The widespread condemnation of the vile prejudice expressed by a professional basketball team owner and a Nevada rancher underscored the progress America has made on race. On the same day Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, was banned from the game for life for making racist comments, another story with more important racial implications was unfolding: A federal judge in Wisconsin struck down a law passed by that state’s Republican legislators that would have made voting harder by requiring state-approved photo identification at polling places. More than 30 states have sought to impose voting restrictions over the past three years. Supporters of the measures claim they are aimed at preventing voter fraud. Critics say they are designed to disenfranchise, particularly black Americans and members of other minorities, and are the greatest threat since the Voting Rights Act was passed almost a half century ago. They are fighting back.
Gov. Tom Corbett put another nail in the coffin of Pennsylvania’s voter identification law on Thursday, announcing he would not appeal a judge’s decision that the law violated the fundamental right to vote. The Republican governor issued a statement that defended the law, but he also said it needed changes and that he hoped to work with the Legislature on them. “It is clear that the requirement of photo identification is constitutionally permissible,” he said. “However, the court also made clear that in order for a voter identification law to be found constitutional, changes must be made to address accessibility to photo identifications.” The centerpiece of the law — a requirement that nearly all of the state’s 8.2 million voters show photo ID at the polls — was declared unconstitutional in January by a Commonwealth Court judge who said it imposed an unreasonable burden on the right to vote and that supporters had failed to demonstrate a need for it.
Voters in Kansas and Arizona will have to provide proof of their U.S. citizenship when registering to vote using the federal form even as a U.S. agency appeals a federal judge’s order that helps those states enforce their voter registration requirements, the judge ruled Wednesday. U.S. District Eric Melgren rejected the requests from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and voting rights groups to put his earlier ruling on hold while the case goes to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Melgren ruled on March 19 that the commission must immediately modify a national voter registration form to add special instructions for Arizona and Kansas residents about those states’ proof-of-citizenship requirements. The commission contends that the added documentation burdens result in an overall decrease in registration of eligible citizens, undermining the purpose of the National Voter Registration Act. The states argue the requirement protects the integrity of their elections by ensuring noncitizens aren’t voting.
Members of the Republican National Committee gathering in Memphis, Tennessee, for their spring meeting are set to join a lawsuit seeking to strike down campaign finance limits and free the GOP to spend unlimited money on get-out-the-vote efforts. Republicans have long argued that “soft money” spending limits imposed on political parties by the Federal Election Commission in the aftermath of the 2002 McCain-Feingold law have punished the RNC and state political parties while letting pro-Democrat unions spend unlimited money to organize voters. The lawsuit specifically will ask the courts to allow national and state parties to form super PACs that can raise and spend unlimited amounts on election efforts, something the FEC has prohibited. “We think this will put the final nail in the coffin of the McCain-Feingold law,” Louisiana Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere said in an interview.
The state’s top elections official illegally denied voting rights to tens of thousands of Californians who served sentences for nonviolent felonies and then were placed under county supervision, an Alameda County judge ruled Wednesday. Secretary of State Debra Bowen wrongly barred the voting privileges of lower-level felons who were sent under Gov. Jerry Brown’s “realignment” program to county jail instead of state prison, Judge Evelio Grillo wrote in a 27-page ruling. Grillo said ex-offenders who are placed under the supervision of county probation officers, rather than state parole agents, after their release are not on parole.
A state judge Wednesday rewrote a description that details the effect of a voter photo identification initiative backed by conservative activist Sharron Angle. After two separate hearings on challenges to the initiative’s wording, Carson City District Court Judge James Russell came up with his own language describing what the proposed constitutional amendment would do. Russell added words clarifying acceptable forms of identity to include state of Nevada or federal government documents, as opposed to “certain government-issued documents” included in the original petition that critics said was vague. The judge also tweaked language pertaining to “free” cards that would be issued to people without photo identification and added that the provision carries “a financial cost to the state.” All sides seemed pleased with the outcome. “We don’t think they are really significant changes,” Angle said afterward. Her group will refile the Voter ID Initiative adopting the judge’s language.
Crashing websites and other technology issues plagued local boards of elections poll submissions to the state Tuesday night. The 2014 primary election results stalled after polls closed at 7:30 p.m. Melody Vaughan, with the Vance County Board of Elections, said they submitted their voting results around 8:30 p.m. Granville submitted around 10:30 p.m., said Tonya Burnette, Granville’s Board of Elections director. The Warren County office struggled with the new system and was unable to finalize voting reports until 6:30 a.m. Wednesday. “They [Raleigh] changed a lot of things, and the election reporting module was one of them,” Deborah Formyduval, director of Warren County Board of Elections, said.
North Carolina: New election software delayed voting report in North Carolina counties | News-Record
The Old Guilford County Courthouse was filled with the candidates’ excitement and anxiety as the first results popped up from Tuesday’s primary. But those in the lead had to contain their excitement — all of the precincts reporting by 8 p.m.? No, that can’t be right. The Guilford County Board of Elections learned almost immediately after uploading early voting results that something was wrong with the software. The State Board of Elections provided software to the counties. From 2007 until last fall, the state used a Tampa, Florida-based developer called SOE Software, but then the state brought election reporting in-house. Problems arose as counties started uploading their data. Although the number of ballots cast was correct in the information published on the county’s screen of the state’s website, candidates and reporters had little idea what they meant because the number of precincts reporting wasn’t correct.
North Carolina’s restrictive new voting law was in effect for the first time in Tuesday’s primary election. And there were plenty of signs that the law could make it harder to cast a ballot for many in the Tar Heel State. Tuesday’s off-year election wasn’t a good test of the law’s impact because turnout among Democrats—who are likely to be most affected by the restrictions—was tiny. Additionally, the law’s most high-profile provision, a photo ID requirement, won’t go into effect until 2016. Still, there was ample cause for concern about the law’s effect on future elections, when turnout will be higher. Two such races to keep an eye on include this fall’s U.S. Senate race, when Kay Hagan, the Democratic incumbent, faces Republican Thom Tillis, and 2016, when Gov. Pat McCrory will stand for re-election, and the state figures to once again be a presidential battleground.
The Lucas County Board of Elections stayed up all night, through 9 a.m. today, to finish tabulating the May 6 election results — pushing through multiple problems that included missing data cards, an accidental deletion of a computer file containing votes, and tension between two board members that prompted a sheriff’s deputy to intervene. Trouble with the election, which was being tabulated at the board’s early vote center, became apparent at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday. At that point, less than 73 percent of the results were posted online and had not been updated for about an hour. Board member Jon Stainbrook told The Blade just before midnight that six data cards were missing, which was holding up the election count. The board didn’t finalize the primary election count until 9:28 a.m., after completing all-night count of the votes. Final election turnout was 10.15 percent, with about 31,695 of Lucas County’s 312,412 registered voters casting ballots. The turnout in Ohio’s last gubernatorial primary, in 2010, was about 17 percent in Lucas County. The election was wrought with problems, the most grievous being the missing cards.
Calling part of Texas’ litigation position “inconsistent,” a federal trial judge has ordered the state to turn over certain legislative records to the U.S. Department of Justice in a closely watched Voting Rights Act case. The Justice Department is seeking information from more than three dozen Texas state lawmakers that could illuminate the Legislature’s motivation in 2011 to enact congressional redistricting plans. U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia’s ruling on Tuesday gives the federal government some access to documents that lawyers for Texas argued were off limits. Lawyers for Texas insisted the Justice Department must subpoena the individual legislators for the documents. The attorneys said Texas did not have possession of or control the documents. The state argued that the individual lawmakers are not parties in the lawsuit.
An investigation into possible campaign finance violations involving conservative groups in Wisconsin and Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign committee has become entangled in back-to-back federal court rulings on whether it should continue. On Tuesday, a federal judge halted the investigation, giving a momentary victory to Mr. Walker, a Republican who is seeking re-election this fall and is sometimes mentioned as a presidential possibility for 2016. The investigation, the details of which are murky because of tight state secrecy rules, had clouded Mr. Walker’s political prospects and become a focus of attention for his critics. But on Wednesday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit stayed the injunction, calling for a lower court review of an earlier, separate appeal in the case.
States around the country have been in the news quite a bit the past few years for passing new voting laws. The supporters of these laws contend they will stop fraud, while opponents say charges of voter fraud are overblown and that the laws will instead disenfranchise voters. It’s an ongoing battle that’s only going to grow more contentious as the November election nears, but it got us wondering. How do the United States’ voting regulations compare to other countries? Thankfully, a team at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists — a project of the Center for Public Integrity — has made a handy map. You can look at voter restrictions, voter ID requirements and different voter registration practices across the world (click here.) The more red a country on the map, the more restrictive its voting practices. A deep hue of green equals an A+. According to ICIJ’s metrics, the United States gets good marks on having few specific voter restrictions, bad marks on voter ID, and is a wash when it comes to voter registration, since voters need to take the initiative, but are actively encouraged.
Thailand’s caretaker prime minister has said he will see through planned July elections. Earlier, the Constitutional Court ruled that Yingluck Shinawatra was guilty of abuse of power charges and banned her from politics. After the ruling, the cabinet announced that Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan would replace Yingluck, and the caretaker government would press ahead with plans for the July 20 elections. As well as Yingluck, Thailand’s Constitutional Court also implicated nine ministers, but allowed others to retain their posts.
The world has welcomed, but also expressed suspicion about the Russian president’s endorsement of Ukraine’s upcoming presidential election. President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday also called on pro-Russian groups in eastern Ukraine to postpone their referendum on independence planned for the coming days. He said Russian troops have been withdrawn from the border with Ukraine as the United States and the European Union requested. President Putin said Wednesday the vote, set by Kyiv for May 25, is a step in the right direction, but that his support is limited. “I want to emphasize that the presidential election to be held in Kyiv is going in the right direction, but it will not solve anything if all Ukrainian citizens do not understand how their rights will be guaranteed after the presidential election,” said Putin. Putin made his remarks during a visit by an OSCE representative in Moscow, a day after the top EU and U.S. diplomats threatened tougher sanctions if Russia disrupts the Ukrainian elections.
Polling stations closed Wednesday evening in elections in South Africa that are expected to see the ruling African National Congress (ANC) return to power despite a vigorous challenge from opposition parties seeking to capitalize on discontent with corruption and economic inequality. Voting in the fifth all-race polls in South Africa since the end of white minority rule in 1994 wrapped up at 9 p.m. and South Africa’s election commission said the first results were expected in the following hours. Officials will declare final results no earlier than Saturday, allowing time to address any objections to the process. The election commission said most voting went smoothly. About 25 million South Africans, roughly half the population, registered to vote in the parliamentary elections that will also determine the president. Some 22,000 voting stations opened at schools, places of worship, tribal authority sites and hospitals, and several dozen vehicles serving as mobile voting stations visited remote areas.