Voters going to the polls in Texas starting this week will have to show one of a few specific forms of photo ID under a controversial new law upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court over the weekend. The Texas law — along with 15 other voter ID laws passed since 2010 — was billed as a way to prevent people from impersonating eligible voters at the polls. But voter ID laws don’t address what appears to be a more common source of voter fraud: mail-in absentee ballots. A FRONTLINE analysis of voting laws nationwide found that only six of the 31 states that require ID at the polls apply those standards to absentee voters, who are generally whiter and older than in-person voters. And two states with strict photo ID policies for in-person voters — Rhode Island and Georgia — have recently passed bills that allow anyone to mail in a ballot. Voter fraud generally rarely happens. When it does, election law experts say it happens more often through mail-in ballots than people impersonating eligible voters at the polls. An analysis by News21, a journalism project at Arizona State University, found 28 cases of voter fraud convictions since 2000. Of those, 14 percent involved absentee ballot fraud. Voter impersonation, the form of fraud that voter ID laws are designed to prevent, made up only 3.6 percent of those cases. (Other types included double voting, the most common form, at 25 percent, and felons voting when they were prohibited from doing so. But neither of those would be prevented by voter ID laws, either.)
National: The Supreme Court Eviscerates the Voting Rights Act in a Texas Voter-ID Decision | The Nation
In 1963, only 156 of 15,000 eligible black voters in Selma, Alabama, were registered to vote. The federal government filed four lawsuits against the county registrars between 1963 and 1965, but the number of black registered voters only increased from 156 to 383 during that time. The law couldn’t keep up with the pace and intensity of voter suppression. The Voting Rights Act ended the blight of voting discrimination in places like Selma by eliminating the literacy tests and poll taxes that prevented so many people from voting. The Selma of yesteryear is reminiscent of the current situation in Texas, where a voter ID law blocked by the federal courts as a discriminatory poll tax on two different occasions—under two different sections of the VRA—remains on the books. The law was first blocked in 2012 under Section 5 of the VRA. “A law that forces poorer citizens to choose between their wages and their franchise unquestionably denies or abridges their right to vote,” wrote Judge David Tatel. “The same is true when a law imposes an implicit fee for the privilege of casting a ballot.” Then the Supreme Court gutted the VRA—ignoring the striking evidence of contemporary voting discrimination in places like Texas—which allowed the voter ID law to immediately go into effect. “Eric Holder can no longer deny #VoterID in #Texas after today’s #SCOTUSdecision,” Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott tweeted minutes after the Shelby County v. Holder decision. States like Texas, with the worst history of voting abuses, no longer had to approve their voting changes with the federal government. Texas had lost more Section 5 lawsuits than any other state.
You’d think the world’s oldest democracy would be constantly working to make sure that as many people as possible vote in elections such as the one two weeks from today, which will decide who runs everything from city governments to Congress. Instead, what’s clear in the countdown to Nov. 4 are the ways a nation built on the proposition that the vote is the great equalizer limits the number of people who actually go to the polls. Too much of this is deliberate. Republican legislatures have enacted all sorts of thinly disguised ways to suppress the vote of people who don’t typically vote GOP, including minorities, the poor, the elderly and college students. Ohio and North Carolina have cut back early voting, for example, making it tougher for working people to vote. The most offensive restrictions, though, are tough photo ID requirements, which have spread to at least 16 Republican-dominated states — a number that fluctuates as courts strike down or uphold the laws. On Saturday, the Supreme Court upheld the Texas ID law, widely regarded as the nation’s most punitive.
A recent posting here suggested that the constitutional analysis of ID statutes is foundering on the issue of partisan motivation—the politics of ID. The centrality of this motivation is inescapable. it is impressing itself on a prominent jurist like Richard Posner, once dismissive of claims against ID statutes, and it is supported by the evidence considered by political scientists (see here and here). Yet the jurisprudence developed around ID has fared poorly in showing how political motivation can be incorporated into a constitutional test. The Supreme Court’s decision in Crawford is largely at fault here, having accepted the role of partisanship, even the hard, undeniable fact of it, so long as the state could point other reasons in theory for its enactment. So judges skeptical of ID laws have looked elsewhere for the case against ID. Posner’s recent dissent in the Wisconsin case is an example of what happens. He recognizes the driving force of partisanship: he even locates the Wisconsin law within a trend among states with Republican leadership that have moved toward ID around the same time in circumstances that indicate a common political purpose. But his opinion treats this as the only conclusion to be drawn from other facts–facts about the comparative restrictiveness of the ID laws and the projections about their disenfranchising impact.
Documents obtained from Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office appear to contradict Kemp’s claim that a voter fraud probe was based on numerous complaints from counties across Georgia. For weeks, Democrats have hinted that Secretary of State Brian Kemp is trying to keep newly registered Democrats off the voters rolls. Kemp, a Republican, makes no apologies for investigating the New Georgia Project — which has focused on registering Democratic-leaning minority voters. Last week, Kemp said again that reports of potential voter fraud led to the probe.
A forest preserve district race has been omitted from thousands of ballots in Winnebago County, forcing election officials to spend $50,000 to fix the problem. The Winnebago County Clerk’s office didn’t include the Forest Preserves of Winnebago County race on the official certification of candidates sent to the Rockford Board of Elections before ballots were printed, the Rockford Register Star reported. A voter on Thursday noticed the missing race, which has three candidates running for two open board positions.
A federal appeals court ruling Friday will allow Kentucky to prohibit campaign activity on public property near polling places but not on private property. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on a permanent injunction issued three days earlier by U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman, who said the state law violates First Amendment speech rights. A three-judge appeals panel agreed with Bertelsman as far as allowing electioneering on private property but lifted the part of the injunction that applied to public property or polling locations. The case was brought in June by John Russell, a Campbell County businessman who had campaign signs removed from his business’ yard on Election Day in 2012 and 2014. The signs were removed by sheriff’s deputies because they were within 300 feet of a polling place at a church in Cold Spring.
Massachusetts: From staffing to voting machines, election costs add up for cities and towns | The Patriot Ledger
A glance at any campaign finance report reveals the role money plays in state elections, as candidates, private donors and independent interest groups use cash to try to sway voters. But behind the scenes, Massachusetts cities and towns also funnel thousands of dollars into elections – as the price tags to prepare voting machines, staff polling locations and advertise big changes to election routines add up. The cost varies largely depending on the size of the community and how many precincts it has. Scituate Town Clerk Kathy Curran said a typical state election costs about $9,000. The town hires about 34 workers for its six precincts.There is one polling location for all 14,000 residents who are registered to vote. In Quincy, the same state election costs up to $80,000, City Clerk Joseph Shea said. The city operates more than two dozen polling locations for its 30 precincts, requiring about 200 election workers. The city has nearly 64,000 registered voters. “In a city election, we’re on our own, but in a state election, the state does step up to reimburse some of it,” Shea said. “The amount we get back changes from year to year.”
A referendum on the November ballot could repeal Election Day voter registration, but voters haven’t seen one television ad, mailer or person mobilize in favor of the measure. The only noise is coming from a group against the measure and they’ve thrown money and manpower at urging people to vote no. If the legislative referendum appearing on the ballot as LR-126 passes, people could not register to vote on Election Day in future elections. The voter registration deadline would move to 5 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day. “All Montanans should have their voices heard in democracy and LR-126 is one of those efforts to take away that voice,” said Kate Stallbaumer, deputy campaign manager with Montanans for Free and Fair Elections. “We’re focused on protecting and safeguarding the constitutional right to vote.”
You may be proud to cast your votes for particular candidates in Ohio — so proud, in fact, that you decide to take a picture of your ballot and post it on social media before mailing it in. Congratulations, you likely just committed a felony. Under Ohio laws written before anyone ever heard of Facebook and when tweets were associated only with birds, it is illegal to show off how you voted by revealing your completed ballot to someone else. The law says it is a fifth-degree felony for a voter to “allow the elector’s ballot to be seen by another … with the apparent intention of letting it be known how the elector is about to vote.” Another section of law prohibits displaying a marked ballot while in the polling place. “The idea behind it was to keep people from selling their votes,” said Rep. Mike Duffey, R-Worthington. “I think it’s a violation of free speech.”
In the 2012 elections, a Redistricting Amendment to the Ohio Constitution was put on the ballot. Known as Issue 2, the amendment would have created a commission of twelve citizens to draw legislative and congressional maps. The amendment was defeated at the ballot box by a resounding 63% against and 37% for the amendment. To many, partisan redistricting is only a polite way of saying gerrymandering, and this very process of the state legislature choosing who will essentially elect them is provided for in the Ohio Constitution. In fact, the Secretary of State of Ohio, John Husted, wrote in the Washington Post this February, “[I]f government is to be more responsive, it is not the people but the Ohio Constitution that needs to change.” However, it may very well be the case that John Husted was the reason for Issue 2 failing at the ballot box. In 2012 I was an undergraduate student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. I received my absentee ballot in the mail and started working my way through it. After wondering to myself “Why in the world am I electing members of the Judiciary?” I reached the part of the ballot pertaining to Issues. The first, Ohio’s twenty year option to hold a constitutional convention to “revise, alter, or amend the constitution,” and after that a two column monstrosity of an issue that made me cringe. I must confess, I voted against it. I thought it looked too complicated and surely there could be an easier way to redistrict.
Editorials: In Texas voter ID ruling, justices side with more obstacles at the polls | Dallas Morning News
Could it be that the Supreme Court justices overlooked the elegant simplicity of Texas’ traditional election system? We’re talking about the tried-and-true method in place for years, before the Legislature invented a crisis of voter fraud and imposed a photo ID law that places more obstacles before the voting booth. If the justices understood the state’s time-tested system, they wouldn’t have bought the argument that it was too close to Election Day to reinstate it, in favor of the relatively new photo ID requirement. Let’s recall the Texas voting system that was in place before the Republican-controlled Legislature swept it aside in 2011. A registered voter could enter the voting booth by presenting pretty much any ID or document that proved identity, with or without a photo. It might have been a voter registration card or driver’s license. It might have been a library card. It might have been an electric bill, a phone bill or a water bill. The point was to show election workers who you were and where you lived, so long as it coincided with the name on the voter rolls. The beauty of that system was this: If someone stole Grandma’s purse and ID cards, or if — God forbid! — she let her driver’s license expire the year before, she’d still have papers at home she could take to the polls to get a ballot. Grandma would not lose the right to vote on Election Day on a technicality.
Two major parties contesting Botswana’s upcoming general elections held their final rallies Saturday ahead of what is expected to be the most competitive election since independence from Britain in 1966. The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), led by President Ian Khama, faces its first test with voters after a split in 2010 led to the formation of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD). Khama, a former army commander and the son of the country’s first president, Seretse Khama, has been in power since 2008 and made it clear at a rally in the capital Gaborone that he would run on his record in the October 24 poll. “If you want to move forward, vote for the BDP and if you want to move backwards vote for the opposition parties,” Khama said to thunderous applause from several thousand supporters.
Brazil’s ongoing presidential election has been described as electrifying and unpredictable, suitable for a telenovela. To be sure, there has been no shortage of high drama: the tragic, accidental death of a major candidate, the spectacular rise and fall of his vice presidential pick who took his place, and the late surge of a candidate who most pundits not long ago had written off. Given the volatility, few dare predict with confidence what will happen in the Oct. 26 runoff between incumbent President Dilma Rousseff of the Workers Party (PT) and former Minas Gerais governor Aécio Neves of the Social Democratic Party (PSDB). To add to the excitement, the second round has been cast by the two remaining candidates and their respective supporters as an ideological battle that pits left (Rousseff) versus right (Neves). According to the Neves camp, Rousseff would continue the state-interventionist, protectionist policies she pursued during her first term, which have led to inflation and an economic slowdown, while Neves would embrace more market-friendly approaches and would open Brazil to the world, including the United States. Rousseff, in turn, accuses Neves of proposing an economic program that serves the bankers and industrialists, while planning to cut back popular welfare programs that have made Brazil more equal and middle-class.
One of Uruguay’s most prominent pollsters Cifra is reluctant to guess who will win next week’s presidential elections. Cifra said that former president Tabaré Vázquez, running for a second time, is more vulnerable than when current President José Mujica was campaigning for the top seat in 2009. Vázquez is backed by Mujica to be his succesor. Their Broad Front leads all the polls but the election is most likely to go to a runoff on November 30 to determine whether or not it will win a third succesive term in power. Vázquez and his running partner Raúl Sendic have around 40 percent of voting intentions according to the country’s four main pollsters: Cifra, Equipos, Factum and Radar. It is also in doubt whether Broad Front will maintain its majority in Congress if it were to win. Vázquez (2005-2010) and then Mujica were both able to pass laws with relative ease due to their government’s majority. This may not be the case if Vázquez is elected for a second time.
Tunisians vote Sunday to elect their first parliament since the country’s 2011 revolution, in a rare glimmer of hope for a region torn apart by post-Arab Spring violence and repression. After three weeks of largely low-key campaigning, more than five million voters are to elect 217 deputies in a ballot pitting the Islamist Ennahda movement — the country’s largest party — against a host of secular groups. Tunisia has enjoyed relative stability since the region’s 2011 uprisings in contrast to the lawlessness of Libya and Yemen, the military takeover in Egypt and Syria’s bloody civil war. But the country has flirted with disaster, particularly last year when a rise in militant activity, the assassination of two opposition lawmakers and an economy in the doldrums threatened to drag Tunisia down the same path.