A group of British prisoners have lost a compensation bid for being denied the right to vote. However, the European Court of Human Rights said in its ruling that denying them the vote was a breach of human rights. Ten prisoners took the case to the ECHR after being denied the right to vote in elections to the European Parliament on June 4, 2009. The court ruled that was a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights – right to a free election.
Yet again, the dysfunctional Federal Election Commission has deadlocked on a fundamental disclosure question involving whether politically active organizations that try to sway elections must identify their donors. Three Democratic-leaning commissioners insist the groups should disclose their donors. Three Republican appointees say these groups aren’t obligated to register with the commission or name their donors. Under rules by which the FEC operates, disclosure loses. The case dates to 2010, the year that Republicans took control of the U.S. House. One of the groups, American Action Network, spent $17 million in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and other states. That was nearly two-thirds of the money it spent that year, the Democratic appointees said. American Action Network is based in Washington, D.C., and chaired by former Sen. Norm Coleman, a Minnesota Republican. The other group, Americans for Job Security, based in Arlington, Va., spent $9.5 million on election-related activity in 2010. That was three-fourths of its money that year.
The death of state Sen. Chester Crandell last week threw the already unusual race in the district that includes Northern Gila County into deep uncertainty. Crandell’s family found him dead after he went for a ride on a young, unfamiliar horse on a Heber ranch, where he lived with his wife of 45 years. … Crandell’s death weeks before his uncontested primary left the election in deep uncertainty. The tragic turn will likely boost the prospects of former state Senator Tom O’Halleran’s campaign as an Independent. Secretary of State Ken Bennett determined that Crandell’s name will remain on the ballot and that the deadline has passed for write-in candidates to qualify for the primary. Instead, the Republican committee precinct chairmen from Gila, Coconino, Navajo and Apache counties will convene in Flagstaff after the primary and select a candidate whose name will appear on the November ballot along with O’Halleran’s. Write-in candidates can also still qualify for the November ballot.
A circuit judge’s order barring enforcement of Arkansas’ voter identification law should be upheld and a stay of the order should be lifted, attorneys for four voters who challenged the law argued Monday in a brief filed with the state Supreme Court. Also Monday, college professors, activist groups and an Arkansas county clerk asked the court for permission to file friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the plaintiffs’ position, and the plaintiffs asked for permission to present oral arguments. On May 2, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox granted a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of Act 595 of 2013, finding that the law requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls is unconstitutional. Fox stayed his order, pending an expected appeal, so the law remained in effect for the May 20 primary election and the June 10 runoff election. Secretary of State Mark Martin, named as a defendant in the voters’ lawsuit, is appealing Fox’s order to the Supreme Court. The Arkansas Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Arkansas Public Law Center, who filed the lawsuit challenging Act 595 on behalf of four Arkansas voters, had a Monday deadline to file a brief in the case.
California: Bill to Strengthen California Voting Rights Act Approved by State Assembly | California Newswire
A bill to strengthen voter protections under the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) was approved today by the State Assembly. SB 1365 by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) expands the CVRA by explicitly prohibiting school boards, cities, and counties from gerrymandering district boundaries in a manner that would weaken the ability of a racial or language minority to influence the outcome of an election. Current state law only allows a challenge of at-large elections. The bill now goes to the State Senate for a final concurrence vote and then to the Governor’s desk. “With today’s vote, we are one step closer to strengthening voting rights for all Californians,” said Senator Alex Padilla. “As our state becomes increasingly diverse we must ensure that the rights of all voters are protected,” added Padilla.
Florida legislators completed their hasty fix of a congressional redistricting map Monday, sending the plan on to Gov. Rick Scott for approval as they scramble to meet Friday’s deadline set by a state court. In an attempt to address the concerns by Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis – who said the map violated a constitutional ban on partisan gerrymandering – the legislature moved 368,000 voters in North and Central Florida into new districts as it changed the boundaries of seven congressional seats. The House and Senate voted for the map along party lines, as a handful of Jacksonville Democrats voted with Republicans in solidarity with U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, a Jacksonville Democrat whose winding district was invalidated because it packed Democrats voters into the district so that Republicans in surrounding districts would face less competition.
Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who‘s trailing in the too-close-to-call Hawaii Democratic Senate primary against incumbent Brian Schatz, warned Monday of voting “irregularities” in precincts crippled by a massive tropical storm last week and said she’s speaking with campaign lawyers about a potential recourse. “There are irregularities that have occurred in terms of just access, and I’m hoping that the Office of Elections will look at it,” Hanabusa told POLITICO in a phone interview on Monday. Although much of the focus in the wake of this past Saturday’s primary has been on two precincts in the Big Island’s Puna District — home to some 8,200 registered voters — where polls were closed Saturday because of the storm and residents will vote instead this Friday, Hanabusa’s comments indicate for the first time that she’s examining the impact in surrounding communities as well, where polls were open but some voters were unable to leave their homes.
The storm-beaten seaside communities on Hawaii’s Big Island are fighting to restore electricity and running water – and likely deciding who will hold the state’s U.S. Senate seat. Two voting precincts in the region hardest hit by Tropical Storm Iselle were closed during Saturday’s primary, and about 8,000 people were asked to vote by mail for either U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz or U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa in an emotional Democratic race that is still too close to call. A Democrat is expected to end up in the seat either way, so the decision won’t likely change the balance of power in the Senate. But some argue it is giving a small number of voters in a remote part of Hawaii an inordinate amount of power. Meanwhile, voters in Puna, a remote, rural community south of Hilo, said they have other priorities – like figuring out how to bathe.
More than 696,400 registered voters in Indiana are now considered inactive, due to the state’s voter list update. But those voters will still be able to vote in elections through the federal election in 2016 before being removed from the voter poll lists, according to Secretary of State Connie Lawson. If they do not vote in any election prior to January 2016, county voter registration offices will remove their records from poll lists. Two federal election cycles, or up to four years, must pass before a county may remove an inactive voter from a list. August 6th was the federal deadline for counties to process data from the voter list refresh before the November 2014 election.
Civil rights activists opposed to North Carolina’s dramatic voting law changes will use the ballot box and the courts to try to overturn them after a judge refused to block them from being used, attorneys for the state NAACP said Monday. A U.S. District Court judge declined late last week to prevent continued implementation of several provisions being challenged in court by advocacy groups, voters and the federal government. But Judge Thomas Schroeder allowed a trial on the constitutionality of those provisions to continue as planned next July, rejecting requests of the state to throw out the three lawsuits. The provisions, already used in the May primary, eliminated same-day registration during early voting, reduced the early-voting period by a week and eliminated the counting of ballots cast on election day outside of a person’s home precinct. Voters also are being told at the polls to prepare for a photo identification requirement in 2016. Political parties also can send in more observers to monitor voting.
A recent ruling by a federal judge in North Carolina offers a perfect case study of just what was lost when the Supreme Court badly weakened the Voting Rights Act last year in Shelby County v. Holder. Judge Thomas Schroeder on Friday rejected an effort by civil rights groups and the U.S. Justice Department to put North Carolina’s voting law on hold in advance of a full trial next year. The decision means the law—called the strictest voting measure in the country—will be in effect this November, when North Carolina will host a tight Senate race that could determine control of the chamber. Politics aside, the ruling’s logic appears to validate the concerns of voting rights advocates that, post-Shelby, the Voting Rights Act is no longer strong enough to protect minorities’ access to the polls—especially in the face of a concerted Republican effort to make voting harder. Meanwhile, a bipartisan congressional effort to pass legislation re-invigorating the landmark civil rights law is stalled in the Republican-controlled House. “This really is a result of the Supreme Court’s weakening of the Voting Rights Act a year ago,” Daniel Donovan, a lawyer for the groups challenging the law, told reporters Monday.
A federal judge in Ohio is weighing arguments over the impact of early-voting changes in the presidential battleground state, as civil rights groups and voting rights organizations seek to block recent restrictions from being in place this November. Ohioans vote absentee by mail or in person without giving any reason. The lawsuit before U.S. District Judge Peter Economus challenges two early-voting revisions. One is a directive this year from Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted that set uniform, early voting times that included restrictions on weekend and evening hours. The other is a bill passed by the GOP-led General Assembly in February that shortens the early voting window. Instead of 35 days, the period would typically be 29 or 28 days. The law gets rid of a so-called “golden week” when people could both register to vote and cast a ballot at the same time.
Ohio created a new right to early voting and cannot use cost figures to now justify infringing on that right, voting rights activists argued today before a federal judge. But the state argued that there’s no such thing as a constitutional right to cast a no-fault absentee ballot, which is what in-person early voting is. It contends Ohio has one of the most liberal voting systems in the nation. The League of Women Voters, NAACP, and several African-American churches sued to reinstate weekend and evening early voting hours that voters took advantage of during the 2012 presidential election. They’re also seeking to reinstate the so-called Golden Week, a six-day overlap between the prior 35-day absentee and early voting window and the 30-day deadline for voter registration during which a would-be voter could register and cast an absentee ballot on the spot. “Defendants don’t even dispute that Sunday voting is an African American phenomenon…,” said Sean Young, of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project. “One Sunday afternoon isn’t enough to conduct all of these Souls to Polls activities.”
It is rare for a court to work on Saturdays or even late at night. But that is what the federal tribunal refereeing the three-year Texas redistricting fight did in mid-July. The San Antonio-based court worked six consecutive days and in one of those sessions it heard testimony from witnesses until 9 p.m., according to people who stayed until closing time. “We’re going to be here a while,” state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, one of more than 50 witnesses, said before testifying late that afternoon. “This court means business.” The same three-judge panel was back on Monday. After hearing the arguments on the constitutionality of the Texas House map the Republican-dominated Legislature approved in the 2011 session, the court will now focus on the legality of the congressional map the lawmakers approved during the same session.
Students in Texas have a question for their state lawmakers: Why us? In September, they’ll get to pose that question in court. Over the last year, laws that advocates say place unnecessary burdens on voters have advanced across the country. But a law in Texas is causing a particular stir due to its potential to place the harshest burdens on the youngest voters. A lawsuit challenging it that was filed last year goes to trial Sept. 2. “We work to engage people—young people—in this process,” said Christina Sanders, state director of the Texas League of Young Voters, which is among the plaintiffs in an upcoming voter identification case in the state. “The hurdles these laws create makes it more difficult for us to engage.” “More than cases of apathy, it becomes a case of disenfranchisement,” she added.
Voting Blogs: As Redistricting Suit Continues, What is the State’s Endgame? | Texas Election Law Blog
A surfeit of lawyers are at this moment proceeding with the second of three week-long hearings in the Federal District Court, Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division. The issue is whether the State of Texas intentionally discriminated against protected classes of minority voters in the course of redistricting U.S. Congressional districts in 2011. The facts of the case as previously established are particularly unflattering to the Republican Party leadership in the Texas Legislature, and back in 2012 another Federal court already ruled that the Congressional redistricting was discriminatory, and carefully pointed out the evidence that this discrimination was intentional. Given all this, one might be inclined to ask, “what, exactly, is the State trying to accomplish in its defense of this lawsuit?” As I’ve said before, I am a terrible prognosticator of political outcomes, in part because my dogged naivety gets in the way of my cynicism. With the litigation history of the 2011 redistricting largely running against the State, I would presume that at both the trial and appellate levels, the courts would be likely to find that continued close Federal monitoring of Texas election procedures is required under Section 3(b) of the Voting Rights Act.
Virginia: As Eric Cantor steps down, Virginia election officials worry about voter confusion | Washington Times
Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s decision to quit Congress early is producing headaches back home, where elections officials worry that voters will be confused when they go to the polls on Nov. 4. The ballot will have two different races for the state’s 7th Congressional District — one a special election for a member to serve two months of a lame-duck session in Congress, and the other to elect someone for the 114th Congress starting in January. But both election lines likely will feature the same two men — Democrat Jack Trammell and Republican David Brat, who unseated Mr. Cantor in the June primary. In addition to what may look like double printing, the Libertarian Party candidate also argues the special election is “suspect at best” because signatures for third-party candidates to appear on the special ballot are due by Friday, leaving little time to collect the 1,000 names needed to earn a spot.
Former Reserve Bank board member Warwick McKibbin has suggested a new election may be needed to resolve the Senate impasse holding up key budget savings, as he lashed the political populism of the Greens and Palmer United Party. And Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist Saul Eslake has suggested a mini-budget was ”one of the options the government needs to think about” as consumer confidence falls, unemployment rises to 6.4 per cent and, if the political uncertainty continues, business confidence potentially falls. The comments came before a scheduled meeting between Joe Hockey and PUP leader Clive Palmer on Tuesday, with the Treasurer rejecting former treasurer Peter Costello’s call to drop the proposed $7 GP co-payment and declaring budget critics should not write off key measures.
The favourites to win next month’s general election in Sweden are planning to reverse course on the current government’s economic reforms by limiting private equity involvement in the public sector, raising taxes and boosting spending. Sweden’s centre-right government, in power since 2006, has gained a reputation for tax cutting and increasing competition in the public sector, which has proved popular with business but voters appear ready for a change as polling data suggests they are more concerned about education, jobs, health, and elderly care. “The conflict is clearly what direction is Sweden going to take during the next 8-10 years?” Magdalena Andersson, a Social Democrat and likely finance minister in a centre-left government, told the Financial Times. “Our path is to increase taxes right now, so we can do some very necessary spending now, but also in the future we don’t see a need for further tax cuts, but rather for more investment in the public sector.” With five weeks to go until polling day the opposition parties of the left have a healthy lead over the ruling centre-right coalition.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is due to rule on whether prisoners who have been denied the vote should get compensation. The case concerns 10 men serving sentences in Scottish prisons who claim their human rights were breached when they were not allowed to vote. In 2004 the ECHR said that a blanket ban on prisoners voting was unlawful. But successive UK governments have not complied with this ruling. The claimants – some of whom are convicted sex offenders – argue that their human rights were breached after they were not allowed to take part in the 2009 European elections.
People over 16 using Facebook in Scotland will be able to add a new ‘life event’ to their Timeline from today, announcing that they have registered and plan to vote in the Scottish Referendum next month. The “Registered to Vote” feature will lead to thousands of status updates being sent from people to their friends, creating increased awareness of the voter registration process, according to Facebook. With every person on Facebook having an average of 120 friends, the company claims the ‘life event’ posts will be seen by millions of people in Scotland. The new feature is part of a wider campaign that Facebook is conducting with the Electoral Commission to raise awareness of the need to register to vote. Scottish Facebook users who visit the social network site over the next few weeks will also see newsfeed posts promoting an interactive Referendum guide, being launched by The Commission today.
Denying the vote to a group of prisoners was a breach of human rights, although no compensation or costs should be paid, European judges have ruled. The case before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) concerned 10 prisoners who were unable to vote in elections to the European Parliament on June 4 2009. The ECHR ruled that there had been a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights – right to a free election. Judges said they reached this conclusion as the case was identical to another prisoner voting case in the UK, in which the blanket ban was deemed a breach. The court rejected the applicants’ claim for compensation and legal costs.