Now comes the far-flung fallout from a Supreme Court decision in June blowing up a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. A federal lawsuit filed Thursday against a Texas voter identification law seems certain to be followed by a similar suit against one in North Carolina. Other states, too, could face federal legal challenges over their actions in the wake of the high court’s decision. Congress, if it’s up to the task, could also get messy trying to partially restore the guts of the landmark 1965 law. The fights to come will span many fronts, including several of the 33 states that have passed voter identification laws. The separate conflicts, moreover, will inevitably cross-pollinate. One key lawmaker, tellingly, believes the federal action in Texas will “make it much more difficult” to get Voting Rights Act revisions through an already divided Congress. And, as in any global conflict, strategic thinking could pay dividends.
As Americans commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, one of the key pieces of legislature accredited with advancing civil rights lingers in limbo. In April, a Supreme Court split along ideological and partisan lines voted 5-4 to strip the government of its most potent tool to stop voting bias: the requirement in the Voting Rights Act that all or parts of 15 states with a history of discrimination in voting, mainly in the South, get Washington’s approval before changing the way they hold elections. “Virtually everyone who has thought of this characterizes the Voting Rights Act as the most successful piece of civil rights legislation ever enacted,” said Charles Bullock, political science professor at the University of Georgia. “In Georgia, in 1962, prior to the adoption of the Voting Rights Act, only about 27 percent of adult blacks in Georgia were registered to vote. Now registration rates are pretty much identical to whites, and have been for awhile,” he said. “When that legislation was passed in Georgia there were three black offices holders. Now, there are thousands. It’s had a dramatic impact.” The decision was deplored by voting access activists and largely applauded by the states now free from nearly 50 years of intense federal oversight of their elections.
National: Voting rights a rallying cry at Martin Luther King march 50th anniversary event | The Hill
Senior Democrats and leaders of the civil rights and labor movements marked the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington by summoning a younger generation of activists to fight for a restoration of the Voting Rights Act to ensure universal access to the ballot box. As thousands ringed the Mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial, speakers mixed themes of the past and present in paying tribute to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the iconic “I Have A Dream” speech he delivered to combat racial discrimination. “Those days, for the most part, are gone, but we have another fight,” thundered Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the civil rights veteran and House Democrat who is the last surviving speaker from the 1963 March on Washington. “There are forces who want to take us back. But we can’t go back.” Lewis and other leaders in the movement found a rallying cry in the June decision by the Supreme Court to strike down a key section of the Voting Rights Act, which has prompted states like Texas and North Carolina to move ahead with laws requiring voters to show photo identification. “I am not going to stand by and let the Supreme Court take the right to vote away from us,” Lewis said. He urged the crowd to “make some noise” and “get in the way” to protect universal access to the polls. “The vote is precious,” he said. “It is almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in our democracy, and we have to use it.”
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell on Sunday predicted that Republican attempts to pass voter ID laws would “backfire” by energizing minorities to vote them out of office. Powell took aim at efforts on the state legislature level to require that people show photo identification to vote. “These kinds of procedures that are being put in place to slow the process down and make it likely that fewer Hispanics and African Americans might vote I think are going to backfire, because these people are going to come out and do what they have to to vote, and I encourage that,” Powell said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Following the Supreme Court ruling in June that struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act, Republicans in states like Texas and North Carolina are advancing legislation that would require voters to show photo ID at the polls. “They claim that there’s widespread abuse and voter fraud, but nothing substantiates that,” Powell said. “There isn’t widespread abuse.”
The Senate Rules and Administration Committee will soon schedule an early September vote on two Federal Election Commission nominees, two sources close to the nomination process tell the Center for Public Integrity. Such a vote means the full Senate could consider — and potentially approve — the nominations of Republican Lee E. Goodman, an attorney at law firm LeClairRyan, and Democrat Ann Ravel, chairwoman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, within weeks. As of Friday evening, the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, of which Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is chairman, had not published an official notice of the vote.
National: FEC Democrats Try to Run Clock Out on GOP Attempt To End Cooperation With Justice | Main Justice
The Federal Election Commission again postponed its scheduled discussion of a controversial proposal to make it more difficult for the commission to cooperate with the Department of Justice. But not before engaging in a heated discussion about whether and when the matter will be addressed. Explaining her “prerogative to hold the matter over,” Weintraub said that McGahn did not submit his proposed changes to the manual until 10 p.m. on June 9, which did not leave her or then-general counsel Anthony Herman enough time to review the changes. She said she didn’t hold the discussion on June 27 after receiving a request to postpone it the night before from Republican Commissioner Caroline C. Hunter and her GOP colleagues.The commission originally intended to take up the proposal during its public meeting on June 13. But commission Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub held over discussion and did so again when the commission members gathered on June 27, July 9 and July 22.
Two candidates in a recall election to replace Mayor Bob Filner, who will officially leave office next Friday, have already filed their intentions to run, according to the City Clerk’s Office. Former Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher and Tobiah Pettus both ran last year in a campaign that Filner ultimately won. Fletcher, now an executive at Qualcomm, gained nearly 24 percent of the vote in the June 2012 primary election, but that was not enough to make the runoff. He made a splash during the campaign when, after he failed to secure an endorsement by the Republican Party of San Diego County, he turned Independent. Later, he re-registered as a Democrat. Pettus gained 0.71 percent of the primary votes.
Colorado: Election day voter registration attacked by GOP, defended by Democrats in Colorado | The Gazette
A politically polarizing new election law will get its first test run during the Sept. 10 recall elections in Pueblo and Colorado Springs. Same-day voter registration became mandatory with an elections overhaul bill that was signed into law in May. Democrats say allowing voters to register on election day provides greater access to the polls; Republicans say it will lead to rampant election fraud. It’s a debate being played out across the nation this year as states weigh the issue. The new law – HB1303 – will get its first test run during elections that are historic for being the first recall elections of state-level officials in Colorado. Voters will decide in two weeks whether to keep Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, and Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, in office.
If Gov. Sam Brownback and Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt feel a responsibility to safeguard voting rights, Kansans wouldn’t know it from their comments Monday related to the state’s 8-month-old requirement of proof of citizenship to register to vote. The voter registrations of nearly 14,000 Kansans, including more than 2,400 in Sedgwick County, are “in suspense” because they haven’t provided the necessary birth certificates, passports or other documents – or they have, to the driver’s license office where they registered, and the papers just haven’t been passed along to election officials. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach had promised lawmakers that the document sharing would be seamless. When Brownback was asked Monday about the problem, he acknowledged an interest in the voting booth being “open for people” but said, according to the Lawrence Journal-World: “It’s in the secretary of state’s purview.” He also said: “We’ll watch and review the process as it’s coming forward, but there is a constitutional officer that’s in charge of that.”
Next election could run faster and smoother if the Guam Election Commission can purchase new tabulators. During last year’s General Election, the GEC had problems with at least three of its four tabulators. Those problems drew attention to the age of the machines, and the GEC has since looked at whether it would be feasible to keep using them, Director Maria Pangelinan said. The four tabulators are based on technology from the 1980s, according to Pacific Sunday News files. And Pangelinan estimates the machines are at least 20 years old and have been well-used throughout those years. Pangelinan said correspondence with the vendor found that repairing the machines would cost about $35,000 each. She said the election commission decided that it would be too costly to repair the old machines. As a result, the commission is requesting information to purchase new tabulator machines.
An organization that lobbies for Indian voting rights is denouncing a decision by a lawyer for Fall River and Shannon counties to seek court costs against 25 Oglala Sioux Tribe members. The 25 plaintiffs sued the counties and the state last year, arguing they didn’t have equal opportunity to vote because Shannon County lacked early voting and voter registration satellite office, unlike other counties. Instead, residents in the mostly Native American county had an abbreviated satellite office or they had to drive to Fall River County, which administers elections for Shannon County. Many Native Americans don’t have a car. But a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit earlier this month after the state agreed to provide money for early voting satellite offices in both Shannon and Todd counties through 2018 for the full 46 days prescribed by state law. In dismissing the lawsuit, Judge Karen Schreier said that because of the agreement, the plaintiffs did not face imminent harm.
Unless a federal judge intervenes, the South Texas city of Edinburg could be the first to enforce a new voter ID law next week, and lawyers will likely use the special election to gather evidence to strengthen lawsuits to block it in the future. While the U.S. Justice Department and several civil rights groups have filed federal lawsuits to block the requirement that voters produce a state-issued photo ID, no one as of Friday had asked for a restraining order to stop enforcement of the law. That means it will be in effect when early voting in the city’s special election begins Wednesday. Allowing Texas to enforce the law could be part of a larger legal strategy to defeat it in the long run. Texas has been the center of the fight over voting laws after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that Congress must update how it enforces the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Texas is the only state in the last three years where a federal judge has ruled the Legislature intentionally discriminated against minorities.
Indigenous voter participation is the target of a series of new initiatives being trialled at remote polling locations this election, after participation rates in remote communities averaged about 50 per cent during the 2010 election. Voting began at remote locations across Australia this morning, with 38 mobile polling teams heading out on a journey that will take them across an area covering more than 3.4 million square kilometres. Following the recommendations of a major review, the Australian Electoral Commission is now opening remote polling booths for longer and trialling a different make-up of remote polling teams. Rather than the enthusiastic volunteers and retirees who have staffed mobile booths in the past, the three-person teams visiting indigenous communities now comprise one indigenous person, one experienced electoral officer and one Centrelink staff member with existing connections to the community.
If Germany were America, this would be the season of attack ads. But Germany is not America, and attack ads, like Super PACs, are unimaginable here, legally and culturally. There are no deep-pocketed groups who set out to destroy the characters of individual candidates. Even the politicians themselves are remarkably restrained. In part, that is because the two main candidates, chancellor Angela Merkel and her challenger Peer Steinbrück, worked together (he was her finance minister between 2005-09) and genuinely respect each other. But mainly it is because the Germans really don’t want to go there. If anybody were to get personal and nasty on an American scale, he or she would get society’s red card and be out. This may be the best thing about German democracy. But if you don’t have attack ads, you need something else. So Germany has posters. Lots of them. Everywhere. This week I went to an event at a cute little cinema in Berlin’s Charlottenburg district where Hermann Gröhe, the general secretary of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Angela Merkel’s party, introduced the “second wave” of posters, one of which you see above.
On a bright Monday morning on July 29th, residents of Mendoyo Dangin Tukad, in Jembrana, Bali, lined up to choose their next village chief. Most wore traditional Balinese attire – batik sarongs– with kebaya for the women and a headscarf (destar) for the men. The election voting was far from traditional, as election officials said it was the most technologically advanced ever held in Indonesia, using touch-screen devices that verify voters’ identity via their national ID cards. Implementation of the e-voting system was a collaborative effort by the Agency for Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) and the Jembrana regional administration. BPPT provided the four e-voting devices, each worth about Rp 10 million ($1,000). The new technology is a breakthrough for Indonesia, which plans to implement it in other parts of the country, according to the head of BPPT, Marzan Iskandar.
Less than three weeks before Russians go to the polls to elect hundreds of local and regional governments, the country’s biggest independent election monitoring group, Golos, is struggling to reinvent itself after being effectively destroyed by a new law that requires non-governmental groups that receive funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents.” The outcome of Golos’ efforts will probably settle any debate over the intentions of Russian authorities when they framed the controversial NGO law, which requires all groups that receive any degree of foreign funding and engage in any kind of public outreach authorities deem political to register and self-identify in all their materials as “foreign agents” – a term that connotes “spy” in Russia. Russian authorities insist the law is just about reining in foreign influence and ensuring transparency in the NGO sector. Critics have argued from the start that the law is part of a battery of legislation that aims to straitjacket civil society, clamp down on free speech and, specifically, to prevent any repetition of the mass exposure of alleged electoral fraud in December 2011 Duma elections made possible by 50,000 trained citizen polling station monitors fielded by Golos.