With tens of thousands of people expected to gather this weekend in Selma, Ala., to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a turning point in the American Civil Rights movement, activists hope to use the moment to turn the spotlight back on voting rights issues in the USA. President Obama will visit the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Saturday, joining living foot soldiers of the civil rights movement at the landmark. The bridge is where hundreds of peaceful protesters were brutally beaten on “Bloody Sunday” as they sought to end discriminatory tactics — such as poll taxes and arbitrary literacy tests — used by white officials to prevent African Americans from voting. The protesters of Selma ultimately prevailed, and the moment helped usher in the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. But in moves that activists call sweeping erosions of voting rights that disproportionately affect minority communities, several states have passed more stringent voter ID rules after the Supreme Court in 2013 struck down a key provision of the landmark legislation that was birthed with the blood and sweat of the Selma protesters.
When civil-rights activists converge on Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge next Saturday, they’ll have a bigger goal than simply commemorating the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday.” The 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, helped secure the passage of the Voting Rights Act. This year, dozens of politicians will be there to join the celebration, and activists hope to persuade them that a better way to honor Selma’s legacy is to extend the legal protections it secured. Thanks to the eponymous Oscar-nominated film, there has been no shortage of remembrances of Selma. This year’s pilgrimage, organized by the Faith and Politics Institute, will command more attention than others have in recent years. Not only will President Obama make the trip, but so will his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, who signed the last renewal of the landmark law in 2006. African American leaders view the bipartisan commemoration as a crucial moment to marshal support and pressure Republican leaders for new voting-rights legislation in Congress.
California: It’s not just L.A. — other major cities struggle with low voter turnout | Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles is not the only city struggling with low voter turnout. Turnout in New York’s 2013 mayoral race was 26% and last week’s mayoral race in Chicago garnered 34% turnout, according to unofficial results. Just under 21% of registered Los Angeles voters marked ballots in the 2013 primary election, a race that featured an open mayoral seat and several contested City Council seats. Presidential elections receive a tremendous amount of money and media attention, and voters often believe it’s the election that will have the greatest impact on their lives, said Michael P. McDonald, an associate professor of political science at the University of Florida and a fellow at the Brookings Institution. But much less attention is paid at the municipal level.
The city council is expected to vote next week on whether to proceed with a proposal to remove Hartford’s three registrars of voters from office. A resolution to be presented at Monday’s council meeting alleges that the registrars, entangled in a web of dysfunction, neglected their basic duties and made a series of errors that led to “the disenfranchisement of Hartford voters” in last fall’s general election. The meeting agenda and the resolution, which calls for their ouster, were released Wednesday afternoon. “A determination has been made that there’s a sufficient basis to move forward with formal charges,” said Council President Shawn Wooden, who is co-sponsoring the resolution along with seven other council members.
Florida: State Supreme Court asked to redraw congressional districts | Jacksonville Business Journal
The Florida Supreme Court should order a third draft of the state’s congressional districts to fully eliminate illegal gerrymandering, attorneys for groups that have challenged the map argued Wednesday. But lawyers for the Legislature said Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis acted appropriately last year when he upheld lawmakers’ second version of the map, drawn after Lewis found that political consultants managed to “taint the redistricting process and the resulting map with improper partisan intent” the first time around. The arguments Wednesday were the latest chapter of a long-running battle between voting-rights organizations like the League of Women Voters and lawmakers about whether congressional and state Senate maps violate the anti-gerrymandering Fair Districts amendments, approved by voters in 2010.
A 99-page clarification of Indiana voting laws could attempt to make it illegal to share a photo of your ballot on Election Day via social media. The Senate approved the bill last week. Avon Republican Senator Pete Miller says the goal is to deter campaigns from trying to buy votes and asking voters to post a photo of their ballot as proof they kept their end of the bargain.
Will Sen. Rand Paul run for president, re-election to the Senate, or both? That last option —both — is unavailable to Paul based on a Kentucky law that forbids candidates from appearing on the ballot for more than one office. Kentucky should repeal that law and allow the voters to decide Paul’s fate. This weekend Paul will ask the Kentucky Republican Party to change the presidential nominating process to a caucus, avoiding the need to appear on a primary ballot for both president and Senate. But this plan simply kicks the issue to the future: If Paul wins both the presidential nomination and the Kentucky Senate primary, then he would be the nominee for two offices — even though Kentucky law forbids him from appearing on the general election ballot for both. Moreover, Paul should not have to jump through these hoops to let the voters decide his fate.
Voting in the state of Louisiana could be changing in the next three to five years. The machines that are in use now are becoming a thing of the past. Officials are having to use parts from older machines to keep some of the current machines running. The Secretary of State’s office said that Louisiana needs to move to voting via tablets in the near future. Technology is on their radar, but so is addressing problems with the current voting system. “The participation of voters is weak,” Schedler said Wednesday before a house committee. He said registering voters is no issue, but getting people back to take part in the process is a problem, particularly among the 18-26 year old crowd. He added the more opportunities people have to vote, be it early voting or by absentee, the turnout has decreased.
Maryland: Delegates push for special elections for vacancies in U.S. Senate, legislature; parties opposed | Maryland Reporter
Two freshmen delegates are attempting to bring more democracy to the people by passing legislation that would allow voters to choose their own representative when there is an unexpected vacancy in the U.S. Senate or Maryland General Assembly. Del. David Moon, D-Montgomery County, introduced HB 595 Wednesday to the Ways and Means committee. It would allow voters to have a say in who represents them in the the United States Senate. “I would argue the U.S. Senate — you know we have only two senators from Maryland — this is one of the most important positions we are electing,” said Moon. The governor would still make an interim appointment if there was a vacancy, as is current law, but then he would then have to call a special primary election between 60 and 90 days after the vacancy occurs. After the primary, the governor would then call a special general election within 60-90 days.
A new survey from North Dakota State University found that about 3 percent of North Dakota college students who tried to vote in November’s election “were unable to participate due to confusion over residency requirements.” The survey, conducted by the Upper Midwest Regional Center on Public Policy at NDSU and released Tuesday, comes after the North Dakota Legislature eliminated the voter affidavit option in 2013, which allowed someone to cast a ballot without proper identification. IDs had to reflect the voter’s current precinct 30 days before the November election in order to vote there. Almost 93 percent of survey respondents who tried to vote were successful. Out of the 79 students surveyed who tried to vote but were unsuccessful, 36 reported some issue related to their residential address, while others had issues related to absentee ballots or other issues.
A student organization filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday claiming Tennessee’s voter identification law violates the rights of college students by not allowing them to use school IDs to vote. The lawsuit comes after a four-year debate, protests and multiple failed attempts in the Tennessee General Assembly to allow use of the identification. “For four years, the Tennessee General Assembly has rejected every attempt to add college student IDs to the voter ID list, systematically shutting young voters out of the political process just as they become eligible to vote,” Jon Sherman, a staff attorney for the Fair Elections Legal Network, said in a statement. The Fair Elections Legal Network, a national voting rights organization, and Nashville law firm Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Nashville Student Organizing Committee, a student-run social justice and civil rights organization.
Brattleboro residents younger than 18 must wait their turn to vote after a proposal to lower the voting age by two years for local elections failed at the polls Tuesday. Voters rejected all four articles on the ballot during all-day voting, including one that would have recommended a 1 percent local option tax in the town as well as the voting age proposal and two others raised by the advocacy group Brattleboro Common Sense. The local option tax failed, with 361 votes in favor and 672 against.
Wisconsin: Audit prompts changes at election agency, officials decry budget cuts | Wisconsin State Journal
Wisconsin’s election agency moved Wednesday to make a series of changes in response to a state audit, but leaders said that Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget could set the efforts back. “We appreciate the governor’s efforts to streamline the budget, but this could cripple our effectiveness in providing services to voters,” Government Accountability Board director and general counsel Kevin Kennedy told board members. The GAB is one of several state agencies that would see its budget, finance, human resources, payroll, procurement and information technology functions consolidated as part of a pilot program that would be operated by the state Department of Administration.
Preparations for Egypt’s long-delayed parliamentary elections will begin next week as the polls “will be back to square one,” said Ibrahim Al-Heneidy, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Transitional Justice on Wednesday. Heneidy told parliamentary reporters that the elections, which were originally scheduled to be held in two rounds between 21-22 March and 6-7 May, were put on hold after the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) ruled on the first of March that the electoral constituencies law to be unconstitutional. The court found the law violated Article 102 of the constitution which stipulates that equal representation among voters in all constituencies must be guaranteed. “We feel sorry that parliamentary elections were postponed for constitutional reasons, but we hope new preparations will be back on track next week and that a new timetable for the polls will be set within one month or even less,” Heneidy said.
Results for El Salvador’s bungled legislative and mayoral vote will not be available for another 14 days, the president of the country’s electoral authority said on Wednesday, blaming the delay on “sabotage.” Salvadorans on Sunday voted for 84 new lawmakers and mayors who will be in office for the next four years. But three days after the election, there are still no results. “There was sabotage in the transmission of electronic votes and we are going to present it in court and lots of people will be fired,” the president of the electoral authority, Julio Oliva, said at a news conference, adding that he would provide more details on Thursday.
hile politicians still have two nearly weeks to win over prospective constituents at home, Israeli officials serving abroad will already have their say Wednesday, officially kicking off elections for the 20th Knesset. Some 6,250 representatives in over 98 missions across the world are eligible to cast their vote, from Amman to El Salvador to Ghana. Overseas voting will begin Wednesday night and will take place over the course of 36 hours, given differing time zones between countries. Israeli representatives at the consulate in Wellington, New Zealand, will be the first to vote, with ambassador Yosef Livneh expected to submit the first ballot. The final vote will be held at the Israeli mission in San Francisco.
Japan looks set to lower its voting age for the first time in seven decades after a bill to give 18-year-olds the right to vote was submitted to parliament Thursday. Endorsed across party lines, the planned change would be the first since 1945, when the voting age was lowered to 20 from 25 and women were given the right to vote. The revision, which is expected to pass during the current session and take effect for upper-house elections in the summer of 2016, will add around 2.4 million potential voters in an electorate of 104 million.