United Kingdom: Eight-year standoff over prisoner voting rights approaches resolution | theguardian.com

The United Kingdom’s standoff with the European court of human rights (ECHR) over prisoner voting is approaching a final resolution after eight years of political and legal controversy. The Strasbourg court first ruled in 2005 that a blanket ban preventing all prisoners from voting in elections was incompatible with human rights. That opinion has been unsuccessfully challenged in the upper appeals chamber of the ECHR several times, most recently by the attorney general, Dominic Grieve QC, when he supported an Italian case arguing an identical principle.

National: Judge Who Framed Voter ID Laws As Constitutional Says He Got It Wrong | The Nation

When the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago issued a critical ruling defending the constitutionality of Voter ID laws, Judge Richard Posner authored the decision. The arguments Judge Posner made for upholding Indiana’s Voter ID law framed the some of the key underpinnings for the 2008 decision of the US Supreme Court that, since it was issued, has been employed as a justification for similar initiatives in states across the country. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “a total of 34 states have passed voter ID laws of some kind.” Not all of those laws have been implemented, with a number of them facing court challenges. So it should count for something that Judge Posner now says that he was mistaken in his determination. Indeed, the judge’s rethink ought to inspire a national rethink — about not just Voter ID laws but the broader issue of voter rights.

National: Poll: Americans support fine-tuning election policy | USAToday

The capital’s shutdowns and showdowns have tested the patience even of the Senate chaplain. “Save us from the madness,” he prayed at the opening of one session last week. But how, exactly? The roots of the nation’s polarized and sometimes paralyzed politics, decades in the making, are too complex and far-reaching to be easily reversed or resolved. Even so, some political scientists and politicians argue that making simple changes — expanding who can vote in primary elections, for instance, or rethinking how legislative districts are drawn — could make a difference in the kind of government that follows. A nationwide USA TODAY/Bipartisan Policy Center poll finds a majority of Americans support a range of proposals aimed at easing hyper-partisanship and building confidence in elections. Some command the sort of broad bipartisan backing rare in national politics.

Editorials: No, overturning campaign contribution limits really would be a problem | Bob Biersack/Washington Post

Ray La Raja made some interesting points in his post last week about McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission.  I’m not as sanguine as he is about this case, and I think each of his points deserves a little more consideration. First, Ray argues that the current direct contribution limit for people giving to candidates ($2,600 per election) is very low.  He goes so far as to note that $2,600 is about 0.18% of the $1.4 million or so the typical House winner spends in a campaign.  There are a couple of nits to pick with this description.  First, the $2,600 limit is, of course, a “per election” limit, and virtually every candidate for federal office participates in at least two elections (a primary and a general) in each cycle.  So, the proper way to describe this boundary is that the existing limit is effectively at least $5,200 per candidate.   That means that just under 300 people are able to fully fund the typical House winner under existing limits without a penny from PACs or parties or other campaigns — not exactly requiring a groundswell of support.

Voting Blogs: Navigating Debates about Redistricting | The Monkey Cage

People feel passionately about redistricting.  They don’t like how it’s done, or how it’s disadvantaged their party, or both.  So when political scientists come along to say “redistricting might matter less than you think”—for the outcomes of the 2012 House elections, for party polarization, for declining electoral competitiveness—people get cranky.  For example:

 Suck on it Monkey Cage and prove me wrong with maps.

So there’s clearly room for more thinking and discussion about the effects of redistricting.  Here are 4 things I think are important to discuss or at least mention.

Arizona: Kansas and Arizona Ready Plans to Keep Voters from Voting in State Elections | AllGov

Threatening to upend a tradition of equality that dates back to the founding of the country, Republican political leaders in Kansas and Arizona are discussing plans to establish a multi-tier voting rights system for their states if they lose a voting rights case currently in federal court. The net effect would be to bar some U.S. citizens—mostly immigrants, racial minorities, the elderly, and the poor—from voting in state and local elections even as they cast ballots in federal contests. For the past several years, in response to ongoing demographic changes that are making the U.S. increasingly non-white and non-Anglo-Saxon, Republican-dominated state legislatures have passed a variety of laws making it harder to register or to vote. But this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down an Arizona law requiring voters to provide proof of citizenship when registering because the national “motor voter” registration form demands only a signed oath of citizenship. The Court held that states cannot increase the federal voter registration requirements on the motor voter form, but they may ask the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to add requirements to it. Rebuffed by the EAC, Kansas and Arizona filed a court case to bend the EAC to their will, but in the likely event they fail, the tiered voting system is a backup plan.

Editorials: Seek bipartisan OK for online voter registration in Minnesota | Star Tribune

It’s high time for online voter registration to come to Minnesota, promising the convenience, accuracy and administrative cost savings it has already delivered in 16 other states, with two more state systems pending. It’s a shame that it arrived here under partisan and legal clouds that could threaten its staying power. Republican legislative leaders were quick to fault Secretary of State Mark Ritchie last week for initiating an online voter registration system without first obtaining explicit legislative permission to do so. Minnesota Majority — the voter fraud alarmist organization that pushed last year’s unsuccessful attempt to make a government-issued photo ID a voting requirement — said it is “consulting attorneys and considering legal actions” to block the new option. Ritchie had to see those clouds coming. The DFL secretary of state’s previous tangles with Republicans and their allies over ballot question wording and voter fraud served ample warning that a unilateral approach to online registration would meet with GOP criticism and possibly a court challenge.

Editorials: Yes, the new Pennsylvania Voter ID ad campaign is about confusing people | Philadelphia Weekly

The Inquirer noted yesterday that the Pennsylvania Department of State has decided to relaunch its $1 million Voter ID advertising campaign despite voters not needing to show identification at the polls for the upcoming November election. You remember: the “Show It” ads that popped up on TV in the summer and fall of 2012. Critics have contended they’re misleading and unnecessarily cost the taxpayers money since the voter ID law they’re meant to bring attention to is tied up in court. And the critics are right. Using government dollars to tell people to show identification at the polls this year is at best disingenuous. At worst, it’s a malicious attempt to use the idea of a voter identification law to keep eligible voters confused and at home on Election Day, perhaps proving this was the law’s intention all along.

Texas: Civil rights attorney on voter ID law: ‘Everybody knows somebody | KLTV

A national civil rights attorney made stops in East Texas Monday, visiting with communities about Texas’ new voter ID law. Sonia Gill is an attorney representing the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a group that has filed a lawsuit to repeal the recently implemented law. She said her priority during her stops in Longview and Mt. Pleasant today was to make sure voters know what to expect in upcoming elections. “When I go out and speak to some of the churches, everybody knows somebody who’s going to have a problem getting documents required to vote,” Gill said. Texas recently re-implemented the law, after the Supreme Court narrowly overturned part of the Voting Rights Act. Those provisions required Texas to clear any new voting laws with the federal government.

Washington: Voters to decide ‘initiative on initiatives’ | Capital Press

Washington state residents have plenty of experience voting on new law proposals, but next month they’ll decide on an “initiative on initiatives” that would make it easier to get such measures on the ballot. The proposal, Initiative 517, was sparked in part by a series of legal battles over local measures seeking to block red light cameras, including one case last year that went to the state Supreme Court. By requiring that voters be allowed to have their say on any proposal that qualifies for the ballot, even if a lawsuit has been filed against it, the initiative pushes back at cities that have sued — some successfully — to block local challenges to the cameras. “Initiative power is not subject to pre-election challenges,” said Mark Baerwaldt, a spokesman for the campaign. “It’s the way the will of the people is expressed.” The initiative also would give supporters a year, instead of the current six months, to collect signatures, and it would make it a misdemeanor to interfere with the signature-gathering process. Business groups and others have lined up in opposition, saying the proposal will affect their ability to deal with nuisances outside of their stores.

Wisconsin: Milwaukee man pleads guilty to five counts of voter fraud | Journal Sentinel

A Milwaukee man pleaded guilty Monday to illegally voting five times last year in West Milwaukee, when in fact he did not have residency there. Leonard K. Brown, 56, still faces a charge of voting twice in the November presidential election and making a false statement to an election official on election day. Those cases have been rescheduled for trial in January. His sentencing on the five convictions resulting from Monday’s pleas will be scheduled sometime after that trial. Brown was among 10 people charged in March with a variety of charges related to voter fraud. He is charged with voting twice in the Nov. 6 election — in person in Milwaukee on that date and by absentee ballot in West Milwaukee four days earlier.

Afghanistan: Votes sell for about $5 in Afghanistan as presidential race begins | Thomson Reuters

Sayed Gul walked into a small mud brick room in eastern Afghanistan, a bundle wrapped in a shawl on his back. With a flick, he plonked the package onto a threadbare carpet and hundreds of voter cards spilled out. “How many do you want to buy?” he asked with a grin. Like many others, Gul left a routine job – in his case, repairing cars in Marco, a small town in the east – to join a thriving industry selling the outcome of next year’s presidential elections. Gul, who had a long, black beard and was dressed in the traditional loose salwar kameez, said he was able to buy voter cards for 200 Pakistani rupees ($1.89) each from villagers and sell them on for 500 rupees ($4.73) to campaign managers, who can use them in connivance with poll officials to cast seemingly legitimate votes. From each card, Gul said, he made enough money to pay for a hearty meal like kebabs with rice, and maybe even a soda.

Editorials: Azerbaijan’s ‘AppGate’ | Al Jazeera

Few people honestly thought that Azerbaijan stood a serious chance of conducting a fair and free presidential election on October 9. As I have written extensively, since the beginning of the year, Azerbaijani authorities have been engaged in an unprecedented crackdown to silence all forms of criticism and dissent. The underlying climate simply did not allow for a fair competition – not to mention that Azerbaijan has not held a single authentically democratic election since Aliyev came to power in 2003. Still, the brazen nature of the electoral violations that took place surprised even close observers of Azerbaijan. A day before the election, Meydan TV, a satellite/Internet television station, broke the story that set the tone for the whole election, which became known as the “AppGate” scandal. Meydan TV exposed an apparent fault of the Central Election Commission’s mobile phone application to allow users to track election results. On October 8, Meydan TV discovered that the results section of the application was showing, giving incumbent President Ilham Aliyev 72.76 percent of the vote before a single vote had been cast.

Maldives: Supreme Court’s annulment verdict “troubling” given ongoing international criticism of judiciary: Bar Human Rights Committee | Minivan News

The UK’s Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC) has expressed concern at the annulment of the first round of presidential elections, stating that such a verdict was “particularly troubling in the context of the ongoing international criticism concerning the lack of independence of the Maldivian judiciary and the lack of adequate separation of powers.” The BHRC conducted independent observations of the trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed in the Hulhumale Magistrate Court earlier this year, a trial the MDP presidential candidate contended was a politically-motivated attempt to bar him from contesting the upcoming election. The BHRC concurred in its observation report: “BHRC is concerned that a primary motivation behind the present trial is a desire by those in power to exclude Mr Nasheed from standing in the 2013 elections, and notes international opinion that this would not be a positive outcome for the Maldives,” wrote observer Stephen Cragg on behalf of the BHRC, the international human rights arm of the Bar of England and Wales. In its most recent statement, the BHRC noted that the Supreme Court’s verdict to annul the September 7 election, in which Nasheed received 45.45 percent of the popular vote, “runs contrary to the conclusions of national and international election monitors, including the expert Commonwealth Observer Group, which confirmed that the electoral process was free, fair, well-organised and transparent. BHRC further notes with concern that the Court’s verdict appears to have been based on an unsubstantiated and as yet undisclosed police report.”