Yesterday marked the 60th anniversary of the Montgomery bus boycott, launched when Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a segregated bus. Ten years before her historic act of civil disobedience, Parks tried to register to vote. She was denied three times and had to pass a literacy test and pay a poll tax before finally registering. Ten years after the bus boycott, Parks helped lead the historic march from Selma to Montgomery and attended the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The VRA had a dramatic impact in Alabama, increasing the number of black registered voters from 23 percent in 1965 to 69 percent by 2012. But in recent years the state has been moving backward on voting rights. Alabama passed a strict voter ID law in 2010, then challenged the constitutionality of the VRA in 2013.
A closely divided Supreme Court on Wednesday temporarily blocked Hawaii from counting votes in an election open only to descendants of its indigenous people, who were selecting delegates to an assembly that would propose greater self-government for Native Hawaiians. Several Hawaii residents who object to the process sued to cancel the election, contending the state has applied an unconstitutional racial test for voting, among other claims. The state argued the election wasn’t an official act at all, because a private nonprofit, Na’i Aupuni, formally is conducting it with grant funds provided by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Lower courts wouldn’t halt the election while the lawsuit proceeds, but the Supreme Court saw the matter differently. The high court forbade the counting of ballots or certification of winners until a “final disposition of the appeal” by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in San Francisco.
Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday that he is concerned about Maryland’s new voting system “collapsing” next year due to problems found during testing, but the state’s elections administrator said she was confident in the system, which will have paper ballots as a backup. The voting system came up unexpectedly at a Board of Public Works meeting, when Treasurer Nancy Kopp, a Democrat and one of three board members, asked how the state will manage voter education and outreach after a nearly $1 million contract was rejected by the board several months ago. Hogan, also a board member, said he was more concerned about the condition of the overall voting system, rather than what he described as a public relations campaign. … Linda Lamone, the state elections administrator, said some problems were found during testing, and elections officials are working to correct them. Lamone said officials haven’t verified exactly why there was a problem registering about 3,000 votes in Howard County. She said it appears a memory stick that was taken out of a voting unit and put into another device wasn’t recognized when returned to the system, because it apparently sensed there had been tampering.
The House is poised to take up legislation that will make it easier to vote by absentee ballot, but eliminate straight-party ticket voting at the same time. Republicans in the Senate have already passed the elimination of straight-ticket voting, which Democrats believe is a partisan ploy to skew elections toward the GOP. The House Elections Committee will take up the legislation today after it voted Wednesday to pass a bill that would allow people to get an absentee ballot without providing a reason for needing to vote on a day other than Election Day. State Rep. Lisa Lyons, R-Alto, said she’d like to see the two bills passed together to ensure smooth and efficient elections.
Plaintiffs lawyers who brought a challenge to a political redistricting plan in Albuquerque were wrongly ordered to pay $48,217.95 in attorney fees as a sanction for dragging out the litigation, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit found that U.S. District Judge William Johnson of New Mexico abused his discretion in calculating the amount of the sanction against the lawyers based on the date they received a damaging expert report from the city. The plaintiffs did not dismiss their case after receiving the report.
With a primary election less than four months away, North Carolina officials are scrambling to get ready for a controversial state law requiring photo IDs at the polls, even as a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality remains unresolved. Voting rights advocates fear the changes in how the state’s elections are conducted will create confusion among voters and suppress turnout. The ID requirement, which state lawmakers watered down this past summer, is just one of a number of revisions voters will have to contend with. “If you haven’t voted since the last presidential election, you’re going to be in for a shock when you go in, because you’re not going to know what to expect,” says Sarah Zambon, an attorney who serves on the board of the League of Women Voters of Asheville-Buncombe County. “There’s a lot of misinformation about voter ID, which has an intimidation effect on voters, especially going into a presidential election without enough education around this topic. There’s a lot of confusion about what counts and what doesn’t count.”
More than two weeks after the Assembly finalized passage of a bill that would dismantle the state’s rogue political speech regulator, Gov. Scott Walker has yet to sign the legislation into law. And it’s not clear when he will do so. “I don’t have an update beyond what I have previously provided, which is that he will review this legislation and supports overall reform of the Government Accountability Board to provide a replacement that is fair, transparent, and accountable to Wisconsinites,” Walker press secretary Laurel Patrick told Wisconsin Watchdog in an email Monday. The Republican-led Assembly on Nov. 16, in “extraordinary session” and on a party-line vote, passed the bill, ending what state Rep. Dean Knudson has described as Wisconsin’s “failed experiment.”
The Central African Republic will not be safe enough to host a free and fair election at the end of this month, a leading African think-tank has said. David Zounmenou, a senior researcher at the Institute of Security Studies, told Al Jazeera that authorities are neither prepared to provide security nor able to guarantee all eligible voters would be represented on the voters’ roll. “There is no way disarmament of the militia groups would be complete by December 27, and by all indications, I think elections will take place in March 2016,” Zounmenou, of the institute’s African Security Analysis Programme, said. “Some external partners, like France, are pushing for the elections to take place, to get the country out of this stage and get the issue out of the way, but I believe this transitional government will be here for a while.”
Denmark’s seventh referendum on EU integration offers Brussels and Britain another political lesson on the challenges of selling a pro-European message to wary voters. While its political leaders have a broadly pro-EU in outlook and temperament, over the past quarter century the Danes proved doughty defenders of national sovereignty, voting against joining the euro in 2000 and rejecting the Maastrict treaty in 1992. Thursday’s referendum is in theory about whether Denmark should swap its opt-out on EU justice and home affairs matters for an opt-in, affecting issues such as cross-border policing. But the plebiscite has become a clarion call for eurosceptics keen on fighting against the power of Brussels. The vote, which polls put on a knife edge, will be closely watched across the EU and especially in the UK, which is preparing for its own EU referendum.
Egypt wrapped up Wednesday a legislative election that spanned over six weeks but failed to mobilise a high turnout for a parliament expected to firmly back President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s iron-fisted policies. The election was marred by apathy in the absence of any opposition after Sisi crushed all forms of dissent since ousting his Islamist predecessor Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. Polling in a run-off for the second phase of voting in 13 of the country’s 27 provinces closed at 9:00 pm (0700 GMT), bringing an end to a weeks-long marathon electoral process.
The Seychelles began three days of voting on Thursday in a presidential election in which the incumbent’s bid for a third term has been challenged by a rival who says economic growth on the Indian Ocean archipelago has favoured the rich. The nation of 115 islands and 93,000 people relies on tourism but also has expanding fisheries and financial services industries. The economy is forecast to expand by more than 4 percent in 2015, according to the International Monetary Fund. “People, especially the thriving business community, appreciate the big turnaround in our national economy,” incumbent James Michel, 71, told the Nation newspaper this week in an interview published on its website.
Venezuela’s president has hinted that he will not accept the result of crucial mid-term elections being held on Sunday should his Chavista movement loses its majority in congress. Speaking to candidates from his ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or PSUV, Nicolás Maduro warned: “I know we are going to triumph. But if something negative comes to pass I will go to the street to fight with the people, as I have always done, and the revolution will enter another stage.” Venezuela’s government has been using increasingly inflammatory rhetoric as the vote approaches in response to opinion polls showing that for the first time since former president Hugo Chávez came to power 17 years ago, his populist left-wing movement is set to lose control over the 167-seat national assembly.