After crying foul over Republican efforts to modify election laws in key states, Democrats are launching their own wide-ranging push to change the way Americans vote, kicking off the latest battles in a fight over voting rights that’s as old as the republic itself. Last week, operatives tied to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee launched what they call a 50-state initiative to promote voting reforms that would make it easier to cast a ballot. The effort is being run by American Values First, an outside group organized under Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code and run by Michael Sargeant, the DLCC’s executive director. Democrats will push legislation similar to a Colorado measure signed into law earlier this year that requires all elections to be conducted by mail. Legislators in at least seven other states will propose bills that would tweak election laws in other ways. In some states controlled by Democrats, the measures have a good chance to pass. In other states with divided control or that operate under Republican control, Democrats plan to use the measures as political cudgels, painting the GOP as opposed to basic voting rights.
Editorials: What Does the Constitution Actually Say About Voting Rights? | Garrett Epps/The Atlantic
Since the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Shelby County v. Holder in June, conservative governments in the South and elsewhere have raced to introduce new voting restrictions. Most prominent in the attacks is the comprehensive vote-restriction law passed by the Republican majority in the North Carolina legislature. The law cuts back early voting, restricts private groups from conducting voter-registration drives, eliminates election-day voter registration, and imposes the strictest voter ID rules in the country. There is evidence that Republican legislatures elsewhere will follow North Carolina’s lead. Neither the American people nor the federal courts would tolerate restrictions of this sort if they were imposed on free speech, free assembly, freedom of religion, or freedom to petition government for redress of grievances. For that matter, many Southern states–and probably a majority of the Supreme Court–would reject far less onerous restrictions on the right to “keep and bear arms.” Yet each of those rights is mentioned only once in the Constitution. The “right to vote” is mentioned five times–and yet the Court has brushed it aside as a privilege that states may observe at their convenience. Even an overwhelming majority of Congress–which is given the power to enforce the right in no fewer than four different places in the Constitution–cannot protect this right more strongly than the Court feels appropriate. What would happen if we took the Constitution’s text on this matter seriously?
arlier this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the most potent provision of the Voting Rights Act: Section 5, which had required nine states and a number of individual counties with long histories of voter discrimination to clear any new election law changes with the feds. In the weeks since the decision, voting rights advocates have been searching for new strategies to protect voting rights. And now, in recent days, a previously ignored portion of the Voting Rights Act has become a key tool in the fight. Advocates—as well as Attorney General Eric Holder—are hoping Section 3 will prove to be a powerful tool in the face of an onslaught of voting restrictions from Republican legislatures—and can at least partially replace the much stronger voter protections the Supreme Court took away. Since that Supreme Court decision, the states that had been covered by Section 5 have run roughshod over voting rights. Texas has set about implementing a voter ID law—previously nixed by the DOJ under the Section 5—that would require some people to drive 176 miles round trip on a weekday to get the government-issued photo ID they’ll now need to vote. In Florida, Governor Rick Scott has announced he would re-start a purge of non-citizens from the voter rolls. North Carolina, for its part, passed what is likely the most sweeping set of voting restrictions since the original Voting Rights Act was passed.
A pervasive sense of racial victimization has afflicted conservatives during the Obama years — the feeling that they are beset by a combination of false accusations of racism and actual anti-white racial animus that they dare not denounce lest they trigger still more false accusations of racism. That bundle of grievances resurfaced last week when North Carolina Republicans passed sweeping restrictions on voting rights, and Hillary Clinton declared in a speech, “Anyone who says that racial discrimination is no longer a problem in American elections must not be paying attention.” Cast once again as the heirs to the political tradition of the segregated South, conservatives have lashed back. It is certainly true that modern Republican vote suppression pales in comparison with the pre-1965 version, in method and scale, to the point where equating the two is absurd. Segregated states used violence and “literacy tests” to disenfranchise the vast majority of the black population. The modern analogue instead works around the margins. Nobody is forcibly prohibited from voting. Instead, bureaucratic hurdles discourage some small share of disproportionately Democratic voters from voting. Life can be hectic, time is short, there are kids and jobs, paperwork is a hassle — Republican election policy is to use these weapons to gain a few percentage points here and there. People with less money have less flexibility at work and less ability to navigate government paperwork requirements. It’s far, far less vicious than Jim Crow, and conservatives are justified in taking umbrage at the easy, frequent equations between the two that pervade liberal discourse.
Voting Blogs: What Did VRA Preclearance Actually Do?: The Gap Between Perception and Reality | Election Law Blog
A widespread perception exists that, in the years before the Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, the Section 5 preclearance regime was a powerful tool in protecting access to the ballot box for minority voters. Indeed, Section 5 is widely thought to have been overwhelmingly about protecting access in the covered areas: that is part of it symbolic meaning. On this view, Section 5 was a bulwark against laws like the one just signed by North Carolina’s governor – which makes voting more difficult for eligible voters by cutting the early voting period, eliminating same-day registration, and other measures. But the reality is that Section 5 was rarely used in this way, at least in its last three decades. Section 5 did not, primarily, function to protect access to the ballot box. Instead, the overwhelming uses of Section 5 were to ensure more majority-majority election districts or to stop at-large election systems and other practices believed to weaken minority voting strength. Some of these uses, especially the compelled creation of majority-minority election districts, are more controversial (even among conventional “liberals”) than are robust protections for access to the ballot box. Yet in practice, Section 5 was used primarily for redistricting and other matters of vote dilution rather than protecting the right of eligible citizens to cast a vote.
North Carolina: County elections boards in North Carolina challenging college student voting patterns | NewsObserver.com
Montravias King is an Elizabeth City State University senior who has been voting in Pasquotank County since he started school there four years ago. The civic-minded student government leader has voted early in city, county, state and national elections in the Pasquotank County seat in northeastern North Carolina, always using his campus dorm address. Now King wants to run for City Council in his college town and his campaign has drawn the attention of such national media figures as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, a vocal critic of the sweeping North Carolina elections revisions signed into law last week. Pete Gilbert, the Pasquotank Republican Party chairman, has tried to put a halt to King’s candidacy in a campaign that could test the scope of the state’s elections law changes. As voting site changes are proposed for other college campuses, the Eastern North Carolina incident also could test the extent to actions that voting rights advocates have described as a GOP-controlled effort to weaken turnout among young voters more likely to vote against them.
Editorials: North Carolina House Bill 589; or, Politics in the New Third World | Mark Axelrod/Huffington Post
I find it increasingly difficult to believe that certain states in the alleged “United States” would mindfully attempt to undermine the right to vote especially in relation to many of those “third world” countries that the U.S. often dismisses as being, well, third world. Case in point is the travesty that is North Carolina House Bill 589 which, among other things, requires voters to show photo identification — a driver’s license, passport, veteran’s ID, tribal card — (though, with all sympathies to Michael Jordan, student IDs are not an acceptable form of identification); “reduces early voting by a week, eliminates same-day registration, ends pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds and a student civics program, kills an annual state-sponsored voter registration drive and lessens the amount of public reporting required for so-called dark money groups, also known as 501(c)(4)s.” This is all set up for the 2016 elections presumably as a way to reduce the monster that is voter fraud even though Governor McCrory has gone on record stating the bill was necessary even if there are very few reported cases of voter fraud. “Even if the instances of misidentified people casting votes are low, that shouldn’t prevent us from putting this non-burdensome safeguard in place.” He then went on to opine, “Just because you haven’t been robbed doesn’t mean you shouldn’t lock your doors at night or when you’re away from home.”
Dallas County commissioners on Tuesday could join a federal challenge to a controversial state law that requires voters to show photo identification. Commissioners are expected to vote on whether to hire a law firm to join a federal lawsuit at Tuesday’s regular meeting. The move would pit county leaders against state officials. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said last month he is also taking aim at Texas legislators’ voting laws. Battles over voter identification laws have raged across the country in recent years. Supporters are typically Republicans. They say the laws prevent ineligible voters from casting ballots. Opponents are typically Democrats. They say such laws are designed to keep poor residents and minorities from casting ballots by adding financial and bureaucratic hurdles to voting. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and District Attorney Craig Watkins, both Democrats, said in a joint statement Monday that the law “could disenfranchise many registered voters.”
How long is a piece of string? In the case of the coming federal election, it’s 140 kilometres! That’s how much string will anchor the the 100,000 pencils the Australian Electoral Commission is distributing for voters to mark their voting slips on September 7. The logistical task of organising an election has never been greater, according to the commission, which is busy delivering the Official Guide to the Federal Election to 9.7 million Australian households. If that isn’t enough, you can always go to the commission’s website to gain access to digital formats of the guide. Around 70,000 polling officials will be required to oversee events on election day, and almost 50,000 of them already signed up. About 50,000 ballot boxes have been hammered together and are being distributed across the land, and more than 43 million ballot papers – just to be sure, to be sure – are being sent out to cater for voting for the House of Representatives and Senate polls.
Cambodia’s highest court, the Constitutional Council, has begun a review of the contested results of last month’s general election, leaving open a small possibility that it will resolve the opposition’s claims of unfairness. The state National Election Committee on Saturday already rejected all 19 complaints filed by political parties against the results of the July 28 polls. The official results would give the ruling Cambodian People’s Party 68 seats in the National Assembly, and 55 to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.
Will Angela Merkel or Peer Steinbrück win the race? Although the two top candidates are in the media spotlight, German elections are all about political parties rather than individuals. “If you’re not a member of a political party, you have little chance of getting one of those 600 seats in the Bundestag.” That was what a guide to Germany’s lower house of parliament told a young visitor recently. Germany’s basic law stipulates that “Political parties shall participate in the formation of the political will of the people.” But many political scientists admit that they do far more than “participate,” they basically decide on who can shape politics in Germany. It is very difficult for any independent candidate without party backing to obtain a seat in parliament. And that is because of the very complex electoral system. 61, 8 million Germans are eligible to vote this year – these are all Germans above the age of 18; three million of them are voting for the first time.
The law banning candidates from campaigning in the forthcoming primary election is being broken across Swaziland. And, police are trying to clamp down on public gatherings, social parties and food distributions. A meeting aimed at sensitising people to the need to elect more women to parliament was abandoned after a warning from the Swazi Elections and Boundaries Commission. Candidates for the primary election to be held on 24 August 2013 were chosen nearly two weeks ago, but they are forbidden by law from campaigning for votes. Allegedly illegal activities reported over the past few days include the distribution of water, clothes and food at a church gathering at Nhlambeni.
Zimbabwe: Court to rule on election challenge even after opposition drops its case | Associated Press
Zimbabwe’s highest court said it will rule Tuesday on a legal battle over disputed elections that gave President Robert Mugabe a landslide victory, even though the opposition dropped its challenge in protest to the state’s refusal to hand over polling data. Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court on Monday heard demands by Mugabe’s attorneys for a hearing to go ahead despite the opposition’s withdrawal, apparently reflecting the president’s confidence that the court will throw out the case and strengthen his assertions that the vote was legitimate. Mugabe, who has been in power since 1980, appoints the nation’s judges and they have frequently ruled in his favor in the past decade of political and economic turmoil. Terrence Hussein, an attorney for Mugabe, said a challenge to the presidential vote cannot be withdrawn under the constitution.