Editorials: North Carolina Will Determine the Future of the Voting Rights Act | Ari Berman/The Nation

In 1940, 19-year-old Rosanell Eaton took a two-hour mule ride to the Franklin County courthouse in eastern North Carolina to register to vote. The three white male registrars told her to stand up straight, with her arms at her side, look straight ahead and recite the preamble to the Constitution word-for-word from memory. Eaton did so, becoming one of the few blacks to pass a literacy test and make it on the voting rolls in the Jim Crow era. Eaton, a granddaughter of a slave, is one of the unsung heroes of the civil rights movement. She’s devoted her life to expanding the franchise, personally registering 4,000–5,000 new voters before losing count. “My forefathers didn’t have the opportunity to register or vote,” she said. “It is my intention to help people reach that point when they could do something.” Now, as a result of North Carolina’s new voting restrictions—widely regarded as the most onerous in the country—the 93-year-old activist could be disenfranchised by the state’s voter ID requirement because the name on her driver’s license does not match the name on her voter registration card.

Texas: Travis County Developing Electronic Voting System With a Paper Trail | Government Technology

Imagine casting your vote on an everyday touch-screen tablet that prints out a paper copy of your ballot, as well as a take-home receipt you can use to verify it was counted. Such a system could be in place at Travis County polls as early as 2017. For the past three years, the county and a group of experts have been designing the specifications for new voting software that would rein in costs while providing what critics of electronic machines have long requested: a verifiable paper trail. “You can never win the argument over black box voting,” said Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir. Under the system being developed, a voter would use a device — likely a tablet — to fill out an electronic ballot and then print out a paper copy for voters to check. The electronic ballot wouldn’t be tallied unless the voter deposited the paper copy into a ballot box that scans a serial number printed on it. The voter would also receive a receipt with a code that can be entered online to confirm the ballot was counted.

Texas: How a Texas redistricting case could revive the Voting Rights Act | MSNBC

A push to fix the Voting Rights Act has stalled in Washington. But a trial taking place this week in a sleepy San Antonio courtroom could help revive the landmark law without Congress lifting a finger. At issue in the case is a redistricting plan approved in 2011 by Texas’s Republican legislature. The Obama administration charges that the plan intentionally discriminated against the state’s soaring Hispanic population in an effort to boost the GOP’s share of seats in Congress and the statehouse. Texas admits the plan was designed to help Republicans—which isn’t illegal—but says it did not aim to target Hispanics. If a three-judge panel rules against Texas, it likely would not affect the state’s congressional district maps, because a federal court has already rejected the original maps and created new ones that are fairer. Instead, the implications would be much bigger—potentially even bolstering voting protections for racial minorities in states across the country.

Afghanistan: Audit of Presidential Election Begins | New York Times

Afghan election workers on Thursday began auditing the votes cast in last month’s presidential election runoff, monitored by American and United Nations observers. The audit of almost eight million ballots cast in the June 14 runoff was part of a deal brokered last weekend by Secretary of State John Kerry to ease a dispute between the two candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, that had threatened to fracture Afghanistan’s government only months before the NATO-led combat mission here is to formally end. Mr. Abdullah and Mr. Ghani also agreed to enact broad changes to Afghanistan’s system of government in the coming years. But first the audit must determine who will actually be Afghanistan’s next president. It is a huge undertaking that is expected to take three to six weeks and, officials cautioned, run into snags along the way.

Editorials: Voter ID lawsuits are the last chance to prove the laws are intentionally racist | Ana Marie Cox/The Guardian

This week, the US Department of Justice and the state of Texas started arguments in the first of what will be a summer-long dance between the two authorities over voting rights. There are three suits being tried in two districts over gerrymandering and Texas’s voter identification law – both of which are said to be racially motivated. In its filing, the DoJ describes the law as “exceed[ing] the requirements imposed by any other state” at the time that it passed. If the DoJ can prove the arguments in its filing, it won’t just defeat an unjust law: it could put the fiction of “voter fraud” to rest once and for all. These battles, plus parallel cases proceeding in North Carolina, hinge on proving that the states acted with explicitly exclusionary intent toward minority voters – a higher standard was necessary prior to the Supreme Court’s gutting of Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) back in January. Under Section 3, the DoJ had wide latitude to look at possible consequences of voting regulation before they were even passed – the “preclearance” provision. Ironically, because the states held to preclearance had histories of racial discrimination, some of the messier aspects of the laws’ current intentions escaped comment.

Alaska: Ballot Power: The Revolution in How Alaska Natives Vote | ICTMN

A perfectly timed combination of negotiation and grassroots organizing has allowed numerous Native villages across Alaska to become absentee in-person voting locations for federal elections for the first time. That’s a sea change from just a few weeks ago, when voters in only about 30 Native villages had a way to cast a ballot ahead of Election Day, said Nicole Borromeo, general counsel of the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN). Meanwhile, Alaska’s urban voters had 15 days to do so. The locations will be in place for the August primary. This transformation in voting access follows years of fruitless requests to the state for the election services by three groups: AFN, an organization of regional and village corporations, tribes and other entities; ANCSA Regional Association, a group of Native-corporation CEOs; and Get Out The Native Vote. “In late June, AFN and ANCSA sat down with the state and said, ‘we will sign up the locations,’” recalled Borromeo, who is Athabascan from McGrath Native Village. The state agreed, and the Native team began seeking groups and individuals to handle the election activities.

California: Assemblyman plans to introduce California recount overhaul measure | The Sacramento Bee

Assemblyman Kevin Mullin said he plans to introduce legislation next month to overhaul California’s recount laws, with the goal of preventing a repeat of the increasingly acrimonious recount underway in the state controller’s race. Mullin, D-San Mateo, said his office is researching “a variety of options” to put forward after lawmakers return from their summer recessAug. 4. Proposals could include having the state pay for recounts, standardizing counties’ recount policies, or having a law that triggers a recount in very close races, Mullin said in a statement.

Florida: State says it will change its congressional districts after judge said violate state law. But after the election.| The Washington Post

Florida lawmakers are asking for a few more years to fix their legislative boundaries after a judge said they violate the state’s redistricting guidelines. (The Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan posted on it here.) Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis ruled last week that two of Florida’s 2014 district boundaries need to be redrawn because a “secret, organized campaign” by political consultants influenced the process, according to the Miami Herald. The consultants “made a mockery of the Legislature’s transparent and open process of redistricting” and went to “great lengths to conceal from the public their plan and their participation in it,” Lewis wrote in his 41-page ruling.

Iowa: Price tag for statewide run-off election? At least $500,000 | Radio Iowa

The potential price tag doesn’t seem to be a deterrent to the idea of holding run-off elections in Iowa to choose party nominees if the winner isn’t chosen during primary voting. Under current Iowa law, if no candidate in a Primary Election gets at least 35 percent of the vote, party delegates at a convention choose their nominee for the November ballot. Representative Guy Vander Linden, a Republican from Oskaloosa, sponsored a bill last session that would have shifted to a run-off election instead. “I didn’t like the idea of having just a very few people make the final decision and end up with a situation where they picked somebody who wasn’t even close,” says Vander Linden, who is chairman of the House State Government Committee.

Editorials: Should Massachusetts bother with ballot questions? | The Boston Globe

The Senate president spoke: “So, what you want me to do, James, is manipulate procedures to ensure that there is no vote to repeal your law for one full year. Is that correct? I wouldn’t put it that way, but yes,” I said. “Done!” Bill Bulger declared. And with that, Massachusetts became the first state to require certain banks, insurance companies, and publicly traded corporations to disclose what they paid in state taxes. All because tens of thousands of signatures demanding a ballot question convinced business leaders and politicians like Governor Bill Weld that a compromise was better than what might be handed to them in the election six weeks later, when voters weighed in on the measure. Bulger agreed to back the narrower version of the proposal which still required the disclosure of corporate tax payments. But could a law that horrified corporate leaders — whose money moved Beacon Hill — really survive? That was 1992, when I lobbied on Beacon Hill as director of the Tax Equity Alliance for Massachusetts. Legislating by ballot had been made possible three-quarters of a century earlier, when the state constitution was amended to allow voters to make or repeal laws.

Michigan: Detroit to offer absentee ballot requests through smartphones | The Detroit News

City voters can now request an absentee ballot through their smartphones, an initiative called “historic” Tuesday by the Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Lon Johnson and City Clerk Janice Winfrey. Detroit will now begin accepting such absentee ballot requests. Similar efforts in about three other municipalities will be unveiled next week, Johnson said. These localities in Michigan will join Arizona, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Ohio, Illinois and some municipalities in California that allow absentee ballots to be requested online. Other states such as Alaska, Georgia and Wisconsin allow voters to make requests via email, Johnson said.

Mississippi: McDaniel lawyer: Expect runoff challenge within 10 days | Clarion-Ledger

Lawyers for Chris McDaniel say they expect to file a challenge of McDaniel’s June 24 GOP runoff loss to incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran within the next 10 days. Attorney Mitch Tyner said that despite “roadblocks” to access of voting records that have required lawsuits against county circuit clerks, the campaign has uncovered widespread illegal voting. He said it’s already enough to support a legal challenge of the Republican runoff, but the campaign is still gathering evidence and will not yet provide specifics. As has become the paradigm for the nasty, bitter battle between the six-term incumbent Republican and the tea party challenger, the Cochran campaign responded with a news conference shortly after the Wednesday McDaniel camp news conference.  “Almost a month ago, Mississippians chose their Republican nominee,” said Cochran adviser Austin Barbour. “… They have still not presented one shred of evidence. … Sadly, with their lack of evidence, they fill that gap with rhetoric, grandstanding and fundraising appeals.”

North Carolina: College students challenge North Carolina voting law | USA Today

Starting in 2016, students in North Carolina will have to present a photo ID to vote. Among the forms of acceptable identification are driver’s licenses, passports and military IDs. College IDs, however, are not accepted. The new law has troubled many students in the college community, and now seven students are suing. The students claim the photo ID requirement and measures such as the elimination of out-of-precinct voting are discriminatory against young people, joining organizations such as the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Justice Department in a legal battle against the state. The case challenges the constitutionality of North Carolina’s Voting Information Verification Act (VIVA), passed by the state Legislature in 2013. The law also eliminates same-day registration for voters and shortens the period for early registration.

Afghanistan: Questions remain ahead of Afghan election audit | BBC

Just hours before the official start of an audit of eight million votes in Afghanistan, negotiations were under way with the electoral authorities to pin down the ground rules. All the votes cast in last month’s presidential runoff are due to be scrutinised under an agreement brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry at the weekend. Afghans heaved a collective sigh of relief when the deal was announced, because it appeared to offer a reprieve just when many feared the country risked slipping back into chaos and violence after both candidates, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, disputed the results. But there are still some hurdles to be overcome. A final “checklist” setting out what constitutes a “suspect vote” still needs to be agreed upon with the electoral authorities. “They’re still trying to draft it now as we speak,” one insider told the BBC on condition of anonymity, as dusk approached on Wednesday evening.

Australia: Government rejects Senate order to disclose Electoral Commission software code | Sydney Morning Herald

The government has rejected a Senate demand to disclose the Australian Electoral Commission’s secret computer code used to electronically count Senate preference votes. The motion, passed by the Senate last week, was prompted by the AEC’s refusal to comply with a freedom of information request made by digital activist Michael Cordover. He wanted to scrutinise the source code for the EasyCount application, but the AEC’s chief legal officer Paul Pirani instead declared him “vexatious”. The Senate motion, introduced by Greens senator Lee Rhiannon, called on Special Minister of State Michael Ronaldson to table the source code, as well as correspondence and documents relevant to the decision to have Mr Cordover declared a “vexatious” applicant and the assertion he “colluded” with another activist to “harrass” the AEC. … Mr Ronaldson said the government would not table any documents or correspondence relating to Mr Cordover’s FOI request, because the matter would soon appear before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. He also refused to publish the source code for the Senate counting system.

Editorials: Government’s voting source code secrecy is dumb and dangerous | ZDNet

Here’s an idea for streamlining our national elections. Once people have voted, how about we scoop up all the ballot papers, put them into a big sack, and hand it to a group of masked strangers? They take the sack away somewhere — somewhere secret, so no-one can interfere with them — and some time later they return and just tell us who won. I reckon it’d be cheaper and a lot less trouble for everyone than all this slow, manual counting in front of scrutineers, right? No? Don’t like it? Well, boys and girls, given that the Australian government is refusing to show us the source code for the Australian Electoral Commissions’s EasyCount software, that’s pretty much exactly how your votes for the Senate are being counted right now. Your Senate votes, the ones where you’ve carefully specified your preferences for dozens of candidates, go into the black box of EasyCount, magic happens, and out pops the result.

Indonesia: The Good News from Indonesia’s Election Stalemate | Foreign Policy

We don’t know who the winner is yet, but the presidential election in Indonesia, the world’s third largest democracy, is already proving to be the most exciting in recent memory: messy, polarized, and full of drama. Both candidates — Djoko Widodo (known as Jokowi) and Prabowo Subianto — are claiming victory, each citing unofficial results produced by several private polling agencies. Indonesia’s official news agencies have now withdrawn their initial vote projections in order to calm the waters before the official results are released. The Indonesian Election Commission will start counting the votes on July 21. According to the English-language Jakarta Post, cases of foul play are spreading “like a rash during the vote tabulation phase.” Most of the complaints are coming from Jokowi’s supporters. Whoever wins, his margin of victory will be small. Both candidates have already made it clear that they will not accept defeat on the basis of the vote count determined by the Indonesian Election Commission (KPU). That means that the second-place candidate will probably take matters to the Constitutional Court, which will delay the official announcement of the results by a month, complicate the country’s already chaotic post-electoral politics, and test the (so far admirable) discipline of each camp’s supporters.