National: Wisconsin threw out voter ID Tuesday. It’s a fight still playing out in 12 other states. | Washington Post

A federal judge struck down Wisconsin’s voter ID law Tuesday, less than a week after a Circuit Court judge found Arkansas’ voter ID law unconstitutional. At least one more court decision should come down before November, but voting rights cases and legislation are brewing in plenty of other places worth keeping an eye on this year. Here’s a guide of what to watch — and where.


A federal judge ruled in March that Arizona’s 2004 law requiring new voters who register by mail to prove documentation of U.S. citizenship was valid. The Supreme Court had invalidated part of Arizona’s law last year, after which the state joined up with Kansas, which passed its own proof-of-citizenship voter requirements last year. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that the the 1993 National Voter Registration Act had mandated that states use the federal voter registration form, so Arizona’s more complicated form — which opponents say targeted the state’s large Latino community — is not valid. Voting expert Richard Pildes told NPR at the time, “What Justice Scalia has essentially said here for a substantial majority of the court is if you want modifications to these federal forms that have been required up till now, you have to go to this commission to get those modifications.” The decision in Arizona and Kansas’ case last month requires that Election Assistance Commission to modify the federal registration form to include Kansas and Arizona’s requirements, saying that the U.S. Constitution gives states the power to regulate elections. The case is heading to the 10th Circuit of Appeals later this year.

Alabama: Voter ID law takes effect with June primary | Tuscaloosa News

The Voter Photo Identification Act, approved during the 2011 legislative session, will go into effect in all 67 Alabama counties beginning with the June 3, 2014, statewide primary election. Voters who do not have proper photo identification must obtain a free voter photo ID card or will not be allowed to vote, but there are some exceptions. The League of Women Voters of Greater Tuscaloosa held a meeting Wednesday of community leaders at the Tuscaloosa Public Library to discuss the new law and ways to educate voters on how to obtain the voter photo ID card. Hattie Kaufman, a league board member, said many people don’t understand the new law and will be confused as to whether or not they need the card to vote.

Arizona: Republicans Lose Legal Challenge to State Voting Map | Businessweek

Arizona Republican voters lost a challenge to an electoral districts map for the state assembly that they said favors Democrats by putting too many voters in districts with Republican majorities. A panel of federal judges voted 2-1 to reject the argument that the redrawn map by the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission violated the constitutional rights of Republican voters to equal protection and can’t be used in elections. “We conclude that the population deviations were primarily a result of good-faith efforts to comply with the Voting Rights Act, and that even though partisanship played some role in the design of the map, the Fourteenth Amendment challenge fails,” according to the panel’s majority opinion.

Delaware: Bill to create redistricting commission faces House panel vote | Delaware State News

Lawmakers and community stakeholders seeking transparent reform for legislative redistricting hope to clear a major roadblock today, as a bill creating a government-appointed commission in charge of redistricting is up for a vote in the House Administration Committee. The five-member committee, made up of the leadership from both parties, is set to hear a year-old bill that would make the process of drawing up the state’s 62 legislative districts public and out of the hands of majority party lawmakers in a closed door procedure that’s not under the state’s FOIA laws. The bill only needs three votes to be released onto the House floor for a full debate. “I don’t see a need for it,” said House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, on Tuesday, the legislature’s first day back from Easter break. After securing his party’s vote as House Majority Leader in 2010, Rep. Scwartzkopf was directly involved with redrawing the House of Representatives’ 41 legislative districts, a process that takes place every 10 years to reflect population changes in the U.S. Census survey.

Hawaii: Lawmakers pass same-day voter registration | Associated Press

Hawaii lawmakers passed a bill Tuesday that will allow voters to register at polling places on the same day they vote. The measure (HB 2590) aims to encourage voting in a state where turnout is often dismal. Once the nation’s highest, Hawaii’s voter turnout cratered at 44.5 percent, the nation’s lowest, in the 2012 election, according to the U.S. Elections Project. The House and Senate passed the bill that will allow voters to register at early voting sites beginning in 2016 or at their assigned polling places on Election Day starting in 2018.

Minnesota: Lawmakers move to preserve online voter registration system after judge voided existing portal | Associated Press

Before a court order can kick in, Minnesota lawmakers moved Tuesday to preserve an online voter registration system overseen by the secretary of state. The Senate approved a bill authorizing the new registration system on a 41-24 vote, sending the measure already passed by the House to Gov. Mark Dayton. The Democrat signed the bill, which will take effect Wednesday. On Monday, a Ramsey County judge ruled Secretary of State Mark Ritchie had overstepped his bounds by establishing the virtual sign-up unilaterally last fall. The judge ordered that the system be shut down by midnight Tuesday, absent legislative intervention. Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, said lawmakers should be working to ease the process of voting through new technology. “Voters across Minnesota want the convenience of being to register online,” she said.

Voting Blogs: OVR is Dead, Long Live OVR: Minnesota Set to Enact Legislation After Judge Invalidates Existing System | Election Academy

Last fall, I wrote about Minnesota’s new online voter registration system (OVR) – implemented without legislation by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. Since then, the state legislature has been moving forward with a bill to enact OVR – a bill which must receive bipartisan support in order for Gov. Mark Dayton to sign it. Yesterday, the two threads of that story came together in an interesting way. A day after the House enacted OVR legislation by a wide margin in preparation for a Senate vote, a local judge invalidated the state’s existing OVR system as an improper exercise of the Secretary of State’s authority.

Rhode Island: House Judiciary Committee backs abolishing the master lever in elections | The Providence Journal

This one was a long time in coming. After decades of setbacks, opponents of the “master lever” watched with delight Tuesday as a legislative committee did what perhaps no committee had done before: Send a bill that would abolish the master lever to the House floor. The House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to pass the bill, which removes the “master-lever” or “straight-ticket” voting option from election ballots and requires the secretary of state’s office to provide training and “community outreach” to make sure voters understand the option will no longer be there. The vote followed more than 90 minutes of testimony from dozens of speakers, many of them repeats from past hearings in past years, where bills to abolish the master lever were held for further study. In the end, that only made the outcome — which sets the stage for a full House vote on Thursday — more pleasing. “To have it voted out of committee unanimously, you know, I’ve got to lie down and put a cool cloth on my head,” said Margaret Kane, president of Operation Clean Government, a group that by her count has been urging passage for about 20 years. “It’s the first time we’ve had reason to hope.”

Wisconsin: Federal judge strikes down voter ID; Van Hollen to appeal | Associated Press

A federal judge in Milwaukee struck down Wisconsin’s voter identification law Tuesday, declaring that a requirement that voters show a state-issued photo ID at the polls imposes an unfair burden on poor and minority voters. U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman sided with opponents of the law, who argued that low-income and minority voters aren’t as likely to have photo IDs or the documents needed to get them. Adelman said the law violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. The decision invalidates Wisconsin’s law and means voter ID likely won’t be in place for the fall elections, when Republican Gov. Scott Walker faces re-election. Walker said last month that he would call lawmakers into special session if the courts ruled against the law; Walker’s spokeswoman did not immediately return an email seeking reaction Tuesday. Nor did Republican legislative leaders, who have agreed a special session would be warranted to pass a revised version of the law. Tuesday’s decision could set a precedent for similar legal challenges in Texas, North Carolina and elsewhere. There are 31 states with laws in effect requiring voters to show some form of identification, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Seven states have strict photo ID requirements similar to the one a state judge struck down in Arkansas last week; that decision has been appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court. Pennsylvania’s voter ID law has been put on hold because of court challenges.

Iraq: Sectarian strife rises as Iraq election approaches | Los Angeles Times

Iraq’s worst surge in sectarian violence since 2008, fueled by protracted political disputes, makes the first parliamentary election since the U.S.-led occupation anything but promising. Over the last year, Islamic militants have targeted officials from the Shiite Muslim-led government of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, who is poised to win a third term in Wednesday’s balloting. In turn, government security forces have struck back. The United Nations says at least 8,868 people, 88% of them civilians, were killed in 2013, the highest toll in five years. The pace has continued in the first two months of this year, when about 1,400 were killed in attacks that have occurred nearly on a daily basis.

Macedonia: OSCE Criticises, Opposition May Refuse Elections Results | Eurasia Review

The ruling VMRO DPMNE party won half of the seats in Macedonian elections. According to initial results, the ruling VMRO DPMNE party of Nikola Gruevski won 61 of the 123 seats in parliament, and the SDSM 34. The governing ethnic Albanian party, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, won 19 seats and the opposition ethnic Albanian Democratic Party of Albanians, DPA, seven. The newly-formed Citizen’s Option for Macedonia, GROM, and the National Democratic Rebirts, NDP, won one seat each. Opposition Social Democrats are to consider whether to refuse to take up their seats in parliament following their defeat in Sunday general and presidential elections, which the party blames on electoral fraud.

Thailand: Opposition Party Leader Explores Ways to End Stalemate | Wall Street Journal

As Thailand’s political turmoil spills into its sixth month, opposition party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva is emerging as an unlikely volunteer to spearhead efforts to end the political deadlock. Democrat Party leader Mr. Abhisit has been meeting with key political figures, including the Armed Forces Supreme Commander, to discuss ways to find solution to the country’s political conflict.  On Tuesday, Mr. Abhisit and party officials met with five members of the Election Commission to discuss a new election after Thailand’s Constitutional Court last month nullified the Feb. 2 vote. His Tuesday meeting with the Election Commission didn’t reveal much about how the political deadlock will be broken. Mr. Abhisit didn’t say whether his party will contest in a new election. “The Election Commission and I view that the current political climate makes it hard to hold a successful election,” he told reporters after the meeting. “There are still concerns whether a new poll would solve the problem.”

Ukraine: Referendum may be held during second round of presidential election | The Voice of Russia

Ukraine’s Central Election Commission and Ministry of Justice are looking into the possibility to hold an all-Ukrainian referendum on decentralization of the country during the first round of the presidential election scheduled for May 25 or during the second round due to take place on June 15, the Deputy Secretary of the National Security Council announced Tuesday. “Two dates are now on the table: May 25 and June 15. These are the dates for the two rounds of the presidential election. This is the way to ensure the low cost of the referendum. Currently the Central Election Commission is investigating whether these questions [related to the decentralization] could be printed on security paper till the first round or by the second round. This [the referendum] is most likely to take place on June 15,” Viktoriya Siumar said during a press conference adding that the final decision is expected later as it is currently being reviewed by the Central Election Commission together with the Ministry of Justice.

Pennsylvania: Judge denies Commonwealth’s motion in voter ID case | Philadelphia Inquirer

A Commonwealth Court judge on Monday denied the Corbett administration’s motion to reconsider his ruling overturning the state’s two-year-old voter identification law. In his 29-page decision, Judge Bernard L. McGinley said the law requiring voters to produce photo ID at the polls failed “to provide liberal access to compliant photo ID” and as a result voters were disenfranchised. “The evidence showed the voter ID provisions at issue deprive numerous electors of their fundamental right to vote, so vital to our democracy,” wrote McGinley, who struck down the law in January. The Corbett administation has 30 days to file an appeal to the state Supreme Court. Joshua Maus, spokesman for the governor’s Office of General Counsel. said he had no comment beyond that the office was reviewing the ruling.

Wisconsin: Federal Judge Strikes Down Wisconsin Law Requiring Photo ID at Polls | New York Times

A federal judge on Tuesday struck down Wisconsin’s law requiring voters to produce state-approved photo identification cards at polling places, advancing a new legal basis — the Voting Rights Act — for similar challenges playing out around the nation. Judge Lynn Adelman, of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, found that the state’s 2011 law violated the 14th Amendment of the Constitution as well as the Voting Rights Act, which bars states from imposing rules that abridge a citizen’s right to vote based on race or color. “I find that the plaintiffs have shown that the disproportionate impact of the photo ID requirement results from the interaction of the requirement with the effects of past or present discrimination,” Judge Adelman wrote in the decision. “Blacks and Latinos in Wisconsin are disproportionately likely to live in poverty. Individuals who live in poverty are less likely to drive or participate in other activities for which a photo ID may be required (such as banking, air travel, and international travel) and so they obtain fewer benefits from possession of a photo ID than do individuals who can afford to participate in these activities.”