It seems like virtually everyone on Capitol Hill is interested in fixing the Voting Rights Act. But who will step up and make something happen? Last year, the Supreme Court hollowed out one of the most powerful parts of the law, a formula prescribing which states and localities had to get before-the-fact federal approval of any changes they wanted to make to their voting rules. Without the formula, which had been based on historical records of discrimination, the federal government had to stop its automatic review of alterations to voting-district boundaries and other election-related guidelines. The ruling hobbled a law that for decades has offered meaningful political representation to minority Americans by preventing discriminatory tricks from limiting their access to the franchise. The decision was also an insult to Congress, which in 2006 overwhelmingly determined that the act’s provisions — all of them — remain necessary.
A federal judge recently struck down a Wisconsin law that would have required voters to present a photo ID in order to vote, one in a series of judicial rulings addressing how states can control who gets to cast a ballot. A slew of voter ID laws were passed after the 2010 election gave Republicans control of both branches of legislature in many states. Supporters say the laws prevent fraud at the polls. But studies indicate that fraud is virtually nonexistent, and that states that saw higher minority turnout were more likely to pass voter ID laws, said Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “We haven’t seen a legislative movement like this since Reconstruction,” she said.
Editorials: Wisconsin voter ID ruling a ‘blueprint’ for similar challenges in North Carolina, Texas | Facing South
In a major victory for voting rights, a federal judge struck down Wisconsin’s voter identification law last week, ruling that requiring voters to show a state-issued photo ID at the polls discriminates against low-income and minority voters. Legal experts say the decision in a state that’s been called the “Selma of the North” for its history of racial conflict has important implications for legal challenges to similar laws passed in North Carolina and Texas. The ruling is “absolutely a blueprint” for the courts considering those other challenges, Katherine Culliton-González of the Advancement Project, a national civil rights group that challenged the Wisconsin law, said last week during a press call about the decision. “This case is very symbolic of turning the tide toward democracy,” Culliton-González added. Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature passed the photo ID requirement in 2011. The law was in force only for the 2012 primary before it was temporarily blocked.
Michigan: Civil rights group seeks probe of Detroit voter registration for Conyers petition circulators | The Detroit News
A civil rights group is calling for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate how two petition collectors for U.S. Rep. John Conyers were handled when they were registered to vote by the Detroit City Clerk’s office. Discrepancies surrounding when the two were registered to vote led Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett to tentatively invalidate 314 petition signatures they collected for Conyers’ re-election campaign. If the signatures remain disqualified, Conyers, the longest-serving African American in Congress, could be thrown off the Aug. 5 primary ballot. The Rev. Charles Williams II, president of the Michigan Chapter of the National Action Network, said he sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Barbara McQuade, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, to look into the inconsistencies in the matter. On Friday, Garrett said she preliminarily has disqualified the signatures collected by Tiara Willis-Pittman, 19, and Daniel Pennington, 23, of Detroit.
If Gov. Christie were to resign early to pursue a bid for the presidency, a special election could be held to replace him, depending on the timing of his resignation. That scenario – an unusual one – could put candidates with lesser financial resources at a disadvantage: Unlike candidates in a regular gubernatorial election, they wouldn’t be able to opt into the state’s public financing program to raise money for their campaigns. The discrepancy, realized by officials at the state Election Law Enforcement Commission, prompted the introduction of a bill that cleared a Senate committee Monday.
On a recent weekday night in central North Carolina, about 20 people, mostly African-American senior citizens, gathered in a neighborhood church. After an opening hymn, a congregant walked to the lectern and asked all to bow their heads. “As we listen to each speaker tonight,” she said, “we ask for better understanding of how to fulfill our right to vote.” The evening’s order of business was to educate people about the complexities of the state’s new voting law, enacted in August by the Republican governor and GOP-controlled legislature. Tomorrow’s primary elections, in which voters will choose local officials as well as nominees for congressional races, will be the first time North Carolina voters go to the polls since the law’s passage. Though Tuesday’s voting is unlikely to provide a significant test of the new law — turnout is typically low in midterm elections — voting-rights advocates are keeping an eye on provisions, such as curtailed early voting and the end of same-day registration, that they say will disproportionately affect poor, working-class and African-American voters. (The best-known element of the new law, requiring voters to show government-issued identification at polling places, is not scheduled to go into effect until 2016.)
North Carolina: Voting rights advocates say they’ll monitor precincts to see how law is being implemented | Associated Press
During Tuesday’s primary elections for one of the most closely watched U.S. Senate races in the country, voter advocacy groups will be trying to gauge the effects of a new state law that requires photo IDS at the polls, reduces the number of early-voting days, and eliminates same-day registration. Eight Republican candidates are competing to be the candidate who will challenge Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan in November. The contest is an important one for the GOP, which is trying to regain control of the U.S. Senate in this year’s midterm elections — and it is the first election in North Carolina held since the elections overhaul took effect. Several provisions of the new law are being challenged in at least four federal and state lawsuits. A key part of the law — requiring voters to show photo IDs — won’t start until 2016, although voters Tuesday will be asked if they have photo IDs. If they don’t, they can still vote, but will be asked to sign an acknowledgment of the ID requirements and will be given information on how to obtain a photo ID, in some cases for free.
In February, Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted announced his decision to cut early voting on Sundays and weekday evenings. This met swift opposition from voting rights advocates, who say the move is apiece with a Republican-led nationwide attack on voting methods highly utilized by minorities, who tend to lean Democratic. Salon has obtained email correspondences of officials working for Husted. Covering more than three months leading up to his controversial changes to early voting, the records show no interest among three top officials, including the Secretary of State, in how eliminating Sunday voting might affect the state’s African-American communities, which had long placed particular emphasis on after-church voting. The records also show that, in exercising its power to send information about the recent voting changes to organizations throughout the state, Husted’s office appears to express a strong preference for providing information to Republican-aligned groups, and even specifically addresses the possibility of excluding non-Republican legislators.
Virginia is one of several states where Democrats have gone to court to challenge redistricting plans drawn by Republicans seeking to keep control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Marc Elias, an attorney for the National Democratic Redistricting Trust, represents two Virginia voters in a lawsuit that accuses the General Assembly of “racial gerrymandering” by improperly packing African-Americans into the state’s only black-majority congressional district to make adjacent districts safer for GOP incumbents. A trial is set for this month. “We’re trying to remedy what we believe is an unconstitutional map drawn by the legislature,” Elias said. Democrats have also challenged GOP-drawn redistricting plans in other states — including Texas, Florida, Nevada and Missouri — but they are not alone in employing the tactic. Republicans also have asked courts to invalidate Democrat-produced remapping in a few states.
Canada: Federal lawyers tell Supreme Court that existing voter ID laws are effective | The Globe and Mail
A previous round of Conservative voter identification rules enacted in 2007 effectively met Parliament’s need for electoral integrity without being too strict, federal lawyers argue in a brief to the Supreme Court. The attorney general’s submission to the country’s top court comes as the Harper government moves to further tighten voting restrictions under its controversial Fair Elections Act. The legislation – also known as Bill C-23 – marks the second time the Conservatives have moved on what they perceive to be an issue of voter fraud, and it comes while their first round of reforms is still being legally contested.
Thanks to a device that is the size and shape of a mini piano keyboard, India can boast that the country’s voters, all 814.5 million of them in 543 constituencies, can cast their ballot electronically, even in areas that have just one person. The 1.8 million electronic voting machines being used in this year’s elections, manufactured by Bharat Electronics and Electronic Corporation of India, both government companies, have been designed to adapt to the logistical challenges in India, where roads can be nonexistent and the electricity supply erratic. The machines are small enough to carry by hand and require only a six-volt alkaline battery. With one-third of India’s adult population illiterate, the voting machines feature both a list of candidates’ names and their party symbol. “The introduction of electronic voting machine was India’s biggest electoral reform,” said Manohar Singh Gill, India’s former chief election commissioner who supervised the 1999 election, the last one that used paper ballots. “The biggest disputes in paper ballots used to be on which vote is invalid and which is not. Recounting used to take days, and more disputes would emerge.”
It’s different this time. In South Africa’s last general election in 2009, 99% of people had never even heard of Twitter (only a handful of people in the county had accounts back then, and they hardly used them). This time round, millions are on Twitter. Over 5.5-million, in fact (according to the most recent study by World Wide Worx). By this stage, that number’s probably closer to 6-million… All tweeting, retweeting and consuming in real-time. Of course the US Presidential Election in 2012 gave the world a taste of all of this. Then, though, the combination of Twitter and TV was still in its infancy. South Africa’s last election — the municipal election in 2011 — was still too early. Plus, politicking and campaigning was very localised. In planning for Wednesday’s election, South African television news networks (and news websites) must’ve been salivating at the thought. Especially now that there are three (!) 24-hour news channels to fill. The complex process of audience interaction on broadcast television has been largely solved by Twitter. The paradigm has shifted completely – from tweeting about what’s on the news, to Twitter becoming news. What better (and cheaper) way to fill hours and hours of dead broadcast time than with presenters reading random tweets?
Ukraine: Putin’s Human Rights Council Accidentally Posts Real Crimean Election Results; Only 15% Voted For Annexation | Forbes
The website of the “President of Russia’s Council on Civil Society and Human Rights” posted a blog that was quickly taken down as if it were toxic radioactive waste. According to the Council’s report about the March referendum to annex Crimea, the turnout was a maximum 30%. And of these, only half voted for annexation – meaning…