A federal judge on Monday ordered the state to take additional steps to provide voting materials to Alaska Native voters with limited English for the upcoming election. U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason ordered the state to distribute translated announcements to be read on radio that include information on early voting, races and initiatives on the November ballot. The state, among other things, must make available on its website translations of election material in Yup’ik dialects and provide to outreach workers translations of such things as candidate statements, initiative summaries and pro and con statements on the initiatives. The Division of Elections also is to provide translations to the plaintiffs in the case to get their input.
“No taxation without representation” has been a cliché of American politics almost since the nation’s founding, but for citizens of Washington, D.C., those words have been anything but a guarantee. Last week, a Senate committee held a hearing on the unlikely possibility of D.C. statehood. In attendance were Senators Thomas Carper, a Delaware Democrat, and Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, Mayor Vincent Gray, and Eleanor Holmes Norton, the district’s non-voting delegate for the House of Representatives. Along with nine panelists, they were there to discuss the New Columbia Admission Act, a bill that would incorporate the lion’s share of D.C. as the 51st state in the Union, preserve a federal enclave of monuments and buildings within the new state, and grant the district’s nearly 650,000 residents full representation in Congress. Currently, citizens of the nation’s capital are denied voting equality at the congressional level and significant autonomy locally. This set-up makes D.C. an anomaly among American municipalities and arguably relegates its residents to second-class citizens. “In the 21st century, Congress simply cannot ask our residents to continue to be voyeurs of democracy, as Congress votes on matters that affect them—how much in federal taxes they must pay, whether their sons and daughters will go to war, and even their local budget and laws—without the vote in the House and Senate required for consent of the governed.” Norton said in a prepared statement.
The state Board of Elections will not appeal last week’s ruling to change the description of a referendum question on the Nov. 4 statewide ballot proposing a new redistricting commission, a board spokesman said Monday. The board is altering the ballots to reflect the decision by Albany Supreme Court Justice Patrick McGrath that the word “independent” must be deleted from the ballot itself, as well as a description and abstract of the proposition, because it inaccurately describes the nature of the commission.
Ohio: Early voting lawsuit could cause problems in other states, state attorney warns | Cleveland Plain Dealer
A federal court decision finding Ohio’s plentiful early voting days too restrictive could have ramifications for dozens of other states, attorneys defending Ohio law in a voting rights lawsuit warned in a brief filed Monday. The attorneys for the state noted in their brief to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that Ohio offers more voting opportunities than 41 states, including neighboring states Michigan and Kentucky and others where ballots can only be cast in-person on Election Day. “If Ohio’s rules are illegal, the 41 States’ less-generous options are also in trouble,” State Solicitor Eric E. Murphy wrote for the state.
The fate of Texas’ tough voter ID law moved into the hands of a federal judge Monday, following a trial that the U.S. Justice Department said exposed another chapter in the state’s troubling history of discrimination in elections. State attorneys defending the law signed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry in 2011 urged the judge to follow other courts by upholding photo identification requirements. The most recent such case came this month when a federal appeals panel reinstated Wisconsin’s law in time for Election Day. Whether Texas will also get a ruling before then is unclear. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ended the two-week trial in Corpus Christi without signaling when she’ll make a decision, meaning that as of now, an estimated 13.6 million registered Texas voters will need a photo ID to cast a ballot in November.
Lawyers for the U.S Department of Justice and minority groups once again made the case that Texas’ controversial Voter ID law improperly discriminates against Latino and African American voters during closing arguments in federal court Monday. Attorneys for the Texas attorney general will present closing arguments later Monday. The closing arguments are scheduled to last three hours and are expected to end later Monday. The state has argued the law is constitutional, popular and essential to combat voter fraud. However, cases of in-person voter fraud, which a law like this would help prevent, are rare. Plaintiffs’ attorneys have argued that the voter fraud concerns are simply a rouse to impose new requirements that make it harder for minority voters to cast their ballots. The Voter ID law is a “serious problem in search of a solution,” said Richard Dellheim, an attorney with the Justice Department. “That problem is that it violates the Voting Rights Act.”
Clerks around Wisconsin from both parties have modified the state’s model ballots for the Nov. 4 elections, raising questions about both the state officials who designed the ballots and about a GOP lawsuit aimed at forcing a costly reprinting of ballots. Clerks from both parties, including at least three Democrats, have found the model ballots confusing, showing that the concerns over them aren’t limited to the Republicans who have sued over the issue. Checks by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Friday found that most of the state’s urban areas will be using ballots that are more clearly marked for voters than the Government Accountability Board’s model ballot. The biggest exception is in Wausau. Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell said Friday he had refused to use the ballot that state elections officials had recommended for this fall out of concerns that it was too confusing. Rock County Clerk Lori Stottler said she had similar concerns that the ballot put forward by the accountability board didn’t clearly distinguish for voters between the candidates on the ballot and the offices they were seeking. And La Crosse County Clerk Ginny Dankmeyer said she added shading to the ballots to make them clearer. “We try to make the ballot as accessible and easy to read, and that’s why I put the shading in,” she said.
An amicus brief filed in the effort to stop Wisconsin’s Voter ID law from being implemented before Election Day focuses on a lack of access for many to Department of Motor Vehicles service centers throughout the state between now and Nov. 4. The brief, filed by One Wisconsin Institute (the research arm of One Wisconsin Now), demonstrates the differences between Wisconsin and Indiana with regard to implementing Voter ID laws. One Wisconsin Institute’s research shows that Wisconsin residents have much less access to DMV centers to obtain necessary identification than Indiana residents do. A three-judge panel on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Sept. 12 that the state could implement its Voter ID law before the midterm election, while it considers the merits of a case brought by Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. Van Hollen is asking the court to overturn U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman’s decision to strike down the law, which was passed in 2011.
Afghanistan has been held hostage by political stalemate for months. On September 21st it was finally broken, when the country’s two feuding presidential candidates, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, signed a power-sharing agreement. Though the ceremony, at the Arg, the presidential palace in the capital Kabul, was brief and low-key, the deal will radically—and perhaps wisely—change the country’s political framework. Neither man spoke and neither looked quite at ease. But the agreement will at least allow the new government to get on with the massive task of winning the confidence of a country that has been waiting for the deadlock to end. The four-page document, signed in the presence of outgoing President Hamid Karzai, and later by witnesses James Cunningham, the American ambassador, and Jan Kubis, the United Nations’ senior Afghanistan representative (both of whom were banned from the palace ceremony by Mr Karzai), divests the president of his vast powers.
Liberal Leader Brian Gallant appears to have won the New Brunswick election amid a vote-counting “fiasco.” With vote numbers still to be found and counted, it appears Gallant’s Liberals have won a majority government. Gallant told a small group of supporters who stuck it out until the early morning hours in Grande-Digue that “it is with a great deal of humility that I accept being the premier of our great, beautiful province.” At 12:30 a.m. AT, the Liberals had 42.7 per cent of the popular vote compared with 34.7 per cent for the Tories. The NDP had 13 per cent followed by 6.6 per cent for the Greens and 2.1 per cent for the People’s Alliance. The Liberals and Tories exchanged the lead in seats all night. The Liberals are now elected in 27 ridings, the PCs in 21 ridings and the Green Party in one riding. The vote-counting process ground to a halt mid-way through Monday night because of problems with the vote tabulation machines. There have been calls by some party leaders for the ballots to be manually counted.
New Zealanders will soon get to vote on whether to replace a flag that harks back to the country’s colonial past with one that some, including the prime minister, suggest would better suit its modern-day image. Fresh from a resounding election victory for his ruling National Party, John Key said Monday that a referendum on changing the flag was likely sometime next year—significantly reducing an earlier time frame of up to three years. Mr. Key reignited debate over the divisive issue this year, when he proposed holding a referendum on whether to ditch the flag, which for more than a century has shown four red stars on a blue background and Great Britain’s Union Jack in the corner. The idea initially was to hold the vote at the same time as the general election, which Mr. Key’s center-right National Party won on Saturday. The prime minister, however, later decided it was better to wait for up to three years, to prevent the issue clouding more important political and economic considerations ahead of the election.
By mid-afternoon on Monday the number of names on change.org had topped 87,000. “We the undersigned demand a re-vote of the Scottish referendum, counted by impartial international parties,” reads the petition, which goes on to cite “countless evidences of fraud” documented during Thursday’s poll on independence. At 38degrees.org.uk, a second petition had more than 62,000 signatories. “Investigate the vote counting procedures,” it demands. “Allow an independent re-count of all votes.” “I have [seen] videos that look like cheating and also [too] many yes voters for the result to be no,” wrote one signatory, Zoe M. “Why [were] there Yes votes photographed on a No table?” asked Maxine B. “Why [are] there videos of votes being tampered with or moved around while the counter is seen looking around making sure no one was watching?” “I’m a NO voter and even I think this is rigged,” said Zeus M.
Scotland’s referendum on whether to break away from Britain is making history in more than one way: It has been the first time 16- and 17-year-olds in the U.K. have been able to cast a ballot. Scotland lowered the voting age from 18 to 16 for the referendum. Though the new teenage voters are a relatively small part of the voting population, the move has given them rare political power. When the change in voting age was announced, it was seen as a likely boost for independence, given the conventional view that younger voters tend to have less affinity for the status quo. But polls suggested that might not be the case. Election officials say that more than 100,000 16- and 17-year-olds are registered to vote, out of 4.29 million total voters.
Wisconsin’s voter ID law was on, then off, and now back on again—for now. A similar Texas law was blocked by a federal court before going into force last year, and could now be nixed once more. North Carolina’s sweeping and restrictive voting law looks likely to be in effect this November, but there’s no guarantee. Ohio’s cuts to early voting were put on hold recently, but that decision too could be reversed. And no one seems to know what’s going to happen with Arkansas’ ID law. In a slew of states with crucial races this fall, access to the polls is in the hands of the courts. That reality underlines how last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that weakened the Voting Rights Act has transformed the legal landscape on the issue — but also how the conservative push to restrict voting is now a national, not a regional, campaign. It’s a situation that is likely to cause confusion for voters no matter the legal outcomes. And looming at the end of the road is the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice John Roberts, no friend of voting rights, which could upend everything if it decides to clear things up by weighing in. “That is the big question right now,” said Myrna Perez, a top voting rights lawyer with the Brennan Center for Justice, who has been arguing the Texas case. “Is this going to get before the court before the 2014 election? It’s certainly something that folks are pondering.”
Beyond the headlines and campaign rhetoric, the state’s investigation into possible irregularities by a Democratic-leaning group’s efforts to register blacks, Asians and Hispanics to vote has many facets, and not all are yet known. The investigation into the New Georgia Project began in early May, when local registrars started reporting to the Secretary of State’s Elections Division that voters had complained of intimidation and that documents turned in by the group appeared suspicious. In all, officials in 13 counties so far — from Effingham and Toombs in the southeast to Coweta and Gwinnett in the northwest — have submitted suspicious documents to state investigators. Since Secretary of State Brian Kemp is a Republican, Democrats and officials of the New Georgia Project have alleged in the media that the investigation is a GOP attempt at minority voter suppression. But many of the complaints that triggered the probe originated in Democrat-controlled counties like Muscogee, DeKalb and Fulton.
Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is stepping down in January after two terms in office, leaving behind a more modernized office and a tenure marked by conflict with the Legislature. He wants to let a “new generation of leadership” onto the scene, he said, but he’s not leaving due to a lack of energy. “He gets up really early in the morning and goes, goes, goes, goes,” said Dale Wiehoff, Ritchie’s former colleague and vice president for communications at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. “He’s very engaged in whatever conversation he’s in.” Ritchie’s tenure has spanned a period of change and political contention for the secretary of state’s office, which is tasked with overseeing elections and business registration. Because of his initiatives over the past eight years, both voters and businesses can register with the state online.
Inconvenience or expense are not excuses for denying people their right to vote, according to an attorney who’s been challenging voting restrictions since 1972. “If you can’t vote and participate in government, you become the victim of government,” said Laughlin McDonald, director emeritus of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project. “We have had experience with that in the South, where we had all-white primaries, literacy tests, character tests and poll taxes. The courts have ruled those block the 14th and 15th amendments (of the U.S. Constitution).”
With all the legal wrangling and vocal protests about North Carolina’s new election changes, you’d think legislators who helped pass the wide-reaching 2013 law might keep quiet about that support as General Assembly elections approach. Actually, they’re actively taking credit for the law — or at least it’s most publicized provision. In mailers and on a television ad early in the fall campaign, a handful of North Carolina Senate Republicans seeking re-election are highlighting their votes for a bill that will soon require people to show a valid photo identification to vote in person. That’s because the idea of voter ID remains popular and reinforces a promise many lawmakers made to pass it when they first got elected.
Three state agencies charged with implementing voter ID for the Nov. 4 election say they have no additional money set aside to help voters and state workers comply with the newly reinstated requirement. But municipal clerks in Wisconsin’s two largest cities say they will spend thousands of dollars and hire hundreds of poll workers in the next few weeks to ensure that voters have the proper government-issued photo identification when casting their ballots. Spokesmen for the three state agencies — the Government Accountability Board, the Division of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Health Services — all say they are using existing staff and resources to handle the demand. In addition, the accountability board says it has no money for a public information or outreach campaign to ensure voters are aware of the requirement. GAB spokesman Reid Magney said the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee has asked the agency to develop a budget request by Sept. 30, which it will consider at its quarterly meeting sometime after that.
The last-minute reinstatement of Wisconsin’s voter ID restrictions could create voting problems for over 32,000 students attending state universities. University-issued ID cards from most public universities will not be accepted as proof of identification at the polls, and tens of thousands of students will have to go through additional hurdles before election day if they want to exercise their right to vote. University students tend to vote for Democrats, and the voter ID law was pushed by Republican legislators. The impact on students is one other ripple in the shockwave that the 7th Circuit sent across Wisconsin last week, when a panel of appellate judges — all appointed by Republican presidents — reinstated Wisconsin’s voter ID law just seven weeks before election day. Federal district Judge Lynn Adelman had blocked the law in April as unconstitutional and violative of the Voting Rights Act. More than 32,000 students from out of state attend public universities in Wisconsin, and are eligible to vote in the state, yet cannot use a driver’s license from their home state to vote in November. Until the 7th Circuit’s decision last week, out-of-state students had little reason to spend the time and money to obtain a Wisconsin ID card.
Two groups representing minorities asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Friday to block the state’s voter ID law for the Nov. 4 election, seeking a new way to stop the measure. The Milwaukee branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera asked the court to keep the law from taking effect this fall to prevent “confusion and disenfranchisement.” The groups are not asking that the law be blocked for future elections. In July, the state Supreme Court ruled against the two groups and upheld the voter ID law. But the requirement to show ID at the polls remained block because of an order by U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman in two other cases.
Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank economist, has been officially declared the new president of Afghanistan, after three months of political deadlock was resolved through a new, untested power-sharing arrangement with his arch rival. Ghani signed the agreement with Abdullah Abdullah, his adversary in presidential elections in June that left the country suspended in acrimony, fraud allegations and political paralysis. Under the deal, Ghani will run the cabinet and be in charge of strategic functions, while Abdullah will be able to appoint a “chief executive” who will be in charge of daily duties. Neither man appeared overjoyed as they signed the deal. When the election results were finally declared, the ranking official did not use the words “winner” or “loser”, nor did he announce the final voting figures.
Winning a third term is a remarkable achievement for any political party. New Zealand’s centre-right National Party did so on September 20th, carried to victory, as expected, by its popular leader and the country’s current prime minister, John Key (pictured). But securing an increased majority over its first and second terms, as National did on Saturday, is astounding: it raked in 48.1% of the vote. Based on figures from election night, the party will also have enough members to form a government without the need for supporting parties—the first time this has happened since the introduction of the mixed-member proportional voting system in 1996. And even if special votes (yet to be counted) mean that National will not have an absolute majority of 61 in the 121-seat unicameral house, Mr Key is unconcerned: support from the United Future Party, the ACT Party and the Maori Party, which have all supported National Party-led governments in the last two terms, would give the National Party a comfortable majority.
New Zealand: Key wins third term with outright majority in New Zealand’s ‘dirty tricks’ election | Telegraph
New Zealand’s ruling National party secured a third term in government in the election on Saturday, winning an outright majority on a platform to continue strong economic growth. Prime Minister John Key’s centre-right party received 48.1 per cent of the vote, giving it 62 of 121 parliamentary seats and improving its performance on the previous vote in 2011. The 53-year-old former foreign exchange dealer triumphed despite allegations of dirty political tactics involving government ministers, and claims that a government spy agency had planned mass secret domestic surveillance. Investigative journalist and liberal activist Nicky Hager had previously published a book called “Dirty Politics,” which exposed the extent of the National Party’s links with a conservative blogger.
United Kingdom: Scotland Seeks to Restore Harmony After Independence Vote Divides Nation | Wall Street Journal
Though Scotland has settled its independence referendum by choosing to stay in the U.K., rifts created in the fiercely contested vote remain. “The Scottish people got it wrong,” said Susie McIntyre, a 40-year-old stay-at-home mother in central Edinburgh over the weekend, who was one of the 45% of voters who had cast a ballot for independence. “The people who voted for the union—they should’ve taken the bull by the horns and stood up for what they truly believed.” Senior politicians and other public figures are now waging a campaign to mend such divisions and soothe resentment toward the British government.
The 16- and 17-year-olds who voted in Scotland’s referendum didn’t determine the outcome. The margin of victory for the “yes” vote was larger than their total number of votes. But they did make a strong case to the rest of the world for a lower voting age. The U.K.’s voting age is 18, but Scottish Nationalist Party leader Alex Salmond struck a deal to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to participate in the referendum, believing it would benefit the “yes” vote. It was a logical calculation: Support for independence was highest among those under 30. Pre-election polls and surveys, however, suggested that voters under 18 were narrowly divided and leaning the other way. Kids today. So conservative. If Salmond had gotten his wish, and the vast majority of 16- and 17-year olds had voted for independence, conservatives at home and abroad would have tut-tutted that they were too young to know what they were doing. By not voting as a bloc, and by largely mirroring societal attitudes, the young Scots knocked down the image of young voters as radicals. In doing so, they gave a big boost to the argument that 16-year-olds can responsibly participate in the democratic process — and to a nascent international movement to lower voting ages.