Just two years ago, it seemed possible the Voting Rights Act would not make it to its 50th birthday. It did Thursday, and on the eve of the anniversary one court handed down a promising decision: Texas’s voter identification legislation violated the 1965 act by discriminating against minorities and the poor. So insidious a law never should have gone into effect. In June 2013, the Supreme Court struck down one of the Voting Rights Act’s most powerful provisions, a requirement that states with records of discrimination — states such as Texas — submit proposed changes in electoral procedure to the Justice Department for review (known as “preclearance”). Texas began enforcing its law the very same day. The legislation looks like bills passed in many other states since the Supreme Court’s decision: It restricts the voting pool to those who present government-issued photo ID at the polls. Those least likely to have the documentation are the state’s poor and minority residents.
Yesterday, about 60,000 former felony offenders in California were officially granted the right to vote. Earlier this week, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced that the state would settle litigation over laws that had barred low-level felony offenders under community supervision from voting. In 2011, California lawmakers passed bills to reduce overcrowding in state prisons by diverting low-level felony offenders to county jails and community supervision, in which recently released prisoners are monitored by county agencies. Then-Secretary of State Debra Bowen told election officials in December 2011 to extend the state’s ban on felon enfranchisement to those offenders, noting that being under community supervision was “functionally equivalent” to parole. Civil rights groups filed a lawsuit last year to challenge Bowen’s directive.
Connecticut: Advocates Call On Democratic Party To Drop Lawsuit, Comply With Subpoena | CT News Junkie
Common Cause of Connecticut on Wednesday called upon the Connecticut Democratic Party to drop its challenge of the state’s clean election laws. The lawsuit served Tuesday is the second since the start of the 10-month investigation into mailings the party did on behalf of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy during the 2014 election cycle. The Democratic Party believes federal law trumps state law when it comes to the mailings, but the State Elections Enforcement Commission told the Federal Elections Commission in October 2014 that it would be wrong for federal regulators to assume they have jurisdiction over the mailing because it “glibly” includes “a stray get-out-the-vote message.” However, a draft decision by the FEC shows that it was poised in October to rule against the Connecticut Democratic Party. But the party withdrew its request for the ruling before it could be issued and went ahead and sent the mailings to prospective voters anyway shortly before the election.
Perhaps, as a critic of the Legislature’s first two drafts of congressional districts has said, the third time will be the charm. Lawmakers return to the Capitol on Monday to once again draw a map for each of Florida’s 27 congressional seats. It is a drama being watched in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., as shifting lines just a few miles in one direction or another could decide the futures of several members of the state’s U.S. House delegation. The session follows a July 9 ruling by the Florida Supreme Court that the state’s existing congressional map violates one of the two anti-gerrymandering “Fair Districts” amendments voters approved in 2010. Lawmakers drew the initial lines during the once-a-decade redistricting process in 2012, then tweaked them last year after Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis said Republican political operatives had managed to improperly influence the process. But the Supreme Court — which has a relatively liberal majority and has generally but not always ruled against the GOP-controlled Legislature in redistricting cases — said Lewis’ ruling didn’t go far enough and that at least eight of the districts should be redrawn. The rulings led lawmakers to agree to also redraw the state Senate map — another special session for that purpose is scheduled in October — and also has led some Republicans to question the justices’ decision.
Some experts say a federal appeals court decision overturning Texas’ voter identification law could open a new legal front to challenge Kansas requirements, but Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says he thinks the voter ID law he wrote will stand up to court scrutiny. Voting-rights organizations are projecting national implications from a decision handed down Wednesday by judges of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. The judges ruled that Texas’ requirement for voters to show photo ID when casting a ballot has the effect of discriminating against minority voters in violation of Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act. The judges sent the case back to a lower court for consideration of remedies to fix the discriminatory effect and possibly make further findings on whether Texas intended to infringe on minority voters’ rights when it passed its photo-ID law.
Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) is breaking with other Democrats again over redistricting, saying she’s open to an independent commission proposed by Gov. Larry Hogan (R). “I have long supported redistricting reforms to end the damage partisan gerrymandering does to our democracy,” she said in a statement. “I look forward to reviewing Governor Hogan’s announcement to see whether it is truly independent of partisan politics.” All but one of Maryland’s eight congressional districts are held by Democrats, thanks in part to boundaries drawn by Democratic leadership after the 2010 Census. Hogan is creating an 11-member panel to recommend a new process. The Maryland Democratic Party says the lines shouldn’t be redrawn until there’s nationwide agreement on reform.
North Carolina: Federal trial in Winston-Salem could determine meaning of Voting Rights Act | Winston-Salem Journal
The past and the present merged into one during a three-week federal trial on North Carolina’s election law that ended just a week before the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. On July 13, the first day of the trial, the Rev. William Barber, president of the state NAACP, told a crowd of at least 3,500 people gathered in Corpening Plaza that “this is our Selma,” referring to the 1965 civil rights battles in Selma, Ala. For many civil rights activists like Barber, state Republican legislators were seeking to roll back the gains of that struggle by pushing through House Bill 589, which became law in 2013 and either curtailed or eliminated voting practices that blacks have disproportionately used.
Donald Trump’s appearance in Thursday night’s GOP debate in Cleveland just made it harder for him to run as an independent candidate for president. Ohio is one of several states that have “sore loser” rules prohibiting a candidate from appearing on the ballot as an independent or third-party candidate after they have previously declared themselves a candidate in another party. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, has concluded that since Trump has filed with the Federal Election Commission to pursue the Republican nomination and “voluntarily participated” in the Republican presidential debate in the state of Ohio, he has “chosen a party for this election cycle” and declared himself “as a Republican in the state of Ohio,” said Husted spokesman Joshua Eck
In 2013, when the Supreme Court effectively struck down a crucial section of the Voting Rights Act, the disagreement between the five conservative Justices in the majority and the four moderate liberals in dissent was about history as much as law. For the conservatives, Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr., wrote, “Our country has changed” since the statute became law fifty years ago. Devices that once blocked minorities’ access to the ballot, like the voter fees known as poll taxes, had been outlawed for more than forty years. The percentages of whites and minorities who register to vote and then go to the polls are approaching parity in the South and other parts of the country where, half a century ago, they were far apart. It is no longer necessary, Roberts went on, for the federal government to pre-approve any proposed changes to election laws in states with records of entrenched discrimination, as the statute had required since 1965.
The day after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Texas’s Voter ID law has a discriminatory effect on elections, a new study found some evidence in our backyard. A joint study by Rice University and the University of Houston examined Voter ID’s impact on the 2014 District 23 Congressional race between Democratic incumbent Pete Gallego and Republican challenger Will Hurd. District 23 covers 800 miles of Texas borderland, and stretches from San Antonio to El Paso. Bexar County contains 42 percent of the district’s registered voters. Given that the two major critiques of Voter ID — enacted in 2011 with Republican support, and Democratic opposition — are that it has a discriminatory impact on minority voters and that the GOP pushed it in order to help their own political cause, the 2014 election in District 23 provided the research group a perfect test case. “The great thing about CD-23 was that it allowed us to look at both of those things at the same time, because it’s a Latino majority district, but it’s also one that’s politically relevant,” said Mark Jones, the fellow at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.
It was trumpeted as a victory for voting rights, but this week’s ruling that Texas’ restrictive voter ID law violated the Voting Rights Act — on the eve of the act’s 50th anniversary — was actually something of a defeat. And Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg saw it all coming. On Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled that Texas’ Senate Bill 14, which requires voters to show photo ID when voting in person, had a “discriminatory effect” on minority voters and thus violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. But the court rejected the claim that the Texas Legislature had a “discriminatory purpose” when it passed the law, a determination the court said requires more “contemporary evidence” that legislators intended to discriminate against black and Latino voters. Last October, when the same case made a short trip to the Supreme Court to determine if S.B. 14 should go into effect before the 2014 election, Ginsburg had dire words for the law. A majority of the justices decided to let it go into effect, but Ginsburg disagreed. “The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law,” Ginsburg wrote, “one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.”
Millions of voters in Argentina braved heavy rains on Sunday to weigh in on what the South American nation should look like after the departure of President Cristina Fernandez, a polarizing leader who spent heavily on programs for the poor but failed to solve myriad economic problems. Voters cast ballots in open primaries for presidential candidates who had all but sealed the nominations in their respective parties, making the exercise essentially a giant national poll ahead of the Oct. 25 elections. Because of the rains and flooding in some streets in the greater Buenos Aires area, several polling places were relocated during the day.
Haitians voted Sunday for the first time in four years in a test of stability for an impoverished country continually rocked by political turmoil. Men armed with rocks and bottles attacked polling stations in the capital of Port-au-Prince and two dozen voting centers around the country were forced to close due to violence, according to officials. Voting was extended two hours at some polling stations that opened late or were forced to suspend voting. The Caribbean nation of about 10 million people has struggled to build a stable democracy ever since the overthrow of the dictatorship of the Duvalier family, which led Haiti from 1957 to 1986, and ensuing military coups and election fraud. The country was also devastated by an earthquake in 2010 that flattened large parts of the capital, including the presidential palace, killings tens of thousands of people.
India: Election Commission reports that India has 1866 registered political parties | The Financial Express
There has been a rush for registration of political parties, with as many as 239 new outfits enrolling themselves with the Election Commission between March, 2014 and July this year, taking their number to 1866. According to the Commission, as on July 24, there are 1866 political parties which are registered with it. Out of these, 56 are recognised as registered national or state parties, while the rest are “unrecognised, registered” parties. According to data complied by the Commission, in the last Lok Sabha election in 2014, 464 political parties had fielded candidates.
The November 8 election will not be postponed despite a provision in the Constitution to delay a poll in the event of a disaster, according to the Ministry of Information. In its announcement, the ministry said Union Election Commission (UEC) chairperson Tin Aye met UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, in Nay Pyi Taw on Thursday. Yanghee Lee asked about errors in the voter lists and the difficulties faced when correcting them in flood-affected areas and the possibility of postponing the election in those areas until a process to vote in refugee camps could be established.