Nationally, some experts say policies governing the voting process in the United States prevent eligible voters from getting to the polls on Election Day. After the Supreme Court overturned a key part of the Voting Rights Act, officials in North Carolina grappled with the passage of a new voter ID law and a reversal of many voting procedures civil rights leaders spent years trying to win. “This is our Selma,” Rev. William Barber, a Protestant minister and political leader in the state, told PBS NewsHour. “We’re talking about taking away rights that people have utilized in elections, some since 2000.”
The corruption case against New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez has become a battleground over the controversial Supreme Court decision that allowed the flood of campaign money that is reshaping elections. In legal filings and a recent ruling, defense attorneys, prosecutors, and a district court judge have jousted over the limits of the 2010 Citizens United ruling, which opened the door to unlimited donations to independent political groups, such as super PACs and campaign-minded nonprofits. The Menendez case is the first since the decision to use super-PAC donations as the basis for corruption charges against a lawmaker. It has touched a raw nerve in the debate over the influence of independent expenditures, said Kenneth Gross, a lawyer specializing in campaign finance.
The court’s new term, which starts Monday, will jump right back into high-profile constitutional battles like voting rights, affirmative action and the death penalty, as well as a new attack on public-sector labor unions. And the justices may well agree to take up issues of abortion and contraception again, in cases that could further strip away reproductive rights. The decisions last term showed a court willing to take into account the effects of the law on individual lives. This term, the justices have many opportunities to show that same type of awareness. The legal principle of “one person, one vote” got its fullest expression in the 1964 case Reynolds v. Sims, which ruled that state legislative districts must contain roughly equal numbers of people. Before then, district populations varied widely, an intentional practice that gave more power to rural white voters than those in the more diverse cities. While the court has never defined who counts as a person, the vast majority of states count all people who live in a district, even if they are not eligible to vote.
Voting Blogs: Certification Provides Critical Resources for Election Officials | Matt Masterson/EAC Blog
Last week I attended the Midwestern Election Officials Conference (MEOC) in Kansas City. It was a fantastic gathering of engaged election officials from across the Midwest focused on practical boots on the ground info to prepare for the 2016 election season. Prior to the start of the conference I had the pleasure of meeting with the leadership and staff at the Kansas City Board of Elections. Meetings like this are the best part of my job. I get to share what the EAC is doing while seeing local election offices and hearing from those who deal with the day to day work to prepare for the election. At the MEOC conference Brian Newby of Johnson County Kansas moderated a panel with all three EAC Commissioners. During that conversation Brian asked, “What does certification do for us?” After I answered the question and had a chance to reflect on my conversation with the KC staff I realized that many election officials must be wondering the same thing.
The state of Alabama has been accused of bringing back Jim Crow for closing 31 driver’s licenses offices in the state — including all the offices in counties where African Americans make up more than 75 percent of the registered voters — which critics say will further disenfranchise minority voters in a state that requires government-issued photo IDs at the ballot box. The backlash Alabama is now facing reflects the state’s long history of blocking African Americans access to the polls, from 1965’s Selma protests that ushered in the Voting Rights Act in the first place to the 2013 Supreme Court decision in the Shelby County case that gutted a key provision of it. The latest episode involves Alabama’s widely criticized voter ID law colliding with a broke government that can’t fund basic services. State officials are now on the defensive, denying that the closures — many of them in counties in what is known as Alabama’s “Black Belt” — will make it harder for African Americans to vote.
Alabama: How Alabama will save $11 million — but undermine claims that Voter ID is race-neutral | The Washington Post
Officially, the news out of Alabama is this: Alabama’s Republican-controlled legislature and governor’s office are committed to cutting the state’s budget and the size of state government. That means the state will slice into the money available to a number of public agencies. And the Department of Public Safety, which includes the state’s offices that issue driver’s licenses, will simply have to take an $11 million hit. To make that math work, the agency will shutter driver’s license offices in the state’s most sparsely populated counties.
But the net effect is this: Every county in which black voters comprise more than 75 percent of the voter rolls and the bulk of Alabama communities that overwhelmingly voted for President Obama in 2012 will see their driver’s license offices close.
Not surprisingly, civil rights and civil liberties groups across the state and the only black member of Alabama’s congressional delegation have said plainly that the state’s seemingly race-neutral move to save money is anything but.
In this age of smartphones, touch-screens and the Internet, Los Angeles County’s 50-year old voting system of punch cards and user guides ranks closer to the era of chalk marks and blackboards. Now, the most populous county in the U.S. is less than one year away from completing the design stage of an overhaul that could mark the beginning of a new way of voting in California and beyond. Dean Logan, the registrar-recorder for Los Angeles, where five million voters currently cast ballots on ink-based machines, expects the design phase to be wrapped up by this time next year and the new voting system fully operational for the 2020 elections. “The hallmark of this project is that we’re designing it for the voter first, to make sure that the voting experience is a good one and the thing that makes this so exciting is that we’re operating in a time when you can do that,” said Logan. “You can focus on the user and then back into the technology and the software.”
A Florida judge is poised to unveil his plan for reshaping the state’s congressional boundaries, the latest chapter in a contentious and increasingly messy effort to strip away partisan politics from redistricting. At the instruction of the Florida Supreme Court, Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis is weighing seven proposals for redrawing boundaries advanced by the Republican-led legislative chambers and Democrat-allied voter groups. The state high court set a deadline of Oct. 17 for him to recommend a new map based on guidelines they issued in their ruling. Lawyers say Judge Lewis could release his plan as early as this week.
Former Secretary of State Charlie White has started serving his home detention sentence after losing a lengthy legal battle to have all of his felony convictions in a voter fraud case overturned. The former Hamilton County Republican Party chairman was placed on electronic monitoring Friday, said Ralph Watson, executive director for Hamilton County Community Corrections. White began his sentence after exhausting all of his options in state courts to overturn his convictions.
Some Kansas counties expect to take at least several weeks to cancel incomplete voter registrations from residents who haven’t documented their U.S. citizenship, local election officials said Monday. Local officials also said even when they’re done culling the more than 31,000 records as required under a new rule from Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the canceled registrations still will be accessible in their voter registration databases. Kobach has directed counties to cancel incomplete registrations older than 90 days, with most from prospective voters who haven’t met the proof-of-citizenship requirement. A 2013 state law requires new voters to produce a birth certificate, passport or other citizenship papers when registering. Kansas is only one of four states with such a law, and its incomplete registrations ballooned to nearly 37,700 last week.
State Reps. Julie Plawecki (D-Dearborn Heights), John Chirkun (D-Roseville) and Derek Miller (D-Warren) introduced three bills Sept. 30 that would make voter registration automatic when a resident receives a driver’s license or a Michigan state identification card as long as they meet the usual qualifications to vote. “Automatic voter registration means people won’t miss registration deadlines or make a special trip to an SOS office,” said Plawecki. “Legislators talk a lot about representing the people. Our plan to automate voter registration means that we will definitely be representing all of the people who are qualified to vote. This ensures that every voice will be heard. ” The bill package would not change who can vote or how they can vote, according to a statement from Michigan House Democrats. For anyone who doesn’t want to be automatically registered when they receive their driver’s license or state ID card, they can still opt out.
New Mexico: Attorney General’s office files new felony identify theft charge against Dianna Duran | Albuquerque Journal
Attorney General Hector Balderas’s office has tacked another criminal charge onto its case against Secretary of State Dianna Duran, alleging the person Duran listed as her campaign treasurer during her 2010 election bid — former state Sen. Don Kidd — did not know his name was being used and had no role in verifying Duran’s campaign reports. In addition, the AG’s office filed notice it intends to seek an enhancement to any possible sentence handed down to Duran under a high-profile but untested 2012 public corruption bill. The legal salvos capped off a week in which Duran’s attorney filed a motion to have the Attorney General’s Office disqualified from prosecuting the Duran case and Balderas moved to cut formal ties between the two offices, pending the case’s outcome.
New York: Evenwel Could Have Tremendous Impact on New York Senate & Assembly Districts | New York Election News
Today’s New York Times editorializes on how two Texas voters in the Evenwel case are challenging the use of overall population for redistricting. “They want to force the state to count only the number of voters in apportioning districts. This approach, besides being at odds with long-accepted practice, is both inflexible and impractical. The census, which provides the data that most states use, counts people, not voters,” The Times editorial continues, “the plaintiffs know that getting rid of a system that counts all people would hurt Democratic-leaning urban areas with large, noncitizen Latino populations, and would favor rural and conservative areas where more Republicans live. In other words, the suit is an effort to transfer political power from Democratic to Republican regions. The Supreme Court has never required that states follow this or any other specific method of apportionment, and there is no reason to start now.”
The voter ID law will be back in federal court later this month. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder plans to hold a hearing Oct. 23 to get an update on efforts to settle the legal claims against the photo ID requirement. The N.C. NAACP, the U.S. Department of Justice and others filed a lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s Voter Information Verification Act, which was passed by the Republican-led General Assembly in 2013. The law not only has a photo ID requirement but also includes a number of other provisions, such as the reduction of early voting days and the elimination of same-day voter registration. Plaintiffs allege that the law discriminates against blacks, Hispanics, poor people and college students.
Opponents of Wisconsin’s voter identification law argued in federal court Monday that the legislation is improperly restrictive and should be expanded to allow people to use more forms of ID. The case represents the latest push from the American Civil Liberties Union against a law that has been the focus of a string of legal battles since it was passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Gov. Scott Walker four years ago. Supporters of the legislation say its requirements help guard against election fraud, but opponents say its true intent is to make voting tougher for older, poor and minority voters who tend to support Democrats and are less likely to have the mandated forms of identification. Those include a Wisconsin driver’s license or state ID card, a U.S. passport, military ID card, college IDs meeting certain requirements, naturalization certificates or IDs issued by a Wisconsin-based American Indian tribe.
Editorials: Republicans simply out for revenge on Government Accountability Board | Ernst-Ulrich Franzen/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
This is the week that state legislators are expected to start wreaking their revenge on the Government Accountability Board. Plans to replace the agency are in place. A suggested compromise reportedly has fallen on deaf ears. Deals reportedly have been made to move swiftly on legislation, the effect of which most likely would be to pull any semblance of teeth from this watchdog. Of course, Republican legislators pushing this effort say that wouldn’t be the case; that a new agency (perhaps two new agencies) is needed because this one has been too partisan in its oversight of ethics and elections, and that a replacement would be “fair, transparent and accountable to Wisconsinites,” in the words of a spokeswoman for Gov. Scott Walker. Forgive me if I’m skeptical. And let me add that I have little doubt that more than a few Democrats quietly support this measure simply because no politician really likes a watchdog agency that is doing its job in a truly nonpartisan fashion.
When Rick Sauve visits prisoners these days, they have something new to discuss — the federal election. They pester him with questions: What are the polls saying? Who do you think is going to win? “It gives them something else to talk about,” says Sauve. “Because everyday’s like Groundhog Day. Everyday’s the same. “When this comes around, they pay attention.” Prisoners in all provincial jails and federal prisons get a chance to vote Friday — always 10 days before an election — in special advance polling stations set up in the institutions. This is the fifth federal election in which they have been allowed to cast ballots.
The government of the Republic of Congo has called a referendum October 25 on a proposed constitutional amendment to allow President Denis Sassou Nguesso to run for a third term. The proposed amendment, announced Monday after a cabinet meeting, also would abolish an upper age limit of 70 for presidential candidates. President Sassou Nguesso is 72 and is barred by the current constitution from seeking another term. Last month, the president announced he was planning the referendum, a move that brought thousands of people out to demonstrate in the capital, Brazzaville.
Croatia’s president on Monday called a parliamentary election for November 8, a vote expected to be a tight race as the EU member grapples with a migrant influx and a weak economy. The polls will pit the current centre-left government, led by the Social Democrats (SDP), against the conservative Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party. The announcement comes as the former Yugoslav republic struggles to cope with the arrival of tens of thousands of migrants, who have been travelling through the country since mid-September in the hope of reaching western Europe. “I have decided that parliamentary elections will be held on Sunday, November 8,” said a statement from President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, who was elected Croatia’s first female president in January.
Dozens of people were hurt during fighting over the weekend between rival political groups, before a presidential election scheduled for Oct. 11, local authorities said on Monday. Supporters of different parties clashed on Friday and Saturday in the city of Nzerekore in Guinea’s Forest Region during a visit by President Alpha Conde. Residents say calm was restored by a series of arrests and the imposition of a curfew. “The situation is very, very serious. We have 29 people with gunshot injuries,” Aboubacar Mbopp Camara, prefect for Nzerekore, told reporters.
With just over a month until Myanmar’s landmark elections, there are rising concerns over the use of religion to stoke fears and marginalize minorities. On Sunday, thousands of monks and supporters of a nationalist Myanmar Buddhist group held a rally in Yangon celebrating “victory” in the passing of four controversial race and religion laws. The Committee for the Protection of Nationality and Religion, better known by its Myanmar acronym Ma Ba Tha, has held events in almost all of Myanmar’s 14 states and regions in recent weeks to celebrate parliament’s passing of the bills, with the support of the military-backed ruling party.