Two weeks ago, Richard Posner, one of the most respected and iconoclastic federal judges in the country, startled the legal world by publicly stating that he’d made a mistake in voting to uphold a 2005 voter-ID law out of Indiana, and that if he had properly understood the abuse of such laws, the case “would have been decided differently.” For the past ten days, the debate over Judge Posner’s comments has raged on, even drawing a response from a former Supreme Court justice. The law in question requires voters to show a photo ID at the polls as a means of preventing voter fraud. Opponents sued, saying it would disenfranchise those Indianans without photo IDs — most of whom were poor, elderly, or minorities. State officials said the law was necessary, even though no one had ever been prosecuted for voter fraud in Indiana.
Alabama Secretary of State Jim Bennett Tuesday released the certified rules for Alabama’s new voter photo ID program which will go into effect for the June primaries in 2014. The release and website posting follows a 35-day public comment where his office received and considered 51 proposed comments in the preliminary rules filed in June. “We gave each of them thoughtful consideration and did make some revisions,” Bennett said. “We also met with various legislators, voter groups, senior citizen organizations, disabled citizens and nursing home administrators to gather their input.” The free voter ID process should begin as soon as January after a vendor’s contract is finalized and election officials are trained.
Arizona election officials are planning to provide two types of ballots for the next election following an opinion by the state’s attorney general. In the most populous county, Maricopa, this change could cost an additional $250,000 per federal election cycle. The opinion by Attorney General Tom Horne came in response to questions from Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett regarding a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona Inc. The court ruled 7-2 that Arizona could not require proof of citizenship from people using the federally provided national mail voter registration form but upheld a state law requiring proof of citizenship for registrants using the state form.
Florida: Smallest political donors appeal Florida’s restrictions to Supreme Court | Washington Times
A Florida group has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in a challenge to the state’s campaign finance restrictions that force groups looking to spend even tiny amounts of money on political radio advertising to form a political action committee. The plaintiffs, who are suing the Florida secretary of state over the provision, said the rules impose a “chilling effect” on their right to free speech. Their suit was rejected by the 11th Circuit Court in June. If the regulations are struck down by the court, state residents could raise and contribute money for campaign advertising without facing the reporting restrictions — including registering with the state, selecting a treasurer and submitting to random audits — demanded of PACs. The Supreme Court is expected to announce whether it will accept the case early next month.
Here’s another twist in the tale of the more than 18,000 Kansans whose voter registrations have been put on hold because of lack of proof of U.S. citizenship. Election officials reported Monday they are using a recent release of documents to whittle down the number of registrations in what is called “suspense.” The Kansas Department of Revenue recently sent to the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office approximately 6,100 Division of Motor Vehicle records that contained citizenship documents, according to a memo from the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office. “These records should reduce the number of ‘suspense’ records due to lack of proof of citizenship,” the memo stated. The Secretary of State’s Office did not have information on how many incomplete voter registrations these documents cleared up, but Douglas County received its batch of 438 records Monday afternoon. It processed 50 of the records and was able to finalize the registrations of 16 people, according to Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew. “We are working through the remaining records,” Shew said.
Advocates pleaded with Kentucky lawmakers Tuesday for legislation that could restore voting rights to some former felons, but Republicans say support remains murky in the Senate — where similar bills have died for years. Felons currently must petition the governor to regain voting rights under the Kentucky constitution, and Democrats are proposing changes that would allow most non-violent felons to vote once they have completed their sentence. Advocates say Kentucky is one of only four states that permanently bars felons from casting a ballot — a practice that hits hardest on African Americans and denies former convicts a chance to fully return to civic life, they argued. “I made a mistake, but I am not a mistake,” said Tayna Fogle, a former felon who works with Kentuckians For the Commonwealth, a left-leaning grassroots organization. “I can contribute to this community, and voting is very important to me.”
Minnesota: Dayton says online voter registration system should go through Legislature | Star Tribune
Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday sided with critics of Minnesota’s new online voter registration system, saying Secretary of State Mark Ritchie should have gotten legislative approval for the system before launch. “It’s a good idea but one that we should get legislative support,” Dayton said when asked about the launch. Since Ritchie launched the website allowing Minnesotans to register to vote last month, he has faced bipartisan and nonpartisan questions about why he did not seek legislative approval. Ritchie has said he has the authority under existing law to make such a change without an explicit go-ahead from the Legislature. Adding his voice to those of Republican leaders, Senate Deputy Majority Leader Katie Sieben and the nonpartisan Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles on the issue, Dayton highlighted a rare breach among DFLers on election issues. Ritchie, who is not running for re-election next year, had no comment Tuesday, according to his spokesman, Nathan Bowie.
By now you probably have heard about the reckless, racially insensitive comments Republican Party precinct chair Don Yelton of Buncombe County, N.C. made this week on The Daily Show. During an interview with correspondent Aasif Mandvi, Yelton defended North Carolina’s voter ID law while acknowledging evidence of voter fraud is flimsy. He also referred to African Americans as “lazy blacks” and even uttered the word “nigger,” leading Mandvi to remark, “You know that we can hear you, right?” … Yelton’s comments about black and student voters, voter fraud and kicking “the Democrats in the butt” are also in line with the work of the Civitas Institute, the conservative think tank founded and largely funded by North Carolina’s Republican mega-donor and state budget director Art Pope, which helped build public support for the elections bill. One of the consequences of Civitas’ crusade against nonexistent voter fraud is that black college students have been purged from voter rolls and faced challenges to their right to vote and run for office where they live and go to school. Yelton’s remarks are also in line with what was said during state Senate hearings in April, when dozens of GOP county representatives testified in favor of the legislation. Jonathan Bandy of the N.C. Federation of Young Professional Republicans said voter ID laws weren’t racist but claimed that racism is “the notion that an African-American and an Hispanic voter who don’t have an ID are incapable of getting one” — ignoring the fact that the law creates additional barriers for voters of color given that they are more likely than white voters to lack the ID needed to vote.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) delivered an extensive defense of the state’s controversial new voter identification law on Monday. After slamming the Department of Justice’s lawsuit against North Carolina as politically motivated and “without merit,” McCrory argued in a speech at The Heritage Foundation that the law actually helps to get “the politics out of early voting” and generally represses voter fraud and malpractice. “But you know, we require a voter ID to get a tattoo, to get Sudafed, to get food stamps, to get on an airplane — to get almost any government service in North Carolina right now you have to have an ID,” McCrory said. McCrory went on to note that the new law includes a provision that provides a “free ID” voter voters throughout the state.
Pennsylvania’s fiscal watchdog is calling it a waste of money to spend $1 million on 30-second TV ads promoting the state’s voter ID law. Auditor General Eugene DePasquale’s criticism Tuesday echoes that of other state Democratic lawmakers, and says the ads are fostering confusion ahead of the Nov. 5 election. A judge has blocked the requirement that voters show certain forms of ID before casting a ballot.
The state’s new voter ID law is meant to prevent voter fraud, but it may be causing some delays at your neighborhood polling place, especially if the name on your driver’s license differs from the name on your voter registration card, even a little bit. Nueces County election officials say it is often a problem for women who use maiden names or hyphenated names. The problem came to light Monday, when a local district judge had trouble casting a ballot. “What I have used for voter registration and for identification for the last 52 years was not sufficient yesterday when I went to vote,” 117th District Court Judge Sandra Watts said. Watts has voted in every election for the last 49 years. The name on her driver’s license has remained the same for 52 years, and the address on her voter registration card or driver’s license hasn’t changed in more than two decades. So imagine her surprise when she was told by voting officials that she would have to sign a “voters affidavit” affirming she was who she said she was. “Someone looked at that and said, ‘Well, they’re not the same,'” Watts said.
Texas, beneath the radar of higher-profile national races, will hold elections this fall to address a number of proposed constitutional amendments. Though none of the nine proposed amendments are exactly headline-grabbing (one officially eliminates a state agency that shut down more than 25 years ago, for example) the election will be the first in which the state’s infamous new voter ID laws will be in effect. The anticipated impact of these new laws on suppressing minority votes has been well documented, but the effect of new laws on women has received markedly less attention. The new Texas law requires all voters to provide a photo ID that reflects their current name. If they cannot, voters must provide any of a series of other acceptable forms of identification all of which must match exactly and match the name on their birth certificate. Supporters of these new laws insist that requiring voters to have an ID that matches their birth certificate is a reasonable requirement. As Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has repeatedly said, “Almost every single person either has a valid photo ID … or it is very easy to get one.” What they don’t say, however, is that the people who don’t are largely married women who have taken their husband’s name. In fact, only 66% of women have an ID that reflects their current name. If any voter is using name different than what appears on their birth certificate, the voter is required to show proof of name change by providing an original or certified copy of their marriage license, divorce decree, or court ordered name change. Photocopies aren’t accepted
At about the same time last week that Gov. Bob McDonnell was restoring the rights of felons to vote, the State Board of Elections was removing voters from local voting lists across the state. The odor of politics is much stronger in the actions taken by the elections board. With respect to the general elections coming up in two weeks, the timing couldn’t be worse. McDonnell said last week that the civil rights of more than 6,800 Virginians have been restored during his tenure, including 1,577 since July 15 when he began automatically restoring rights for non-violent felons on an individual basis. Administration officials were said to be scrambling in recent weeks to restore rights to as many non-violent felons as possible before last week’s deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 5 elections.
In June this year, the Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas resigned after it was revealed that members of his staff were involved in a possible corruption affair. He was supposed to be replaced by a new representative of the conservative coalition government and everything would continue smoothly. This would most likely have been the case, had Czechs not elected Milos Zeman as President. The former socialist premier used the limitations of the Czech constitution to his advantage and has appointed an interim government instead. Even though this government has been repealed by the parliament, the former coalition deputies were unable to form a new government and thus the Czech Republic moves to early elections at the end of October. During the 2010 parliamentary election the front-runners to lead the country were the Social Democrats (CSSD). Surprisingly, the results meant a second chance was given to the strongest centre-right party : the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), whose platform featured commitments to form a government that preached austerity; to reform key laws and finally spearhead a crackdown on corruption.
The conservative party that has ruled Luxembourg for most of the last 70 years has acknowledged that other parties are likely to form the next government and end Jean-Claude Juncker’s 19-year term as prime minister. Juncker’s Christian Social People’s Party (CSV) has led governments for all but five years since World War Two, but lost three seats in an election on Sunday to leave it with just 23 in the 60-seat parliament. The Socialists, who quit Juncker’s government in July, blaming him for failing to curb abuses of power by the secret service, now look set to form a coalition with a different center-right group, the Democratic Party, and the Greens. The three parties together have a slim majority of 32 seats. Juncker, the EU’s longest-serving head of government, has been a central figure in Europe’s debt crisis, leading the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers until early this year. His departure would be unlikely to herald radically different policies on Europe or on the economy, among the healthiest in Europe.
There’s no doubt that former Madagascar President Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina, who threw him out four years ago, have unfinished business. But that will have to wait. Friday’s presidential election on the island provides the arena for a battle by proxy. From his exile in South Africa, Ravalomanana, the man who went from yoghurt magnate to national leader to asylum seeker, has endorsed one of the 33 candidates, namely Jean Louis Robinson who served as his Health Minister. Here in the capital Antananarivo, former disc jockey and youthful interim President Rajoelina initially gave his stamp of approval to no fewer than three of the runners. However, it is former Finance Ninister Hery Rajaonarimampianina who has his final blessing. Only six of the 33 have a realistic chance of winning. All money is on there not being an outright winner when results are announced early next month. So the front runners will probably be back for the run-off to coincide with the parliamentary elections scheduled for December 20.
Maldives: ‘They came to power in a coup, They will not leave’: There may never be an election, claims former leader | The Independent
The bitter battle over the future of the Maldives has intensified after the country’s former leader accused the current president of trying to indefinitely postpone elections and hang on to power at any cost. Two days after police prevented a presidential poll from going ahead, Mohamed Nasheed said President Mohamed Waheed should step down and allow an election to be held under the supervision of parliament. On Monday night, the office of Mr Waheed said a new vote had been scheduled for November 9. But earlier Mr Nasheed, a former political prisoner, said he doubted the authorities would allow a fair election to take place. “I don’t think there is going to be an election any time soon,” Mr Nasheed told The Independent, speaking from Male. “They have had the election and they have had the result, and we won. They came to power in a coup and they will not leave.”
A federal judge on Friday rejected a request from Virginia Democrats who sought an injunction requiring the State Board of Elections to reinstate nearly 40,000 registered voters who were recently purged from the rolls. County registrars conducted the purge recently on orders from the Republican-controlled elections board in Richmond, based on evidence from a multi-state database that the voters had subsequently registered in other states. The Democratic Party of Virginia says the list used to conduct the purge was riddled with errors. At Friday’s hearing in U.S. District Court, the party argued that local officials were using different standards to determine whether a voter’s name should be purged, and the disparities violate requirements for uniformity that the U.S. Supreme Court outlined in its landmark 2000 Bush v. Gore decision. Lawyer Marc Elias said local jurisdictions received a list of more than 57,000 voters currently registered in Virginia who had subsequently registered out of state. The registrars were told the list’s accuracy had been verified but they should use their “best judgment” in making the ultimate determination of whether to purge a voter. Elias said some registrars took the list and purged everyone. At least one county registrar refused to purge anyone. Other counties made their own determination. The process “leads to the weighing of some people’s votes and the discounting of others on a geographical basis,” Elias told Judge Claude Hilton.