Both the Republicans and the Democrats are preparing for some tough races that could go all the way to recounts, by hiring armies of election lawyers. According to Bloomberg Politics, the Republican National Lawyers Association is training upwards of 1,000 lawyers in a series of 50 sessions leading up to election day, to deal with any legal issues that should come up on November 4. This is in addition to the legal teams held by national party committees and the thousands of volunteer lawyers, from advocacy groups and lobbying firms, that are ready to step in if the need arises. The Democrats meanwhile, have a full time staff of trained lawyers focusing on poll access across 23 states. The DNC is requiring that their poll workers use mobile app “incident trackers” to quickly communicate with state party directors about anything that takes place on election day that could effect the way people vote – from broken ballot counters to bad weather, as well as more nefarious instances of potential vote tampering. These apps will then allow party leaders to send out mass emails to registered voters about possible changes in voting places or extended voting hours.
Early voting began on Monday in Texas and Wisconsin. As a result of recent rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court, Texas residents will need a particular form of identification to vote; Wisconsinites can vote without one. On Saturday, the Supreme Court issued an order, in response to an emergency request from the Justice Department and various civil-rights groups, that permits Texas to enforce a voter-I.D. law that had been struck down twice by lower courts. The Texas law had previously been found to violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits racist discrimination, because it requires that voters in the state obtain one of seven types of identification that are not held by many African-Americans and Hispanics. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a dissent for the Court, which Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor signed. Ginsburg called the conditions under which elections in Texas will now take place “the strictest regime in the country.” She argued that the rigidity of Texas’s law distinguished it from Wisconsin’s law. “For example, Wisconsin’s law permits a photo ID from an in-state four-year college and one from a federally recognized Indian tribe,” Ginsburg wrote. “Texas, under Senate Bill 14, accepts neither.” The court’s tone was a contrast from earlier this month, when it stopped Wisconsin from implementing its voter-I.D. law because of the proximity of the upcoming election. The rationale had little, if anything, to do with the plaintiffs’ argument that certain communities of voters—the poor, the elderly, the African-Americans, the Latinos—were being disproportionately burdened in trying to obtain the proper form of identification. There are at least two lines of logic that the Court is using to address the set of voting-rights cases that it has reviewed leading up to November’s election. One, as exhibited in Wisconsin, asserts that, just weeks out, it is too late to implement changes to voting permissions. The other is less straightforward, not least because the Court did not affirmatively defend its decision in the Texas case, and calls into question the way that the right to vote has been interpreted, as well as the role of the Supreme Court in offering clarity.
The law requiring Arkansans to show their photo identification at the polls in order to vote, is no longer law following Wednesday’s state supreme court ruling. But as early voting begins on Monday, counties are scrambling to make last minute changes, redoing things they’ve already done in order to get the proper information to polling sites. Workers at the Saline County Clerk’s office say they’ll work into the night packing boxes full of supplies for polling sites. But, because of the voter ID law being struck down, they’re having to take some items out of the box, like signs asking voters to show their identification. “The early voting sites, we’re going to have to change all of those. all of the signage we spent money on, taxpayer money on, all of those are going to have to be pulled out of the thing that’s going to be sent out. those will no longer be in place,” said Saline County Clerk Doug Curtis.
Millions of voters — about 1 in 5 — are expected to vote absentee, or by mail, in November’s midterm elections. For many voters, it’s more convenient than going to the polls. But tens of thousands of these mail-in ballots are likely to be rejected — and the voter might never know, or know why. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission found that in 2012 more than a quarter of a million absentee ballots were rejected. The No. 1 reason? The ballot wasn’t returned on time, which in most states is by Election Day. Sometimes it’s the voter’s fault. Others blame the post office.
In allowing Texas’ voter identification law to go into effect, at least for the November election, the U.S. Supreme Court last week showed the nation precisely what it meant in 2013 when its conservatives struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County vs. Holder. The Texas law, one of the most discriminatory voting laws in modern history, runs afoul of constitutional norms and reasonable standards of justice. It is hard to chronicle in a short space the ways in which the Texas law, one of the most discriminatory voting laws in modern history, runs afoul of constitutional norms and reasonable standards of justice. State lawmakers rammed through the measure, jettisoning procedural protections that had been used for generations in the state Legislature. By requiring registered voters to present a certain kind of photo identification card, and by making it difficult for those without such cards to obtain one, the law’s Republican architects would ensure that poor voters, or ill ones, or the elderly or blacks or Latinos — all likely Democratic voters — would be disenfranchised, all in the name of preventing a type of voter fraud that does not materially exist. These lawmakers — and for that matter the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court judges who now have sanctioned the law’s implementation for next month’s election — were shown mountains of evidence on what the law’s discriminatory impact would be on minority communities. Witness after witness testified that the new law amounted to a poll tax on people who had, even in the deepest recesses of Texas, been able for decades to adequately identify themselves before lawfully casting their ballot.
Editorials: Justice Ginsburg’s dissent on Texas’ voter ID law a wake-up call for voting rights | Richard L. Hasen/Dallas Morning News
Every so often, Supreme Court watchers are reminded that these justices are working hard behind the scenes by reading briefs, exchanging memos and debating outcomes. Case in point: The justices issued an order and a dissent in a Texas voting rights case at 5 a.m. Saturday. Supreme Court reporters stood by all night for the ruling. The holdup apparently was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s six-page dissent, joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. The Supreme Court allowed Texas to use its voter ID law in the upcoming election, even though a federal court decided a few weeks ago that Texas’ law violated both the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act, and that Texas engaged in intentional racial discrimination in voting. The trial court had barred Texas from using its law this election, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit reversed that decision last week, and the law’s challengers went to the Supreme Court, where, as expected, the court sided with Texas. The Supreme Court’s order was consistent with some of its other recent orders indicating that lower courts should not change the rules of running an election shortly before voting begins. I have dubbed this rule the Purcell Principle, for a 2006 Supreme Court case.
The supreme Court’s weirdly busy October brings to mind an old Cadillac commercial showing a sedan gliding silently down the highway, driver calm and confident in a hermetic, leather-appointed cabin, while the announcer intones, “quietly doing things very well.” Whether the justices are doing their jobs well depends on your point of view. But there is no disputing that they have been doing their most consequential work in uncharacteristic silence in recent weeks. The justices’ moves on gay marriage, abortion and voting rights have been delivered all but wordlessly, as Dahlia Lithwick of Slate recounts. The notable exception to the rule is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the justice who refused to hold her tongue over the weekend, when six of her colleagues permitted Texas to enforce its new photo identification law in the November elections. The Court’s announcement came down at the ungodly hour of 5am on Saturday. It followed a federal district court decision on October 9th that the Texas law was discriminatory in both intent and effect and “constitutes a poll tax”—a ruling that was stayed by the Fifth Circuit Court on October 11th. The stay prompted an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court via Antonin Scalia, the justice assigned to the Fifth Circuit. The six justices who denied the request to lift the stay before dawn on October 18th were mum as to why; they released no reasoning for the decision, which effectively gives Texas’s questionable voter law a pass. But Justice Ginsburg and her clerks apparently ordered pizza and downed some Red Bull on Friday evening, pulling an all-nighter to compose a six-page dissent, which Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined. (Rick Hasen asks why Justice Stephen Breyer, the fourth liberal justice, did not sign on to the dissent; one strong possibility is that he was asleep.)
If Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters succeed in booting C.Y. Leung from power, the city’s unelected chief executive should consider coming to the United States. He might fit in well in the Republican Party. In an interview Monday with The New York Times and other foreign newspapers, Leung explained that Beijing cannot permit the direct election of Hong Kong’s leaders because doing so would empower “the people in Hong Kong who earn less than $1,800 a month.” Leung instead defended the current plan to have a committee of roughly 1,200 eminent citizens vet potential contenders because doing so, in the Times’ words, “would insulate candidates from popular pressure to create a welfare state, and would allow the city government to follow more business-friendly policies.” If that sounds vaguely familiar, it should. Leung’s views about the proper relationship between democracy and economic policy represent a more extreme version of the views supported by many in today’s GOP.
In the run-up to the 2012 election, there was widespread concern about a slew of restrictive voting laws passed by Republicans. But those fears mostly weren’t borne out. Courts blocked several of the worst moves before election day. And record African-American turnout suggested the assault on voting might even have backfired by firing up minority voters. But Republicans didn’t ease off on the push to make voting harder. If anything, they doubled down. And this time around, they’ve had a lot more success as several voting restrictions are now in effect for the first time in a major election. That’s likely to help the GOP this fall. But voting rights advocates say the bigger lesson is that current laws protecting access to the ballot just aren’t strong enough. “This is a clear example of the need for additional federal protections,” said Myrna Perez, a top lawyer at the Brennan Center for Justice, and one of the attorneys who argued against the Texas voter ID law, which was approved for the election by the U.S. Supreme Court early Saturday morning. That decision—which came just two days before early voting kicks off in the Lone Star State—means most of the statewide voting restrictions that in recent weeks were the subject of court fights will be in place when voters go to the polls. In addition to the Texas law—green-lighted despite a federal judge’s ruling that it intentionally discriminated against minorities—North Carolina’s sweeping voting law and Ohio’s cuts to early voting will also be in effect.
Editorials: Age of candidacy laws should be abolished: Why 18 year olds should be able to run for public office. | Osita Nwanevu/Slate
In January, state Sen. Linda Lopez of Arizona retired after 13 years in the legislature. Before announcing her retirement, Lopez looked for a candidate to endorse to fill her vacancy. She soon settled on Daniel Hernandez, Jr., a friend and a board member of Tuscon’s Sunnyside Unified School District. He agreed and began gathering support to run for office. A win seemed likely. There was just one problem. Hernandez was 24. Arizona law requires legislators to be at least 25 years old. But Hernandez initially hoped he could run because he would turn 25 just 13 days after being sworn in. It wouldn’t have been unprecedented. Young federal and state legislators-to-be have found ways to work around age of candidacy laws for almost as long as the laws have existed. Back in 1806, antebellum statesman Henry Clay was appointed to the U.S. Senate at the age of 29 and reached the Senate’s age of eligibility, 30, more than three months after being sworn in. No one seemed to mind. Hernandez wasn’t so lucky. As he found out, Arizona state law requires candidates to sign an affidavit proving that they will be eligible for the office they seek on Election Day, barring him from running altogether. The law was clear: 24-year-old Hernandez was unqualified to serve in the state Senate this year. But a 25-year-old Hernandez would have been fine.
Supervisors took a significant step Tuesday to overhaul Los Angeles County’s antiquated ink-based balloting system by approving a $15-million contract with Palo Alto consultant Ideo for the design of a more modern way to record votes. Elections officials — who must serve about 4.8 million registered voters scattered across 5,000 precincts — began planning for a new system five years ago. The process was guided by an advisory committee that included local city clerks, voting rights and open government advocates, and officials from the local Democratic and Republican parties. The current system is known as InkaVote and requires voters to mark a paper ballot with their selections. Under the new system, projected to roll out in 2020, voters would make their selections using a touch screen, and the voting machine would then print a paper ballot to be tallied.
Alameda County elections officials are sending out cards to alert 27,000 voters in Berkeley that they’ve received mail-in ballots imprinted with the incorrect date for next month’s election. The address window in Alameda County mail-in ballots displaying incorrect date for this year’s election. The ballots arrived in voters’ mailboxes last month. In addition to the legend “Official Election Balloting Material,” the ballots’ address window says, “Election Day November 5, 2014.”
California: Los Angeles could move to even-year elections to increase voter turnout | Los Angeles Daily News
In an effort to increase voter turnout, the Los Angeles City Council Wednesday called for a proposal moving city elections to June and November of even-numbered years. The 12-1 vote, with Councilman Bernard Parks dissenting, asked that the proposal be drafted in time to submit to voters at the March 2015 election. The shift from odd- to even-numbered years would take effect with the 2020 elections. It would allow incumbent officials at that time to serve an extra 18 months. “If voting was a business, we would be going bankrupt,” said Darry Sragow, a USC professor and a former campaign consultant. “The first thing is the way people vote should be a reflection of the way they lead their lives. Everything in our lives is different with cell phones, the Internet, where we work, how we work. “Participation rates are steadily declining. It is not the people’s fault. It is the fault of a system that no longer reflects their day-to-day existence.”
This election season is proving to be tough for Democrats, but many believe they can turn the red state of Georgia blue with the help of new voters. One voter registration campaign led by the New Georgia Project, a “nonpartisan effort” according to its website, has targeted black, Latino and Asian-American residents. The organization’s parent group, Third Sector Development, is currently engaged in a legal battle with election officials over more than 40,000 voter registration applications that, the group says, are missing from Georgia’s voter logs. This month, that organization, along with the NAACP and other civil rights groups, filed a lawsuit against five counties and Georgia’s Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who oversees elections in the state.
The state Democratic Party, mindful of past “shenanigans” at the polls, launched a program Wednesday that they said would protect Marylanders’ right to vote in the Nov. 4 election. Two of the party’s senior leaders, U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin and U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, held a news conference in Baltimore to call attention to the Democrats’ “voter empowerment operation.” Cummings said voters in Maryland face fewer barriers than those in many other states that have adopted voter ID requirements that Democrats believe are designed to suppress the minority vote. But he said Maryland Democrats have to be on guard. “We cannot remain silent when people are trying to lessen the rights of people to vote,” said Cummings, a veteran Baltimore congressman. With eight days of early voting starting Thursday, the Democrats have set up a hotline — 1-888-678-VOTE — where people can receive information on when and where to vote and report any problems at the polls.
New Jersey: Christie says GOP gubernatorial candidates need to win so they control ‘voting mechanisms’ | NorthJersey.com
Governor Christie pushed further into the contentious debate over voting rights than ever before, saying Tuesday that Republicans need to win gubernatorial races this year so that they’re the ones controlling “voting mechanisms” going into the next presidential election. Republican governors are facing intense fights in the courts over laws they pushed that require specific identification in order to vote and that reduce early voting opportunities. Critics say those laws sharply curtail the numbers of poor and minority voters, who would likely vote for Democrats. Christie — who vetoed a bill to extend early voting in New Jersey — is campaigning for many of those governors now as he considers a run for president in 2016.
Secretary of State William Gardner recently made public comments that threaten the fundamental right to vote held by citizens who live in New Hampshire and call this state home. The secretary suggested that only citizens who meet the legal definition of “resident” under state law should be able to vote. He added that the Granite State permits “drive-by” voter fraud. Respectfully, he’s wrong. Gardner’s view that voting should be reserved for those who meet the definition of “resident” under state law would, if enacted, deprive the right to vote to thousands of citizens who call New Hampshire home. His position also violates Part I, Article 11 of the state constitution and has repeatedly been rejected by courts for more than 40 years. Just recently, the secretary’s view was rejected by two separate judges in a case challenging a controversial 2012 law that changed the state’s voter registration form to deliberately suppress voting rights. In striking down the registration form that the secretary supported, the superior court ruled in July that the form’s equating of legal “residency” with the right to vote is an “unreasonable description of the law” that would cause a chilling effect on voting rights.
The North Carolina Supreme Court said Wednesday afternoon the courts should take up the issue of early voting on the campus of Appalachian State, literally moments after the State Board of Elections had voted to restore the on-campus early voting site. However, the early voting site will remain open as the state elections board voted, unless the board meets again to cancel the site. The Supreme Court order came down just before 5 p.m., about twenty minutes after the state board voted unanimously to OK the site in a hastily called emergency meeting. Early voting is scheduled to begin in Watauga County at 8 a.m. Thursday. The latest developments follow a ruling last week in a lawsuit filed by a group of Watauga County voters that argued the closure of the on-campus site was a transparent attempt to reduce Democratic turnout. Wake Superior Judge Donald Stephens agreed with the plaintiffs, ordering the state elections board to adopt a new early voting plan for Watauga County that would include a site on campus.
North Carolina: Early voting starts today, eligibility for 10,000 not verified | Winston-Salem Journal
The State Board of Elections will not be able to verify before the early-voting period begins today whether all of the nearly 10,000 names that it has flagged as belonging to possible ineligible voters are in fact ineligible, according to interviews with elections and transportation officials. Elections officials estimate that most are likely eligible to vote, but the uncertainty has led some state lawmakers to question why the verification process is happening now. The Winston-Salem Journal reported Wednesday that, according to the SBOE, a specific search of those 10,000 names on the state’s voter rolls turned up 145 that belong to immigrants in the U.S. under the federal program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which provides qualified applicants with a two-year reprieve from deportation. The number has been pared down to 119 after more research, said Josh Lawson, a spokesman for the SBOE. “Zero” DACA license holders have cast a ballot, he said. Mike Charbonneau, the deputy secretary of communications at the N.C. Department of Transportation, provided information on where some of the DACA license holders registered to vote.
A series of mishaps at various polling stations around the country during the advance voting process over the weekend have raised doubts about the readiness of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to host the 2014 general elections. Uproar broke out on Monday after reports emerged that the weekend poll marred with controversy as some public servants were denied a chance to vote. Reports from various constituencies in the country indicate that voters were made to wait for long hours while in some instances voting was postponed because ballot papers were either defective or in short supply. In some instances, voters waited until midnight to cast their vote as the IEC was forced to extend voting hours to allow for new ballot papers to arrive. In an interview with The Botswana Gazette, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) parliamentary hopeful in Molepolole North, Mohammed Khan expressed disappointment at the way the IEC handled the advanced voting process and cast aspersions of the Commission’s preparedness to coordinate the October 24 general election.
The two events a month ago could scarcely have been more different: As this city’s wealthiest tycoons, impeccably tailored, gathered in an opulent hall in Beijing to meet with President Xi Jinping of China, thousands of scruffy university and high school students hit the streets of Hong Kong, boycotting classes to protest Chinese-imposed limits on voting rights here. The student protest led to turbulent demonstrations and the occupation of downtown avenues, the biggest challenge to Beijing’s authority in Hong Kong since the territory reverted to Chinese rule in 1997. The tycoons, however, have barely been heard from. As a struggle over Hong Kong’s political future unfolds, the men and women who arguably wield the most influence with Beijing, and financially have the most at stake, have maintained a studied silence on the outcome. Wary of upsetting China’s leaders, who could dismantle or damage their businesses, and concerned about offending the Hong Kong public, many of whom are already resentful, they have instead retreated behind the tinted windows of their limousines and the elaborate gates of their hillside estates.
Ukraine on Sunday will hold its first legislative elections since clashes erupted last April between government forces and pro-Russia separatists, who will boycott the vote in the eastern provinces they hold. Kiev has said the boycott in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk will not affect the legitimacy of the process. Before the conflict started, around 6.5 million people lived in the region, around 15 percent of the total population. An estimated one million people have fled the area and sought refuge in neighboring Russia or other Ukrainian regions because of the fighting. “Here, there will be no elections,” said Andrei Purguin, deputy Prime Minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. Donetsk and Lugansk are scheduled to choose their own parliaments and leaders in a separate election scheduled for November 2. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has stressed the importance of full transparency in the October 26 elections in areas controlled by Kiev in the two rebel regions.
All this despite the fact that president Jose Mujica, who can’t be re-elected but enjoys strong popularity both at home and overseas, has been openly campaigning for the candidates of the ruling coalition. The latest polls indicate that the incumbent ticket of former president Tabare Vazquez (74) and Raul Sendic (54) are leading in the range of 40% to 42% of vote intention, but a formidable and unexpected young contender has emerged, Luis Lacalle Pou, 41, and his conservative National party. Legislator and lawyer Lacalle Pou has a vote intention above 32% and has made the Sunday event, unthinkable only six months ago, in the most competitive election since democracy returned to Uruguay in 1985. ”Uruguay’s financial crisis of 2002 left Uruguay divided in a centre left half with a floor of 40% of the electorate and another 40% centre right.
Florida: Congressional redistricting heads to state’s high court just as lawmakers return to Capitol | Palm Beach Post
The Florida Supreme Court set the day after the opening of the 2015 Legislature for a pivotal hearing into whether the state’s redrawn congressional districts are valid. The court set March 4 for a hearing in the appeal by a coalition of voters’ groups calling for overturning a judge’s ruling that upheld the congressional plan recast by the Republican-led Legislature. The move is the latest in a high-stakes political drama steeped in partisan politics. Following a 12-day trial that ended in June, Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis threw out district boundaries approved in 2012 by the Legislature, specifically finding that the districts held by U.S. Reps. Daniel Webster, R-Orlando and Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville were drawn to help Republicans maintain overwhelming control of the state’s 27-member congressional delegation.
Wisconsin’s on-again, off-again voter ID law has been put on hold for the fall election, leaving local election officials to make adjustments less than a month before voters go to the polls. Election workers were being trained for the ID requirement, forms were being changed and plans were in place tell voters to bring an ID following a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling in September that validated the law. But another order, this time by the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 9, blocked the voter ID law from being implemented for the Nov. 4 election. “It’s a roller coaster, I’ll say that,” said St. Croix County Clerk Cindy Campbell. Plans were in place in the city of River Falls to send letters to residents telling them to bring an ID to the polls, but “luckily (they) didn’t go out before the reversal,” said City Clerk Lu Ann Hecht. Her office also had made signs informing people about the law, as had the clerk’s office in Polk County. “I printed them the day before the (Supreme Court) ruling came down,” said Polk County Clerk Carole Wondra. “So, I’m just sitting on them now.” Local clerks are now working to get out the opposite message: IDs won’t be required at the polls.
Brazilian voters electing a new president this weekend are being asked to decide what scares them least: the incumbent’s warnings about the “ghosts of the past,” or her challenger’s charges about the “monsters of the present.” The latest polls give left-leaning incumbent Dilma Rousseff a slight edge in Sunday’s runoff vote to lead the world’s fifth-largest nation. But few people are counting out centre-right challenger Aecio Neves after a topsy-turvy campaign that has been the most competitive, divisive and dramatic since Brazil’s return to democracy in 1985. “The country is divided in two, with half feeling that social inclusion and protections are what matter most, and the other half believing that macroeconomic stability is more important,” said Carlos Pereira, a political analyst at the Gertulio Vargas Foundation, Brazil’s leading think-tank . “The candidate who convinces voters he or she is best prepared to combine these two beliefs and make them complementary will win Sunday’s election.” The race turned dramatic after Eduardo Campos, a main opposition candidate, was killed when his campaign plane crashed in August. His running mate, renowned environmentalist Marina Silva, was thrust into his spot, and she immediately jumped to a double-digit lead over Rousseff and Neves. Silva initially tapped into the discontent over poor public services that millions of Brazilians expressed in anti-government protests last year, but her campaign never found its feet and voters drifted away from her within weeks. That opened the gap for Neves to stage his surprisingly strong showing in the Oct. 5 first-round vote, coming in second and forcing Rousseff into a runoff when her first-place finish didn’t get an absolute majority.
Hackers attacked Ukraine’s election commission website on Saturday on the eve of parliamentary polls, officials said, but they denied Russian reports that the vote counting system itself had been put out of action. The www.cvk.gov.ua site, run by the commission in charge of organising Sunday’s election, briefly shut down. Ukrainian security officials blamed a denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, a method that can slow down or disable a network by flooding it with communications requests. “There is a DDoS attack on the commission’s site,” the government information security service said on its Facebook page. The security service said the attack was “predictable” and that measures had been prepared in advance to ensure that the election site could not be completely taken down. “If a site runs slowly, that doesn’t mean it has been destroyed by hackers,” the statement said. A report on Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti quoted a statement on the personal website of the Ukrainian prosecutor general saying that the electronic vote counting system was out of order and that Sunday’s ballots would have to be counted by hand. The commission spokesperson, Kostyantyn Khivrenko, called the RIA Novosti report a “fake”.
Unlike most Election Days, this one has a decent chance of ending without a clear winner. Blame the excruciatingly tight races around the country that could lead to recounts, the two potential runoffs that may dictate control of the U.S. Senate, and the Supreme Court for taking action on state voting laws just weeks before Election Day. But one thing is clear: an army of lawyers is readying for kind of battle not witnessed since Florida in 2000. The weeks and months leading up to this year’s midterms have meant a mix of heavy preparation, equally heavy anxiety and a lot of waiting for a subset of the legal community. In an ideal world, their services will never be needed. In a worst case scenario, their skills may determine the trajectory of the U.S. government for years to come.
National: Republicans in tight midterm races use election rules changes to increase odds | The Guardian
In 2007 Charlie Crist, the then Republican governor of Florida, astonished political friend and foe alike by putting a stop to what he saw as the state’s iniquitous practice of withholding the vote from released prisoners. He announced that non-violent former felons who had done their time would automatically have their right to vote restored to them. It was no small affair. In Florida, 1.3 million people have prior felony convictions, making this a very sizeable chunk of a total eligible electorate of 11 million. Former felons are disproportionately drawn from poor and minority communities, and as such, if they vote at all, they tend to lean Democratic, making the decision by a Republican governor all the more remarkable. But it didn’t last long. Four years later, Crist’s successor as governor, the Tea Party favourite Rick Scott, made a point of reversing the decision. That could prove crucial on 4 November for Florida’s GOP candidates, not least for Scott himself, who is in a bitter fight for re-election, with polls putting him neck-and-neck with his challenger – none other than Charlie Crist, now standing as a Democrat.
As the chairman of the Republican Governors Association and the self-appointed surrogate-in-chief for the Grand Old Party’s candidates for the top jobs in states across the country this fall, Chris Christie has plenty of reasons to want embattled governors like Florida’s Rick Scott and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker to be reelected. Yes, yes, Christie says he wants to stop talking about raising the minimum wage. Yes, he wants to “start offending people” — like school teachers and their unions. But that’s not all; the governor of New Jersey has another goal. Among the reasons he mentions for electing Republican governors, says Christie, is a desire to put the GOP in charge of the “voting mechanism” of likely 2016 presidential battleground states such as Florida and Wisconsin and Ohio. In a speech to the US Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform this week, Christie acknowledged a fact that politicians often avoid: the governor of a state, particularly a governor with allies in the legislature and key statewide posts, can play a big role in deciding how easy or how hard it is for working people, minorities, seniors and students to vote. The governor, who despite his many scandals still seems to imagine himself as a 2016 Republican presidential prospect, described the gubernatorial — and presidential — stakes to the friendly crowd.