Press Release: Colorado SoS Wayne Williams approves pilot program for ES&S and three other vendors | Election Systems & Software

There are many benefits to a state selecting a uniform voting system including standardized training, improved reporting across jurisdictions and better buying power. Colorado recognized these benefits and more earlier this year, with the Secretary of State forming the Pilot Election Review Committee in March to explore implementing a statewide voting vendor. Tuesday SOS Williams announced certification for the four voting systems the committee will be evaluating.

National: Voting Rights Still a Political Issue, 50 Years Later | US News & World Report

It was one of the most historic bills ever passed by Congress. And when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law on Aug. 6, 1965—50 years ago Thursday—he declared that enactment was a matter of morality and not just politics. “This act flows from a clear and simple wrong,” the president said. “Its only purpose is to right that wrong. Millions of Americans are denied the right to vote because of their color. This law will ensure them the right to vote. The wrong is one which no American, in his heart, can justify. The right is one which no American, true to our principles, can deny….It is not just a question of guilt, although there is that. It is that men cannot live with a lie and not be stained by it.” He called the measure “one of the most monumental laws in the entire history of American freedom”—a law that, very specifically, aimed to knock down legal barriers at the state and local levels that hindered or prevented African Americans from exercising their constitutional right to vote. But the issue is still being debated today.

National: US Voting Restrictions Fuel Tensions | VoA News

Among the political and legal fights over U.S. elections, some of the most contentious ones center on voter identification requirements and on the way political districts are drawn. Historically, both sometimes have been misused to suppress minority voting, which the Voting Rights Act of 1965 aimed to correct. As of this spring, 32 states had voter identification laws in place; North Carolina will join them in 2016, the National Conference of State Legislatures reports. Most of the new measures have been introduced and implemented by Republican-led legislatures. While some states permit the use of bank statements, student IDs or other evidence of state residence, stricter ones require approved photo IDs, such as government-issued driver’s licenses and passports. Supporters say voter ID requirements battle fraud and build confidence in election fairness. Critics say that voter impersonation is rare and that the laws disproportionately discourage the poor, minorities, senior citizens and students from voting.

National: Martin O’Malley calls for constitutional amendment on voting rights | CBS

As he pitched himself to black voters in South Carolina Tuesday, Martin O’Malley called for a constitutional amendment to protect every American’s right to vote. “Many Americans don’t realize that the U.S. Constitution does not affirmatively guarantee the right to vote,” he said in an email to his supporters. “Passing a constitutional amendment that enshrines that right will give U.S. courts the clarity they need to strike down Republican efforts to suppress the vote.” O’Malley is specifically advocating for the passage of legislation introduced in the House in January, which states, “Every citizen of the United States, who is of legal voting age, shall have the fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides.” The bill was referred to the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice.

Editorials: The Voting Rights Act at 50 | The New York Times

For the first 48 years of its existence,the Voting Rights Act — signed by President Lyndon Johnson 50 years ago this week — was one of the most popular and effective civil rights laws in American history. Centuries of slavery, segregation and officially sanctioned discrimination had kept African-Americans from having any real voice in the nation’s politics. Under the aggressive new law, black voter registration and turnout soared, as did the number of black elected officials. Recognizing its success, Congress repeatedly reaffirmed the act and expanded its protections. The last time, in 2006, overwhelming majorities in both houses extended the law for another 25 years. But only seven years later, in 2013, five Supreme Court justices elbowed in andconcluded, on scant evidence, that there was no longer a need for the law’s most powerful tool; the Voting Rights Act, they claimed, had done its job

Editorials: How to save the Voting Rights Act: Voting rights shouldn’t rely on parsing racism and partisanship. | Richard Hasen/Slate

In 2010, the Simpsons featured a news helicopter emblazoned with the logo: “FOX News: Not Racist, But #1 with Racists.” That slogan might be applied to today’s Republican Party, which in recent years has actively passed voting laws that make it harder for poor and minority voters to vote. Whether to label the Republican Party “racist” isn’t an academic exercise. The question is actually at the heart of lawsuits over the future of voting rights in Texas and North Carolina. It’s also a question with historical resonance, particularly on the eve of the Voting Rights Act’s 50th anniversary this week. The five-decade history of the Voting Rights Act is told masterfully in Ari Berman’s new book, Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America. Berman starts around the time of the Selma, Alabama, marches, but unlike the movie Selma, Berman goes on to give us the rest of the history: the expansion of voting rights protections in 1970 and 1975 to include Latinos, Native Americans, and others over the objections of racists, many in the Democratic Party; the important 1982 rewriting of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, providing additional protections for minority voters nationally, and (now Chief Justice) John Roberts’ key role for the Reagan administration in unsuccessfully fighting against the expansion; hot disputes over voting rights in Florida in the 2000 election; the controversial renewal of the expiring “preclearance provisions” of the act in 2006 that continued to require states with a history of discrimination to get federal approval before changing their voting laws; and the ongoing “voting wars” that accelerated when Roberts led the court’s conservatives in striking down the 2006 preclearance renewal in Shelby County v. Holder.

California: Voting rights intact for lower-level California felons | San Francisco Chronicle

Tens of thousands of Californians who served sentences for nonviolent felonies will be allowed to vote after their release under an agreement announced Tuesday by the state’s top elections official, who reversed his predecessor’s policy. Secretary of State Alex Padilla said he was dropping an appeal filed by fellow Democrat Debra Bowen, who was sued after declaring the former inmates ineligible to vote in December 2011. Bowen appealed a judge’s ruling last year in favor of the plaintiffs in the suit. In dropping that appeal, Padilla, who took office in January, said he wanted to ensure that lower-level felons who were sent under Gov. Jerry Brown’s “realignment” program to county jail as a way to remedy state prison overpopulation retained their voting privileges.

Florida: Organizations want public redistricting | News Service of Florida

Two voting-rights organizations that led the legal battle against congressional districts later found to be unconstitutional called Monday for a new map to be drawn in public — a demand swiftly rejected by legislative leaders. The League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause Florida released a letter to Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, taking issue with the top lawmakers’ announcement that legislative staff and lawyers would be secluded as they draw a map intended to comply with a Florida Supreme Court decision rejecting current districts. That map will serve as a “base” for lawmakers as they consider amendments and give ultimate approval to a congressional redistricting plan during a special legislative session that starts next Monday.

New Jersey: Coalition urges Christie to sign voting overhaul |

A coalition of labor unions, women and minority groups, and civil rights organizations are urging Gov. Chris Christie to a sign what they call a groundbreaking piece of legislation sitting on his desk. The Democratic-controlled state Legislature sent the “Democracy Act,” a sweeping overhaul of New Jersey’s voting laws, to the Republican governor last month — though Democratic leaders aren’t confident he’ll approve it. But the coalition of 35 groups sent a letter to Christie this week stressing that the measure would make it easier for more New Jersey residents to cast ballots and would bring the state’s “voting practices into the 21st century.”

New York: Millions in Campaign Donations in Albany Go to Legal Fees | The New York Times

During the final weeks of the 2013 legislative session, Robert J. Rodriguez, a state assemblyman from Harlem, went out drinking with friends one night and was later arrested and charged with drunken driving. Mr. Rodriguez eventually pleaded guilty, losing his driver’s license for at least six months. But the monetary cost to Mr. Rodriguez was far less: His campaign not only picked up the roughly $8,500 in legal bills — it also paid his $900 penalty, records show. Mr. Rodriguez’s case, while extreme, is one of many examples where New York lawmakers have used campaign funds to pay for lawyers, often lawyers who specialize in criminal defense. The New York Times examined the spending of 41 elected officials who have been connected to a scandal or investigation since 2005; those 41 politicians have spent at least $7 million of campaign funds on legal fees, based on a review of Board of Elections filings from 2005 to the present.

Wisconsin: Scott Walker, GOP lawmakers want to change elections board by 2016 | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Gov. Scott Walker and Republicans who control the Legislature plan to restructure the agency that runs elections by the fall of 2016, when Walker hopes to top the ballot as a candidate for president. GOP lawmakers also plan to rewrite campaign finance laws for state candidates to put them in line with recent court decisions. As part of that effort, they are considering at least doubling the amount of money donors can give candidates, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said. Also on the docket this fall is putting limits on the ability of district attorneys to conduct John Doe probes that allow them to compel people to turn over documents and give testimony. The law also gives them the power to bar targets and witnesses from telling anyone but their attorneys about such investigations. The moves come in response to a John Doe probe into whether Walker’s campaign illegally worked with conservative groups. The state Supreme Court last month ruled campaigns can work closely with issue groups, declared the investigation over and ordered prosecutors to destroy evidence they have gathered.

Canada: Stephen Harper of Canada, Hoping to Extend Conservatives’ Hold, Calls Elections | The New York Times

Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada called federal elections on Sunday, hoping to extend his Conservative Party’s decade-long hold on power despite questions about its ethics and a struggling economy. By law, Mr. Harper had to hold a vote in October. But he broke with Canadian political tradition by formally opening the campaign in the middle of summer during what is a holiday weekend in most of the country. The move appeared designed to give the Conservative Party an edge in campaign spending. The campaign period before the vote on Oct. 19 will be the longest since Canadians all began voting on a single day in 1874. On Sunday, Mr. Harper said that the state of the economy, which his opponents view as his weakness, was the main reason to re-elect his government. … In a country where summer can be all too brief, it is rare for politicians to call elections early unless forced to do so

Haiti: Election violence hits Haiti ahead of August 9 poll | Jamaica Observer

With just a few days before Haitians go to the polls to elect a new parliament, there are reports of violence, the withdrawal of candidates and the National Identification Office (ONI) reminding citizens to ensure that they collect their documents ahead of the August 9 poll. Over the weekend, Germain Fils Alexandre, who is contesting the position of deputy of Petit-Goâve under the VERITE banner, said he and his team were attacked, and accused his opponent, Jacques Stevenson Thimoléon, from the PHTK Party, of organising the violence. He said he was campaigning in Allègue, a locality in the 10th section of Palmes, when “my team and I were attacked by Thimoléon and its supporters on the road of Palmes”. He said his vehicles were stoned and damaged and some supporters were also injured.

Venezuela: Congressional election: campaign amid chaos, or chaos as campaign? | Miami Herald

As Venezuela gears up for a key congressional election, sometime it’s hard to know if the campaign is taking place amid chaos — or if chaos is part of the campaign strategy. As polls indicate the embattled opposition could see its strongest showing in decades in the Dec. 6 race, the government has taken measures that have ranged from ruthlessly effective to ham-fisted. Although the campaign hasn’t officially started yet, the government sent a clear signal last month about the nature of the race when it declared five opposition candidates weren’t eligible to run. The move brought howls of protests but also sidelined some of the biggest names in the opposition ranks, including María Corina Machado, who was the nation’s largest vote-getter during the 2010 congressional race.