The U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider letting states require evidence of citizenship when people register to vote for federal elections, rejecting an appeal from Arizona and Kansas. The rebuff is a victory for the Obama administration and voting- and minority-rights groups that battled the two states in court. It leaves intact a decision by a U.S. agency that blocked the states from requiring proof of citizenship for voters in federal elections. It’s the second high court defeat on the issue for Arizona. The state has a law that requires evidence of citizenship, but the Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that it couldn’t be enforced when people use a standard registration document known as the “federal form” to register to vote for Congress and the president. That 7-2 ruling left open the possibility that Arizona could impose its requirements through a different avenue. The court said the state could submit a request to the agency that developed the form, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, asking it to tell Arizona voters they needed to supply proof of citizenship.
Before the Supreme Court’s decision in the Arizona redistricting case, electoral reform efforts had been in limbo. But Monday’s 5-4 ruling is a major victory for those who support citizen redistricting commissions as a way to counter the polarization and partisan gerrymandering that result from politicians drawing their own legislative districts. In 2000, Arizona voters passed a proposition to shift authority for drawing legislative districts from state lawmakers to a five-member independent commission. Republican legislators who didn’t like the districts that the commission drew after the 2010 Census brought suit in 2012, arguing that it was unconstitutional for anyone except lawmakers to draw congressional districts. In her opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dispatched this idea. “Arizona voters sought to restore ‘the core principle of republican government,’ namely, ‘that the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around,’ ” she wrote.
Editorials: Mindlessly Literal Reading Loses Again: This Supreme Court decision is a dig at Bush v. Gore | Richard Hasen/Slate
The Supreme Court ended its term Monday with another major rejection of conservative attempts to use wooden, textualist arguments to upset sensible policies. The result in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, which upheld the use of independent commissions to draw Arizona’s congressional districts, is a big win for election reformers and supporters of direct democracy. The Arizona decision also undermines the strongest conservative argument in favor of George W. Bush in Bush v. Gore, the case that handed him the 2000 presidential election. Monday’s 5–4 decision has much in common with last week’s blockbuster Obamacare ruling. In a 6–3 decision in King v. Burwell, the Supreme Court upheld the availability of federal subsidies for those signed up for Obamacare despite language in the health care law that could have been interpreted to give those subsidies only to those on state exchanges. The court rejected a narrow reading of the term “such exchanges” in the health care case because it saw its job not to read the text out of context but to follow broad congressional purpose. As Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the King majority: “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.”
The special election to determine who will fill the 18th Congressional District seat vacated by Aaron Schock brings a variety of challenges, and some unexpected costs, for election officials — and some confusion for voters. “We had a man come in for early voting, but he doesn’t live in the 18th Congressional district so couldn’t vote,” said Paul Shannon, executive director of the Bloomington Election Commission that coordinates elections within the City of Bloomington. McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael, who administers elections outside of Bloomington and within the county, said the same thing has occurred in her office. McLean County is split between two Congressional districts, the 18th and the 13th. Only voters in the 18th can cast a ballot in the July 7 special election.
After working out some backroom squabbling, the state Senate on Monday gave final approval to a sweeping overhaul of the state’s election laws intended to expand access to the ballot and boost voter participation. The “Democracy Act,” passed 24-16, includes more early voting options, online voter registration and automatic registration at the Motor Vehicle Commission, and it would require pre-election materials to be printed in more languages. The bill (A4613) would also clear up the state’s contradictory U.S. Senate succession laws and curtail the governor’s power in appointing temporary senators by requiring them to be from the same party as the person who vacated the seat.
National: This kid will be running for president for the next three decades, against his will | The Washington Post
For all of the furor and sweat over the 2016 presidential field, for all of the candidates sitting back with an eye on 2020 — or maybe even 2024, in some cases — there’s one candidate who’s been willing to play the long game. As of today, we are eight years in to what will almost certainly end up being the longest presidential campaign in history — a campaign that will be four decades old by the time voters go to the polls. Meet Andrew Lessig, the first declared candidate for the 2048 election. Lessig graduated from the University of Alaska at Anchorage last year and now is in law school near Syracuse, N.Y. When we spoke by phone Wednesday, he declared, in the spirit of all great candidacies, that he didn’t plan to run. In fact, he said, “I’d totally forgotten that it had even happened until you mentioned it.”
What does this week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Arizona redistricting case mean for the world of election administration? We know it gives a green light to the use of ballot referenda and initiatives to create the kind of nonpartisan redistricting commission that Arizona and California have, and that is potentially a huge development in the world of redistricting itself. We know, too, that the jurisprudential debate between Justice Ruth Ginsburg opinion for the Court’s five-member majority (including the all-important swing vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy) and Chief Justice John Roberts for the four dissenters has the potential for overarching theoretical significance concerning the nature of appropriate judicial interpretation of the U.S. Constitution—as I’ve already touched on elsewhere. But in terms of the rules and institutions for administering the voting process itself, is this week’s decision of particular significance? Yes. For two reasons.
As an Indiana special interim study committee on redistricting gets ready to meet this summer, a United States Supreme Court decision paved the way for an independent Indiana redistricting committee to become a reality. The Supreme Court ruling stated redistricting commissions independent of a state legislature were constitutional. Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said he hopes the study committee will take a close look at creating a commission here in Indiana that will “take politics out of the redistricting process.” Typically, district boundaries are drawn every 10 years by the state legislature. Boundaries have to be redrawn in order to keep populations similar in each district. The party in control ultimately gets to decide where the lines go, which can lead to gerrymandered districts.
Editorials: It’s time to make no-reason absentee voting available to all Michiganders, without restrictions | Jon Sherman/MLive.com
Election Day is the time eligible Michiganders are able to exercise one of their most fundamental American rights: the right to vote. It’s the time when voters have a chance to make their voices heard. But sometimes life gets in the way on Election Day. Maybe you’re working a long shift and can’t take time off to get to your polling place; maybe you don’t have reliable transportation; maybe you or your kids get sick and you aren’t able to leave the house. Sometimes we just don’t have time to get to the polls, but that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve to have our voice heard. Imagine that instead of having to plan ahead and wait in line at the polls on Election Day, you could cast a ballot without having to leave your home. It would certainly make voting more convenient and would help in building a democracy that represents all people in our state.
North Carolina: Accusations fly as House changes course on Greensboro redistricting | News & Observer
After a heated debate that featured accusations of deception and Senate coercion, the N.C. House rapidly changed course Thursday on legislation that would change how the Greensboro City Council is elected. The bill – now a law after the Senate also voted Thursday – marks the second time this year that the legislature has reshaped local elections. An April vote redrew the Wake County Board of Commissioners district boundaries in a change likely to favor Republicans. That bill passed quickly along party lines, but the Greensboro council redistricting prompted a bitter split among GOP legislators. And it drew comments from legislators who represent other areas, including criticism that the change will diminish the impact of black Greensboro residents.
A federal trial in Winston-Salem next month on several provisions of North Carolina’s 2013 elections law won’t consider challenges to the state’s upcoming voter identification requirement in light of recent changes to the mandate, a judge has ruled. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder decided that claims against the photo ID provision set to begin in 2016 will be kept out of the July 13 trial and considered later. Schroeder’s order came barely a week after the legislature finalized a bill creating a method by which people who can’t obtain a photo ID before next year can cast a lawful ballot. Other claims that still will be tried on time include accusations that minority citizens will be disproportionately harmed by such changes as reducing early voting days by one week, ending same-day registration during early voting and rejecting Election Day ballots cast in a voter’s incorrect precinct. Republicans in charge of the legislature, who championed the law, reject those claims.
Though the debt crisis in Greece is eating up most of the media oxygen, a somewhat similar crisis is happening in Puerto Rico. They’ve got way too much debt, and have been struggling badly since the 2008 financial crisis. The situation has reached a breaking point, and Governor Alejandro Padilla has flatly admitted the island colony cannot pay in full. Though it is an unlikely prospect, this is an area where the United States government can do some good. By proposing a referendum on statehood, and assisting with an orderly debt write-down, America can atone for past sins and put Puerto Rico back on an upward trajectory. The roots of the crisis are explained well in a piece by Matt Yglesias. For a number of years Puerto Rico had some odd tax advantages that allowed it to borrow extremely cheaply, and so it did, running up a debt vastly larger than any other American state. In 2006 the tax advantages were finally phased out, which made it particularly badly positioned to deal with the financial crisis only two years later. Now with the economy in deep trouble, the government is running short of cash, its citizens are emigrating for the mainland, and it will basically have to default.
A voting rights bill introduced in Congress last week would subject Texas elections to new levels of federal scrutiny, but it would not invalidate the state’s controversial 2011 voter photo ID law that helped inspire it. The federal measure is designed to restore and improve protections to minority voters granted by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, provisions that were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2013. The ruling found that key sections of the act unfairly targeted southern states and did not reflect current conditions. Since the court’s decision, several states — notably Texas — have begun enforcing laws that voting rights activists have called discriminatory against African-Americans, Hispanics, the elderly and the poor.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced late last month two changes to the restoration of rights process, representing the latest steps in pursuit of his priority to ensure all Virginians have the opportunity to exercise their voting and civil rights. Under the new reform, outstanding court costs and fees will no longer prohibit an individual from having his or her rights restored. “We have forced these men and women to battle a complicated and bewildering tangle of red tape to reach the voting booth, and too often we still turn them away,” McAuliffe said. “These men and women will still be required to pay their costs and fees, but their court debts will no longer serve as a financial barrier to voting, just as poll taxes did for so many years in Virginia.”
Ukraine: Separatist Rebels Announce Elections In October, Draw Reaction From Kiev | International Business Times
Pro-Russian separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine will hold their own elections in October, the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic said Thursday. The announcement drew a rebuke from Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who said any election that did not occur with oversight from Kiev could violate last February’s Minsk peace accord. Slated for October 18, the elections will occur “on the basis of Ukrainian law … in the parts where it does not contradict the constitution and law” established in separatist-held eastern Ukraine, said Alexander Zakharchenko, self-styled prime minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine, according to Agence France-Presse. Zakharchenko did not provide further details on how the elections would occur or whether rebels would be in contact with the Ukrainian government in Kiev.
Elections in Burundi that were racked by violence and boycotted by the opposition were not free or credible, United Nations observers said on Thursday, after clashes left six dead in the capital. Parliamentary and local elections were held on Monday despite an appeal by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, for a postponement after months of turmoil. The UN electoral observer mission said in a report that the elections took place “in a tense political crisis and a climate of widespread fear and intimidation in parts of the country”. “Episodes of violence and explosions preceded and in some cases accompanied election day activities, mostly in Bujumbura,” said the nine-page report. The mission concluded “that the environment was not conducive for free, credible and inclusive elections”.
The Ontario Superior Court is hearing arguments today and Friday from a coalition of groups seeking an injunction against a couple of key elements of the Conservative government’s Fair Elections Act. The group, comprised of the Council of Canadians, the Canadian Federation of Students, and three private voters, wants to restore the ability of Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer to allow the use of voter information cards as proof of address, and reinstate vouching provisions that would allow electors to prove their identity. The applicants filing the motion say they are concerned that provisions in the Fair Elections Act will systematically affect the ability of certain groups to vote, including youth, seniors, indigenous people, the homeless and people with disabilities.
Greeks began voting in a referendum on Sunday that presents the biggest challenge to the running of the euro since its adoption and risks sending shock waves through the world’s financial markets. The nationwide ballot was taking place at the end of a week of unending drama that saw Greece close its banks, ration cash, fail to repay the IMF and lose billions of euros when its bailout programme expired. The vote is on the last terms offered to Greece before its prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, abandoned talks with his country’s lenders last weekend, saying their conditions would only exacerbate the plight of a country whose economy has already shrunk by a quarter. At a rally in the centre of Athens on Friday night, Tsipras urged his compatriots to cast a no ballot, assuring them it would not be a vote for leaving the euro, but for remaining in Europe “with dignity”. Greece’s creditors and most of the opposition parties have claimed that, on the contrary, it could lead to exit from the single market (“Grexit”) and even the European Union.
magine the fate of your country hangs on a yes-or-no question. The question is drafted in cryptic, bureaucratic language and asks you to decide on an economic program that no longer exists. Leaders in neighboring countries are begging you to vote yes. Your government is begging you to vote no. Now you can understand what it feels like to live in Greece, land of debt, sunshine and, these days, profound political weirdness. The country is approaching one of the most important votes in its modern history on Sunday, one that could redefine its place in Europe, yet many people acknowledge they barely have a clue as to what, exactly, they are voting on. “No one is really telling us what it means,” said Erika Papamichalopoulou, 27, a resident of Athens. “No one is saying what will happen to us if we say yes, or what will happen to us if we say no.” Greece is deep into unknown territory. Its banks have been shut down. It missed a debt payment to the International Monetary Fund, and without new financial aid, it is likely to default on other debts this month.