Editorials: North Carolina’s speedy vote suppression tactics show exactly why the Voting Rights Act was working | Rick Hasen/Slate Magazine

Usually it takes years to judge when the Supreme Court gets something very wrong. Think of Justice Kennedy’s opinion for the court in the 2010 campaign-finance case, Citizens United, freeing corporations to spend money on elections. He wrote that the “appearance of [corporate] influence or access will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy,” a point that remains hotly debated even as the amount of money in federal elections skyrockets. But the conservative justices’ decision this past June in Shelby County v. Holder, striking down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, has already unleashed in North Carolina the most restrictive voting law we’ve seen since the 1965 enactment of the VRA. Texas is restoring its voter ID law which had been blocked (pursuant to the VRA) by the federal government. And more is to come in other states dominated by Republican legislatures. Substituting their own judgment for that of Congress, the five justices in the Shelby County majority expressed confidence that the act’s “preclearance” provision was no longer necessary, and that there would be ample other tools to fight discrimination in voting. That the conservative justices have already been proven wrong a few scant weeks after the decision came down offers little solace for the voters of North Carolina, who ironically will have to try to fix the problem using the very mechanism of voting—which the North Carolina legislature is inhibiting.

National: Struggle for Women’s Rights and Civil Rights Linked | Huffington Post

The nation commemorates two anniversaries this month. Women’s Equality Day on August 26 is federal recognition of the day in 1920 when the 19th Amendment became law and women were granted the right to vote. Around the country, many communities are planning activities. Two days later, Americans will stop and remember the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his stirring “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. A march in Washington and a rally on the National Mall are planned for August 28. It is especially fitting that these two important dates are paired because the fight for racial equality is intertwined in the fight for women’s equality in our country’s history. Ultimately, what history teaches is that there is no racial equality and no gender equality without equality for all. That’s why Vision 2020, a national coalition of organizations and individuals united in the commitment to achieve women’s economic and social equality, works to build bridges across gender and racial divides.

National: Van Hollen files suit against IRS over tax-exemption rules | The Washington Post

A top House Democrat plans to file a lawsuit in federal district court Wednesday challenging the Internal Revenue Service’s interpretation of a law that governs whether groups qualify for tax-exempt status as so-called social welfare organizations. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, said Tuesday that he will serve as lead plaintiff in the case, which addresses one of the main concerns that surfaced with the recent IRS targeting controversy: differences between federal law and the IRS rules on eligibility for 501(c)(4) candidates. Current law says the organizations must engage “exclusively” in social welfare activities, but IRS tax code requires only that they are “primarily engaged” in such purposes. That discrepancy has led to confusion for application processors, who have struggled to determine what constitutes political activity and how much should disqualify groups from tax-exemption, according to agency officials.

Voting Blogs: The Interest in Speech about Politics v. the Interest in Political Speech | More Soft Money Hard Law

The SCOTUSblog symposium on the McCutcheon case continued with postings on various aspects of the speech and government interests involved in the contribution/expenditure distinction. Justin Levitt argues that overall, in granting more protection to expenditures, the distinction correctly ranks the speech values. The independent expenditure is pure self-expression, the spender’s “unique” view; the contribution helps the candidate’s speech, and as he may speak as he pleases, the message he communicates and the “unique” view of the contributor may well diverge. Tamara Piety affirms the Court’s view that “the expressive interests of contributions are minimal” and that restrictions on them may be necessary to protect against loss of public confidence in government, to enhance the competitiveness of elections, and to focus governmental energies on voters and not contributors. What this analysis misses in following Buckley is the difference between an interest in speaking about politics, and an interest in effective political speech. The contribution and expenditure distinction is rooted in the first of these interests, and it is for this reason that the expenditure is the constitutionally privileged form of speech. In theBuckley view, the spender speaking just for herself may well treasure volume; the more said, the better, in order to drive the points home. By contrast, because the contributor supposedly speaks through another, “by proxy,” a strictly limited amount given still completes the expressive act of association and fully vindicates this more limited First Amendment interest. The contributor, however, in funding candidate speech is motivated by a deeper interest than Buckley accounts for—an interest in effective political speech.

Hawaii: Honolulu Won’t Help State With New Online Voter Registration System | Honolulu Civil Beat

Honolulu has declined to collaborate with the state on its new online voter registration system. Since the city is already managing the state ID system and processing state driver’s licenses — key databases for verifying voter identification — state officials were hoping the city might be inclined to help implement the new registration system, too. No luck. The state Office of Elections is going to have to find a way to get the new system up and running on its own. The office has until the 2016 primary election to do so, as mandated by a law Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed in 2012. Scott Nago, Hawaii elections chief, told lawmakers in April that he asked the city to enter into a memorandum of agreement to work with his office to ensure that the new online system is ready in time. The city, he lamented, has “other commitments” that prevent it from helping.

Michigan: Republican Vote Suppression Hitches Ride on Detroit’s Woes | Bloomberg

According to a study released this month by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, only 54 percent of Americans have a driver’s license before their 18th birthday. One survey found that 46 percent of people in the U.S. ages 18 to 24 would choose access to the Internet over access to their own car. Auto companies are in a panic over teens’ declining interest in their product. The AAA report cites a precipitous “downward trend” in licensing rates among high school seniors, with 85 percent reporting that they had a license in 1996, but only 73 percent reporting that in 2010. The decline increasingly has implications for voting behavior, as well. At least 22 states have introduced Voter ID laws, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. North Carolina just enacted a whirlwind of vote-suppression tactics that, as Rick Hasen writes here, has already made a mockery of the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder ruling, which claimed it could curtail the Voting Rights Act without significant impact.

Montana: Appeals court: Montana judicial candidates can receive political endorsements, money | The Missoulian

An appellate court panel’s decision to allow political parties to endorse candidates and make expenditures in Montana’s nonpartisan judicial elections will stand, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday. None of the 9th Circuit judges voted to rehear the three-judge panel’s June decision, so the appellate court denied the state attorney general’s petition. The panel said in June the state’s ban on party endorsements and expenditures in judicial races is unconstitutional, but ruled that candidates can’t receive direct contributions from parties. The state filed a petition for rehearing, calling it a matter of exceptional importance in Montana’s authority to determine how to maintain an impartial and nonpartisan judiciary.

North Carolina: County Election Boards Escalate Attack on Student Voting | The Nation

Hours after passing the country’s worst voter suppression law, North Carolina Republicans escalated their attempts to prevent students from participating in the political process. The GOP-controlled board of elections in Pasquotank County voted to disqualify Montravias King, a senior at historically black Elizabeth City State University, from running for city council, claiming King couldn’t use his student address to establish residency, even though he’s been registered to vote there since 2009. “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,” the AP reported. The GOP chair of the Forsyth County Board of Elections is moving to shut down an early voting site at historically black Winston-Salem State University because he claims students were offered extra credit in class for voting there. “He offered no proof such irregularities had occurred,” the Raleigh News and Observer noted.

Pennsylvania: State joins multi-state initiative to prevent voter fraud | PennLive.com

Pennsylvania is joining a multi-state consortium that aims to preserve the integrity of every vote by preventing voters from voting in an election in more than one state. Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele announced this new effort today at a statewide conference of county election officials in Philadelphia. “One concern about the integrity of voter lists has always been whether someone who moves to another state could be registered and possibly cast votes in both states, which is against the law. Participating in this consortium is our best way to prevent that,” said Aichele, whose department oversees elections in Pennsylvania.

Texas: Dallas County taxpayers will fund both sides of voter ID fight | The Dallas Morning News

No matter what Dallas County residents think about Texas’ controversial voter identification law, their tax dollars are being used to help fund the fight for it. And against it. Dallas County commissioners narrowly agreed Tuesday to join a lawsuit against Gov. Rick Perry over his intentions to implement the law requiring voters to show ID at the polls. The 3-2 vote at the Commissioners Court meeting means Dallas County taxpayers are helping fund the federal and county fights against the law, as well as the state’s battles to defend it. “It’s a dangerous precedent to be committing the Dallas County treasury for purely partisan politics,” said Mike Cantrell, the lone Republican county commissioner. Democratic Commissioner Elba Garcia bucked the party line and joined Cantrell in voting against joining the lawsuit. Democratic County Judge Clay Jenkins and Commissioners Theresa Daniel and John Wiley Price voted to do so. Their support allows District Attorney Craig Watkins, also a Democrat, to hire law firm Brazil & Dunn to help the county intervene in the existing lawsuit. U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, and seven others sued Perry in June.

Texas: Abbott goes on voter ID offensive | San Antonio Express-News

Attorney General Greg Abbott on Monday took aim at a civil rights lawyer who — according to a news story — advised folks in South Texas to ignore the state’s voter ID law when casting ballots in an upcoming local election. In an August 13 Rio Grande Guardian story, Jose Garza, a lawyer for the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, is quoted saying he thinks Texas’ voter ID law is unconstitutional, and that he “needs practical examples of registered voters being denied the right to vote. The photo ID legislation may be the law of the land in Texas but I believe it is unconstitutional. The only way you can challenge it is to find people who have been denied the right to vote because they did not comply with this specific term,” Garza said, according to the story. Keep in mind: Abbott declared voter ID will “take effect immediately” after the U.S. Supreme Court in June suspended the section of the Voting Rights Act that forced Texas to get a federal OK before implementing changes to election law (Attorney General Eric Holder said in July he will ask a court to require Texas to receive preclearance from the Justice Department for voting laws because of a history of discrimination).

Editorials: Of course compulsory voting is a good thing | Van Badham/The Guardian

Australia is one of only 10 countries in the world that enforce compulsory voting, and one of only two majority-English-speaking countries to do so, alongside our neighbour Singapore. It’s a policy that activates loud bleating of complaint from the neo-libertarian crowd. Their opposition to compulsory voting is usually expressed in the identical vocabulary of waaaaaaaaaaah as their resistance to wearing seatbelts, educating their children with other people’s children, not plastering stores’ shelves with titty-porn, and being told they really shouldn’t smoke in front of a baby. Compulsory voting is also opposed by politicians keen to attack it for partisan advantage. As recently as the last Liberal government in 2004, the infernal former Liberal senator Nick Minchin had to be stopped from within his own party from removing a provision that has been our nation’s democratic backbone for 89 years. We can all be grateful that, at least in this instance, everyone’s favourite Liberal-of-last-resort, Petro Georgiou, found a flaming sword of sufficient brightness to banish Satan back to his cave. Liberals of Minchin’s ilk have realpolitik reasons to campaign against compulsory voting. In the vast majority of countries where voting is optional – especially the liberal democratic states of the West most demographically similar to our own – it’s a long established fact that voting turnout is massively concentrated amongst those communities with higher levels of education, urbanity, wealth, health, control of their own time and the other privileges of inherited social capital.

Cambodia: Parties Agree to Establish Joint Election Investigation | VoA News

Negotiators for Cambodia’s ruling and opposition parties have agreed to establish a special team to jointly investigate allegations of election irregularities. The decision was made by a working group that met for two hours at the National Assembly on Tuesday. Son Chhay, a lawmaker for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which has rejected preliminary results by the National Election Committee, said if irregularities are found by the investigative team they will consider what action to take against the NEC. “We tried to find ways to have an investigating team that can find the truth and then that result can be useful for the Constitutional Council in judging, because our complaints to the National Election Committee seemed to be rejected and ignored.”

Germany: Frugal German election contrasts sharply with U.S. | The Washington Post

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s calendar this past week looked like this: unpack from an Italian vacation, catch up with advisers and kick off a campaign with a small-town rally for an election that will be held in just five weeks. In the United States, the 2016 campaign is well under way, with contenders jostling to give speeches in the battleground state of Iowa. But in Germany, where regulations keep political ads largely off the airwaves, the sleepy federal election campaign fired up only last week, when parties were finally allowed to string up signs on light poles. Merkel’s main challenger, Peer Steinbrueck, also just dusted himself off from a weeklong vacation and has been barnstorming from one half-timbered town square to another, although according to many local observers, the battle remains as lukewarm as any in memory. German candidates typically hit the trail just a few weeks before an election, spend far less than $50 million — pocket change by Obama-Romney standards — and yet draw voter turnout that, while declining, is still well above U.S. levels. “It’s sensible to have a short campaign,” said Heiko Geue, Steinbrueck’s campaign manager, in an interview in his spartan office at the Social Democrats’ red-bedecked Berlin headquarters. “People decide a few days or the day of the election whether they’ll vote and which party to vote for.”

Madagascar: Madagascar’s long road to elections | Deutsche Welle

Madagascar is in a deep crisis. Since 2009 the island state has been ruled by a controversial interim president. A court ruling has now opened the way for long overdue elections. The people of the Indian Ocean island state of Madagascar should have gone to the polls back in 2009, the year in which their country’s ongoing political crisis escalated. The government of President Marc Ravolamanana had become an object of hatred for many because of widespread bribery and corruption. There were violent demonstrations and, backed by the army, Andry Rajoelina ousted the unpopular ruler and declared himself the new interim president. The former mayor of the capital Antananarivo promised swift elections – but that promise has yet to be fulfilled.

Zimbabwe: Court to rule on election challenge | 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. The party of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai fears participation in the legal process would now give a stamp of credibility to the election.