National: On 50th anniversary of Voting Rights Act, Obama renews call for new legislation | The Washington Post

President Obama, on the 50th anniversary of Voting Rights Act, renewed a call for new, broader legislation and urged people to exercise their hard-won voting rights instead of staying home on election days. Obama said that in the half-century since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act it has become impossible to hear anyone defend the idea of discrimination against certain voters. “That’s huge progress,” he said, “a normative shift in how we think about our democracy.” But he said that initiatives in state legislatures to require drivers licenses and other forms of photo identification and to make it harder to vote early were having the same discriminating effect. He said no matter how reasonable such rules may sound, they all discriminated against the poor, elderly and working-class voters who often work odd shifts or travel by bus or are single parents. Voting rights activists say that 15 states with 162 electoral votes will have new voting restrictions in 2016.

Editorials: Why the Voting Rights Act Is Once Again Under Threat | Ari Berman/The New York Times

In his opinion for the majority in the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County decision, which struck down a major section of the Voting Rights Act, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote that “history did not end in 1965.” But the sad truth is that voter-suppression efforts did not end, either. In 2014, the first post-Shelby election, thousands were turned away by new restrictions in states like Texas and North Carolina. A 2014 study by the Government Accountability Office found that voter ID laws in Kansas and Tennessee reduced turnout by 2 to 3 percent during the 2012 election, enough to swing a close vote, with the highest drop-off among young, black and newly registered voters. This could be a disturbing preview for 2016, which will be the first presidential contest in 50 years where voters cannot rely on the full protections of the act. New restrictions will be in place in up to 15 states, which account for as many as 162 electoral votes, including crucial swing states like Ohio, Wisconsin and Virginia.

Florida: First draft of congressional map shakes up some districts | Miami Herald

Two Democratic congressional incumbents from South Florida would be pitted against one another and tens of thousands of people in the Homestead area would be shifted into a new district under a first draft of a redistricting map released by the Florida Legislature just days before they begin a court-mandated special session Monday to deal with the topic. Hundreds of thousands of Tampa Bay residents would have a new member of Congress in 2016, and former Gov. Charlie Crist could be well on his way to winning a seat in the U.S. House. But by almost any account, the map proposed Wednesday has a long way to go to become law. Legislators will spend the next two weeks adjusting and amending the proposal, which ultimately would still need to go back to the courts for a final approval before it could go into effect.

Oklahoma: A Rare Red-State Accord for More Voter Access | The Atlantic

Nearly a year ago, a coalition of voter-advocacy groups wrote a letter to Oklahoma’s top elections official to deliver a stark, but not uncommon, message: The state had failed to comply with federal law. Specifically, the groups charged, Oklahoma was not giving citizens receiving public assistance an opportunity to register to vote, which is a requirement of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act. “We hope to work amicably with you to remedy Oklahoma’s non-compliance,” the advocates wrote. “However, we will pursue litigation if necessary.” Such warnings are often a precursor to lawsuits, the kind of knock-down, drag-out legal fights that are filled with accusations of voter suppression and partisan chicanery. In North Carolina and Texas, the courts are weighing challenges to new voter-ID laws, and the Supreme Court recently delivered voter advocates a victory when it ruled that Arizona and Kansas could not require people to show proof of citizenship when they register to vote.

National: Obama Urges Restoring Voting Rights Provisions | The New York Times

President Obama used the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act on Thursday to urge Congress to restore key elements of the law, arguing that court decisions and state statutes that discourage “certain kinds of folks” from voting are threatening to erode the fundamental promise of the civil rights-era bulwark. A half-century after the measure outlawed practices that barred blacks or other minorities from voting, Mr. Obama said the nation had “conceptually” rejected discrimination in balloting, a mark of “huge progress.” But, he said, “In practice, we’ve still got problems,” including laws requiring that voters show identification before casting ballots and limiting early voting, which Mr. Obama said may appear neutral, but actually “have a disproportional effect on certain kinds of folks voting.”

National: Voting rights activists press for weekend vote, online registration | The Hill

Civil rights activists, including Martin Luther King III, are amping up the pressure on President Obama and the 2016 White House contenders to tackle low voter turnout by overhauling the rules governing the nation’s elections. The advocates are marking Thursday’s 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) with a rally on the National Mall calling for new efforts to knock down what they consider to be barriers to the polls. The activists want lawmakers to consider online registration and an expansion of the voting window to include a weekend, which they argue would make it easier for people to cast their ballots. Behind King and Andrew Young, the former United Nations ambassador and civil rights activist who now heads the voting rights group Why Tuesday?, the activists have challenged each of the 2016 presidential candidates to outline their ideas for addressing the low voter turnout that’s plagued recent elections — a request that came with an unveiled threat to call out those who ignore the plea.

National: Google’s Search Algorithm Could Steal the Presidency | Wired

Imagine an election – a close one. You’re undecided. So you type the name of one of the candidates into your search engine of choice. (Actually, let’s not be coy here. In most of the world, one search engine dominates; in Europe and North America, it’s Google.) And Google coughs up, in fractions of a second, articles and facts about that candidate. Great! Now you are an informed voter, right? But a study published this week says that the order of those results, the ranking of positive or negative stories on the screen, can have an enormous influence on the way you vote. And if the election is close enough, the effect could be profound enough to change the outcome. In other words: Google’s ranking algorithm for search results could accidentally steal the presidency. “We estimate, based on win margins in national elections around the world,” says Robert Epstein, a psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology and one of the study’s authors, “that Google could determine the outcome of upwards of 25 percent of all national elections.” Epstein’s paper combines a few years’ worth of experiments in which Epstein and his colleague Ronald Robertson gave people access to information about the race for prime minister in Australia in 2010, two years prior, and then let the mock-voters learn about the candidates via a simulated search engine that displayed real articles.

Editorials: Restore voting rights | Rep. John Lewis and Sen. Patrick Leahy/Los Angeles Times

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act, the bill many historians regard as the most influential legislation passed by Congress in the last half-century. It transformed our nation by opening access to the ballot box to racial and ethnic minorities, the disabled, seniors, non-English speakers, poor and rural voters. On Aug. 6, 1965, our nation took a historic step by creating a more fair, more just democracy. Even though the 15th Amendment, enacted after the Civil War, established that the right to vote should not be “denied or abridged,” state and local laws often nullified that mandate. The participation of millions of Americans in any part of the electoral process was rendered nearly impossible. The journey to the passage of the Voting Rights Act, the legislation that equalized voting access, took almost 100 more years. Throughout the struggle, foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement were told to wait and to be satisfied with slow, incremental change. But as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his “Letter From Birmingham City Jail,” the word “‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.'” And so civil rights advocates pushed ahead with courage against enormous odds — organizing, marching, standing day after day in unmovable lines trying to register. Hundreds went to jail in nonviolent protests, some shed blood, and others even died for the precious right to vote.

Florida: Brown sues to stop Florida redistricting | Orlando Sentinel

Implying that a secret, racist agenda may be in play to eliminate Congressional districts drawn to represent black voters, U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, filed a federal lawsuit Thursday to stop Florida’s redistricting effort. On Wednesday the Florida Senate released a proposed map that would redraw many of Florida’s 27 Congressional districts to comply with an order from the Florida Supreme Court. That order came following a lawsuit that charged the state’s 2011 redistricting map had been gerrymandered, drawn to assure that certain seats would always be won by one party or another. Brown’s district would be most affected under the proposed map. And her district was specifically cited for change in the Florida Supreme Court order. The new proposal would lop off District 5’s snake-like appendage that meanders from Jacksonville south to Orange County, taking in black communities along the way. Instead, the map proposes District 5 stretch due west from Jacksonville to Tallahassee.

Editorials: Voting against another Florida election disaster in 2016 | Panama City News Herald

With the 2016 presidential election on the horizon and the ghosts of elections past still haunting it, you would think Florida would have an acute sense for ensuring its voting processes are working as smoothly and efficiently as a Ferrari engine. A recent report, though, indicates the state still is operating like a ’74 Gremlin. The state auditor general, an independent officer hired by the Legislature, recently identified seven weaknesses with Florida’s voter registration system, a computerized database of voter information. … To summarize, the state’s voter database is at risk of failing and/or being compromised. That would make for some potentially chaotic voting scenarios in a high-stakes national election — everything from valid registered voters being denied the opportunity to cast a ballot, to allegations of voter fraud. Hanging chads would seem quaint by comparison.

Maryland: Hogan wants constitutional amendment to change redistricting process | Baltimore Sun

Following through on a promise, Gov. Larry Hogan created a commission Thursday to recommend how to reform the way Maryland draws its congressional districts, widely regarded as among the most gerrymandered in the nation. Hogan said he hopes to put a constitutional amendment before voters in 2016 to change the way the maps are drawn. The idea won immediate praise from election reform advocates such as Common Cause and the League of Women Voters, but it was quickly dismissed by Democrats who control the General Assembly. “It’s not going to happen,” Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said. At a State House news conference, Hogan called the results of the last two redistricting cycles — both carried out under Democratic governors — “disgraceful and an embarrassment to our state.”

Texas: Federal court says Texas voter ID violates Voting Rights Act | Associated Press

A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that Texas’ voter ID law has a “discriminatory” effect on minorities in a victory for President Barack Obama, whose administration took the unusual step of bringing the weight of the U.S. Justice Department to fight a wave of new ballot-box restrictions passed in conservative statehouses. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the 2011 Texas law runs afoul of parts of the federal Voting Rights Act — handing down the decision on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the landmark civil rights law. Texas was allowed to use the voter ID law during the 2014 elections, thereby requiring an estimated 13.6 million registered Texas voters to have a photo ID to cast a ballot.

Massachusetts: Supreme Judicial Court rules ‘invalid’ 1946 law on false statements in elections | MassLive

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on Thursday ruled a state statute governing electoral publications is “invalid,” ordering dismissal of a criminal complaint against the treasurer of Jobs First Independent Expenditure Political Action Committee. The super PAC had targeted Rep. Brian Mannal, a Barnstable Democrat running for re-election, claiming in a mailer that Mannal “is putting criminals and his own interest above our families.”

Mississippi: Trucker wins Democratic gubernatorial primary after spending $0 | The Guardian

A Mississippi truck driver who claims to have spent no money on his campaign won a nomination to be governor early Wednesday morning. Robert Gray, 46, reported spending zero dollars on his campaign to become the Democratic party’s nominee for governor, and defeated two rivals with 51% of the vote. He told the Associated Press that he did not vote on Tuesday “because he was busy”. In contrast, trial attorney Vicki Slater, reported spending $68,000 in the last month alone, and almost $200,000 this calendar year. Gray won with 146,333 votes, meaning Slater lost by almost 60,000 votes.

Rhode Island: State set to modernize its voting equipment | Associated Press

Rhode Island is modernizing its voting equipment. Gov. Gina Raimondo on Thursday signed legislation authorizing Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea to purchase upgraded voting equipment and software to replace current machines that are nearly two decades old. Raimondo says the new machines will make voting easier and will make sure every vote gets counted. Gorbea says she wants to modernize the equipment as part of a review of the entire elections process. She says voting is the most important right granted to citizens.

Canada: Early election call catches some territorial parties off guard | CBC News

The longest federal election campaign in recent history is officially underway, and the early election call has caught some riding associations in the territories off guard. While candidates have been confirmed for the Conservative, Liberal, and Green parties in Nunavut, the NDP are scrambling to get their affairs in order. The NDP have not yet confirmed a candidate, though Clyde River mayor Jerry Natanine has announced he is seeking the nomination. “Certainly, we didn’t expect [the early call],” said Doug Workman, the vice president of the NDP riding association for Nunavut. “We had heard rumours coming from Ottawa that it might occur, but by no means was our riding association ready for the call.”

Germany: Social Democrats consider balloting members for top candidate | Europe Online

Germany‘s Social Democrats (SPD) are considering holding a direct ballot of their members to select a candidate to challenge Chancellor Angela Merkel at the next national election set down for 2017. Leading SPD figures said on Wednesday they were open to conducting a plebiscite of the party‘s about 474,000 members to decide on its chancellor candidate. This follows a call by the leader of the SPD‘s youth wing, Johanna Uekermann who told the daily Welt on Wednesday: “Each member must be allowed a say in a primary-type election.” SPD chief Sigmar Gabriel has also indicated recently that the party membership should be allowed to vote if several candidates emerge to head up the election campaign.

Myanmar: Opposition Leader Suu Kyi warns against flood-linked vote tampering | Associated Press

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi expressed concern Thursday that massive flooding in much of the country might be used as a pretext to undermine November’s general election. In a video appealing to the international community to help flood victims, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate drew a parallel with a referendum, carried out under military rule in 2008, that brought in the current much-maligned constitution. The voting took place during widespread chaos following Cyclone Nargis, which killed an estimated 140,000 people. According to the official results, the charter was overwhelmingly confirmed, but many reports cast doubt on the fairness of the vote and the results. The constitution was drafted under military supervision and enshrines its dominance in government, making substantial democratic reforms difficult to achieve.

Tanzania: Opposition leaders step down to protest candidate choice | Reuters

Two senior leaders of Tanzania’s new opposition coalition have resigned over the nomination of a former ruling party official as presidential candidate, exposing fractures in the fragile coalition ahead of an October poll. In a move meant to cut the ruling party’s 54-year grip on power, Tanzania’s four major opposition parties on Tuesday named former prime minister Edward Lowassa – once seen as a leading contender for the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party nomination – as their candidate. Some analysts see a shrewd move to win over disenchanted supporters of CCM and break the lock on power it has enjoyed for decades. But senior members of the opposition coalition have expressed disgust and stepped down.

Virginia: U.S. court denies GOP request for congressional redistricting extension | The Washington Post

A panel of federal judges on Wednesday denied Republicans’ request to delay a court order to redraw a Virginia elections map that was found to illegally pack African Americans into a single congressional district at the expense of their influence elsewhere. The ruling increases the likelihood that state legislators will have to abide by a call from Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) to return to Richmond this month to tackle redistricting. The Republican-controlled General Assembly has been reluctant to accept an earlier court ruling that set a Sept. 1 deadline to adopt new congressional district boundaries. Republicans requested an extension to Nov. 16 to give their congressional counterparts time to exhaust an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Haiti: Despite indifference, Haiti heads toward election day | Zee News

After a nearly four years of delays, legislative elections will take place Sunday in Haiti, but voters hardly seem to care. Portraits of candidates and posters in their parties` colors have finally invaded the public space. But, in front of an electrical pole plastered with photos of various candidates for Haiti`s Senate and Chamber of Deputies, Luckson is completely indifferent. “Him I know, but he won`t do anything for me. Her, I`ve never seen her face before,” the shoeshiner says while surveying the posters that now adorn his corner. For a brief moment, the nearby vendors and their clients discuss the candidates and argue about the backgrounds of these would-be parliamentarians. They all agree on one point: they will not vote Sunday “because there`s no point.”

Spain: Catalonia Calls Election in New Bid for Secession From Spain | The New York Times

A year ago, secessionist movements were all the rage in Europe — until they were not. After a nerve-rattling campaign, Scots narrowly voted in September to remain part of Britain. Two months later, Catalonia’s drive for an independence referendum fizzled into a nonbinding vote after being thwarted by Spanish courts. But if Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain breathed a sigh of relief that the issue was behind him, he has reason again to worry. Catalan politicians have managed to revive the independence issue. Setting aside personal and political rivalries, they have formed a broad alliance of candidates whose aim is to turn a regional parliamentary election scheduled for September into a plebiscite on breaking away from Spain. Should their alliance secure a majority in the Sept. 27 vote, the secessionist leaders say they will proclaim independence within 18 months.