South Korean voters went to the polls Wednesday to elect to representatives to the National Assembly. President Park Geun-hye’s ruling conservative Saenuri Party is expected to maintain a majority in the unicameral parliament. Recent polls have shown strong public support for Park’s tough policies to respond to the growing North Korean nuclear threat, including cutting the last cooperative inter-Korean tie by closing the jointly run Kaesong Industrial Project following the Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test in January, imposing increased sanctions, and increasing military readiness to respond to any provocations.
Syrians in government-controlled areas headed to polling stations Wednesday to elect a new 250-member parliament that is expected to serve as a rubber stamp for President Bashar al-Assad. Shortly after the stations opened at 7 a.m., people began turning up. Around 3,500 government-approved candidates are competing after more than 7,000 others dropped out. Parliament elections in Syria are held every four years, and Damascus says the vote is constitutional and separate from the peace talks in Geneva aimed at ending the war. But the opposition says it contributes to an unfavourable climate for negotiations amid fierce fighting that threatens an increasingly tenuous cease-fire engineered by the United States and Russia.
Police needed most of Monday afternoon to arrest all of the sit-down protesters outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington at a demonstration in favor of changing the rules on political money, voting rights and redistricting. More than 600 turned out for the protest, and more than 400 were arrested in the sit-in at the Capitol steps, U.S. Capitol Police reported. The nonviolent protest was led by Democracy Spring, a coalition of more than 100 progressive groups. The protest was cheery and peaceful. Police blockaded the marble staircase with a chain and a cordon of officers. Demonstrators sat in front of the chain and on the plaza, talking, chanting, singing and taking pictures as police led them away one by one. Police, badly underestimating the potential crowd, initially brought a single bus to Capitol Plaza to haul the protesters away.
The signs that the Supreme Court is grappling with a depleted bench are starting to show. But what has been a trickle of tie-votes, bizarre orders and slowed activity could turn into a series of orders with contradictory effects as the court is confronted with an onslaught of election-related litigation in the lead-up to Nov. 8. As the last stop for lawsuits challenging voting restrictions and administrative practices, the Supreme Court would normally see an increase in those cases as the 2016 election draws closer. But the ideologically split court will be facing more than the usual uptick in requests for the justices to intervene in legal battles over voting laws. The 2016 election marks the first presidential election since the Supreme Court crippled the Voting Rights Act and ushered in a wave of voting restrictions now tied up in lawsuits. The Supreme Court will be without its decisive ninth vote just as voting rights advocates will be asking it to come to terms with its 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision.
What is apparently the first lawsuit to reach the U.S. Supreme Court challenging Ted Cruz’s eligibility to run for president has now been filed. But it’s not likely to go anywhere. A retired Utah lawyer, Walter Wagner, claims that Cruz does not meet the Constitution’s requirement that a president must be a “natural born” citizen. Cruz was born in Canada, and Wagner contends that fails the natural born test. In mid-March, Wagner’s case crashed shortly after takeoff for the reason other lawsuits asserting the same claim have failed. He could not meet the test for showing why the candidacy would cause him any particular harm.
Editorials: One person, one vote: A case of surprise unanimity at the Supreme Court over voting rights | The Economist
Predicting Supreme Court rulings based on the tenor of oral arguments is notoriously hazardous, but journalists’ hunches are rewarded often enough that they keep on coming. In December, this paper averred that Evenwel v Abbott, a challenge to the way the states draw legislative districts, was a close call that would turn on Justice Anthony Kennedy’s vote. Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick, one of the savviest Supreme Court journalists, also came away from the hearing thinking “it’s clear that…the justices will likely break along the usual partisan lines”. So it was a surprise last week when the eight justices—from Sonia Sotomayor on the left to Clarence Thomas on the right—voted unanimously to turn back a complaint about line-drawing that would have strengthened Republican gerrymandering efforts across the country.
A Tucson man filed a lawsuit on Friday challenging the results of Arizona’s Presidential Preference Election. John Brakey said in a statement the lawsuit alleges that officials improperly changed voters’ party affiliations that resulted in voters not being allowed to cast their ballots, failing to provide ballots to qualified voters and lack of security for voter databases. The lawsuit filed in Superior Court calls on the certification of the election, which happened on April 4, to be canceled. He doesn’t want a new certification until “the election is properly conducted and in compliance with every Arizona law.” He said the problems are significant enough to have altered the results for both Republicans and Democrats in the election.
Colorado: What the heck happened this weekend in Colorado? And why was it so bad for Donald Trump? | The Washington Post
The Colorado GOP convention was an odd one. Most states use primaries or caucuses to decide how their delegations to national party conventions will vote. But not Colorado. The state Republican Party decided last August to do away with the traditional statewide vote on March 1 (Democrats kept their caucuses; Bernie Sanders won with about 59 percent of the vote). Why? Because state GOP leaders were tired of their pledged delegates not having any influence at the Republican National Convention (the past two Colorado winners, Rick Santorum in 2012 and Mitt Romney in 2008, failed to go on to win the nomination).
The Maine Senate is endorsing a bill to establish presidential primaries in the state. With a unanimous vote Monday, the Senate endorsed legislation to establish a March presidential primary. Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland, sponsored the measure following this year’s presidential caucuses, when big turnouts led to big delays.
Missouri: Democrats stall voter ID bill in the Missouri Senate again, vote delayed once more | Political Fix | stltoday.com
For the second time in as many weeks, Missouri Republican senators paused debate on a contentious voter ID measure after Democrats stalled a vote on the bill. Last week, GOP senators paused debate on the bill after Democrats held the floor for about three hours. At the time, Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, said that the bill would come up again. On Monday, Democrats held the floor for two hours before state Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit and Senate bill sponsor, asked that the bill again be laid over. The bill would require that Missouri voters show a photo ID before they cast ballots. But Democratic opponents argue that this will mean trouble and confusion for an estimated 220,000 Missouri registered voters who lack a photo ID.
North Carolina: Trial on legislative districts begins; expected to last a week | The Charlotte Observer
Three federal judges shared the bench in Greensboro on Monday as a trial began over the legality of North Carolina’s legislative districts. A group of 27 voters filed a lawsuit in May 2015, arguing that maps drawn in 2011 for nine state House districts (4, 5, 14, 20, 21, 28, 32, 38, 40) and 19 state Senate districts (5, 7, 12, 21, 24, 29, 31, 32, 33, 38, 42, 48, 57, 99, 102, 07) were designed to weaken the influence of black voters, who in North Carolina predominantly vote for Democrats. Republicans led the 2011 redistricting, an exercise that happens every 10 years after the Census. The panel of judges who will decide whether the maps can be used in the 2016 elections are James A. Wynn Jr., an Obama appointee to the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals; Thomas D. Schroeder, a district judge appointed by George W. Bush; and Catherine Eagles, a district judge appointed by Obama.
Arguing that its five-year-old law requiring voters to have a photo ID before they may cast a ballot will not deny anyone in Texas the right to vote, state officials urged the Supreme Court on Monday afternoon to allow the law to remain in effect while a federal appeals court conducts a new review of it. If federal voting rights law would treat the requirement as illegal, the federal law would be unconstitutional under the Fifteenth Amendment, the state contended. The Court is considering a plea by a group of voters and officeholders in Texas (Veasey v. Abbott, 15A999) to block further enforcement of the requirement, and to do so in time to keep it from affecting voting in this year’s general election in November, conceding that it is now too late to stop it for the state’s May 24 run-off election. Their request was filed with Justice Clarence Thomas; he has the option of acting alone or sharing it with his colleagues.
Voting Blogs: Absent Court Intervention, 608k Registered Texas Voters Face Unlawful Disenfranchisement (Again!) | Brad Blog
Unless either the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeal or Supreme Court intervenes, more than 608,000 lawfully registered Texans, who were illegally disenfranchised during three successive elections (the General Elections in 2014 and 2015 and this year’s Presidential Primary), are likely to again be barred from casting a vote in the November 2016 general election. A disproportionate number of those who have been and may be deprived of a right that is, at least in part, supposedly guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) are impoverished African-Americans and Hispanics. The source of disenfranchisement is a Republican-sponsored polling place Photo ID law which state Democrats had spent years, and no small amount of effort (even life-endangering effort) attempting to oppose.
Voters in the Comoros Island went to the polls on Sunday to vote a new president in a key run-off. Voting took place in a relatively calm environment and the local press reported that some activists perturbing public peace during the election had been arrested. Polls opened shortly after 4:00 Hours GMT with a discreet police presence.
A source inside Macedonia’s State Electoral Commission, DIK told BIRN that the process of weeding out alleged fake voters from the electoral roll is being undermined by the pressure from the ruling parties. “The work of the DIK is marked by constant confrontations [between its members]. The majority of the members are clearly biased towards the [ruling] political parties,” the well-informed DIK source told BIRN on condition of anonymity. Amid official silence from the commission about the progress of the clean-up, the source said that “the [nine] members of DIK do not work together to resolve the problems and that is why they are silent and their report is overdue”. “I wonder how they will restore confidence in the electoral rolls this way,” the source added.
Peru: Keiko Fujimori and former finance minister appear headed for a runoff in presidential race | Los Angeles Times
Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori, and former Finance Minister Pedro Pablo Kuczynski appeared headed for a June runoff to determine the winner of Peru’s presidential race, partial election results indicated Monday. Keiko Fujimori received 39.5% of the votes cast in Sunday’s election, while Kuczynski received 22.1%, with more than two-thirds of the ballots counted, according to Peru’s electoral commission, known by its Spanish initials ONPE. About 83% of the first-round ballots were counted by late Monday, officials said. Kuczynski’s lead over candidate Veronika Mendoza, a socialist member of Congress who had about 18% of the vote, looked to be enough to ensure him the runoff spot against Fujimori on June 5, analysts said. A winning candidate needed 50% of votes plus one to avoid the second round.
The Philippines may have suffered its worst-ever government data breach barely a month before its elections. Personal information, including fingerprint data and passport information, belonging to around 70 million people is said to have been compromised by hackers. The Philippine Commission on the Elections (Comelec) saw its website defaced at the end of March. The Anonymous Philippines group has claimed responsibility for the attack. The group said it sought to highlight “vulnerabilities” in the system, including the use of automated voting machines that will be used on 9 May.
We applaud U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren for adding her voice of support to voting rights for Americans living in Guam and other U.S. territories. She said citizens in the territories are treated like “second-class citizens” because they can’t vote in presidential elections, aren’t represented in the Senate and only have a nonvoting delegate in Congress. “I just have to say this is absurd,” Warren said at a hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in Washington, D.C., earlier this week. “Four million Americans live on American soil and can only participate in our democracy, but only if they leave home. At their homes — on U.S. soil — all of their representation rights disappear.”
Kansas: Errors in Kansas’ Spanish voting guide include wrong registration deadline | The Kansas City Star
Spanish-language voter guides distributed by the Kansas secretary of state’s office did not match the English-language version and contained errors that could have resulted in people being unable to register and vote. The errors added fuel to complaints that Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s voter registration policies pose hurdles for some voters, including minorities. Ongoing lawsuits challenge the proof-of-citizenship requirements he wrote and shepherded through the Legislature. Craig McCullah, who is in charge of the office’s publications and a spokesman for Kobach, accepted responsibility for the errors and said they resulted from a clerical mistake in updating the guides for this year’s elections. “It was an administrative error that I am diligently working to fix,” he said.
Editorials: Kris Kobach is incompetent in Kansas and a national disgrace, too | Yael T. Abouhalkah/The Kansas City Star
The last week has exposed the incompetence of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach at home and his standing as a national embarrassment as a public official. For a guy who wants to wipe out “voter fraud” — which national experts have shown time and time again does not exist — Kobach appears to be involved in his own fraudulent attempts to prevent people from voting. Right now, Kansas residents are left to wonder who’s minding the shop at the secretary of state’s office as Kobach gallops around the country seeking fortune and fame. There’s so much to cover, but let’s start with this. On Friday, Johnson County court records show Kobach’s office suddenly dismissed misdemeanor counts related to unlawful voting against Betty Gaedtke “without intent to refile.” A jury trial scheduled for Monday was canceled.
A leading Democratic senator said Friday that Gov. Larry Hogan (R) may be open to a compromise proposal for redrawing the boundaries of congressional districts, after his own plan has stalled in the legislature for three months. Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Montgomery) said he met with Hogan, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford and the governor’s chief of staff for nearly 25 minutes on Friday in a spirited discussion about Raskin’s proposal to create a “Potomac compact” that would allow an independent panel to draw congressional lines for Maryland and Virginia. Raskin’s rationale is that a two-state approach would offset Democratic losses in Maryland as a result of boundaries being redrawn with similar GOP losses in Virginia. “I found them very receptive to the idea,” Raskin said after his meeting Friday.
The Maryland Senate on Thursday killed a bill that would have automatically registered people to vote when getting their driver’s license. Some senators, mainly Republicans, had raised concerns that non-citizens wouldn’t be weeded out of the voter rolls, because they can receive driver’s licenses. Concerns also were raised that domestic violence victims or people who want to keep their identity as private as possible would be automatically on voting databases. In a rare maneuver, opponents asked for a roll call vote on adopting the report on the bill from the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. Usually committee reports are adopted without a recorded vote. The vote was 21-24, killing the bill.
Members from the Missouri NAACP, Empower Missouri, Missouri Faith Voices and other groups spoke at the Capitol Thursday to denounce the measure in the Missouri Senate that would make photo voter ID legal. NAACP Missouri President Rod Chapel and his organization have been among the most vocal opposition to photo voter ID, which Chapel says is an attempt to disenfranchise certain voters. “Our opposition to HB 1631… is about fundamental rights,” he said. “It’s about being an American, it’s about being a Missourian.”
The Fort Belknap Indian Community in Montana is considering taking legal action against Blaine County and the Secretary of State of Montana for failing to provide equal access to the right to vote for tribal members, according to the tribe’s president. Fort Belknap Indian Community President Mark Azure said the tribe has retained the services of Timothy Purdon and Brendan Johnson of Robins Kaplan – the former attorneys general of North Dakota and South Dakota, respectively – and Bryan Sells, who was previously working in civil rights at the U.S. Department of Justice before starting his own law practice. “We have made multiple requests of Blaine County officials for equal access to in-person late registration and absentee balloting on the Fort Belknap Reservation going back to August 2014,” Azure said.
A federal court ruled two months ago Republican legislators weren’t legally justified in turning two North Carolina congressional boundaries into majority-black districts and ordered new lines. Starting Monday, another panel of three federal judges convenes a weeklong trial deciding whether close to 30 of the 170 state House and Senate districts approved almost five years ago by the General Assembly also are illegal racial gerrymanders and must be redrawn. Voters in the challenged districts who sued make largely the same arguments that won out in February’s separate congressional litigation. They say legislators created too many minority-majority districts when evidence shows black voters have been able to elect their preferred candidates in districts when their voting-age population was well below 50 percent. The congressional district ruling forced lawmakers to quickly redraw the map and delay the March congressional primary until June. It’s unclear whether, if the legislative plaintiffs are successful, new boundaries would be ordered for this year.
The Utah Supreme Court ruled against the Utah Republican Party on Friday, mandating that candidates — not the party — can choose how to access the primary election ballot. The ruling comes during an ongoing battle over Utah’s new election law, SB54, which gives candidates the option to collect signed petitions, go through the state’s longstanding caucus and convention system, or both to secure a spot in the primary election. The GOP argued that the statute allows the decision to rest with the party, which should be able to preclude a member from gathering signatures. It’s an attempt — with the party’s conventions taking place this month — to recognize only those candidates who go through the party’s conventions. But the state has contended that SB54 allows the candidate to choose his or her own pathway to the ballot.
Long lines at polling places on several college campuses during last week’s primary election had at least one thing in common: students who waited until the last minute to register to vote. Due to new voting laws in Wisconsin, college students who are already juggling classes, homework and jobs have their work cut out for them before they can fill in an election ballot. If they don’t figure out what documents they need until election day, they may show up at the polls to register without the proper photo ID or proof of current address. That can create bottlenecks in voting wards with high student turnout. Student leaders on campuses in Wisconsin and elsewhere are figuring out creative ways to build excitement around registering to vote. That could be the key to managing a heavy voter turnout on election day in November, when a new crop of freshmen and out-of-state students will be eligible to cast ballots, along with upperclassmen who tend to move often and will have to fill out change-of-address forms.
Chad voted in a presidential election on Sunday with incumbent Idriss Deby running for a fifth term in office, arguing that only his government can maintain stability in the face of a threat from Islamist militants. Boko Haram has staged a series of attacks in Chad in the past year as part of a campaign to expand its Islamist insurgency from bases in northeastern Nigeria into neighboring countries. Chad has one of the most capable armies in the region and Deby has played a key role in efforts backed by the West to combat the group, which is linked to Islamic State, as well as other militants linked to al Qaeda. “I call on Chadians to vote in calm and serenity. Our country is starting from a long way back but the future looks bright. I ask all politicians to respect the verdict of the ballot box,” Deby told journalists as he voted.
Comoros election officials began counting ballots late Sunday after a tense three-way presidential run-off poll featuring the current vice president and a former coup leader who ruled the country for seven years. The day of voting was marred by a number of incidents notably on Anjouan, one of the three islands which make up the Indian Ocean archipelago. Results in the race to succeed outgoing President Ikililou Dhoinine are not expected before Wednesday. The second round of the presidential race comes after Vice President Mohamed Ali Soilihi — known as Mamadou — won the disputed first round in February with 17.88 percent of the vote.
Djibouti opposition leaders are rejecting the results of the country’s presidential election, citing fraud. Djibouti’s ruling party declared on Saturday that President Ismail Omar Guelleh won Friday’s presidential election, gaining nearly 87 percent of the votes. Three candidates who ran against the incumbent told VOA Somali the result was “false.” The independent candidate Mohamed Muse Tourtour said, “A national vote-stealing occurred, it is false and I will not accept it.”