increasingly likely that Hillary Clinton will be taking another shot at the presidency in 2016. She hasn’t announced her candidacy yet and may not do so for at least two more years, but preparations appear to be underway – and pretty much everyone seems to be assuming that getting the Democratic nomination is a done deal for her. Which, of course, would mean that we might soon have our first woman president. Time will tell how this will all play out, but at least we can take comfort in the knowledge that if Mrs Clinton actually does become the 45th “POTUS”, it will not be because she or any other power players in the Democratic party spent years devising ingenious schemes to disenfranchise blocs of voters who tend to support the opposition. On Monday, in the first of a series of policy speeches, Hillary Clinton spoke about the worrying implications of the US supreme court’s recent decision to strike down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The provision required states with a history of discrimination to get pre-clearance from the Department of Justice (DOJ) before they passed any laws that changed voting procedures. Clinton pointed out that in the past 15 years, the VRA has been used to block nearly 90 attempts to pass discriminatory voting laws. Since the provision was struck down just over a month ago, Republican law makers in several states have wasted no time ramming through highly restrictive voting laws that will make it more difficult, if not impossible, for millions of Americans to exercise their right to vote.
Editorials: Burning the house to roast the pig: Can elections be saved by banning political speech? | SCOTUSblog
The central paradox of most campaign finance reform measures is that they are premised on the odd notion that political speech is far too important to be free. That paradox presents itself to the Justices yet again in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission as they prepare to rule on another First Amendment challenge to a campaign finance restriction on political spending. Of course, the proponents of such regulations rarely frame the issue that way. Rather, they generally argue that the First Amendment was never intended to allow unfettered political participation in the form of campaign contributions or expenditures and that the activity they seek to regulate is not really protected expression. They also argue that the subjects of their intended regulation are not entitled to constitutional privileges. This has generated two great bumper sticker themes that have dominated the “tastes great-less filling” shouting match over political campaign regulation since Buckley v. Valeo (1976), and Citizens United v. FEC (2010): (1) Is money speech?, and (2) Are corporations people? These aren’t the actual legal questions at issue of course, but are merely the caricatures of the underlying questions as translated in the political realm.
As I mentioned yesterday, the Libertarian Party of Colorado sued the State of Colorado to get more time to petition candidates on to the ballots to replace two state senators who are facing recall elections. It seemed to me that the Libertarians were likely to win because their argument was based squarely on the state constitution, even though a victory by them would through some chaos into the election, particularly by making it impossible to conduct a proper mail-in ballot election. Indeed, news reports say that despite the recent passage of a law that requires all major Colorado elections to be by mail, this election will not be. Yesterday, the judge in the case ruled for the Libertarians, meaning they will have until late August to try to submit enough valid signatures to have their candidates’ names appear on the ballot.
Hawaii’s drawn-out process to settle on its political district boundaries isn’t quite finished. On Friday, the plaintiffs who are suing the state Office of Elections over its 2011 reapportionment plan appealed their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The appeal was filed just one month after the U.S. District Court in Honolulu rejected the plaintiff’s claim that the plan is unconstitutional. The claim is based on the fact that the plan removed more than 100,000 military personnel, their dependents and out-of-state university students from district populations. Five of the eight plaintiffs, including congressional candidate and state Rep. Mark Takai, are military personnel, dependents or veterans. Attorney Robert Thomas said his clients want to see district lines redrawn to include military personnel stationed in Hawaii.
After months of negotiations and paperwork, Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz said Wednesday his office will gain access to a federal immigration database it can use to investigate potential voter fraud. Schultz, a Republican, released a signed memorandum of understanding between his office and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that will allow him to tap the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or SAVE, Program, which tracks the legal status of immigrants. “While there are still many logistics to work out in this process that may take some time, I want to thank the Federal government for finally granting my office access to the federal SAVE program,” Schultz said in a statement. “Ensuring election integrity without voter suppression has been our goal throughout this process. This is a step in the right direction for all Iowans that care about integrity in the election process.”
Within hours of Gov. Pat McCrory signing a Republican-backed bill this week making sweeping changes to the state’s voting laws, local elections boards in two college towns made moves that could make it harder for students to vote. The Watauga County Board of Elections voted Monday to eliminate an early voting site and election-day polling precinct on the campus of Appalachian State University. The Pasquotank County Board of Elections on Tuesday barred an Elizabeth City State University senior from running for city council, ruling his on-campus address couldn’t be used to establish local residency. Following the decision, the head of the county’s Republican Party said he plans to challenge the voter registrations of more students at the historically black university ahead of upcoming elections. Voting rights advocates worry the decisions could signal a statewide effort by GOP-controlled elections boards to discourage turnout among young voters considered more likely to support Democrats.
State GOP lawmakers wasted no time ramping up their efforts to drastically change voting in North Carolina after the U.S. Supreme Court, in Shelby County v. Holder, gutted the requirement that certain jurisdictions get proposed voting changes pre-approved. “Now we can go with the full bill,” Senator Tom Apodaca told WRALthat same day, referring to an omnibus voting bill that would do more than just require voter ID; it would reduce early voting, eliminate Sunday voting and ban same-day registration. Go they did, pushing House Bill 589 through both chambers and on to Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk for signature in just weeks and prompting voting rights advocates and even the Attorney General to warn that, by signing the bill into law, the governor would be casting the state into a protracted and costly battle in the courts. And those groups wasted no time, after the governor signed H589 into law on Monday, hauling McCrory and the state into court, filing three separate lawsuits challenging the law.
Editorials: McCrory offers shallow rhetoric to justify North Carolina Voter ID law | Charlotte News Observer
Even as Gov. Pat McCrory put pen to paper Monday, specifically the pen that signed the Voter ID bill into law, two lawsuits were on the way in federal court, a third was being readied for state court, and U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina’s 1st Congressional District was asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to use his authority to ensure voting rights in this state. McCrory mouthed the rationalizations of Republican ideologues in the legislature who have been giving the governor his marching orders for six months. The governor said the new law would prevent voter fraud. He didn’t bother to mention that voter fraud is about as big a threat in North Carolina as an invasion of dinosaurs (excepting the Republicans on Jones Street). And he of course didn’t linger on the other parts of the legislation clearly designed to give Republicans an advantage in future elections, blatantly political maneuvers: no more straight-ticket voting, which is favored by more Democrats than Republicans; no more same-day registration and voting, again something shown to be used more by Democrats; early voting periods will be shorter, and early voting also tends to draw more Democrats; no more pre-registration for students younger than 18, as the young tend to lean Democratic.
Hundreds of Hamilton County poll workers will be retrained – and 163 “retired” – as a result of voting problems in the 2012 election. That includes 94 workers at 16 precincts that will be completely re-staffed because of a high number of errors. The others failed to vote themselves and/or performed poorly on Election Day. Those 163 poll workers represent about 5.6 percent of poll workers – the most ever who aren’t being asked back. The move comes as board of elections officials continue to work to find the 2,905 poll workers needed to staff the county’s 545 polling locations.
The decision not to prosecute Hamilton County voters who had registered using addresses that weren’t their residences seems on its face like a reasonable one. But in light of the recent five-year sentence handed down to a poll worker convicted of voter fraud, it’s imperative that officials strive to treat all cases of voter impropriety with the same standards. The 85 voters who registered using ineligible addresses may or may not have known that doing so is a felony. They include more than a dozen police officers who registered using the police stations where they work, apparently in an attempt to keep their home addresses from becoming public knowledge.
Texas: Texas AG Acknowledges GOP Redistricting Decisions Made 'At The Expense Of The Democrats' | Huffington Post
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) explicitly referenced Texas Republicans’ gerrymandering tactics in a court brief earlier this month, acknowledging that districts were redrawn in 2011 to minimize the clout of Democratic voters. In July, Attorney General Eric Holder filed a lawsuit, arguing that the state should be required to undergo some form of preclearance with districting plans. A month before, the United States Supreme Court had struck down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, meaning that the Texas redistricting plan was no longer subject to federal preclearance requirements.
Leamington residents will be able to cast ballots in their next municipal election by doing nothing more than tapping a mouse from the comfort of their own home. But Londoners may have to wait a while before they get that luxury. Leamington’s decision to allow online voting was based on a number of factors, officials say, not the least of which was the opportunity to reverse a trend in many municipalities of voter apathy. London city clerk Cathy Saunders wouldn’t rule out a similar move locally for the 2014 election, but said there are many questions that have to be answered before a go-ahead could be given. “We still remain somewhat concerned with the online voting,” she said. “We still have some security concerns.”
Don’t consider German elections a done deal just yet. Judging from past experience, there is still room for a shock as polls in Germany have often underestimated the end-results of small parties. “There is big surprise potential,” says BHF Bank in a note to clients, because the anti-euro party Alternative for Germany, or AfD, gets little attention from outside Germany. In a poll conducted by Forsa institute and published Wednesday, 3% of participants said they would vote for the AfD in September 22 elections. The result is well below the 5% threshold needed for parties to enter parliament in Germany. AfD’s results in previous surveys have been similar. However, at election betting platform Prognosys, the AfD is mustering a healthy 6%, BHF points out. Prognosys lets betters place odds on the outcome of the vote.
More parties have been banned from regional elections in Russia this year than in 2012, despite the Kremlin’s attempted liberalization of political legislation, a new study said Wednesday. In total, 9.2 percent of the candidate lists submitted by parties for the September 8 elections have been banned, compared with 2.4 percent last year, according to a report by the Civil Initiatives Committee think tank, founded by longtime Kremlin insider-turned-critic Alexei Kudrin, a former finance minister.
Zimbabwe’s Electoral Court has begun hearing Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s challenge of the re-election of President Robert Mugabe in the July 31 polls. Mugabe’s swearing in has been put on hold and investors have been cautious since the re-election of the 89-year-old leader because of his policy of seizing foreign owned firms. Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change accuse the Zimbabwe Election Commission of rigging the election for Mugabe’s Zanu PF party. On Wednesday, they were at the Electoral Court to force the commission to produce all election materials. Lewis Uriri, the lawyer for Tsvangirai, told reporters that the court reserved judgment. “Clearly time is of essence here,” he said. “We need access to those materials to demonstrate beyond doubt that the election was not properly conducted, to demonstrate the will of the people was not reflected in that election. There must be a reason why they do not want to produce those materials. That reason is that there are definitely, definitely, definitely, ghosts in those sealed materials that they do not want us access.”
Zimbabwe’s opposition MDC withdrew a court challenge against President Robert Mugabe’s re-election through a vote the party had denounced as fraudulent, saying on Friday it would not get a fair hearing. Mugabe, 89, and his ZANU-PF party were declared winners of the July 31 election but the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by outgoing Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai had filed a motion for the constitutional court to overturn the result. A hearing on the MDC challenge, which had alleged widespread vote-rigging and intimidation by ZANU-PF, had been planned for Saturday. “I can confirm that we have withdrawn the presidential election petition. There are a number of reasons, including the failure by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to release critical evidence in this matter,” MDC spokesman Douglas Mwonzora said. The decision appeared to end any hope of further action by the MDC through the courts, which Tsangirai’s party have said are dominated by ZANU-PF along with other state institutions in the southern African nation, formerly known as Rhodesia.