National: Barack Obama calls on Congress to restore Voting Rights Act | The Guardian

Barack Obama has once again called on Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act and make it easier for Americans to vote, in a letter to the New York Times Magazine. The letter comes more than a week after he marked the 50th anniversary of the 1965 act by asking Congress to pass new, broader legislation to address recent efforts to impede Americans’ voting rights. “I am where I am today only because men and women like Rosanell Eaton refused to accept anything less than a full measure of equality. Their efforts made our country a better place,” Obama wrote in Wednesday’s letter. “It is now up to us to continue those efforts. Congress must restore the Voting Rights Act. Our state leaders and legislatures must make it easier – not harder – for more Americans to have their voices heard. Above all, we must exercise our right as citizens to vote, for the truth is that too often we disenfranchise ourselves.”

Editorials: Redistricting reform in Maryland and Virginia: Can the states join forces? | The Washington Post

Democratic legislative leaders in Maryland issued rote rejections of Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) utterly sensible proposal for congressional redistricting reform last week. In doing so, they were reading from a script that could have been prepared for them by Republican legislative leaders in Richmond, whose equally knee-jerk dismissal of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) efforts have doomed redistricting reform efforts in Virginia. So here’s a modest suggestion that would have the novel effect of elevating the interests of voters in each state, not to mention good government, above the partisan self-interest of incumbent politicians. Why don’t Maryland and Virginia initiate a mid-Atlantic reform compact whose overriding goal would be to tip the scales in favor of fair elections and against rigged ones?

Colorado: Williams changes election rules | Colorado Springs Independent

Secretary of State Wayne Williams is setting new ground rules for Colorado elections. “We are making careful preparations for the 2016 election cycle in order to ensure Colorado sets the standard for access and integrity,” Williams stated in a press release. The changes include the establishment of a Bipartisan Election Advisory Committee that will work to ensure that elections are accessible and fair. The new rules also aim to up security for third-party personal delivery of ballots and clarify the appointment of election watchers. Military members and civilians who are overseas have been allowed to turn in ballots electronically if the area they are in has unreliable mail service. Under the new rules, electronic voting will only be allowed if there is no other feasible way to get a ballot in on time, and the electronic voter will need to sign an affirmation stating that they understand that rule.

Florida: Early observations from redistricting special session | Orlando Sentinel

The shifting lines of Florida’s congressional districts could spice up campaigns and signal the end of political careers for veterans and rising stars alike. There are several winners and losers in the “base map” drafted by legislative staffers and under consideration from lawmakers during the special session that ends next week. Here are some observations from the first two days: This is all about two more Democratic seats. If the base map were to be adopted as is, all of the fighting, legal maneuvering, the special sessions, the redrawing, adjusting and tinkering will be over a likely possible gain of two congressional districts for the Democrats. The crux of the discussion over moving U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown’s north-south district snaking down from Jacksonville into Orlando and moving it to an east-west configuration running from Jacksonville to Tallahassee – what Democratic groups and the League of Women Voters, have suggested from the beginning – will net Democrats two more districts overall, due to changes further down the map.

Editorials: Florida elections imperiled by human error | Daily Commercial

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 smoothly and efficiently. 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.

Editorials: Why there’s hope for easing Texas’ voter ID law | Carl P. Leubsdorf/Dallas Morning News

It was ironic but perhaps fitting that the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling challenging the constitutionality of the restrictive Texas voter identification law on the eve of last week’s 50th anniversary of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act. After all, the 2011 Texas law exemplifies current efforts to undermine that still relevant act. But though the three-judge panel concluded the Texas law has a “discriminatory effect” on the poor and minorities, the nature of the ruling and the prospects for appeal suggest this is less than the sweeping judicial success for which opponents hoped. Indeed, its Republican sponsors made clear that, despite this defeat, they still hope to win the war in the Supreme Court, if necessary. That’s hardly surprising, given the fact that Chief Justice John Roberts has repeatedly questioned the continuing validity of the 50-year-old Voting Rights Act.

Utah: Vote-by-mail is a winner in primary election | Deseret News

As primary election results were handed down Tuesday night, one clear winner in Salt Lake County was voter turnout thanks to a vote-by-mail campaign. “This is just unprecedented,” Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen said Tuesday. “What it says is the vote-by-mail process absolutely worked in increasing voter turnout.” The county recorded a 32 percent voter turnout across all cities, which doubles numbers seen in previous primary elections and even beats the 26 percent showing in the November 2013 municipal election, Swensen said.

Virginia: House leaders release agenda for redistricting session | The Virginian-Pilot

State House leaders on Wednesday released their agenda for Monday’s special session of the General Assembly to redraw U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott’s 3rd congressional district. Matt Moran, a spokesman for House Speaker Bill Howell, said House Republicans don’t yet have a redistricting plan. “We haven’t done the preliminary work necessary to craft a plan,” he said in an email. A federal court found the district, which stretches from Richmond to Norfolk, to be an unconstitutional racial gerrymander and ordered state lawmakers to redraw it. The court rulings came in a lawsuit filed by a Democratic group that alleged too many black voters were packed into the district, diluting their influence.

Virginia: State elections official asks for further study of voter registration forms | The News & Advance

The state Department of Elections will look further into how to best address the integrity of Virginia elections. In an email to general registrars and the electoral board this week, State Board of Elections Chairman James Alcorn announced he would pull the decision to pass proposed changes to voter registration forms from the board’s September agenda. In a July public hearing, registrars from throughout the state as well as other residents spoke against a proposal that no longer would require voters to check boxes verifying their legal, felon or competency statuses before their registration is approved. The proposal, which included changes to the form’s spacing, font and order, was an election board initiative to increase voting access and eliminate barriers, proponents said at the meeting.

Virginia: Taxpayer costs mount in Virginia voting lawsuits | Daily Press

Attorneys have billed Virginia taxpayers more than $1 million so far in just one of the three lawsuits still pending over the state’s election districts and voting laws. The bulk of that hasn’t been paid yet, because it stems from an unfinished battle over the state’s 3rd Congressional District lines. A federal court has awarded nearly $790,000 in attorneys fees and other costs to the plaintiffs in that case, but congressional leaders defending the lines hope the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn the underlying decision on appeal. The high court has already sent this case back down once, though, and the three-judge panel assigned to the case has twice ruled the lines unconstitutional. The Virginia General Assembly is set to go into special session Monday with a court-imposed Sept. 1 deadline to redraw the state’s congressional map.

Bulgaria: Bulgaria’s Edgy Relationship With the Vox Populi | Transitions Online

Rare – and to be handled with care. That is the briefest way to describe how the European East sees referendums and direct democracy in general. Maybe that’s why the Bulgarian parliament was so wary. In the last week of July, parliamentary deputies dumped two out of three referendum questions, though supported by 570,000 signatures gathered through a petition drive and put forward by President Rosen Plevneliev. Three questions were supposed to be on the ballot for the fall local elections. They concerned the electoral code: whether a majority voting system should be merged with the existing proportional one; whether casting a ballot should be made obligatory; and whether electronic voting should be allowed. In the end, only the last survive

China: Electoral Affairs Commission admits to some unusual addresses in voter registrations | EJInsight

The Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) has rejected reports of irregularities in the voter lists that were released at end-July, but admitted that some people had been registered with unconventional addresses. Barnabas Fung, the commission’s chairman, said some voters needed to be registered with unusual addresses because of housing issues, RTHK reported. Fung cited a UN Human Rights Convention which says that no person should be stripped of his voting rights because of his address, or lack of one, the report said.

United Kingdom: Labour leadership: voter registration extended after website crash | The Guardian

Labour has extended the deadline for people to sign up to vote for its new leader after its website crashed and dozens of supporters of Jeremy Corbyn began to raise concerns about being excluded. The party issued an apology on Twitter after its online registration form for supporters suffered technical difficulties on Wednesday morning, with just hours to go before the midday cut-off point. The deadline was then extended until 3pm as people continued to experience problems signing up. The glitch happened as the party struggled to cope with almost 250,000 new members and supporters, each of whom is being checked to make sure they are not “entryists” from other parties trying to influence the result. Around 88,000 have still not been vetted.