A top Republican has all but confirmed that Congress won’t move forward with legislation to strengthen the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which was badly weakened by the Supreme Court in 2013. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, who chairs the House Judiciary committee, said Wednesday morning that the landmark civil rights legislation is still robust enough to stop racial discrimination in voting. “There are still very, very strong protections in the Voting Rights Act in the area that the Supreme Court ruled on,” Goodlatte said at a breakfast event with reporters, hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “To this point, we have not seen a process forward that is necessary to protect people because we think the Voting Rights Act is providing substantial protection in this area right now.” He added, according to an audio recording obtained by msnbc: “We’ll continue to examine this, we’ll continue to listen to the concerns of individuals, and we’ll certainly look at any instances of discrimination in people’s access to the ballot box, because it is a very, very important principle.”
The Internal Revenue Service says it won’t come out with new proposed rules for so-called dark money groups until late spring at the earliest, increasing the likelihood that no changes will take effect before the 2016 elections. These groups—social welfare non-profits that can engage in politics, but do not have to disclose their donors—have become a major force in elections, pouring at least $257 million into the 2012 elections. The Wesleyan Media Project estimates that dark money paid for almost half the TV ads aired in the 2014 Senate races. The IRS originally issued a draft version of the rules for dark money groups more than a year ago, but withdrew them for revisions after receiving intense criticism from both ends of the political spectrum. It’s unknown how aggressive the IRS’ new proposal will be in attempting to rein in political activity by social welfare non-profits. Some observers expect the agency to set a hard limit on how much of groups’ spending can be devoted to politics, perhaps 40 percent or less.
Voting Blogs: A “Nice Sunny Day With No Snow” and the Growing Influence of Alaska Natives | State of Elections
Late September featured more than a mere drop in temperatures for Alaska residents, as U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason issued an interim order that would shake the state’s electoral landscape. The order came in response to Toyukak v. Treadwell, a case in which the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) accused Republican Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell and others of violating the Voting Rights Act’s (VRA) Section 203 language assistance provision. The order required, largely, that language assistance be provided to Yup’ik- and Gwich’in-speaking natives, who hoped for a chance to participate in the political process. Notably, in Alaska, nearly one in every five individuals is native.
Brent Hassert, lobbyist for the Will County Board, said the county should act fast to persuade lawmakers to lessen the blow associated with new legislation requiring same-day voter registration. “Time is of the essence. We can’t drag our feet. [Let’s bring lawmakers] up to speed on our concerns,” Hassert told members of the County Board’s Legislative and Policy Committee on Tuesday.
Ohio’s elections chief said Wednesday he wants all voters in the swing state to be able to track their absentee ballots online, as military voters and some residents in larger counties already do. The idea was among several priorities that Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted discussed at a conference of the Ohio Association of Election Officials. Husted said he would like to see online tracking in all 88 counties in time for the 2016 primary elections. “This will further increase voters’ confidence in casting ballots by mail and in Ohio elections overall,” he told the group of bipartisan elections officials. While voters would not see every movement of their ballot through the mail, Husted said online tracking would let voters verify that their local board of elections had received their ballot.
A Broken Arrow state senator wants to change the state’s voter I.D. law after his elderly and veteran constituents were turned away from the polls for not having photo I.D. that was good enough to get a ballot. State Senator Nathan Dahm, R- Broken Arrow, tells FOX23 that he has filed a bill to be considered by the state legislature this coming session that would allow all Oklahomans to use expired driver’s licenses and passports as a valid form of photo I.D. when they go out to vote. “They had to go back and find another form of identification that they had, and we just want to address the situation,” Dahm said. Dahm tells FOX23 that a group of World War II veterans living in his district told him they had carpooled to the polls because some of them couldn’t drive, but when they all arrived at the same precinct, some of them were turned away because they pulled out expired driver’s licenses to use as voter I.D.
Chile looks set to make major changes to its electoral system so it will better represent voters’ wishes and ensure more women participate in politics, an issue close to the heart of center-left President Michelle Bachelet. After an all-night debate, the Senate on Wednesday morning gave the green light to Bachelet’s electoral reform bill, with the support of two opposition senators. The bill is expected to easily pass in the lower house and then be signed into law. The vote overturns a byzantine electoral system introduced by dictator Augusto Pinochet before he departed from power that has effectively excluded parties that do no belong to one of two leading coalitions and prevented either coalition from winning a significant majority in Congress. Pinochet, who ruled the South American country from 1973-1990, intended to ensure conservative parties retained a strong voice after the return to democracy.
A referendum on whether to permit Irish citizens living overseas to vote in presidential elections is “unlikely” to be held this year, Minister of State for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan has said. The decision on whether to hold a referendum was due to be made before Christmas, but the matter has not yet been discussed by Cabinet. Speaking to The Irish Times after a round-table discussion on diaspora affairs in Dublin Castle yesterday, Mr Deenihan said two referendums, on marriage equality and the age qualification of presidential election candidates, would be put to the people next year, and “logistically it would be very difficult” to hold a third. The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government is working on a proposal for overseas voting which will be discussed by Cabinet before the summer, Mr Deenihan said. However, this will not be included in the Government’s new plan for diaspora policy, due to be published in the coming weeks.
The Supreme Court has struck down a petition against the Knesset law which raised the electoral threshold from 2 percent to 3.25 percent — a change that effectively forces Arab parties to run in joint slates in order to gain Knesset representation. Eight justices dismissed the petition with the only opposition coming from the court’s sole Arab justice, Salim Joubran. The court’s reasons were not specified due to the tight timeline before the March 17 election, requiring that all lists be presented by the end of this month. The majority included outgoing President of the Court Asher Grunis as well as the incoming President Justice Miriam Naor, joined by Justices Esther Hayut, Neal Hendel, Hanan Melcer, Uzi Vogelman, Yoram Danziger and Elyakim Rubinstein. Justice Joubran found himself odd man out on the bench — just as he was in another recent ruling, supported by four other Jewish judges, to suspend MK Haneen Zoabi from the Knesset.
Persistent institutional chaos is undermining public confidence in Kyrgyzstan’s parliamentary republic as the country enters a new political cycle. Observers fear parliamentary elections this November could destabilize and further fracture Kyrgyzstan, as officials – including the secretive coterie surrounding President Almazbek Atambayev – scramble to accumulate power. With the struggle already underway – and as Kyrgyzstan integrates with its authoritarian neighbors Russia and Kazakhstan in the Eurasian Economic Union – civic groups complain that democratic practices are steadily eroding. Evidence of backsliding on basic rights in 2014 was abundant — ranging from populist and Russia-inspired legislation targeting homosexuals and non-profits, through apparent efforts to muffle and co-opt influential media. Lawmakers have been mooting controversial ideas, such as arming civilians in border areas, and calling for economically unfeasible policies.
Nigeria has re-registered around 10 million voters wrongly struck off the roll a year ago due to technical glitches, leaving Africa’s most populous nation with an electorate of 68.8 million, the electoral commission said on Wednesday. The opposition cried foul when millions of voters were struck out because of biodata collection failures, taking the registered number down from 70.4 million to just 58.9 million. But the commission announced the final tally of permanent voter ID cards during a press conference on Tuesday evening. “Even though their finger prints were not captured the first time, they had an opportunity to come out and re-register,” commission spokesman Kayode Idowu said by telephone. “The final list has captured everyone.”