The Obama administration launched a legal challenge Monday to North Carolina’s restrictive new voting law, accusing the state’s legislature of intentionally discriminating against black voters. A Justice Department lawsuit filed in North Carolina federal court is the latest salvo in a heated battle over protections for minority voters and the limits of federal government authority over state election regulations. The action follows a major setback for the administration this summer, when a divided Supreme Court sided against the Justice Department’s challenge of a Texas state law, effectively gutting a major portion of the Voting Rights Act. “The administration promised a decisive response and this is it,” UCLA law professor Adam Winkler said, describing the North Carolina case as “a bold move.” At issue are provisions of a new Tar Heel State statute that would reduce the number of early voting days and require North Carolinians to show photo identification before they are allowed to cast ballots.
National: Campaign finance at the Supreme Court: Is McCutcheon v. FEC the next Citizens United? | Slate
Sometimes at the Supreme Court, it is not if you lose, but how. That principle will be on full display in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the campaign finance case the Supreme Court will hear next Tuesday, the second day of the new term. If the government loses big, it could mark the beginning of the end of any limits on campaign contributions given directly to candidates in federal, state, and local elections. Citizens United and the rise of super PACs are already flooding the election system with money. But so far we’ve managed to keep a little distance between the money and the candidates themselves. If hard-line conservatives get their way, that distance will evaporate, and soon you could write a multimillion-dollar check that would go right into a candidate’s bank account. The question is whether Chief Justice John Roberts will hold back the conservative majority back from the brink—though if he does, Justice Antonin Scalia will surely taunt him for it.
If the federal government shuts down Tuesday, the Federal Election Commission — unlike some government agencies filled with employees deemed “essential” — will effectively go dark. Organizationally, all but the FEC’s four active commissioners, who are furlough-proof political appointees, would ultimately stay home. In all, 335 of the agency’s 339 employees would be affected, according to its 10-page “Commission Plan for Agency Operations in the Absence of the Fiscal Year 2014 Appropriation.” A small number of staff members, such as staff director Alec Palmer, would briefly work into a shutdown to help secure FEC facilities and records and aid with the agency’s wind-down, the plan states. And no one could labor on their own time and dime, as FEC staffers “are prohibited from performing any work functions while on furlough status, even on a voluntary basis,” the agency’s shutdown plan states.
The Justice Department on Monday sued North Carolina over the state’s restrictive new voting law, which requires photo identification for in-person voting and cuts back on early voting and same-day registration — all of which will disproportionately affect black voters. The suit, which follows similar litigation against Texas, is the latest effort by the department to go after voting discrimination in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in June striking down part of the Voting Rights Act. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. called the North Carolina law “an intentional attempt to break a system that was working,” and he said that it was clearly intended to discriminate on the basis of race. But North Carolina and Texas represent only one front in the continuing battle to protect voting rights. Twenty years after Congress passed the “motor voter” law to make it easier for Americans to register to vote, numerous states keep trying to make it harder, relying on vague and dubious claims of voter fraud to push through misguided and harmful legislation.
The Justice Department filed suit against North Carolina on Monday, charging that the Tar Heel State’s new law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls violates the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against African-Americans. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the lawsuit at Justice Department headquarters, flanked by the three U.S. attorneys from North Carolina. “Allowing limits on voting rights that disproportionately exclude minority voters would be inconsistent with our ideals as a nation,” Holder said. “And it would not be in keeping with the proud tradition of democracy that North Carolinians have built in recent years.” Holder charged that North Carolina’s legislation wouldn’t just incidentally hurt African American turnout, but was intentionally designed that way. “The Justice Department expects to show that the clear and intended effects of these changes would contract the electorate and result in unequal access to participation in the political process on account of race,” the attorney general said.
North Carolina: Justice Department Is Challenging North Carolina’s Extreme Voter Suppression Law | The Nation
The Justice Department filed suit against key provisions of North Carolina’s worst-in-the-nation voter suppression law in federal court today. The lawsuit alleges that North Carolina’s harsh voter ID law, cutbacks to early voting, elimination of same-day registration during the early voting period and ban on counting provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The Department also argues that these voting changes were enacted with intentional discrimination and thus North Carolina should have to approve all of its voting changes with the federal government for a period of time. “By restricting access and ease of voter participation, this new law would shrink, rather than expand, access to the franchise,” Attorney General Eric Holder said at a press conference today. Days after the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, “the state legislature took aggressive steps to curtail the voting rights of African-Americans,” said Holder. “This is an intentional attempt to break a system that was working.”
North Carolina: Gov. McCrory says Justice Department’s voting lawsuit is ‘overreach and without merit’ | News Observer
Gov. Pat McCrory on Monday called the U.S. Justice Department’s lawsuit against North Carolina’s voting law “overreach and without merit.” “I firmly believe we’ve done the right thing. I believe this is good law. And I strongly disagree with the action that the attorney general has taken,” McCrory told reporters. The governor, dressed more casually than normal after his visit to the N.C. Zoo earlier in the day, struck a defiant tone in his remarks. He cast the legal battle as a matter of state’s rights, saying he would “defend our right to have common sense laws right here in North Carolina.”
Ohio: Lawmaker’s election reform bills include voter ID requirement, reduced early-voting times | cleveland.com
During the past two months, Rep. John Becker has introduced a package of bills on hot-button elections issues, including proposals to require a photo ID to vote, roll back early-voting times, and ban pre-paid absentee ballots from being mailed to every Ohio voter. Becker, a freshman Republican from Union Township, said the bills are designed to curb what he called the “chaos” of the state’s current voting system. He said he’s not sure of the bills’ prospects in the Ohio legislature. One bill, House Bill 269, is the latest legislative attempt to require voters to present valid identification when casting a ballot. Acceptable forms of identification listed in Becker’s bill include a driver’s license, a state or military ID card, or a passport.
Oregon’s voter registration rolls are getting more secure, according to Secretary of State Kate Brown. She visited Hermiston on Friday morning for a question and answer session sponsored by the Hermiston Government Affairs Team and the Eastern Oregon Women’s Coalition. One point of interest for listeners was Brown’s views on voter fraud. Brown said her office has been working hard to clean up the voter registration rolls in cooperation with the Department of Motor Vehicles and other secretaries of state. “We are using database matching to ensure the centralized voter registration database is secure and accurate,” she said.
The problem with combining the Richland County elections and voter registration commissions wasn’t the idea: There’s no good reason to have two separate agencies handling such interrelated functions. The problem — the reason the merger led to one of the biggest election fiascos in the state’s modern history, the reason a Circuit Court judge has declared the law that combined the agencies unconstitutional — was the way our legislators chose to accomplish it. They accomplished it through a law that applied only to Richland County, which our state constitution prohibits in almost all cases. And one reason our constitution prohibits such laws is that they invite and involve state legislators meddling into the internal operations of agencies — in this case, giving them the power to hire the director of the new agency, which they did for clearly political reasons and to clearly disastrous results.
Cameroon’s 5.4 million voters head to the polls on Monday for legislative and local polls set to shore up the strong parliamentary majority of President Paul Biya’s ruling party. President Biya has been accused of failing to adhere to a regular timetable for elections in order to ensure victory for his own People’s Democratic Movement (RDPC) party, which holds the majority of seats in the National Assembly and municipal bodies. The terms of the current cohort of deputies elected in the last polls in 2007 expired in 2012, but have been extended on three separate occasions.
Polls have closed in Guinea in the first parliamentary election since a coup in 2008. The election commission suggested turnout had been high, with 40% of the electorate casting their ballots by midday. The run-up was marred by violence, ethnic and religious tension, electoral disputes and intense distrust. The opposition accused President Alpha Conde’s party of trying to rig the elections. The vote will replace a transitional parliament that has run the nation since military rule ended in 2010. Poll dates were repeatedly scheduled and then postponed, largely due to opposition allegations that the government was trying to skew the vote.
Iraqi Kurdistan’s main opposition party has come in second in the autonomous region’s parliamentary election, according to preliminary results on Saturday that left the shape of the government still unclear a week after the vote. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) share power in the previous cabinet with a combined 59 out of 111 parliamentary seats, having fought out their rivalries in a civil war during the 1990s. But from its genesis ahead of the last election in 2009, the Gorran (Change) party has rapidly built a following among those disenchanted with corruption and the lack of transparency, particularly around revenues from the region’s oil.
Irish voters are preparing to shutter one of the two chambers of parliament in a referendum that will take place on Oct. 4, one of the few examples of austerity reducing the number of politicians. Having survived in one form or another for an almost uninterrupted stretch of over 90 years, the parliament’s 60-seat upper house now faces oblivion if voters decide by a simple majority to get rid of it. Opinion polls suggest that over 60% of those voting Friday will cast ballots for the ‘Yes’ proposition, sealing the fate of the upper house. Abolishing the senate is Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s idea, the center piece of political reforms he pledged long before his coalition swept to power at the height of the country’s banking and debt crisis more than two years ago. The bursting of the country’s property market bubble toppled the former Celtic tiger economy, leaving many unemployed and forcing thousands to emigrate in search of work. The country aims to emerge from its 2010 international bailout this year, but financially distressed households still face two more years of tax increases and spending cuts. Against this backdrop, Mr. Kenny believes that closing the senate, and other political reforms, will be popular with voters.