A New Hampshire judge has struck down a 2012 law as unconstitutional that effectively blocked out-of-state students and others from voting in New Hampshire unless they established residency in the state that extended to other activities beyond voting, such as getting a driver’s license. The New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union filed a petition on behalf of four out-of-state college students and the New Hampshire League of Women Voters two years ago, arguing the law would freeze out eligible voters. The law required people registering to vote to sign a statement saying they declare New Hampshire their domicile and are subject to laws that apply to all residents, including requirements they register their cars in the state and get a New Hampshire driver’s license. Then-Gov. John Lynch vetoed the legislation, but lawmakers overrode his veto. In making a preliminary order permanent, Strafford County Superior Court Judge Brian Tucker said the law added language to voter registration forms that was a “confusing and unreasonable description of (existing) law” and was “unduly restrictive.”
A divided state Supreme Court on Thursday tweaked a provision of Wisconsin’s voter ID law to put it in keeping with the state constitution, making it easier for people to get identification cards without having to pay along the way. Despite Thursday’s rulings in two challenges of the law, the requirement to show photo identification at the polls remains blocked because a federal judge in April found Wisconsin’s voter ID law violates the U.S. Constitution and federal Voting Rights Act. That decision is now under review by the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, who defended the law, said he believed Thursday’s rulings strengthened his hand in the federal litigation and he would use them to try to reinstate the voter ID requirement in time for the Nov. 4 election. The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in two cases, upholding the voter ID law 4-3 in one and 5-2 in the other. In one case, the court majority crafted a “saving construction” of the voter ID law to keep it from being unconstitutional. That was aimed at preventing the state from requiring voters to pay any government fees to get a state-issued ID card.
The Obama administration filed court papers Wednesday challenging Republican-backed election laws in Ohio and Wisconsin, as the legal fights over voting rights spread beyond traditional Southern borders. In Wisconsin, the Justice Department filed a brief supporting a previous federal court ruling against the state’s photo identification requirement, which was deemed unfair to minority voters. In Ohio, the Justice Department weighed in against a law limiting early voting and same day registration. Attorney General Eric Holder, in a statement, said the two states’ voting laws “represent the latest, misguided attempts to fix a system that isn’t broken,” adding that both measures “threaten access to the ballot box.” Mr. Holder had previously signaled his department would take legal action against Ohio and Wisconsin. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, has defended his state’s identification law as necessary to prevent voter fraud that could sway an election. His office didn’t immediately comment on Wednesday’s filing.
A state elections official says he disagrees with the Democratic secretary of state candidate’s call for government staff to help with technology for the Iowa caucuses. “It’s not appropriate for the secretary of state’s office to play a role in the Iowa caucuses,” Charlie Smithson, the office’s legal counsel and an adjunct professor of election law at Drake University School of Law, said in a statement Wednesday. The Iowa caucuses are one of the most important events in the nation’s presidential election process. By rules set by both national parties, Iowa holds the first caucuses (voting is independently handled by the two parties), then New Hampshire holds the first primary (voting is regulated by the state).
A federal judge on Wednesday denied a request from the Ohio Legislature to become part of a lawsuit challenging early voting rules in the key swing state. The Republican-controlled General Assembly had sought to be among the lawsuit’s defendants, which include the state’s attorney general and elections chief. Attorneys argued that lawmakers had a right to defend the statutes they enact. But U.S. District Judge Peter Economus said the General Assembly failed to convince the court that its position differed from the current defendants. He also questioned the timing of the legislature’s request to intervene, saying it came more than two months after the lawsuit was filed in May. “The General Assembly has offered no reason justifying this delay,” Economus wrote. Attorneys have asked the judge to reconsider, saying they have complied with the court’s schedule.
The U.S. Department of Justice made good today on its promise to intervene in Ohio elections, joining an existing lawsuit trying to restore more evening and weekend voting for Ohioans. The federal government filed a “statement of interest” in NAACP litigation against Secretary of State Jon Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine. A separate filing today challenged changes in Wisconsin voting laws. “These filings are necessary to confront the pernicious measures in Wisconsin and Ohio that would impose significant barriers to the most basic right of our democracy,” said Attorney General Eric Holder in a release.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced today that his administration has restored the voting rights of more than 2,500 non-violent felons who have served their time.
“Virginians who have served their time deserve a second chance to become productive members of society again,” said McAuliffe said in a statement. “I am proud of the reforms my administration has undertaken to expand and expedite the rights restoration process and the work my team has done restoring Virginians’ voting rights so former offenders can lead successful, productive lives here in the commonwealth,” he said.
The Virginia Department of Elections has erroneously mailed notifications to about 125,000 registered Virginia voters raising uncertainty regarding their voting status. The letter, dated June 23 and signed by Secretary of the State Board of Elections Don Palmer, informs the recipients that records show they may also be registered to vote in another state and that state law requires them to update or cancel their voter registration when they change residences. “If you no longer consider the Virginia voter registration address printed below to be your address of residence, please help us keep the commonwealth’s voter registration rolls accurate by completing and returning the ‘request to cancel voter registration’ from at the bottom of this letter,” it says. In an email sent to Virginia registrars Tuesday, Matthew J. Davis, chief information officer with the Department of Elections, said that the letters mistakenly went to individuals who have not moved out of state. The letter that the Virginia Department of Elections mistakenly sent to 125,000 voters. Read the Letter
The Justice Department on Wednesday sided with challengers of voting laws in Wisconsin and Ohio, saying in court filings that measures in those states unfairly affect minority voters. The department criticized a Wisconsin law that requires voters to present photo identification at the polls and an Ohio law that limits when voters can cast an early ballot. The court papers from the federal government are aimed at persuading judges that the laws, which are being challenged in court, are discriminatory and block access to the ballot box. “These filings are necessary to confront the pernicious measures in Wisconsin and Ohio that would impose significant barriers to the most basic right of our democracy,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. The Justice Department has warned of legal actions against states after the U.S. Supreme Court last year wiped out a major provision of the Voting Rights Act. That provision required select states with a history of discrimination in voting — mainly in the South — to receive Washington’s approval before changing the way they hold elections. Last year, the department sued Texas and North Carolina over measures in those states. But the government didn’t use that approach in either Ohio or Wisconsin, instead submitting court filings joining with challengers who want the measures declared invalid.
Wisconsin: Voting rights advocate on Supreme Court voter ID ruling: ‘We feel we have already won’ | The Cap Times
With the Wisconsin Supreme Court set to release decisions Thursday on cases challenging the state’s voter ID law that was filed nearly three years ago, the executive director of the Wisconsin League of Women Voters said, in many ways, “we feel we have already won.” The law that requires voters to show a picture ID prior to voting was passed in May of 2011. That October, the league became the first of four organizations to file a lawsuit. The law, which quickly became the most restrictive of its kind in the country when it passed, was in place for one election cycle in February 2012. It was subsequently blocked under a Dane County Circuit Court ruling issued by Judge Richard Niess in March of 2012. For the next seven elections, voters did not have to show their ID’s, said Andrea Kaminski, the league’s executive director.
The Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan (IEC) said Wednesday that the vote audit for the presidential election will resume on Saturday. A statement released by IEC said the audit will be resumed following a break for the Eid al-Fitr national holiday. The statement further added that the Independent Election Commission (IEC) has formally adopted criteria for the recount and invalidation of ballots, as part of its 100% audit of the run-off round of voting for the Presidential election. “The adoption of the criteria is consistent with the laws of Afghanistan and the mandate of the IEC. The criteria are based on a proposal of the United Nations, finalized after extensive consultations with the campaign teams of both presidential candidates, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai,” the statement said.
The Australian Electoral Commission does not currently have the internal capability to test electronic voting at the next federal election, according to its acting chief Tom Rogers. In a hearing of the parliamentary committee investigating electoral matters today, Rogers said he was not confident the AEC had the capacity to roll out such a major reform. “I would be worried by any large-scale trial of electronic voting before the next election,” he told the committee. “We would not have the internal capability now to do that.”
Turkish citizens living abroad have not been rushing to the ballot box for Turkey’s presidential elections, as only a small number of citizens have obtained an appointment to cast their vote. In the past, Turks living abroad could vote in polling stations at border gates. But on average, only 7 percent of the 2.6 million potential overseas voters voted in previous elections. With recent changes to the Election Law, however, the overseas electorate can vote at embassies, consulates and other designated areas in their country of residence between July 31 and Aug. 3. However, the amendment failed to significantly raise the expatriate voter turnout as only around 180,000 Turkish national have registered to vote overseas. A majority of the more than 2.7 million eligible voters living abroad may not be able to cast ballots in the presidential elections as they failed to make an appointment to vote through the website of the High Election Board (YSK).
An attorney for the Mississippi Republican Party says state law does not prohibit people from crossing over to vote in party’s primary and another’s primary runoff, an issue in Chris McDaniel’s presumed challenge to his GOP runoff loss to Sen. Thad Cochran. “You heard me right,” said Michael Wallace, attorney for the state Republican Party. “There is an attorney general’s opinion on the subject, but that is all. The attorney general may be right. I wasn’t telling the judge that the attorney general wasn’t right. I was telling her that the issue has never gone to court. … The attorney general may be 100 percent right, but the issue has not been tested in court that I know of. It may have came up in a county court somewhere that hasn’t made it to reported cases. But to the best of my knowledge, it hasn’t been tested. All we have is an attorney general interpretation.”
When county clerks in New Mexico tried to figure out why voter registrations had slowed to a trickle this spring despite an upcoming primary, they made a surprising discovery: The culprit was a new online voter registration system at motor vehicle offices. Introduced with fanfare in January, the new system required drivers to go to a separate computer kiosk at the motor vehicle office to complete their voter registration. That proved to be too much hassle for many potential voters; it also violated the federal “motor voter” law. New Mexico, which has gone back temporarily to using paper voter registration forms, was trying to improve its motor voter performance in response to a 2010 court order. In most states, no one knows how well motor vehicle agencies comply with the mandate to register voters because no one is really keeping track. But a growing consensus says they are failing. Poor implementation of the National Voter Registration Act, the 21-year-old law that requires motor vehicle offices to register voters, is emerging as a problem when almost every aspect of voting is coming under scrutiny, either because of controversial voter identification laws or long lines at the polls.
Santa Barbara on Tuesday joined the ranks of California cities to be sued over their method of electing public officials. Five Spanish-surnamed registered voters in the city of more than 88,000 filed suit in Santa Barbara County Superior Court, claiming the city is in violation of the California Voting Rights Act. Santa Barabara Mayor Helene Schneider called the lawsuit premature and said the city had already authorized a study of its elections. The plaintiffs allege the city’s at-large elections system “has resulted in vote dilution for Latino residents and has denied them effective political participation in elections to the Santa Barbara City Council.” They want the court to order the city to begin electing its council members by geographic district. They believe by-district elections would give Latino voters, who are largely concentrated in certain areas of the city, a better chance of electing at least one representative of their choice to the council.
Florida: Groups argue State must hold statewide election if interim maps not approved | Associated Press
If a judge does not approve an interim map of Florida’s congressional seats to replace one that has been deemed unconstitutional, officials could be forced to allow voters from across the state to choose candidates for two congressional seats, the coalition challenging the current districts said Tuesday. The League of Women Voters and other groups filed court papers arguing that if new districts are not approved this year, then federal law requires at-large elections for the seats added in 2012. Florida went from 25 to 27 seats after the 2010 census. The groups acknowledged, however, that statewide elections for congressional seats are not very realistic. Instead, they urged Lewis to allow groups on both sides of the lawsuit to submit remedial maps that could be reviewed objectively by an independent expert. They repeated their suggestion that Lewis could push back the date of the Aug. 26 primary in order to have time to put a new map in place.
Florida: “Restroom row” in Miami is the latest attempt to make it harder for minorities to vote |New Statesman
It started off as a routine inquiry from a disability rights group in Miami over access to polling stations during an election. What followed was an angry dispute in which election officials were accused of trying to discourage voters from exercising their democratic rights. The “restroom row” in Miami-Dade county is symptomatic of a raft of political and legal battles being carried out across the country as states across the US pass new laws making it harder to vote. These laws are being challenged by critics who say they are aimed primarily at the poor, blacks and Hispanics who are more likely to vote Democrat. … The latest spat started when Marc Dubin, Director of Advocacy at the Center for Independent Living of South Florida, asked for disabled toilets to be made available at all polling stations. “I was not looking at it from the point of voter suppression, but from the point of view of voters with special needs,” he said. At the best of times Miami’s swamp-like climate is pretty uncomfortable and during the 2012 election, people were queuing for as long as six hours to cast a vote. To put it mildly, he was rather surprised at the email he received from John Mendez, Miami-Dade’s Deputy Election Supervisor.
The Elections Division of the Office of the County Clerk and the Kauai Police Department are investigating a possible case of voter fraud on Kauai. Officials had received an absentee ballot by mail, but the affirmation statement on the back of the return envelope wasn’t signed. When the voter was contacted for a signature, he informed officials that he had never received the ballot in the first place. “This recent event is of great concern to our office. We wish to note that the procedures we have in place to process absentee mail ballots were able to alert both the voter and our office of the situation,” said County Clerk Ricky Watanabe. “Fortunately, this appears to be an isolated case but we ask that anyone with information on this incident to please contact the Kauai Police Department.”
Oregon: Portland’s electoral system loses under California law aimed at ensuring minority representation | The Oregonian
Congress approved the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to break down the kind of system that the city of Portland uses to this day. The federal legislation prohibits voting practices that discriminate against African Americans, Latinos or other racial and ethnic minorities. Most successful lawsuits filed under the civil rights law have targeted local governments that elect representatives citywide rather than by geographic district. Courts ruled that some Southern cities used at-large elections to water down the voting power of African Americans, who lived clustered in one part of town but formed a minority of the total electorate.
Would the ability to vote in your pajamas, on a smart phone, make you a better participant in the political process? Would it make you care more? Utah’s lieutenant governor has convened a committee to study the idea of making the state a pioneer in Internet voting. They might want to look to Norway, which tried such a thing — then, according to a headline writer at npr.org, did a “Ctrl+Alt+Delete” on the whole thing a few weeks ago. Utah Director of Elections Mark Thomas told the Deseret News last week that the biggest hurdle to overcome is security. Norwegian officials would agree. They couldn’t do it. NPR quotes Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory computer scientist David Jefferson as saying, “There is no way to guarantee that the security, privacy and transparency requirements for elections can all be met with any practical technology in the foreseeable future.”
Three airless aluminium warehouses, shaped like giant armadillos, sit hunched on the outskirts of Kabul. Inside hundreds of volunteers and international election observers have been bustling around in stifling heat, arguing over the shape of tick-marks on individual ballots. During Ramadan the lack of food and drink made the stale atmosphere inside the godowns all the more draining. The Ramadan fast has since broken, but the counting goes on. Until it has finished, the presidential election that was supposed to replace Hamid Karzai hangs in suspension. After a surprising reversal of fortunes suddenly favoured Ashraf Ghani in the second round of the presidential elections, his opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, cried foul. Alleging fraud, several of his powerful supporters threatened to establish a breakaway government. It took an emergency agreement brokered by John Kerry, America’s secretary of state, to keep the process alive, but the deal is starting to show some of its inherent flaws. Mr Kerry has moved on and the two presidential hopefuls are now left to wrestle over its shortcomings.
The Communications Department has told the federal parliamentary committee examining electoral matters that it backs a limited trial of electronic voting. The department suggests using the myGov portal — a secure website used by about three million Centrelink, child support and Medicare customers — for any trial. Abul Rizvi, the department’s deputy secretary for the digital economy, yesterday told the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters it was inevitable Australia would embrace online voting. … He said computer equipment was now cheaper and electronic voting at polling stations could be done through a “bring-your-own-device’’ model. “You are still voting physically at a physical polling place but are voting using an electronic device that is connected to a local system using your own device that you’ve brought in,’’ Mr Rizvi said. “Yes there are security issues … but those can be addressed, and that I would suggest reduces your costs quite considerably.’’
The Department of Communications has floated the possibility of using the government’s new controversial MyGov identification system for Australians to trial electronic voting. … The MyGov so-called one-stop-shop for identity verification has faced criticism in the past few months after vulnerabilities were found in the website, including the ability for one researcher to hijack the accounts of registered MyGov users, according to a Fairfax report. Rizvi said there would be risks associated with testing electronic voting, but these would have to be weighed up against the risks associated with the traditional paper-based voting method, which resulted in Western Australia having to go back to the polls earlier this year to re-vote the WA Senate election.
A campaign to persuade British expats to vote in the European and local elections fell well short of its target, according to the Electoral Commission. An estimated 5.5 million Britons live overseas, but only a fraction – around 20,000 – were registered to vote in the UK as of February this year. The commission ran a campaign in the weeks before the elections on May 22 to encourage 25,000 more of them to register. However, only 7,079 did so – less than a third of the number hoped for. The Electoral Commission’s pre-ballot campaign involved advertisements on expat radio stations, and collaborations with the Foreign Office, groups such as Votes for Expat Brits, and political parties’ overseas networks. But in a report reflecting on the campaign, the commission disclosed that, although the number of registration forms downloaded from its website by Britons overseas was higher than for the previous European elections, it “fell well short” of its target. “Although we were disappointed not to hit our target we recognise that expatriates at these elections may have chosen to register to vote in their EU countries of residence,” said the report.
Last September, Saffron Dickson, then 15 years old (now “16 and three-quarters”), attended a televised BBC debate in Glasgow on the subject of the upcoming Scottish referendum. Partway through the show, the host opened the floor to comments—and Dickson shot for the mike. Smiling saucily for the cameras, in bleached-blond hair and a dark leather jacket, she gave the people of Scotland an earful: “We don’t live in a country where we have equal rights,” she cried, raising a furious hand to the sky. “Westminster bakes the Empire Biscuit and we put the jelly tot on top. And we’re supposed to be completely ecstatic about having that little bit of power. But we won’t be silenced by your ideology!” Within weeks, Dickson had become “a wee bit” of a political celebrity in Scotland, which is now less than two months away from a historic referendum on independence from Britain. Today, Dickson is on the central board of Generation Yes, a large pro-independence youth movement, and a regular media fixture. Asked whether she hopes to run for office one day, she’s emphatic: “Yes!”
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) does not have the internal capabilities to safely carry out an e-voting trial prior to the next federal election, according to the acting Electoral Commissioner, Tom Rogers. Rogers, who spoke today at a parliamentary committee hearing investigating electoral matters, said that he was not confident the AEC could safely introduce electronic voting. “I’m concerned about our ability to introduce some form of electronic voting, safely,” he said. “We could introduce something, but we may end up back in a WA sort of situation if we’re not careful, in a short space of time. “I would be worried about any form large scale adoption before the next election, even a trial. We would not have the internal ability now to do that. We would have already had to have started that process,” he said. “I’m concerned, as the acting commissioner, about whether I can tell you faithfully that we can implement a safe solution.”
Three-quarters of the money spent on behalf of Chris McDaniel’s failed bid for the Republican nomination for Senate in Mississippi came from outside political action committees (PACs). That money, from groups like the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks, accounted for 36 percent of the funds spent by both sides combined. We’re obviously a few miles down the road from the days when candidates for elected office stood on wooden platforms. But we are perhaps further than you might think. In fact, there is nothing in federal law that would prevent a super PAC or group of PACs from picking out a candidate and taking care of his or her entire campaign. And we’re starting to get a glimpse of what such a campaign might look like. In order to win an election, you, first, need a candidate. You need to let people know about your candidate, so you need TV ads and radio ads and ads on Facebook. You need direct mail, and you need people to knock on doors and talk to voters. But, really, that’s it. With the right combination of those things, you can win pretty much any political race in the country.
This week, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will become Majority Leader of the House of Representatives. Taking the mantle in the middle of an election year, McCarthy does not want for front-burner issues to navigate on behalf of his caucus. There is one issue on which McCarthy undoubtedly must lead, and that is restoring voting rights protections in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder. The Court struck down a key section of the Voting Rights Act, the “coverage formula” which determines which states and jurisdictions with records of voting discrimination must preclear voting changes before they can be implemented. While acknowledging that voting discrimination still exists, the Court found that the formula did not address “current conditions” in voting. Since then, it has been an open season on access to voting in jurisdictions throughout the country. Restrictions on early voting, closed polling places, and the elimination of seats held by African-American and Latino incumbents in local districts have all been stepped up since the Shelby County decision. The mood is best understood by the exhilarated statement of the Florida Secretary of State days after the Supreme Court’s decision — “We’re free and clear now.”
The New York Times this morning reports on political spending in this election cycle, but it also wishes to explain to readers the meaning of all these dollars. So the article this morning about the money going into Senate and House races links the cash to “consequences [that] are already becoming apparent”: candidate loss of control over their messaging and a sharply negative tone. The grounds for these conclusions are not drawn from the the numbers. They are added on. Note that a contradiction is now entering into the discussion of Super PACs and outside independent activity. One of two things can be true but not both: either the “shadow parties” or candidate-affiliated organizations are synchronizing their messages with the candidates’, or they are operating independently and crowding out the candidate’s communications. The Times puts both explanations into its story.