million votes. The final allocation of seats in the 123-member lower house of parliament has not been announced, but CPP claims it has secured at least 68 seats. Sunday’s was the worst result for the ruling party in 15 years, which is an indication of the dwindling popularity of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has been in power for nearly three decades, reports said.
Whatever happens in the German election campaign over the next five-and-a-half weeks, the outcome will almost certainly be for another coalition government. Although Angela Merkel is the most popular politician in Germany, and her Christian Democratic Union is the front-running political party, it would be an extraordinary upset for the CDU – with its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union – to win an outright majority. It is currently earning steady 40 per cent support in opinion polls, some 6-7 per cent short of the threshold required to gain outright control of the Bundestag. At this point in the election campaign, however, the game politicians play is to deny they have any intention of taking part in any coalition other than their first preference.
Zimbabwe: Mugabe tells opponents who dispute Zimbabwe election results to 'go hang… commit suicide' | The Independent
Hitting back at the furore over his disputed victory in last month’s elections, Robert Mugabe launched a new tirade against his opponents, telling them to “go hang”. In his first public speech since the 31 July elections, the 89-year-old Mr Mugabe taunted his defeated rival Morgan Tsvangirai, who is currently launching a court challenge to what he describes as a “fraudulent and stolen” vote. Mr Mugabe dismissed Mr Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) as “pathetic puppets” and “Western stooges”. Mr Mugabe was speaking at a national shrine outside Harare at the annual Heroes’ Day rally to honour heroes of the country’s liberation wars. The MDC boycotted the event in protest at the contested vote. The President did not name Mr Tsvangirai directly during his hour-long speech, but his opponent was clearly the target of some choice invective. “Those who lost elections may commit suicide if they so wish. Even if they die, dogs will not eat their flesh,” Mr Mugabe said.