In late February 1965, during the heat of the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama and a few days after the shooting death of Jimmie Lee Jackson by Alabama State Troopers, a Marion civil rights activist named Lucy Foster suggested a response. “We should take his damn body and put it at the feet of Gov. (George) Wallace,” Foster told other civil rights leaders, according to Albert Turner Jr. That idea morphed into a more reasonable one: A Selma-to-Montgomery March, across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and right up the Alabama Capitol steps, where protesters would demand that Wallace implement voting rights protections for all people, including blacks. That march became a national spectacle on March 7, 1965, when the protesters were met by state troopers just across the bridge in Selma and savagely beaten. It captivated the country, spurring President Lyndon Johnson to first offer the marchers protection on their journey to Montgomery and later to sign into law the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The United States may be turning a corner in presidential politics. Although the election itself is more than a year away, the latest reports to the Federal Election Commission show that a wealthy oligarchy of donors has come to dominate campaign finance, particularly in the crowded Republican contest. Fewer than 400 families are responsible for almost half the money raised in the campaign so far, according to an analysis by the New York Times. This class of wealthy patrons, some with new fortunes and others of long-standing, is throwing money into campaigns, not of all which will end happily. But the preeminence of this clan of tycoons so early in the season is not a good sign.
Editorials: Automatic Voter Registration: The Next Step in the Battle for Ballot Access | Alex Padilla/Huffington Post
“This most basic right of all is the right to choose your own leaders. The history of this country is in large measure the history of expansion of the right to all of our people.”
President Johnson delivered these words in his eloquent speech to the full Congress on March 15, 1965, a week after African Americans were attacked while preparing to march to Montgomery to protest voting rights discrimination. On August 6, 1965 President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law, empowering millions of Americans to fully participate in our democracy. The progress made possible by the Voting Rights Act is undeniable. Literacy tests, poll taxes and other obstacles used at the time which excluded millions of eligible voters are a thing of the past. In 2012, we saw record turnout by African American and Latino voters. We elected a record number of Asian Americans to Congress, and nearly 10 million more women than men reported casting a vote. That’s progress. But as we commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, we still have work to do. Voting rights are once again under attack.
Editorials: Internet voting a needless threat to voter privacy, election security | David Schultheis/The Colorado Statesman
Colorado is poised to reject the best advice of the Department of Defense, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, U.S. Vote Foundation and almost every nationally known expert as the state expands Internet voting. Although voters read daily headlines of breaches of government and commercial computer systems and emails, Colorado’s email balloting expansion ignores the experts and defies common sense and lawmakers’ directives. Yet Secretary of State Wayne Williams seems determined to use Colorado voters as guinea pigs who will learn what the experts already know — Internet voting is a needless threat to voter privacy and election security. Williams received input from legislators, experts, political parties, non-profit organizations and many individual voters. Feedback has been almost universally negative, except for the Colorado Democratic Party and the Colorado Clerks Association. Scores of voters and organizations, including the Colorado Republican Party, Common Cause, Verified Voting, and the Colorado Voter Group oppose the expansion. Yet proposed Colorado rules will likely permit the expansion of Internet voting for military voters, overseas civilians and military families, regardless of their location or access to mail ballots or polling places. Skiers at Whistler, Air Force Academy professors’ kids at a coffee shop, and officers at the Pentagon could vote over the Internet if they conclude postal mail ballot delivery “is not certain.”
Two Florida Republican Party officials have filed a federal lawsuit to block the state’s anti-gerrymandering constitutional clauses, arguing the provisions limit First Amendment speech and amount to “thought policing.” The lawsuit, filed Tuesday night in the conservative-leaning Pensacola division of the Northern District of Florida, comes less than a week before the start of a special legislative session to redraw some of the state’s 27 congressional districts. Citing email correspondence from GOP consultants, the Florida Supreme Court ruled last month that at least eight congressional districts were improperly drawn and violated the 2010 voter-approved “Fair Districts” amendments that prohibited lawmakers from intentionally drawing political boundaries to favor or disfavored political parties or incumbents. But Pasco County Republican Party chairman Randy Maggard and his Walton County counterpart, Tim Norris, say the amendments themselves infringe on their right to free speech. They also say the court’s interpretation of the law ultimately violates their Fourteenth Amendment due process rights because members of political parties are unfairly limited in speaking with elected representatives about redistricting in the future.
An intense legal battle is costing taxpayers in Fayette County around a million dollars – and it’s far from over. The case stems from the seat vacated by Pota Coston who lost her battle with breast cancer. On Wednesday, the board agreed to abide by a judge’s ruling to use district voting in an upcoming special election. That means her replacement can only be elected by those in her district.
Residents are now able to register to vote online. Officials from the Office of Elections and the Office of the City/County Clerks made the announcement Tuesday. According to officials, the online system was built to ensure that only individuals with verifiable identification could register. The system will only be available to residents with a valid Hawai’i driver’s license or state identification card.
After 2½ years of delays, a prosecutor has dropped an election misconduct charge against an ex-felon accused of illegally voting in the 2012 presidential election. Jefferson County Attorney Timothy Dille said Wednesday that he concluded the case against Cheri Rupe, 43, “wasn’t something that needed to be pursued” any longer. He said he made his decision in the interest of justice, citing the amount of time that had lapsed and noting that a similar case last year ended in an acquittal. The dismissal is another setback for a state effort to criminally punish ineligible voters who participated — or tried to participate — in elections. Under a two-year investigation involving former Secretary of State Matt Schultz and the Division of Criminal Investigation, about two dozen people, including ex-felons and non-U.S. citizens, were charged with registering and/or voting illegally.
Kansas: First election fraud cases coming next month, Kobach tells NEJC Conservatives | Prairie Village Post
The Kansas Secretary of State’s office will waste little time making use of its new prosecutorial powers, Kris Kobach told a gathering of the Northeast Johnson County Conservatives on Tuesday. At the group’s monthly meeting at Burg and Barrel in Overland Park, Kobach said he was preparing to bring the first cases of voter fraud in September and October. Kobach gained the right to prosecute election fraud cases in June, when Gov. Sam Brownback signed SB 34, a bill Kobach had pushed for since shortly after coming into office in 2011. No other secretary of state’s office in the country has similar powers.
Maine’s highest court on Tuesday rejected a national anti-gay marriage group’s latest bid to shield the identities of the donors who contributed to its effort to defeat the state’s gay marriage law in 2009. The National Organization for Marriage had sought permission to delay submitting a campaign finance report that the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices ordered it to file last year when it fined the group $50,250 for its involvement in overturning the law supporting same-sex marriage six years ago. But the Maine Supreme Judicial Court said Tuesday that NOM can’t put off filing the report and revealing its donor list until after the court considers the group’s challenge of the commission’s ruling because the justices said it’s unlikely that the Washington D.C.-based organization will win its appeal.
A federal appeals panel ruled Wednesday that a strict voter identification law in Texas discriminated against blacks and Hispanics and violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — a decision that election experts called an important step toward defining the reach of the landmark law. The case is one of a few across the country that are being closely watched in legal circles after a 2013 Supreme Court decision that blocked the voting act’s most potent enforcement tool, federal oversight of election laws in numerous states, including Texas, with histories of racial discrimination. While the federal act still bans laws that suppress minority voting, exactly what kinds of measures cross the legal line has been uncertain since that Supreme Court ruling.
The United States’ landmark Voting Rights Act, despite what many see as its recent weakening, is a global rarity in terms of legislation that explicitly safeguards minorities’ access to the ballot. Its 50th anniversary on Thursday comes amid international efforts to expand voting opportunities to those who’ve had little voice in government. “Across the world, to the best of my knowledge, there’s no law as specific in its protections as the U.S. Voting Rights Act of 1965,” said Pat Merloe, who, as electoral programs director for the nonpartisan NGO National Democratic Institute in Washington, has visited 65 countries. Referencing a 2013 Supreme Court ruling, he added that, “While the protection of that act has been curtailed … across the world, there’s a general trend to make the vote ever more available – to minority populations, indigenous peoples, peoples with disabilities, those who have been convicted of crimes.”
Voters will receive a special identity card that will guarantee their right to vote on election day, Sunday, November 8, the Union Election Commission has announced. The new measure will apply to all 32 million perspective voters. The new cards, which are separate from the existing National Registration Cards, will be distributed a week or so before the poll, the UEC said. “On election day, voters must bring their cards to the voting booth, where electoral officials will check the cards against the voters register and give them a ballot paper,” UEC official U Thaung Hlaing in Nay Pyi Taw on August 4. “Minor errors like spelling mistakes are acceptable,” he added.
A pro-democracy foundation run by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has shut down its 13-year-old electoral observation office in Venezuela as the South American country gears up for closely watched legislative elections. In a monthly report on Venezuela’s political outlook published Wednesday, the Carter Center said it closed its Caracas office May 31 to concentrate its limited resources in other countries that have solicited its help. It said it would continue to monitor events from the center’s headquarters in Atlanta. The Carter Center has been a frequent observer of elections in Venezuela and it mediated talks between the socialist government and opposition following a 2002 coup that briefly unseated then President Hugo Chavez.