If advocates have their way, voting rights could be a new reality for the nation’s incarcerated. Full voting rights for felons is a hot topic in Washington. With new legislation moving through the Senate, a spotlight is being placed on the plight of prisoners who not only face electoral disenfranchisement behind bars but also have no way to participate once they return home. “While release may be granted, access is denied,” said Desmond Meade, an ex-offender who later became a leading felon-rights activist and president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. As the Sentencing Project noted in its 2010 analysis, there were nearly 5.85 million Americans who were restricted from voting – 600,000 more than its research in 2004. That included 4 million already out in the community and completely barred from political participation. But a 2012 voter-turnout study by the George Mason University Elections Project found more than 6.8 million Americans combined who were either in prison, on probation, on parole or completely ineligible to vote because of felony convictions.
Before she was allowed to register and vote for the first time in Franklin County, N.C., Rosanell Eaton had to read the entire preamble to the U.S. Constitution out loud in front of three men in the county courthouse. Eaton is black. The three men testing her were white. The time was the early 1940s, when trying to vote was difficult and even dangerous for African-Americans. Contrived “literacy tests” were one of the milder obstacles that were deployed to suppress the black vote in the South. Now 93, Eaton is back in court. This summer she is lead plaintiff in one of two lawsuits brought by the North Carolina NAACP and others to prevent her state from raising a batch of new hurdles to voting in this November’s midterm elections. That lawsuit is one of two filed this month against a package of voter inconveniences signed into law by North Carolina’s Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. The new law includes cutbacks in early voting, new limits on voter registration, less poll workers’ assistance to voters and new voting requirements such as photo identification.
Facing a looming electoral deadline, a judge said Thursday he was “extremely skeptical” he could delay elections this fall using Central Florida’s illegally drawn congressional maps. Instead, Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis said he would make a decision by the end of next week on what to do now that he has found they unconstitutionally were drawn with partisan intent. Lewis ruled earlier this month that the Florida Legislature’s congressional map violated the 2010 anti-gerrymandering reforms voter passed, thanks to evidence presented at trial that a handful of GOP political operatives had gamed the system to get more favorable maps submitted to the Legislature. But now that ruling is running into the realities of the political calendar. With a primary slated for next month, thousands of absentee and overseas ballots already mailed, and a slate of candidates already lined up, lawyers for the Legislature and county election supervisors said unhinging that process now would cause chaos.
California: Alarcon conviction is the latest in string of residency prosecutions | Los Angeles Times
With their convictions this year, two Los Angeles politicians face prison time for a crime once seen as nearly impossible to prosecute. Former Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon was found guilty this week of perjury and voter fraud for lying about where he lived so he could run for city office. With state Sen. Roderick Wright convicted on similar felony charges in January, Alarcon became the ninth politician since 2002 to be successfully prosecuted by the Los Angeles County district attorney for not living in the districts they ran to represent. There was also a Vernon mayor, a West Covina school board member and a Huntington Park city councilwoman, to name just a few. “Any politician who doesn’t take this seriously is really very self-destructive,” said Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles. In the past, the vagueness of the legal standard for residency has made these crimes “particularly difficult to prove,” said UC Irvine election law professor Richard Hasen.
Mississippi: State Supreme Court denies Chris McDaniel request to revisit ruling on poll books access | Associated Press
The Mississippi Supreme Court said Thursday that it won’t reconsider its ruling that voters’ birthdates must be redacted before poll books are opened for public inspection. State Sen. Chris McDaniel had asked the nine justices to hold a hearing and reconsider the ruling they issued last week. On Thursday, the court said no. Two justices did not participate in the ruling and three said they would have granted a hearing. McDaniel wants to see full information in poll books, including birthdates, as he prepares to challenge his 7,667-vote loss to U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran in the June 24 Republican primary runoff. McDaniel campaign spokesman Noel Fritsch said Wednesday that the campaign was still gathering evidence of potential wrongdoing to prepare to file an election challenge. During a July 16 news conference, McDaniel attorneys said a challenge could be filed within the following 10 days.
There was confusion today – over voter registration as early voting begins. And at least some of the confusion stems from the state’s new dual registration voting system. Most people who vote at the Butler County courthouse find the experience quick and easy. Your photo identification is scanned and you’re good to go. But County Clerk Don Engels says since the law changed in January, 2013 some 300 people have filed incomplete or inaccurate voter registration forms.
The Federal judge assigned to hear Texas-based group True the Vote and 22 Mississippians’ lawsuit against Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, the state Republican Party and election commissions in nine counties said the case is pretty cut and dry in her mind. True the Vote claims it was denied access to voting records in Copiah, Hinds, Jefferson Davis, Lauderdale, Leake, Madison, Rankin, Simpson and Yazoo counties. The group also claims records have been destroyed or tampered with. U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas of Texas said today during a hearing in Jackson that case technically is about what documents can be seen. “This is not a case of voter fraud,” Atlas said. “It’s whether the National Voter Registration Act was complied with and whether it preempts state statute. This case is about transparency of the voter process with the counter issue of voter privacy.”
Editorials: Chris McDaniel should either show evidence or concede in Mississippi’s GOP primary | The Washington Post
It took just a few words for state Sen. Chris McDaniel to stoke tea party fervor after his runoff loss in the Mississippi Republican primary to incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran. “We’re not done fighting,” he said defiantly to the June 24 election-night crowd. A messy primary was about to get worse. Mr. McDaniel, who lost by about 7,600 votes, claimed that there were voting “irregularities,” insisting that those who voted in the June 3 Democratic primary illegally cast ballots three weeks later in the Republican runoff. He also argued that many voters broke an obscure and unenforceable Mississippi law that prohibits citizens from participating in a primary unless they intend to back the party’s nominee in the general election. Because Mississippi does not register voters by party, Mr. Cochran had focused on getting more left-leaning, African American voters to the polls for the runoff.
Secretary of State Linda McCulloch said Monday that no citizen initiatives obtained enough voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot. That’s the first time that’s happened in more than four decades. “We haven’t had a general election ballot without a citizen initiative on the ballot since 1972,” McCulloch said. “That’s the same year voters approved the current Montana Constitution.” To place a statutory initiative for the ballot requires the signatures of 5 percent of the total registered Montana voters or 24,175 signatures, including those of 5 percent of the voters in 34 of the 100 state House districts. Qualifying a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot takes the signatures of 10 percent of the total registered voters or 48,349 signatures, including 10 percent of the voters in 40 of the 100 state House districts. McCulloch attributed the failure of groups to qualify initiatives to one factor. “Absentee voting has probably changed things,” McCulloch said. “Signature gatherers usually set up shop outside polling places for school and primary elections, and now there just aren’t as many people around to sign the petitions.”
Shelby County Democratic Party chairman Bryan Carson said Thursday he will ask for federal monitors to oversee the county election after a glitch that he claimed caused problems for early voters during the day. But Election Commission chairman Robert Meyers said the problem should not have impacted votes being cast. Meyers said a construction crew dropped a load of rocks over ground near the early voting location at the Agricenter that was on top of a fiber-optic line. The line was used for precincts to access the registration database when voters check in, he said, and the glitch impacted more than just the Agricenter site. “That’s really kind of a back-of-the-house operation,” Meyers said. And that’s separate from the actual voting machines, which store votes on memory cards.
Registrars spent two days in Richmond this week at an annual training session put on by the Virginia Department of Elections. They discussed changes they are making to the voting process, and looked at the how those changes will impact voting experiences come November. “The system for creating photo ID’s at voter registration offices seems to be working very well. There haven’t been a great flood of people who have come in and asked for them,” said Albemarle County General Registrar Jake Washburne. … Another law now in effect for exactly a year is getting positive reviews.The Department of Elections says statewide voter online registration has been a success with tens of thousands of new voters signed up.
An attempt by ex-general Prabowo Subianto to overturn the Indonesian vote that elevated Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo to the presidency is set to hinge on nine justices in a test of the highest court for election matters. Prabowo’s lawyer said the Suharto-era commando will file a suit with the Constitutional Court tomorrow questioning the validity of about 30 million votes after Widodo, known as Jokowi, won by 8.4 million ballots. Prabowo, 62, pulled out of vote counting after calling the July 9 poll “undemocratic” and riddled with fraud. Prabowo’s last-minute effort to swing the result will raise pressure on the court to issue a decision rooted in the law. Failure to deliver a clean result would be a setback for a young democracy still emerging from decades of rule by dictator Suharto, and may risk street protests that could destabilise Asia’s fifth-largest economy. “Voters believe the election was fair and from the perspective of the public it’s doubtful there’s been massive fraud,” according to Dodi Ambardi, executive director of polling agency Lembaga Survei Indonesia and a member of Persepi, an organisation of survey companies. A ruling changing the outcome “will result in unrest in Indonesian society because there will be so much evidence showing the election commission’s vote-counting process, which was done in the public eye, is being overturned.”
Ukraine’s prime minister tendered his resignation on Thursday, berating parliament for failing to pass legislation to take control over an increasingly precarious energy situation and to increase army financing. Earlier on Thursday, two parties quit the government coalition, forcing new elections to a parliament whose make-up has not changed since before the toppling of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich in February. His successor, President Petro Poroshenko, supported the move, which one politician said would clear “Moscow agents” from the chamber. Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk’s resignation could leave a hole at the heart of decision-making as Ukraine struggles to fund a war with pro-Russian rebels in its east and deals with the aftermath of a plane crash that killed 298 people.
United Kingdom: Prisoners’ appeal to vote in Scottish independence referendum rejected | The Independent
Two prisoners, who argued that rules which bar them from voting in the Scottish independence referendum breach their human rights, have lost an appeal at the Supreme Court. The UK’s highest court dismissed claims brought by Leslie Moohan and Andrew Gillon following a day-long hearing in London on Thursday. A panel of Supreme Court Justices analysed provisions laid out in the Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Act 2013, and considered whether a ban on prisoners voting was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, and whether they breached the common law right to vote. The justices were told that both inmates want to vote in the referendum on September 18 but are not eligible under the Franchise Act.
A 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.”