Emboldened by the Supreme Court decision that struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act, a growing number of Republican-led states are moving aggressively to tighten voting rules. Lawsuits by the Obama administration and voting rights activists say those efforts disproportionately affect minorities. At least five Southern states, no longer required to ask Washington’s permission before changing election procedures, are adopting strict voter identification laws or toughening existing requirements. Texas officials are battling the U.S. Justice Department to put in place a voter ID law that a federal court has ruled was discriminatory. In North Carolina, the GOP-controlled Legislature scaled back early voting and ended a pre-registration program for high school students nearing voting age. Nowhere is the debate more heated than in Florida, where the chaotic recount in the disputed 2000 presidential race took place.
Colorado and North Carolina share some commonalities, politically speaking. Both have had healthy two-party competition over the last dozen years or so; both became battleground states in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections; and, since the 2012 election, both now have unified governments. Democrats control the House, the Senate and the governor’s office in Colorado, and Republicans control the same in North Carolina. Another commonality: this year Colorado and North Carolina both enacted major election overhauls that address same day registration, early voting and pre-registration for teens (along with other issues). The two states took mirror opposite approaches to those issues.
The counting of paper ballots in the special mayoral election continued to move at a glacial pace, as Dave Ware clings to his 32-vote lead over Mayor Johnny DuPree. But Ware vs. DuPree took a backseat to Jones vs. Perry on Thursday, as the brewing battle between Election Commissioner Turner Jones and Ware election observer Pete Perry erupted into a heated verbal exchange at City Hall. “Either he goes or I go,” Jones said angrily as he stormed out of the council chambers during the early afternoon. Despite threats of quitting punctuated by a dramatic exit out the front door of City Hall, Jones stayed to continue the vote count.
The numbers are attention-getting: on Tuesday, New York City will spend about $13 million to hold a runoff in the Democratic primary for an office, public advocate, that is budgeted only $2.3 million a year. And the combination of a little-known post with a little-understood election process is expected to lead to startlingly low turnout — maybe 100,000 to 175,000 voters, in a city of 8 million people. Yet the election is likely to determine the occupant of one of the city’s top offices, because there is no Republican candidate. The high cost of an election for a low-cost office has inspired wags to muse. Some have suggested that the race be decided by a coin toss. Others, including the Republican nominee for mayor, Joseph J. Lhota, have joked that, because the public advocate has few concrete powers, the two candidates could be allowed to serve, at a saving to taxpayers. But some elected officials and government reform advocates have suggested a longer-term solution: instead of holding costly, low-turnout runoffs, New York City should switch to instant runoff voting, a system already used in other cities.
The Justice Department will announce Monday that it is suing the state of North Carolina for alleged racial discrimination over tough new voting rules. A person briefed on the department’s plans told Fox News that the suit would claim that the North Carolina statute violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and would seek to have the state subject to federal pre-clearance before making “future voting-related changes.” The person also said the suit would be filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Nashville, Tenn. In asking for pre-clearance, the Justice Department will ask a federal judge to place the four provisions in North Carolina’s new law under federal scrutiny for an indeterminate period. The suit is the latest effort by the Obama administration to fight back against a Supreme Court decision that struck down the most powerful part of the landmark Voting Rights Act and freed southern states from strict federal oversight of their elections.
The Justice Department is expected to sue North Carolina on Monday over its restrictive new voting law, further escalating the Obama administration’s efforts to restore a stronger federal role in protecting minority voters after the Supreme Court struck down part of the Voting Rights Act, according to a person familiar with the department’s plans. The lawsuit, which had been anticipated, will ask a federal court to block North Carolina from enforcing four disputed provisions of its voting law, including a strict photo identification requirement. The lawsuit will also seek to reimpose a requirement that North Carolina obtain “preclearance” from the federal government before making changes to its election rules. The court challenge will join similar efforts by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in Texas over that state’s redistricting plan and voter photo ID law. Those lawsuits are seeking to return Texas to federal “preclearance” oversight.
Australia: Clive Palmer three votes ahead as Australian Electoral Commission recounts votes | ABC News
Billionaire businessman Clive Palmer leads the LNP’s Ted O’Brien by just three votes in the Sunshine Coast seat of Fairfax. A recount of preferences is underway after an initial count put Mr Palmer 36 votes ahead of Mr O’Brien. On Monday morning Mr Palmer was 42 votes ahead, but by the evening the mining magnate’s lead had narrowed to three votes. As the painstaking count continues, tensions are rising. Last week the Australian Electoral Commission flew in its chief legal officer to deal with an unusually high number of challenges on the validity of ballot papers. The Palmer United Party, which may also hold the balance of power in the Senate, has four lawyers and the LNP has one. Palmer’s scrutineers are being delivered gourmet lunches from the billionaire’s luxury Coolum resort, while Mr O’Brien’s team gets the rare sandwich or roll.
Just under 2,000 people took part in the e-voting test run last week, with officials saying that casting a vote should take less than a minute. Despite its reputation as an Estonian success story, e-voting has been a controversial issue that has been challenged by political opposition, claims of security vulnerabilities and an ensuing Supreme Court case. This year’s innovation is a verification system, albeit one that only works on Android operating systems.
Authorities in the German city of Essen have ordered a recount of the recently held parliamentary elections following revelation of irregularities. Mayor of Essen Reinhard Pass ordered on Friday the recount of 150,000 votes cast in the recent federal elections. According to the official results of the elections held on September 22, Christian Democrat (CDU) candidate Matthias Hauer won the Essen III seat by a margin of just three votes, beating Social Democrat (SPD) Petra Hinz. However, since the results were announced there has been a dispute over the validity of some ballots. The dispute caused the city officials to launch an assessment.
In a landmark judgement on Friday, the Supreme Court for the first time allowed voters to cast negative vote by pressing a button saying none of the candidates is worthy of his vote. The SC asked the Election Commission to provide None Of The Above (NOTA) button on EVMs and ballot papers. The apex court said the right to vote and the right to say NOTA are both part of basic right of voters. “When a large number of voters will press NOTA button, it will force political parties to choose better candidates. Negative voting would lead to systemic change in polls,” the apex bench observed. The bench also observed that implementation of NOTA option was akin to ‘abstain option’ given to MPs and MLAs during voting in respective houses. The SC directed the EC to start implementing NOTA button on EVMs forthwith in a phased manner and asked the Centre to render all assistance.
The Osaka High Court on Sept. 27 ruled that denying prisoners the right to vote violates the Constitution, an unprecedented decision hailed by human rights lawyers but blasted by the Justice Ministry. A senior ministry official said the ruling was “totally unexpected” and could create problems in the judicial system. “If the law is revised to give voting rights to prisoners, who make up the majority of people in justice institutions, it would have considerable ramifications,” the official said. “We will have to hold talks with the internal affairs ministry.” Presiding Judge Hiroshi Kojima dismissed the government’s argument that prisoners lack a law-abiding spirit and cannot be expected to exercise their right to vote in a fair manner. The judge also noted that prisoners are allowed to vote in a national referendum, which is required in procedures to revise the Constitution.
Maldives: No presidential run-off in Maldives tomorrow after Supreme Court order | Business Standard
Maldives’ Election Commission today halted preparations for the presidential run-off scheduled for tomorrow after the Supreme Court ordered security forces to stop any attempts to go ahead with the polls against its directives. Hundreds of supporters of Mohammed Nasheed, the front-runner in the Maldives’ presidential election, held protests against the court’s decision to postpone this weekend’s runoff. Earlier, Election Commission of Maldives chief Fuwad Taufeeq’s statement saying that the panel would go ahead with the run-off despite the Supreme Court order to postpone it had sparked confusion. In an interview to ‘Minivan News’, Taufeeq said, “We don’t believe any organisation or institution can overshadow the constitution. So we are working as per the constitution. I am trying to fulfil the national duty of the election commission. I don’t want to leave room for those who break laws and the constitution.”
THE SADC Lawyers Association (SADC-LA) has questioned the legal framework governing the elections in the country. One of the issues highlighted was the promulgation of the six electoral laws, which received Royal assent just weeks before the elections. The mission has since released its preliminary statement on its observation, and a full report is to be released at the end of the month. In its summary of findings, the mission questioned the legal framework governing or related to the elections, including the Constitution. The SADC LA noted that enactment of the six electoral laws weeks before the start of the primary elections may have had an adverse effect on voter education and in the capacity of the election officers to discharge their responsibilities in accordance with the newly-enacted legislation, because they may not have been aware of the new legislation. The observers also stated that the promulgation of the Acts did not provide enough time for the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) and civil society groups to conduct civic education on the elections.