The Supreme Court’s decision last year eliminating a barrier against voting procedure changes in mostly Southern states came with a caveat: Chief Justice John Roberts warned that the Voting Rights Act still included a “permanent, nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting.” Now federal courts from Texas to Wisconsin are on the verge of deciding whether Roberts was right — or if what remains of the 1965 law after the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling is less able to stop states from making it harder to vote. An appeals court hearing Friday in the Wisconsin case, following a two-week trial in a Texas district court, might point the way back to the Supreme Court. Cases in North Carolina and Ohio also could be headed that way. Those states and others have made voting more difficult in recent years to combat what they claim are instances of voter fraud. Texas imposed strict new photo identification rules hours after the Supreme Court ruling. North Carolina cut back on early voting, same-day registration and provisional balloting. They were among 15 states freed in whole or in part from Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires states with a history of discrimination to clear any changes with the Justice Department. The high court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder struck down the list of states dating back a half century.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) has denied Democrat Chad Taylor’s request to be removed from the Kansas Senate ballot. His Thursday decision means Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) will face three candidates on the ballot this fall — Taylor, independent Greg Orman and libertarian Randall Batson — boosting the vulnerable senator’s reelection prospects. Now, Taylor could siphon off enough anti-Roberts votes from Orman, who’s been surging in the race and is now seen by Democrats as their best shot to take Roberts down, to deliver the senator an opening for a win. Kobach told reporters that, after evaluating state election law statutes, his legal team found that Taylor did not meet the law’s requirement to provide sufficient “evidence he would be incapable of fulfilling the duties of office if elected. Short of some sort of injunction or some sort of judicial action barring the state from proceeding, the decision is made,” Kobach said. Kansas Democrats were up in arms, and Taylor himself said shortly after Kobach announced his decision that he’s going to contest it, noting the fact he was told by an elections official the document he submitted Wednesday was sufficient to remove him from the ballot. “I am planning to challenge the ruling of the Kansas Secretary of State, who serves on Pat Roberts’ Honorary Committee,” Taylor said in a statement.
A federal court judge on Wednesday denied a request to stay his order restoring early voting cuts and allowing county boards of election to set additional hours while the state makes its appeal. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Jon Husted are appealing the decision to the U.S. 6th District Court of Appeals and on Tuesday requested a stay to avoid confusion among county boards of election. “Changing election rules so far into the election cycle disrupts the electoral process and threatens its fairness,” DeWine and Husted argued in their request. “Any requirement that Secretary Husted issue a directive to county Boards of Elections, only to potentially issue a contravening order in a few weeks, would cause particular harm. Changing the days and hours now, only to have them potentially changed again in a few weeks, will create needless confusion that can be simply avoided by a stay of this Court’s Order pending appeal.”
Pennsylvania officials crossed their fingers and hoped for no major problems in the 2006 election as voters in all 67 counties cast ballots electronically for the first time. Despite scattered glitches, that’s what they got — thanks largely to $150 million from the federal government that helped more than half the counties obtain new computerized machines that replaced lever and punch-card systems. But voter-rights advocates concerned about the security and verification of ballots cast in the 50 counties that use direct recording electronic, or DRE, machines are preparing to argue before the state’s high court Wednesday that the devices violate state law and the state constitution. Lawyers sued Pennsylvania’s secretary of state in Commonwealth Court in August 2006 on behalf of two dozen voters. A succession of rulings by that court has gone against the plaintiffs, but the state Supreme Court could overturn those — a possibility that could have wide-reaching implications for Pennsylvania’s 8.2 million voters. At the heart of the plaintiffs’ case is the fact that the 23,500 computerized DRE machines do not create a paper record of each vote as it is cast. Instead, they create electronic records that can be printed out after the election. The other 17 counties use optical scanners to read votes marked on paper ballots, or a combination of the two systems.
In April, a federal judge in Wisconsin invalidated that state’s voter-identification law, finding that it would disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of eligible voters in a phony attempt to prevent a problem — in-person voter fraud — that does not exist. Last week, the spotlight turned to the federal court in Corpus Christi, where the Justice Department and several advocacy groups are fighting Texas’ absurdly strict voter-ID law. Passed in 2011 by the Republican-dominated Legislature, the law accepts as proof of identity a concealed-weapon permit but not a student ID card. Laws like these used to be blocked by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which required that the federal government preapprove any voting rules enacted by states and localities with a history of discriminatory voting practices. But in a destructive ruling last year, the Supreme Court struck down Section 5 as unconstitutional. Only hours after that ruling, Texas resurrected its voter-ID law, which had been stopped by Section 5.
A federal appeals court in Chicago Friday reinstated for now Wisconsin’s voter ID law hours after the three-judge panel heard arguments on the subject. The move by the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals clears the way for the state to implement the law for the Nov. 4 election, though it does not stop the ongoing appeal over whether the measure is unconstitutional. “The state of Wisconsin may, if it wishes (and if it is appropriate under rules of state law), enforce the photo ID requirement in this November’s elections,” the unsigned two-page order reads. The appellate court said Friday that it was satisfied by changes imposed on the law by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a separate decision earlier this year. “This reduces the likelihood of irreparable injury, and it also changes the balance of equities and thus the propriety of federal injunctive relief. The panel has concluded that the state’s probability of success on the merits of this appeal is sufficiently great that the state should be allowed to implement its law, pending further order of this court,” the order reads.
Senate Republicans unanimously rejected a constitutional amendment sought by Democrats that would allow Congress to regulate campaign finance reform. The measure failed to clear a 60-vote threshold on Thursday afternoon, 54-42. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) quickly moved to hammer Republicans and tie them to Charles and David Koch, billionaire brothers who back national conservative political operations. “Senate Democrats want a government that works for all Americans — not just the richest few. Today, Senate Republicans clearly showed that they would rather sideline hardworking families in order to protect the Koch brothers and other radical interests that are working to fix our elections and buy our democracy,” Reid said after the vote. The constitutional amendment would allow Congress and state lawmakers to override recent Supreme Court decisions that have struck down campaign finance laws previously passed by Capitol Hill — language that Republicans argued amounts to an attack on the Bill of Rights.
Editorials: Republicans should want more African Americans to vote. It’s the only way they can keep winning in the south | George Chidi/The Guardian
If I were a vote-scrounging Republican politician and I wanted to hustle up some black people’s votes, I would think it generally sound policy not to tell them that they’re too stupid to deserve a vote. State senator Fran Millar, a Republican from the affluent, majority-white Dunwoody section of majority-black DeKalb County here in Georgia, apparently doesn’t feel the same way. In a public Facebook post, he took exception to a plan by county CEO Lee May to open up an extra early-voting site in a South DeKalb mall “dominated by African American shoppers and … near several large African American mega churches”. “I would prefer more educated voters than a greater increase in the number of voters,” he added in a comment to his post. “If you don’t believe this is an efort [sic] to maximize Democratic votes pure and simple, then you are not a realist. This is a partisan stunt and I hope it can be stopped.” Well, yes. It is a partisan move. It shouldn’t be. The race of voters shouldn’t be a partisan predictor in an ideal world. But here in Georgia, the contests for governor and a US Senate seat are too close to call – and may turn on whether the Democrats can win as much as 30% of the white vote. Seven out of 10 white voters, minimum, are Republicans, and 90% of black voters are Democrats. Here, all politics are racial politics – and the contests are only close because the number of black and Latino voters in the state has grown so quickly.
Editorials: Analysis shows Voter ID laws could make fraud worse and disenfranchise poor and minority voters. | Dahlia Lithwick/Slate
Texas’ voter ID law went on federal trial last week in Corpus Christi.* Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed the law in 2011, and it went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012. The law was blocked by a federal court later that year, but reinstated after the Supreme Court struck down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. This is a big test of whether Section 2 of that act, which bars racial discrimination in voting, has any teeth. To vote in Texas, registered voters must now present one of the following: a driver’s license or state ID card, a license to carry a concealed gun, a U.S. military ID card with a photo, a U.S. citizenship certificate with a photo, a U.S. passport, or a state election certificate (a document you can obtain if you don’t have any other accepted form of ID). Student photo IDs and out-of-state driver’s licenses are not permitted. The Department of Justice, the NAACP, and various other voting and civil rights groups are challenging the law, claiming that up to 787,000 registered Texas voters lack any acceptable form of ID, and that blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be disenfranchised by the law than whites. A federal court in Wisconsin struck down a similar voter ID measure this year, finding that it violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Until recently, most of the heavy lifting in voting rights challenges was done by Section 5—the part of the Voting Rights Act requiring designated states, counties, and municipalities with a history of discriminatory election practices to obtain federal “preclearance” before making changes to their voting laws. But that provision was struck down in June 2013 when the Supreme Court determined that the preclearance system was outdated and burdensome on the covered jurisdictions. There’s a growing sense that the laws achieve nothing good and possibly do something very bad.
A Los Angeles Superior judge has dismissed a California Voting Rights Act lawsuit filed against the city of Whittier by three Latino residents. Judge Michael Johnson ruled the city’s actions to change from an at-large voting system to one that is districted, something the suit sought, alleviates the issues in the original lawsuit. ”There can be no question that the City’s adoption of a new voting system has made Plaintiffs’ original complaint moot,” Johnson stated in his ruling. The judge also rejected the plaintiffs’ motion for an amended complaint, which was filed June 23 after the city voted in the districted elections on June 3.
Arapahoe County prosecutors have dropped charges against another person charged in a controversial voter fraud case last fall, leaving just two people facing charges following the lengthy investigation. Tadesse Degefa, 73, of Aurora, was scheduled to go on trial Sept. 3 on a misdemeanor charge of procuring false registration. But prosecutors a week before the trial asked a judge to drop the charge and the judge dismissed the case the day it was supposed to start, said Michelle Yi, a spokeswoman for the Arapahoe County district attorney’s office. In a statement, prosecutors said Degefa asked for a ballot in the mail for the 2012 election even though he wasn’t a citizen and couldn’t legally vote. But, prosecutors said, because the law makes it easy for a third party to ask for a ballot for someone else, they couldn’t prove it was actually Degefa who asked for the ballot. “The existing safeguards are insufficient to prevent this from happening again, and are inadequate for us to prosecute cases with these facts. We honor the law and our elections processes in this State and in this specific case. Here, justice was best served by dismissing the charge,” District Attorney George Brauchler said in a statement. Prosecutors said Degefa illegally voted in 2008 and 2009, but the statute of limitations in those cases had expired.
An investigation is underway into claims of voter fraud involving the state’s highest ranking Democratic elected official. The Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office launched an investigation after they allegedly received complaints of possible voter fraud from election offices in nearly a dozen counties. “Our investigators were talking to the counties and to individuals who’d had their names forged on voter registration documents,” Kemp said. “You know that’s fraud.” Kemp’s office has slapped Rep. Stacey Abrams’ organization, the New Georgia Project with a subpoena. demanding that they turn over all documents related to their efforts to “register voters, store voter information, contact voters or any other canvassing project.”
Kansas: State Supreme Court will hear Chad Taylor v. Kris Kobach on Senate ballot issue | The Wichita Eagle
The Kansas Supreme Court will hear Chad Taylor’s case against Secretary of State Kris Kobach, after rejecting on Thursday a petition from Kobach’s attorney to move the case to a district court. The court will hear oral arguments in Taylor v. Kobach on Tuesday in order to decide whether Taylor will remain on the November ballot for U.S. Senate. Ballots must be ready to be mailed overseas to absentee voters by Sept. 20. Taylor, the Democratic nominee, attempted to withdraw from the race last week, a move that many political analysts said would give a boost to independent candidate Greg Orman against U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, the three-term Republican incumbent. Kobach ruled that Taylor would remain on the ballot for failing to declare himself incapable of serving if elected, as required by Kansas statute.
North Carolina: ‘Monster’ election law disenfranchised more than 450 primary voters, report finds | Facing South
More than 450 North Carolina citizens whose votes would have counted in the 2012 election had their ballots rejected during this year’s primary due to election law changes made last year by the Republican-controlled legislature. Those disenfranchised were disproportionately African Americans and Democrats, lending support to claims that the new law is discriminatory. Those are among the findings of a new report by the voting rights watchdog group Democracy North Carolina, which analyzed provisional ballots cast in this year’s primary. The analysis focused on provisional ballots rejected due to two recent changes in state voting rules: one ending same-day registration and the other requiring election-day ballots to be cast in one’s own precinct. Bob Hall, the group’s executive director, interviewed a dozen of the affected voters to gather more details about what happened. “I was blown away, I have to say,” Hall said at a Sept. 10 press conference outside the state elections board, referring to what he heard from voters whose ballots were rejected.
A federal judge on Thursday struck down an Ohio campaign law making it illegal to lie about political candidates. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black overturned a post-Watergate law aimed at cleaning up the political process that came under challenge by two conservative groups on First Amendment grounds. Among its provisions is a ban on false statements during campaigns and on ballot initiatives. Judge Black, in his opinion, said the law placed an unjustifiable burden on free speech:
In short, the answer to false statements in politics is not to force silence, but to encourage truthful speech in response, and to let the voters, not the Government, decide what the political truth is. Ohio’s false-statements laws do not accomplish this, and the Court is not empowered to re-write the statutes; that is the job of the Legislature.
The decision came just days after the 8th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a century-old Minnesota statute that outlawed false statements about ballot proposals. The court that presided over the Ohio case is part of a different federal circuit.
In a ruling that could reverberate nationwide, a federal judge has struck down Ohio’s law barring people from knowingly or recklessly making false statements about candidates in a case that the U.S. Supreme Court said needed to be heard. U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black ruled Thursday that Ohio’s law, in effect since 1995, is unconstitutional and prohibited the Ohio Elections Commission and its members from enforcing the law. The judge said in his ruling that the answer to false statements in politics is “not to force silence, but to encourage truthful speech in response, and to let the voters, not the government, decide what the political truth is. Ohio’s false-statements laws do not accomplish this, and the court is not empowered to re-write the statutes; that is the job of the Legislature,” Black wrote. The Supreme Court in June found unanimously that an anti-abortion group should be able to challenge the law, in a case that grew out of a 2010 congressional race. The Susan B. Anthony List, an antiabortion group, had contended that the Ohio statute violated free speech rights and chilled a wide variety of political speech.
By most accounts voting in Rhode Island had few problems on Tuesday. But for the first time ever, voters – yes even famous voters (like Mayor Angel Taveras) – had to present photo ID’s to cast a ballot. But the ACLU had poll watchers at 12 of the states 411 precincts, and said some voters were wrongly turned away. “It is of great concern to us that people who showed up at the polling place without proper ID, were told they didn’t have the right to vote, instead of being given a provisional ballot which is what the law authorizes,” said Steve Brown, Executive Director of the ACLU Chapter in Rhode Island.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott insisted on Thursday that the state’s voter ID law has not adversely affected turnout, a day before testimony in a federal court case challenging the legislation is slated to end. “There is absolutely zero proof, zero proof, that there is any suppression of the vote whatsoever because of voter ID laws,” Abbott, the favorite to win November’s gubernatorial race, told the Houston Chronicle’s editorial board. The 2011 law, which took effect the following year, requires voters to show one of seven kinds of photo ID in order to vote, with or without a voter registration card. It was initially blocked after a federal court ruled that it discriminated against minorities.
Texas: Democrats ask for federal probe of AG raid that targeted voter sign-up group | Dallas Morning News
Democratic congressmen from Texas have asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate a raid by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office that targeted a nonprofit voter registration group. The Dallas Morning News reported Aug. 31 on the attorney general’s criminal investigation of Houston Votes, which was accused of election fraud. The probe was closed one year later, with no charges filed. Following the armed raid in 2010, the funding for Houston Votes dried up. Its efforts to register more low-income voters in the state’s most populous county, Harris, ended. The group’s records and office equipment were destroyed under a court order obtained by Abbott’s office last year. In a Sept. 10 letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the 12 Democratic House members from Texas asked the Justice Department to open an investigation into the matter. “This raid raises serious concerns about the biased use of state resources to prevent Texans from legally registering to vote,” the letter said. Texas has 36 House districts, with Republicans holding 24 seats. A Justice Department spokeswoman said the investigation request is being reviewed.
What do Greg Abbott, Wendy Davis, State Senator Letitia Van De Putte, Former U.S. House Speaker Jim Wright, and U.S. District Court Judge Sandra Watts all have in common? They all apparently have high potential for committing voting fraud– at lest according to the State of Texas. All five of these prominent Texas leaders were hassled by the new Texas Voter ID Law this past November. It has been a concern for those opposed to the Voter ID Law that it will make it difficult for individuals to obtain appropriate identification, and thus poor, elderly, and minority voters will be disenfranchised because they lack appropriate identification. However, it seems that one distinct group that also may be affected are people whose photo ID’s don’t match the name that is recorded in the voter rolls. Of the five people listed above, the only individual who had trouble obtaining an ID was 90-year-old former Speaker Jim Wright. The other four were forced to sign an affidavit because their names on their IDs did not match exactly to their names on the poll books. Only 0.2% of the voting population had to cast a provisional ballot presumably due to improper ID, while some precincts are estimating that as high as 40% of voters had to sign an affidavit for name inconsistencies.
A panel of three federal appeals court judges in Chicago will hear arguments on whether to reinstate Wisconsin’s voter ID law on Friday, less than eight weeks before the Nov. 4 election. Gov. Scott Walker and Republicans in the Legislature in 2011 approved the law, which requires voters to show poll workers certain types of photo identification to vote. Litigation immediately followed, and judges at the state and federal level halted the law. The requirement was in effect for just one election, a low-turnout primary in February 2012. Two cases were brought in federal court, and U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman in Milwaukee heard them together. This April, he ruled the voter ID law placed an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote. He also determined it violated the federal Voting Rights Act because minorities are less likely than whites to have IDs for voting. Adelman found some 300,000 people in Wisconsin do not have IDs and wrote the voter ID law would “prevent more legitimate votes from being cast than fraudulent votes.” He ruled there was no rational basis for the law because voter impersonation — the only kind of fraud the voter ID law would curb — is nonexistent or virtually nonexistent. Supporters of voter ID disagree with that sentiment, saying voter fraud is difficult to detect and requiring IDs gives the public more confidence in election results.
The United Nations’ human rights body said Wednesday it would take up the issue of voting rights in Hong Kong, where activists are railing against Beijing’s move to vet local candidates. The Human Rights Committee, which monitors respect of an international treaty on civil and political rights, will hold a public session on the thorny issue on Oct. 23, spokeswoman Elizabeth Throssel told AFP. The news follows an announcement by China late last month that Hong Kong’s next leader will be vetted by a pro-Beijing committee, dashing hopes for genuine democracy in the former British colony.
Fiji Islands – where ethnic Indians comprise about 37 percent of its 840,000 population spread of 110 inhabited islands – is in election mode with catchy radio jingles, glossy banners and other paraphernalia of campaigning on display. The general election on Sep 17 is expected to bring an end to the eight-year-long military government in the South Pacific island nation. The radio jingles are to help people memorize numbers as the single ballot for the entire country will carry no names, only numbers to identify the candidates. Fiji, which has had three elected governments overthrown by armed men in as many decades, is holding an election after eight years with a new and distinctive voting system under a new constitution promulgated by the military regime headed by Rear Admiral Frank Bainimarama. Race or ethnicity has been a pivotal aspect of the cultural, political and economic life in Fiji’s complex society. But race will not play a role in the election process this time. The new constitution has done away with race-based electoral rolls, race-based seat quotas and some special privileges of the indigenous Fijians. Under the new system, all Fiji citizens are now called “Fijians”, irrespective of their origin. Indigenous Fijians form 56 percent of Fiji’s population while people of Indian origin account for 37 percent. Political rivalry between the two groups led to two elected governments being overthrown by radical indigenous Fijians, irked over the loss of political power to what were perceived as Indian dominated governments. The 2006 coup was not racially motivated.
Germany’s new eurosceptic party is poised to make strong gains in two regional elections this weekend, ratcheting up pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel who faces a threat on her right flank for the first time since taking power nine years ago. The small but fast-growing Alternative for Germany (AfD) poached thousands of votes from Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) in an election in Saxony two weeks ago, winning nearly 10 percent of the vote there with a focus on law-and-order policies and conservative values. It could repeat the trick in two other eastern states — Thuringia and Brandenburg — on Sunday. “Merkel has brought stability to the German economy and that has kept the conservatives in the CDU quiet,” said politics professor Nils Diederich at Berlin’s Free University. “But if the CDU starts losing votes, Merkel could come under pressure.” The threat from the AfD is not immediate. Merkel enjoys record popularity ratings of over 70 percent and is the undisputed leader of her party and government after leading the CDU to its strongest performance since reunification in a federal election last year.
After losing in the July 9 presidential elections, as well as in subsequent attempts to challenge its results, Prabowo Subianto and his allies have taken the battle to the legislature. This time, it’s not the presidency at stake, but the right of Indonesians to directly elect their governors, mayors and district heads. A committee in the outgoing House of Representatives (DPR) – which will end its term on September 30 – is currently deliberating a Regional Elections Bill (RUU Pilkada) that seeks to have these regional executive leaders be chosen by the local legislature (DPRD). This was the way it used to be, until post-Suharto era reforms led to Indonesians being able to directly vote for them for the first time in 2005. The controversial bill’s proponents tout the budget savings that could be made if Indonesia does away with the costly direct elections, which are held separately by each province. They also say indirect elections through the DPRD reduces the likelihood of election-related violence and “money politics”. Those against it – more than 80% of Indonesians according to a recent survey by the Indonesian Survey Circle – decry the threat to democracy and point out it’s unlikely “money politics” would actually decline. But arguments on the merits of either system aside, the issue here, really, is politics.
It’s been the campaign of the selfie, the tweet, and the (leaked) email, and new data shows how politicians and political parties rate on their online interactions. Online mentions of both Prime Minister John Key and Labour leader David Cunliffe spiked last night with the TV3 leaders debate, as did comments on minimum wage, tax cuts and income tax. Mentions of Key were higher than comments about Cunliffe during the debate, with a significantly larger number of women than men mentioning Key – although the data does not analyse the sentiment of the comments. The topics discussed during the debate that attracted the most online attention were minimum wage which resonated equally between men and women aged 35-44 and income tax and tax cuts which were mentioned the most by women aged 35-44.
It might not appear the most obvious place to launch an election campaign. Most of those present are teenagers not old enough to vote, slouching on beanbags, texting or nodding their heads to the beat on their headphones. In a classroom plastered with posters of boybands, trainee hairdressers barely look up from their model wigs as Stefan Löfven, a Social Democrat who wants to be Sweden’s next prime minister, whizzes through the room. Yet in many ways Stockholm’s Grillska high school is the perfect launchpad for the centre-left party to orchestrate a political comeback after eight years out of government, the longest spell in its history. The school encapsulates Sweden’s much-admired public-private approach to solving the social-budgetary conundrums facing European economies – and its shortcomings. Formerly called John Bauergymnasiet, Grillska used to be one of Sweden’s publicly funded but privately run friskolor (free schools) until its owner, the Danish private equity company Axcel, filed for bankruptcy last April.
As Tunisia prepares for the October 26th legislative elections, the small number of women at the head of the electoral lists is drawing criticism. According to thinker and human rights activist Amel Grami, “the left meets the right” when it comes to the role of women in politics. “Here, ideological affiliations become absent,” she said. “Gender takes prevalence over other criteria such as competence, energy, and integrity.” During the ratification of the new Tunisian constitution in February, Ennahda rejected voting in favour of what is known as “horizontal sharing”, that is, the number of male heads of electoral lists should be equal to the number of female heads. Meanwhile, liberal and leftist parties are waging a battle for women’s right to equality with men in decision making positions. However, it appears that the progressive parties have rejected women from the first election event.
In a converted shop in Aberdeen—on Union Street, appropriately—telephone canvassers for the anti-independence campaign know their script. “Aye, they’ll give us more power even if we vote No,” Neil says down the line. His listener seems unconvinced. “But they will,” he counters, insistently. “After all, they don’t want another referendum in five years’ time.” “I think that persuaded her,” he says, replacing the receiver and annotating his list of voters. Since the establishment of a Scottish Parliament in 1999, powers over education, health and policing have been transferred to it from London. More will follow in 2016, including further freedom to vary income-tax rates. But polls show that Scottish voters want still more devolution. As the nationalists surge, the unionist parties have scrambled to offer it. On September 8th Gordon Brown, a former prime minister, outlined the most drastic plan yet. He proposed that almost all remaining areas of domestic policy, including taxation, should be devolved if Scots vote No. Even if Scottish voters reject independence on September 18th, then, Britain will not continue as before. The state will become looser and more untidy—with particular consequences for the one country so far untouched by devolution.