It’s August, and most of the federal government is on vacation. Members of Congress are on their annual August state or district “work period,” President Barack Obama is at Martha’s Vineyard, and the Supreme Court is off until early October. But not all of the federal machinery is idle, especially in Texas. In San Antonio, a three-judge federal court is hearing the latest arguments in a case challenging state legislative and congressional redistricting plans favorable to the GOP. Another court, in Corpus Christi, plans to hear a case Sept. 2 that questions the constitutionality of Texas’ voter identification law. The latter case exemplifies the Republican effort in states with GOP governors and legislatures to limit turnout among Democratic-leaning minority groups. The verdict could significantly affect the political futures of Texas and other states where the Justice Department filed or joined similar suits. Both Texas cases stem from the 2013 Supreme Court decision ruling unconstitutional the 1965 Voting Rights Act section that gives the department power to review in advance voting changes in states like Texas with a history of racial bias.
Hawaii: After a Hawaii Storm, a Moment in the Sun: A Rural Area Will Cast a Close Race’s Last Votes | New York Times
Politics seldom intrudes on the easternmost district of the Big Island of Hawaii, a hard-to-reach paradise where the homes are nestled among lava-formed cliffs and the papaya and macadamia nut harvests loom larger than the machinations in Honolulu, let alone in Washington. “Traditionally, Puna is the place time forgot,” said Dawn Hurwitz, 58, who has lived here for almost half of her life. “This is the Wild West.” But nobody has forgotten about Puna this week. Last week, the area was battered by Tropical Storm Iselle, which left thousands of people without power or running water. And while residents are focused on digging out after the storm, politicians, aides and television crews have swarmed in, well aware that voters here are poised to finally decide the long, bitter Senate primary race between the incumbent, Brian Schatz, and Representative Colleen Hanabusa.
U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa filed suit Wednesday to block a special election scheduled for Friday for thousands of voters on Hawaii’s Big Island—a vote that could decide the state’s fiercely contested Democratic primary for a U.S. Senate seat. The election would be for voters at two polling places in the Puna District of the Big Island that were shut down by Tropical Storm Iselle over the weekend. In a statement, Ms. Hanabusa said large numbers of people in the area were still without power or water and not yet receiving regular mail service, making it difficult to hold a makeup election Friday.
A federal lawsuit to require the state of Maryland to provide online absentee ballots designed to protect the privacy of blind and disabled voters went before a federal judge on Wednesday. The ballot-marking system enables the blind to mark their voting selections on a computer. Then, they would print out their ballot as a bar code that could not be read by someone who mails the ballot in for them. Attorneys for the American Federation of the Blind, which filed the lawsuit, are trying to persuade U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett to require Maryland to use the ballots in November’s election. Sixteen other states use the tool. However, attorneys for the American Council of the Blind in Maryland argued in court against implementing the Web-based ballot-marking system, saying it is subject to fraud and computer hackers.
The two-inch-thick “Election Integrity Challenge” binder, compiled and released by the U.S. Senate campaign of state Sen. Chris McDaniel, documents everything from alleged vote-buying schemes to illegal crossover voters to race-baiting tactics allegedly used by U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran’s campaign. Only thing, the presented evidence does not appear to add up to a pattern of election irregularities substantial enough to force a new election the McDaniel campaign hoped for. Not even the Mississippi Republican Party thinks the McDaniel camp’s claims warrant a hurried meeting of the state executive committee to review all the documents. On the night of Aug. 6, the state GOP punted and told McDaniel to take his issues to a state court instead. They have until Aug. 14 to seek judicial review. McDaniel’s campaign distributed its 250 pages of evidence to members of the news media as well as the Republican Party officials. However, the evidence the McDaniel campaign offers poses just as many questions as it purports to answer.
Cuyahoga County voters will decide in November whether to approve a charter amendment that county officials hope will provide them with more authority to file lawsuits to stop or overturn restrictions on voting rights. County council approved a measure to put the amendment on the ballot by an 8-3 vote, with council’s three Republicans dissenting. The measure was sponsored by Councilwoman Sunny Simon at the urging of county executive and Democratic governor candidate Ed FitzGerald. FitzGerald said Wednesday that the charter amendment would strengthen Cuyahoga County’s legal position should it need to sue over voting rules as several groups are now doing. He said attorneys in the county law department worry that a judge might not allow the county to sue because county boards of elections, and not county government, oversee voting. “We’re anticipating legal arguments down the line,” FitzGerald said.
Editorials: Texas is wasting time and money in defending the GOP’s political advantage | Houston Chronicle
Texans know about lines, including the sword-drawn line Col. William Barrett Travis allegedly scraped through soon-to-be-bloody Alamo sand to distinguish the brave from the not-so-brave. These days a three-judge federal panel meeting a few blocks from the Texas shrine is examining in tedious detail a set of lines that won’t be erased by an early-morning breeze. They’re drawn, not in sand, but on computers. Since these lines will determine for years to come how Texans choose their elected representatives, the state’s politically invested are fighting almost as ferociously as the two armies that clashed at the Alamo. Unfortunately, the fight will last a good deal longer than the 13 days it took the Alamo to fall.
A federal judge has denied the state’s request for a hold on his decision striking down Wisconsin’s law requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen had made two different requests to halt the decision during the appeals process. U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman denied the first of those Wednesday, leaving in place the decision that he had made in April to strike down the voter ID law for violating voters’ constitutional rights. The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has yet to rule on the other stay request made by Van Hollen, who is seeking to reinstate the law in time for the Nov. 4 election.
New strains have emerged in Afghanistan’s delicate political transition, just a week after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Kabul for the second time in a month to defuse a political crisis concerning who will take over from President Hamid Karzai. As the vote audit for a disputed election remains painfully slow and a crucial deadline looms, fresh suggestions of political fraud have emerged along with provocative comments from a key player. Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani are vying to succeed Mr. Karzai, who must step down after more than a decade in power. But the failure of a June 14 runoff to produce a clear winner led to a political standoff that brought the country close to civil war.
The death of presidential candidate Eduardo Campos makes it even more likely Brazil’s October election goes to a second round and could put President Dilma Rousseff under more pressure as she seeks a second term. Campos died in a plane crash on Wednesday and his running mate Marina Silva is expected to pick up the baton and run for president herself. She is a popular figure who won 19.3 percent of the vote when she ran in 2010. Silva has greater name recognition and more supporters than Campos had given that the campaign is still in its early stages. Her candidacy could give his Brazilian Socialist Party a boost and deprive Rousseff of votes she needs to avoid a second-round runoff against her main contender, Senator Aecio Neves.
Former public officials in Hong Kong have been lobbying the United Kingdom and the international community overall to stand up for the semi-autonomous Chinese territory, where students and activists are pressing Beijing for the right to elect their chief executive in 2017. But there’s little that the U.K. is likely or willing to do. Thirty years ago, the British agreed to hand over Hong Kong, one of its last colonies, to Beijing under an international treaty known as the Joint Declaration. It “guaranteed Hong Kong’s way of life for 50 years” under the idea of “one country, two systems,” meaning that Hong Kongers would live under the rule of law, with freedom of speech, assembly, and worship, elections and a “high degree of autonomy.” Now, many feel that those freedoms are quickly being erased. Over the next month, Beijing is expected to release guidelines for elections that will allow it to influence Hong Kong’s slate of candidates, effectively limiting the right to full suffrage.
Australia is sending a team of observers to Fiji to ensure next month’s general elections are free and fair. It will be the first election in Fiji since Frank Bainimarama seized power in a coup in 2006. The Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says Australia is co-leading a 14 member Multinational Observation Group with Indonesia, India and Papua New Guinea. She’s appointed former Defence and Workplace Relations Minister Peter Reith to lead the Australian team, saying he has a “strong interest in supporting democracy internationally.” Mr Reith says it’s a very important moment for Fiji. “It’s a good opportunity for Fiji, and Australia is keen to be of assistance,” he said.
Indonesia’s Constitutional Court will soon issue a decision on a legal challenge by presidential contender Prabowo Subianto to overturn the results of last month’s election, in which Jakarta Gov. Joko Widodo was declared the winner. It will be one of the biggest decisions in the history of Indonesia’s young democracy, and it will be left to the court’s nine judges. The justices are appointed by the House of Representatives, the president and the Supreme Court, each of which is entitled to appoint three justices to serve five-year terms at two term limits. Exception lies with the chief justice, who is elected by the other court judges to serve a term of only 2.5 years. In a court whose responsibilities include dissolving political parties and resolving disputes over election results, the judges are a mixed group. Some have links to political groupings that have supported Mr. Subianto. Others are career judges, some with backgrounds in Islamic law.
Rania Jasmine has no plans to vote in Tunisia’s upcoming parliamentary and first-ever presidential elections. “I don’t want to vote because I don’t trust any political party,” the 24-year-old university student, studying English literature and linguistics, told Al Jazeera. While she voted for the moderate Islamist party Ennahda in the previous elections, she said she was disappointed by the party’s performance. “[Ennahda] really disappointed me before as they were not the ones who were actually running the country,” Jasmine said. “They were [too] afraid of the opposition. So I prefer not to regret my choice again like the first time I voted.” After Tunisians toppled the 23-year presidency of strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the country held its first democratic elections in October 2011 to form the Constituent Assembly, a temporary government put in place to run the country until this year’s elections.