Voting Blogs: The Arizona Decision: Constitutional Reasoning Within the Reform Model | More Soft Money Hard Law

The next few days of commentary on the Arizona redistricting decision will include the usual debate about which side had the better of the “legal argument.” And, in truth, both the majority opinion and the chief (Roberts) dissent can be defended. Each is effectively drawn, making the most of the materials available to it. Each also takes the usual liberties with the construction of precedent and the standards by which particular points—an example being the majority’s reliance on 2 U.S.C. §2(a)(c)—are deemed relevant. More interesting is the way that the majority weighs the reform objective. The majority in the Arizona case adheres to a model familiar in political reform arguments more generally, within and outside the Court. For this majority, the constitutional question cannot be considered apart from the reform objective served by the initiative creating the Independent Redistricting Commission. The “people” are seen to be taking urgent steps to protect against officeholder self-interestedness. So, as Justice Thomas points out in dissent, the Court here lauds the exercise of direct democracy, which at other times is given the back of its hand. The reason for the difference is simple: the objective that the tools of direct democracy have been in this case wielded to bring about.

District of Columbia: DC Statehood Bill a ‘Take That’ to Republicans | Roll Call

Despite the uphill battle for District of Columbia statehood, Sen. Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., has reintroduced a statehood bill noting that the District’s unique political status is contrary to the American values celebrated on Independence Day. “These Americans serve in our military, die defending our country, serve on our juries, and pay federal taxes,” Carper said of District residents in a statement. “Yet, despite their civic contributions, they are not afforded a vote in either chamber of Congress. This situation is simply not fair, and it isn’t consistent with the values we celebrate as a country on July 4th every year.”

Kansas: Supreme Court declines to hear Kobach appeal on proof of citizenship | Lawrence Journal World

People in Kansas can still register to vote in federal elections without showing proof of citizenship, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday. But whether those people will be allowed to vote in state and local elections remains an open question. The court on Monday refused to hear Kansas Secretary of State Kobach’s appeal in a case in which he asked that the U.S. Election Assistance Commission provide a federal voter registration form that comports with state law, which requires voters to show proof of citizenship. Last year, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Kobach, saying the EAC did not have to provide a revised federal form for use in Kansas. The Supreme Court’s decision Monday not to hear Kobach’s appeal means the 10th Circuit’s ruling will stand.

New Jersey: S50: ‘Democracy Act’ Approved By Senate | NJPoliticker

Legislation that would provide a sweeping overhaul of New Jersey’s outdated voting rights laws was approved by the Senate on Monday. The bill, designated S-50 in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, includes plans to allow early voting, online and automatic voter registration, increased accessibility and protections, and an end to wasteful special elections. The legislation is sponsored by Senator Nia Gill (D-Essex/Passaic), Senator Ronald Rice (D-Essex), Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen). Already approved by the Assembly, the measure now goes to the governor following the Senate vote of 24 to 16.

Burundi: Violence Mars Burundi Election | Al Jazeera

Burundians are voting Monday in parliamentary elections marked by an opposition boycott and violence as police battle anti-government protesters in the capital. In the Musaga neighborhood, which has seen violent protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term, few civilians were seen at the polls as mostly police and soldiers lined up to vote. The voting is taking place despite calls by the international community for a postponement until there is a peaceful environment for credible elections. The African Union said on Sunday that it would not observe the polls because the necessary conditions have not been met for free and fair elections. The European Union said Burundi’s decision to ignore U.N. and other international demands to delay voting further was a “serious matter” and could lead to withholding more aid.

Greece: Referendum Plan by Alexis Tsipras Tests His Power and Conviction | The New York Times

As Friday night became Saturday morning, with sidewalk cafes still bustling in central Athens, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras abruptly appeared on national television. Mr. Tsipras, only 40, had spent his five months in office locked in increasingly acrimonious negotiations with Greece’s creditors. Belittled by critics, and facing the prospect of default, he was under intense pressure to sign a deal. Instead, Mr. Tsipras tossed a grenade. With much of Europe sound asleep, Mr. Tsipras stared into the camera and shattered the careful decorum of European Union diplomacy. Declaring that creditors were demanding “strict and humiliating austerity,” Mr. Tsipras announced a national referendum on July 5, so voters could decide for themselves.

Moldova: Pro-European candidate calls for new govt to be formed | Associated Press

The new, pro-European Union mayor of Moldova’s capital called Monday for the former Soviet republic to renew efforts to form a pro-European government. Dorin Chirtoaca, who is also deputy chairman of the Liberal Party, told Radio Chisinau that Moldova should have a new government in place by the end of August to avoid an early election. Parliament has until Sept. 12 to approve a new government after former Prime Minister Chiril Gaburici resigned June 12 amid a probe into the authenticity of his high school and university degrees.

Sri Lanka: President dissolves parliament, clearing way for early election | The Guardian

Sri Lanka’s president dissolved parliament on Friday, a government spokesman said, in an effort to consolidate power and push through political reforms. Two government officials said elections will be held to elect a new parliament on 17 August. The president, Maithripala Sirisena, who was elected on 8 January, needs parliamentary support to push through reforms he has promised, including limits on the powers of the executive presidency. The timing of the parliamentary elections is also important. The United Nations Human Rights Council is expected to release a report in September on human rights abuses during the final phase of the war against the Tamil insurgency in 2009.

Washington: ACLU hiring voter engagement advocate in Yakima | Yakima Herald

After successfully suing to change city elections, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington is now hiring someone to turn out the vote in Yakima this year. The ACLU of Washington is advertising for a full-time voter engagement advocate to lead an education campaign in the city during the 2015 elections. ACLU spokesman Doug Honig said the search may be expanded to include a second hire. The campaign will be primarily directed at Latinos, a growing part of the community that was at the heart of the ACLU’s voting rights lawsuit against the city. “We want to make sure people take advantage of this new system and vote,” said Honig, based in Seattle. “Who they vote for is obviously up to them.”

Burundi: Vice president flees after opposing president’s third term | Reuters

One of Burundi’s vice presidents has fled to Belgium, saying he had been threatened after denouncing President Pierre Nkurunziza’s quest for a third term in office, in remarks the government dismissed. Gervais Rufyikiri, who held the post of second vice president, is the latest senior official to flee in recent weeks, as Nkurunziza’s bid for what opponents say is an unconstitutional third term has plunged Burundi into its worst crisis since an ethnically charged civil war ended in 2005. In May, the vice president of Burundi’s election commission and a senior judge fled amid protests demanding Nkurunziza stand down. He has refused to change tack, citing a court ruling that found he was allowed to seek another term.

Canada: Ex-chief electoral officer warns of influence from PACs on Canadian politics | Toronto Sun

Decades of work to remove the influence of big money from Canadian federal political campaigns is going down the drain with the advent of political action committees, a former chief electoral officer says. Jean-Pierre Kingsley says Canada is headed down the road well trodden in the United States, where political action committees, or PACs, raise and spend staggering amounts of money to influence elections, without the same restrictions that apply to political parties. In Canada, such groups have been known as third parties and their activities are severely restricted during campaigns.

Trinidad and Tobago: Getting ready for General Election | Caribbean Life

The campaign for the Sept. 7, 2015 General Election in Trinidad and Tobago kicked off last week. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, 63, announced the date in a statement at the House of Representatives, Port of Spain that she would advise President Anthony Carmona “to dissolve parliament at midnight on June 17, 2015 — a move which will bring to an end the tenth parliament and clear the way for the eleventh.” She said her government was the first under the Republican Constitution to serve its full term.

National: Why the FEC’s Deadlock Won’t Change Any Time Soon | Morning Consult

The nation’s top political watchdog is so thoroughly mired in a toxic partisan gridlock that the members themselves can barely contain their disdain for each other. But there is no sign of a wholesale change at the Federal Election Commission for what might seem like a bizarre reason: There aren’t enough qualified lawyers in Washington. Five of the six FEC commissioners are currently serving beyond the expiration of their terms; only chairwoman Ann Ravel’s term has yet to expire. But there is little interest from either Democrats or Republicans on Capitol Hill in finding a new slate of members, one that could perhaps get along better than the current set.

Maine: House spikes bill to make ballot initiatives more difficult | The Portland Press Herald

The House of Representatives on Monday defeated a bill that would have made it more difficult for Mainers to create new laws through ballot initiative. The House voted 92-54 to approve the bill, but the margin was short of the two-thirds support required to advance it to the Senate. The proposal would have asked voters if they want to amend the Maine Constitution to require sponsors of ballot campaigns to obtain a percentage of voter signatures from each of Maine’s two congressional districts. The vote on Monday marked the end of a bill that had orginally garnered bipartisan support. The bill received two-thirds support in initial votes in the House and Senate, a margin that would have sent the bill to voters for final ratification.

Massachusetts: Online voting registration system launched | Associated Press

Massachusetts is now the 21st state to offer online voter registration. Secretary of State William Galvin said Tuesday that residents can use the new system to register to vote, change their address for voting purposes and change party affiliation. He says the system will make it easier to register and vote in next year’s presidential election. “We think it’s removing one more administrative impediment … to registering to vote,” said Galvin, the state’s top elections official.

New Jersey: Same day voter registration nixed from ‘Democracy Act’ | NJ.com

Just one week after it was introduced, a slightly pared down bill to overhaul New Jersey’s voting system began its legislative journey Monday. The Assembly Appropriations Committee voted 6-3 to approve the “Democracy Act” along party lines, with Democrats supporting it and Republicans opposing it. “We cannot afford to let our democracy sit with diminishing participation at the polls and do nothing about it, because democracy suffers,” said Deborah Cornavaca, legislative director for New Jersey Working Families, a progressive group that has been pushing the measure.

North Carolina: House leader defends voter ID changes | News & Observer

Responding to criticism that legislators sharply weakened the state’s voter ID law last week, House Rules Chairman David Lewis posted a 1,000-word “open letter” Monday defending the changes. The House and Senate quickly approved the changes last week; the legislation is now on Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk awaiting action. It would set up a process for voters to use a “reasonable impediment declaration” outlining why they couldn’t provide a photo ID at the polls. Voters could claim one of eight reasons, including a lack of transportation, disability or illness, lost or stolen photo ID, or a lack of a birth certificate or other documents to obtain a photo ID. Voters using the form would provide their date of birth or the last four digits of their Social Security number, or show a voter registration card to prove their identity.

Puerto Rico: Congress tackles issue of Puerto Rico’s status | The CT Mirror

For the first time since the Republican Party took control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, Congress will hold a hearing on Puerto Rico’s status. Wednesday’s hearing, featuring witnesses representing all of Puerto Rico’s political parties, has been scheduled by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, the head of a House Natural Resources subcommittee. It has with authority over the five U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico. In addition to considering the island’s identity as a geo-political unit, the hearing will also focus on Puerto Rico’s severe economic problems. Young has long favored granting statehood to Puerto Rico and cosponsored legislation proposed by Resident Commisioner Pedro Pierluisi that would require a vote on the island within one year on the statehood question.

Utah: The price to perform a primary election | Standard Examiner

Because 12 candidates filed to run for office in Centerville, and 10 candidates filed to run in Layton, both Davis cities will be required to host an Aug. 11 municipal primary at a cost of thousands of dollars to the taxpayer, whether those taxpayers take the time to vote or not. “We budgeted right at $50,000 for both (the primary and general election) and you can pretty well split (the cost between the two elections),” Layton City Recorder Thieda Wellman said. “The biggest portion of that goes to (Davis) county,” Wellman said. Davis County will be serving as the administrator for the municipal elections in the various cities. Some cities will be utilizing a vote-by-mail process, while others will remain with a more traditional ballot election.

Editorials: China’s plans for Hong Kong backfire | The Washington Post

For 79 days last year, thousands of protesters occupied major roads in Hong Kong in an attempt to force Chinese authorities to grant the territory genuine democracy. They failed. Local leaders and their overlords in Beijing refused to negotiate over an electoral plan that would allow for a popular vote for Hong Kong’s next leader but would limit candidates to nominees approved by the Communist regime. That left opposition representatives in Hong Kong’s legislature with an unappealing choice this month: Sign off on the inadequate reform or block it at the risk of freezing the current, even less democratic, system in place. “To kowtow, or to veto,” was the way opposition leader Alan Leong summed up the dilemma.

Ethiopia: Opposition Parties Vow to Continue Peaceful Struggle | VoA News

Ethiopian opposition parties did not manage to break the rule of Ethiopia’s ruling party last month or receive a significant amount of seats in parliament. It complained of harassment, intimidation and vote-rigging during the May election in which the ruling party probably won all of the parliament seats and another five years in power. The opposition Ethiopia Democratic Party claims the pre-election process was not fair and the election results are not credible. EDP Executive Committee member Wasihun Tesfaye feels there is a deadlock in the current multi-party system, but said the opposition will continue.

France: France considers banning MPs aged over 70 | Newsweek

France’s Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports is pondering a proposal to introduce an age cap on politicians seeking election after a government-backed report recommended it as a measure to make sure more young people were included in politics. The report made a series of recommendations including lowering the voting age to 16, limiting the number of terms which an official can serve in the houses of parliament to three, and banning politicians over 70 from standing for election. Although youth minister Patrick Kanner is considering the measures insisting they can make a positive difference, the concept of an age cap has provoked accusations of ageism from MPs.

Venezuela: Legislative elections date set for 6 December | The Guardian

Venezuela will hold legislative elections on 6 December, election officials announced on Monday after months of mounting pressure from local opposition groups and international observers. The South American country’s laws mandate that national assembly balloting be held this year, but elections officials had delayed setting a date, raising concerns the contest would be cancelled. In her announcement, the elections council head, Tibisay Lucena, said the organisation had always intended to set a date and was not reacting to public pressure.

Editorials: Did Republicans kill N.C. Voter ID? | The Charlotte Observer

North Carolina Republicans did a startling and uncharacteristic thing last week: In the face of a potentially unfavorable legal outcome, they gutted a bad provision in a bad law. No, it wasn’t the state’s abortion ultrasound law, which finally died last week when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take it up. It also wasn’t the state’s same-sex marriage amendment, which is likely to be gone for good in the next week when those same justices decide on the issue for all states. It was another, very significant law: North Carolina’s Voter Information Verification Act (VIVA), which would have required voters to show a photo ID in order to cast a ballot beginning in 2016.

National: Congressional Democrats to introduce new Voting Rights Act fix | The Washington Post

Congressional Democrats are expected to unveil new legislation this week, possibly as soon as Wednesday, that if passed would restore the requirement for federal approval for voting procedure changes in some states, a provision of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court two years ago. The legislation, titled “The Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015,” would force any state that has had 15 or more voting rights violations in the last 25 years to be subject to federal preclearance for any change in voting procedure or law. That criterion would initially subject 13 states to preclearance: New York, California, Arkansas, Arizona, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas, according to a copy of the legislation obtained by the Washington Post. Those states would be able to free themselves of the preclearence provision by going 10 consecutive years without a voting rights violation.

Press Release: Minnesota Secretary of State Certifies Innovative New Voting Technology | Hart InterCivic

Upon completion of an extensive system evaluation by the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office, the Verity Voting system by Hart InterCivic has been certified for use in all Minnesota elections. That means that all jurisdictions in the state can now use Verity Voting’s new paper ballot scanners and accessible ballot-marking devices for polling location use and a new high-speed, scalable central scan solution for processing absentee ballots. The Verity Voting system offers a completely new choice for all jurisdictions in the State looking to replace their aging voting systems. Verity uses advanced voting technology to easily address all of Minnesota’s election needs, including built-in accessibility features that grant equality of access for all voters.