Two of the fiercest political disputes between Washington and the states could soon come together in legal fights that involve tying the new federal health care overhaul to voter registration. Every state is preparing to open a health insurance exchange by Oct. 1. Whether these new agencies will offer voter registration as well as health care information is emerging as a potential fault line that could further divide states from one another and from Washington. The Obama administration and voting rights advocates say there’s no question the agencies must offer voter registration under federal law. But Republicans in Congress and in some states are pushing back, and even some election law experts aren’t so sure the question has an easy answer. So far, just three states have officially said they’ll link the exchanges and voter registration. But whether the rest will – or will be required to under federal law – is an open question that will likely lead to court battles and at least a temporary patchwork approach nationwide. “I don’t expect it to go evenly and don’t expect it to go well, initially,” said R. Doug Lewis, head of the National Association of Election Officials. “There’s not universal agreement about what can be done here, as you can imagine.”
Republican operatives are charging forward with their efforts to sabotage the Federal Election Commission in its lawful obligation to police campaign abuses. The six-member commission is evenly divided between the two parties, but the Republican vice chairman, Donald McGahn, has spent his tenure as a partisan obstructionist, adroitly engineering 3-to-3 standoff votes to block penalties and other recommendations by staff investigators who uncover abuses by big-money campaigners. Now Mr. McGahn aims to take advantage of a temporary Democratic vacancy and 3-to-2 Republican edge to push through rules that would make total lackeys of commission staff members by blocking them from the usual sharing of information with the Justice Department and other agencies. In his partisan cunning, Mr. McGahn would even bar them from looking into possible violations publicly reported in news media and on the Internet.
Editorials: Here’s Where Rand Paul Can Find ‘Objective Evidence’ of Vote Suppression | Andrew Cohen/The Atlantic
Dear Senator Rand Paul:
If you want to be president of the United States one day, if you want more people to take you seriously as an independent thinker within the Republican Party, if you want to lead your party back to control of the Senate, or if more modestly you want simply to tether yourself to some form of reality, you are going to have to stop making false and insulting statements like you did Wednesday when you declared: “I don’t think there is objective evidence that we’re precluding African-Americans from voting any longer.” I guess it all depends upon your definition of “objective evidence.” On the one hand, there are the factual findings about evidence and testimony contained in numerous opinions issued recently by federal judges, both Republican and Democrat, who have identified racially discriminatory voting measures. And on the other hand, there is your statement that none of this is “objective.” It’s a heavy burden you’ve given yourself, Senator — proving that something doesn’t exist when we all can see with our own eyes that it does. Last August, for example, three federal judges struck down Texas’s photo identification law under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act because it would have led “to a regression in the position of racial minorities with respect to their effective exercise of the electoral franchise.” Those judges did find that some of the evidence presented to them was “invalid, irrelevant or unreliable” — but that was the evidence Texas offered in support of its discriminatory law. You should read this ruling before you talk about minorities and voting rights.
It’s a scramble to make sure the recall elections of state Sens. John Morse and Angela Giron are fair after a judge ruled that candidates can join the race up until 15 days before the election. Some are concerned about the more than 900 military and overseas voters who’ve already received ballots that will likely be outdated by the time the Sept. 10 election day arrives. “Military service members overseas are going to have a difficult time voting and, if they do vote, many are going to lose the right to a secret ballot,” said Garrett Reppenhagen, a veteran and member of the nonprofit Vet Voice Foundation. For all elections, military members can vote through email, fax or a secure website, but they waive their right to a secret ballot when voting this way. One person in the county elections office sees their name and vote. “I think just trusting the fact that one person is going to see your ballot, and it’s not necessarily secret isn’t comforting to every service member and every voter,” said Reppenhagen.
The Colorado Supreme Court on Thursday declined to hear an appeal that sought to throw out this week’s ruling by a Denver district judge that recast a pair of recall elections of state lawmakers. The decision means Monday’s ruling by District Judge Robert McGahey stands. McGahey agreed with arguments made by the Libertarian Party of Colorado that prospective candidates in the recall elections of Democratic Sens. John Morse of Colorado Springs and Angela Giron of Pueblo can petition onto the ballot up until 15 days before the Sept. 10 election.
Iowa: Secretary of State’s office gains access to federal database for voter fraud investigation | Des Moines Register
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.”
A few weeks after moving to suburban Kansas City from the Seattle area, Aaron Belenky went online to register to vote. But he ended up joining thousands of other Kansas residents whose voting rights are in legal limbo because of the state’s new proof-of-citizenship rule. Starting this year, new voters aren’t legally registered in Kansas until they’ve presented a birth certificate, passport or other document demonstrating U.S. citizenship. Kansas is among a handful of GOP-dominated states enacting rules to keep noncitizens from voting, but the most visible result is a growing pool of nearly 15,000 residents who’ve filled out registration forms but can’t cast ballots. Critics of the law point out that the number of people whose registrations aren’t yet validated – and who are thus blocked from voting – far outpaces the few hundred ballots over the last 15 years that Kansas officials say were potentially tainted by irregularities. Preventing election fraud was often cited as the reason for enacting the law.
For a decade, registered North Carolina voters who didn’t go to their home precincts on Election Day – by error or on purpose – could still ensure their top choices would count. They’d fill out a conditional ballot from the incorrect precinct. If officials confirmed soon after that they were legally able to vote in the county, their votes for elections not specific to their home precinct would be tabulated. But Republicans at the legislature say people should be responsible to know where they’re supposed to vote, rather than force election workers to crosscheck their ballots and figure out their lawful choices. So they inserted in their elections overhaul bill passed last month a new law barring those out-of-precinct ballots- usually thousands combined annually in primary and general elections – from being counted at all. “If you do cast you ballot, you should know which precinct you belong in,” said Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, who shepherded the election law through the Senate, calling the change a “small part of the overall streamlining of the election process.”
After passing politically divisive legislation on voting laws and setting in motion new abortion restrictions, North Carolina’s Republican-led General Assembly has given itself the authority to defend them in court. Last month, in a last-minute move before adjourning for the year, lawmakers inserted two sentences into legislation clarifying a new hospital-billing law that would give the state House speaker and Senate leader the option to defend a state statute or provision of North Carolina’s constitution and not rely on Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat. Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, has until Aug. 25 to veto the measure. Cooper hasn’t refused to defend the state in any case, though counterparts in California, Illinois, and Pennsylvania said they would not defend their states’ same-sex marriage bans.
Sometimes you can tell how hard voting can be just by looking at a place. Drive through a rural pocket of northeastern North Carolina called Bertie County, and all you’ll see for miles and miles are tobacco and soybean fields. You’ll see large families crammed into small trailer homes propped up on cinder blocks. And you’ll notice that many of those homes have no car sitting outside. “Many of these persons don’t have cars. They can’t afford automobiles,” says the Rev. Vonner Horton, driving along the roads in her car. She’s the pastor at New Oxley Hill Baptist Church in Merry Hill, N.C. For years, Horton and her church have used the state’s early-voting system to make sure as many people as possible could vote. They send vans across the county, door to door, to pick people up and take them to polls. But they’re always short on time. Do the math, Horton says. One church van holds about 10 people. Gathering them up can take more than an hour. Then you have to drive to different polling places, long distances apart. Repeat all of this a few more times in one day, and you’ve only got 50 ballots in the box. And this new law has now cut early voting from 17 days down to 10.
An appellate court on Friday ruled that Pennsylvania will once again be prohibited from enforcing its controversial voter identification law at the polls in November. Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley issued an injunction that prohibits use of the law at the general election on November 5 and also stops poll workers from telling voters they may have to produce identification in future elections, according to the court’s website. The November election will be the third election in which the law was blocked from being used since the measure was passed in March 2012, by a Republican-led legislature.
The precarious security situation in Afghanistan poses the main risk to the historic presidential vote set for next April and could make holding the election “difficult” if it gets worse, the new chairman of the country’s election commission said. While U.S. and Afghan military commanders paint an optimistic picture of their achievements against the Taliban, Independent Election Commission chief Yusuf Nuristani said that insurgent violence remains his key preoccupation amid preparations for the vote. “The main challenge for everyone is the security issue,” Mr. Nuristani, who served as deputy defense minister and governor of Herat province under President Hamid Karzai, said in his first interview with the international press since assuming the job this month. “If the security issue deteriorates, it will be difficult to hold elections.”
Germans sleep better, Bismarck once said, when they don’t know how sausages and laws are made. A century and a half later, Angela Merkel seems to be modelling an election campaign on the musings of Germany’s “Iron Chancellor”; the modern day chancellor is avoiding detailed discussion of what she would do with a third term and instead emphasising her personal appeal over policy prescriptions. In five weeks’ time Germans will vote in what has been billed as the most important election of the year in Europe, a continent struggling to emerge from years of financial and economic crisis. Yet there is virtually no debate about the major problems facing Germany – from handling its exit from nuclear energy to addressing an ageing population and articulating a vision for the euro zone.
Madagascar’s special electoral court has removed the country’s incumbent president, the wife of his longtime rival and a former president from its list of presidential candidates. The court cancelled the candidacy of President Andry Rajoelina and Lalao Ravalomanana, who is the wife of Marc Ravalomanana, the leader Rajoelina overthrew in 2009. Former president Didier Ratsiraka was also ruled out. The court said neither Ravalomanana nor Ratsiraka met the physical residence requirements for candidacy. Ravalomanana lives in exile in South Africa, while Ratsiraka has not lived permanently on the island since fleeing to France in 2002.
Malaysia: More rallies promised if Malaysia ignores demands for electoral reform | Australia Network News
The co-chair of Malaysia’s Bersih movement has promised another street rally if the government ignores the peoples’ demand for electoral reform. Speaking to Radio Australia’s Asia Pacific, Ambiga Sreenevasan says the Election Commission must clean up its electoral rolls before proceeding with its delineation of parliamentary and state constituency boundaries. The states of Sabah and Sarawak will be among those affected by the changes. She says the movement is very worried about the Electoral Commission’s plans. “What the election commission is planning to do, and they are pushing on ahead as I understand it, is to do the re-delineation process based on the electoral role which was used in the May elections. “That would be wholly unacceptable.”