The U.S. Supreme Court’s docket is crowded with voter redistricting disputes this term. The high court already heard a procedural redistricting dispute, Shapiro v. McManus, U.S., No. 14-990, argued, 11/4/15 (84 U.S.L.W. 615, 11/10/15), and the justices recently agreed to take a look at a racial gerrymandering challenge to Virginia’s latest voter map in Wittman v. Personhuballah, U.S., No. 14-1504, review granted, 11/13/15 (84 U.S.L.W. 663, 11/17/15). But on Dec. 8, the one-person, one-vote principle will take center stage at the high court in two separate redistricting cases: Evenwel v. Abbott, U.S., No. 14-940, oral argument scheduled, 12/8/15, and Harris v. Ariz. Indep. Redistricting Comm’n, U.S., No. 14-232, oral argument scheduled, 12/8/15. Where the justices ultimately land in these cases could have a national impact. The dispute in Evenwel—possibly the most consequential of the two one-person, one-vote challenges—centers on whether the one-person, one-vote principle announced in Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964), protects all persons, or just eligible voters.
A coalition of voting-rights organizations has withdrawn two state Senate redistricting proposals it had submitted to a Leon County judge, virtually ensuring that at least one district will cross Tampa Bay when the legal fight ends. The coalition, which includes the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause Florida, announced the move one day before the groups and the Legislature are set to file briefs with Circuit Court Judge George Reynolds objecting to each other’s maps. The state Senate has submitted a single map that would cross the bay. Reynolds is supposed to recommend one of the plans to the Florida Supreme Court as the best way to follow the anti-gerrymandering “Fair Districts” redistricting standards approved by voters in 2010, after the Legislature agreed in a legal settlement that the current map would be found in violation of those rules.
Georgia: Improper release of voter data prompts outside audit of state agency | Atlanta Journal Constitution
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp plans to hire top auditing agency Ernst & Young to review his technology department in the wake of a data breach that exposed private information of more than 6 million voters. In a statement sent out after 6 p.m. Friday, Kemp also acknowledged a “similar but more limited” incident occurred in October 2012. According to emails obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution through an open records request about that incident, 12 voter registration lists containing sensitive personal data were sent out to people in 15 counties. But Kemp’s statement said “all of the information was recovered at the time.” News of the most recent incident became widely known Wednesday, when the AJC wrote about a class-action lawsuit alleging a massive data breach in the Secretary of State’s Office.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy on Friday ordered officials in Hawaii not to count ballots or name the winners of an election there in which only people of native Hawaiian ancestry could vote. The justice’s order was a response to an emergency application from Hawaii residents who said the election violated the 15th Amendment, which bars race discrimination in voting. The election is to end on Monday, and Justice Kennedy’s order did not stop the voting. He apparently acted on his own, and his order may mean only that he wanted to preserve the status quo over a holiday weekend until the full court could consider the matter. The election is for delegates to a convention that would prepare a document on self-governance by Native Hawaiians. Under a definition in a 2011 law, only descendants of “the aboriginal peoples who, before 1778, occupied and exercised sovereignty in the Hawaiian islands” are eligible to vote.
Weeks before he leaves office, the governor of Kentucky on Tuesday issued an executive order that immediately granted the right to vote to about 140,000 nonviolent felons who have completed their sentences. The order by Gov. Steven L. Beshear, a Democrat, was cheered by advocates for criminal justice reform and civil rights, who said it would place Kentucky’s policy more in line with others across the nation and was consistent with a trend toward easing voting restrictions on former inmates. Kentucky had been one of just three states imposing a lifetime voting ban on felons unless they received a special exemption from the governor. Florida and Iowa still carry the lifetime ban.
Attorneys representing the state and registered voters argued before a three-judge panel on Monday about the impact of a lawsuit filed over North Carolina’s legislative district maps on the state’s 2016 primaries. The plaintiffs say the lines drawn by Republican lawmakers for nearly 30 House and Senate districts are illegal because they relied too much on race. They don’t want the districts used in 2016 and want candidate filing delayed until updated boundaries are set. Attorneys for the state say the judges should delay any decision until other redistricting litigation is resolved. There are three pending redistricting cases. The boundaries have never been struck down and were used in the 2012 and 2014 elections.
A team of U.S.-based lawyers who witnessed last month’s Haitian elections say there is mounting evidence showing a clear pattern of systemic fraud, voter confusion and intimidation, and in some areas disenfranchisement. The report paints a grim picture of a flawed, chaotic electoral process on Oct. 25. Not only were voting procedures inconsistently applied at poorly designed polling stations, the report notes, but the widespread use of observer and political party accreditation led to people voting multiple times and potentially accounts for as much as 60 percent of the 1.5 million votes cast. “Without major corrective measures, these elections will represent a significant setback in Haiti’s long-struggle to consolidate democracy,” said the report based on the observations of a delegation of election monitors from the National Lawyers Guild and International Association of Democratic Lawyers Delegation.
An opposition leader was shot to death at a campaign rally Wednesday for next week’s congressional elections in Venezuela, his party said. The shooting took place in the central town of Altagracia de Orituco, the leader of Democratic Action party, Carolos Prosperi, said. He said he heard gunshots as the rally was breaking up and…
In August this year, the Election Commission of Pakistan had announced its intentions to allow overseas expats to vote in the country’s general elections in 2018, as long as they held their citizenship. Keeping with the plan, a mock exercise was conducted to evaluate security, among other things. The Pakistani embassy in Riyadh, the High Commission in London and its consulates in New York, Dubai, Manchester, Bradford and Glasgow carried out the test. Employees at the foreign missions were asked to participate in the exercise, by voting for fictitious candidates, via two means — postal and online ballots.
In 1963, while preparing for his speech atthe March on Washington, John Lewis saw a photo in The New York Times of a group of black women demonstrators in Rhodesia holding signs that read: one man, one vote. The 23-year-old chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) adopted the phrase as a rallying cry against the disenfranchisement of black Americans in the segregated South. “‘One man, one vote’ is the African cry,” Lewis said at the Lincoln Memorial. “It is ours, too. It must be ours.” Following the March on Washington, SNCC made “One man, one vote” its official slogan. That the Supreme Court is even hearing the ‘Evenwel’ case is a major victory for the plaintiffs. At the same time as Lewis’s speech, “One man, one vote” was being debated before the nation’s highest court. For decades, elected offices in many places were not based on equal population, giving conservative lawmakers from rural areas far more influence than liberal lawmakers from urban areas. “In the American South,” wrote Douglas Smith in On Democracy’s Doorstep: The Inside Story of How the Supreme Court Brought “One Person, One Vote” to the United States, “malapportionment served as a cornerstone of white supremacy, ensuring the overrepresentation of the most ardent segregationists and thus further delaying the realization of civil and voting rights for African Americans.”
National: Governors Could Restore Voting Rights To Millions Of People If They Wanted To | Huffington Post
There’s a growing bipartisan consensus in Congress that restoring voting rights for people with felony convictions is a crucial aspect of criminal justice reform. But governors have a massive amount of discretion in deciding whether to reinstate voting rights for millions of ex-felons who are still denied the right to vote, as recent decisions in Kentucky and Iowa illustrate. On Tuesday, Kentucky’s outgoing Democratic governor, Steve Beshear, signed an executive order that would automatically restore voting rights to at least 140,000 former felons who have served their sentences. Kentucky is just one of just three states, along with Florida and Iowa, that permanently disenfranchises all people with felony convictions. Up until now, a Kentuckian with a felony conviction would have to individually petition the governor to have his or her rights restored. As in other states, permanent felon disenfranchisement disproportionately affects racial minorities. An estimated 1 in 5 African-Americans in Kentucky are disenfranchised, compared to 1 in 13 nationally.
Senate Republicans plan to insert a provision into a must-pass government funding bill that would vastly expand the amount of cash that political parties could spend on candidates, multiple sources tell Politico. The provision, which sources say is one of a few campaign-finance related riders being discussed in closed-door negotiations over a $1.15 trillion omnibus spending package, would eliminate caps on the amount of cash that parties may spend in coordination with their candidates. Pushed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a longtime foe of campaign finance restrictions, the coordination rider represents the latest threat to the increasingly rickety set of rules created to restrict political fundraising and spending on elections.
State lawmakers say they want more answers about the massive data breach involving millions of Georgia residents. Specifically: What steps organizations that mistakenly got our information took to secure it? From the beginning, the secretary of state has said the data on six million voters is secure. But now lawmakers want proof. … Kemps’ office told Channel 2’s Lori Geary they’re going back to the outlets that received the information to get written assurances no copies of the files exist. That’s not sitting well with Kemp’s critics. “All the pieces of ID theft are in that file. Your name, your birthdate, your Social Security number,” said state Rep. Scott Holcomb.
Opponents of an election designed to be a significant step toward Native Hawaiian self-governance are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block votes from being counted in what they argue is an unconstitutional, racially exclusive process. “This court’s intervention is urgently needed,” said the request filed Tuesday with Justice Anthony Kennedy, who can act on his own or get his colleagues involved. Native Hawaiians are voting to elect delegates for a convention next year to come up with a self-governance document to be ratified by Native Hawaiians. Voting ends Monday. A group of Native Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians is challenging the election, arguing Hawaii residents who don’t have Native Hawaiian ancestry are being excluded from the vote, in violation of their constitutional rights.
Few political processes are more important or consequential than that of defining or drawing districts for legislative bodies. Whoever controls where district lines are drawn wields immense power to determine voters’ choices at the polls, election outcomes and whose interests are more or less effectively represented in our legislative bodies. Little wonder then that legislative districting is an issue of great concern to the League of Women Voters and all citizens interested in open, fair and effective representative government. The U.S. Constitution gives the power to regulate the time, place and manner of Congressional elections to the individual state legislatures. The Indiana Constitution, as is true of most states, gives the power and responsibility to define the state’s legislative and congressional districts to the General Assembly. Thus, not only does the state legislature define districts for congressional elections, but it also determines the make up of its own members’ districts. For more than two centuries, members of state legislatures, the legislative political parties and other special interests have used the districting process to advance their own political objectives. Incumbent legislators want districts they can win. The majority party in a legislative chamber wants to maintain its dominance by drawing districts to its advantage. Special interests, if they are powerful in the state, try to protect themselves by influencing the districting process.
African-American leaders in Kansas want the state to allow people to register to vote on Election Day. The proposal included in the Kansas Black Leadership Council’s 2016 legislative agenda is a response to the state’s requirement that people provide proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport, in order to register to vote. People who do not do so when they try to register at the DMV, for example, are placed in suspended status until they provide documention.
Voting Blogs: Fusion Voting in Up Close: A Look at the Independence Party of New York | State of Elections
Last year Brad Smith provided this blog with a post that gives an overview of fusion voting laws in New York State. In this post I would like to look into a case study that, for some, sheds some doubt on the desirability of fusion voting laws. The Independence Party of the State of New York (IPNY) is a minor party that states on its website, “candidates and elected officials should be free to tell the voters what their views are, without dictates from political party bosses, special interest groups and restrictive party platforms.” With this in mind, in most elections the IPNY has preferred to endorse major party candidates under the fusion voting system, rather than nominate their own (they last endorsed Andrew Cuomo for governor, for instance).
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People asked a federal judge on Tuesday to halt the implementation of a photo identification requirement for North Carolina voters, saying the measure discriminates against black and Latino residents. The North Carolina chapter of the NAACP and other plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction seeking to stop the requirement, which will take effect next year, ahead of primary elections in March. “North Carolina’s voter ID requirement remains an undue and unlawful burden on voters of color,” Reverend William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, said in a statement. “A preliminary injunction would ensure democracy is not disrupted for eligible voters of color,” he said.
In Burkina Faso, electoral observers are readying themselves for this weekend’s landmark polls. Codel, a grouping of civil society organisations, is deploying some 5,000 observers to monitor elections temporarily derailed by a failed coup attempt in September. The polls are seen as key to the country’s transition to democracy following last year’s ousting of strongman Blaire Compaore. “We’ve living in a very extraordinary time in Burkina,” Ismael Diallo, a member of Codel’s expert committee, told RFI. “This is the first time in more than 30 years that we don’t know who’ll be president.”
Two election judges and two police officers were killed Tuesday in a suicide attack at a North Sinai hotel where officials monitoring the second phase of Egypt’s parliamentary polls were staying, the Egyptian army and Justice Ministry said. One slain judge held the position of deputy head of the country’s administrate system while the other was the deputy of the general prosecutor, according to the Justice Ministry. Two policemen were killed and at least 12 people injured in the attack, which targeted the Swiss Inn hotel in the North Sinai capital of Arish, according to a statement published by the Egyptian Armed Forces on the army spokesperson’s official Facebook page. Police, army troops and civilians were among those injured, the statement read.
Government-backed candidate Jovenel Moise will face Jude Célestin, the former head of the state construction company, in a Dec. 27 presidential runoff, the head of Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council declared Tuesday during an announcement of the official results of last month’s first round presidential vote. Pierre-Louis Opont made the announcement hours after the National Offices of Electoral Litigation (BCEN) rejected the demands of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas opposition party to eject Moise from the race because of “massive fraud” during the Oct. 25 first round balloting. The five-judge panel did, however, order that 50 problematic and fraudulent tally sheets from polling stations across Haiti be removed from the final results. While the modification slightly changed the final percentage of votes Moise with 32.76 percent to Célestin’s received, it didn’t change their preliminary finish, Opont said. In reaction, partisans of opposition candidates accusing Moise and Martelly of orchestrating fraud — accusations Moise and his PHTK party have denied — took to the streets setting tires ablaze in planned protests. Radio reported that at least five people were injured, including two Haiti National Police officers by bullets.
At least 120 female candidates out of a total 1,019 running for Saudi Arabian municipal council elections have withdrawn their candidatures, according to the spokesman for the National Committee for Municipal Elections Jidai al-Qahtani who was quoted on Tuesday in Arabic daily al-Hayat. He said the total number of candidates stood at 7,380, but a total of 384 candidates have withdrawn. Fifty of the candidates who withdrew were from Riyadh. The last day for withdrawal in Riyadh was on Thursday 19 Nov. All remaining candidates are required to go through the fourth phase and campaign for their election.