Three Democratic U.S. congressmen on Wednesday asked a federal agency to provide information regarding whether a top federal elections official had the right to unilaterally change voter registration forms in three states to require proof of citizenship. Reps. Elijah Cummings, Robert Brady and James E. Clyburn asked the chairman of the Election Assistance Commission for records connected to EAC executive director Brian Newby’s amendment in February of forms in Kansas, Alabama and Georgia. The group is seeking documents relating to requests from the three states to modify voter registration forms; all analysis of the impact of modifying federal voter registration forms; and all documents giving Newby the authority to unilaterally make the changes. Voting rights activists criticized the changes Newby made in February as a “secretive move” that created additional barriers for potential voters.
California: Federal judge rejects lawsuit Bernie Sanders backers had hoped would boost his California chances | Los Angeles Times
A federal judge refused Wednesday to reopen voter registration in California ahead of next week’s presidential primary, telling a group led by backers of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders that the rights of the state’s unaffiliated voters have not been harmed. “There’s absolutely no showing of any federal violation,” said U.S. District Judge William Alsup. Alsup also denied the request that volunteers at polling places be required to tell voters about the unusual rules surrounding which political parties have opened their presidential contests to unaffiliated “independent” voters. “The citizens of California are smart enough to know what their rights are,” the judge said in a brief court hearing in San Francisco. Attorneys for the Sanders affiliated group and California’s American Independent Party, both plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said they would consider asking a federal appeals court to intervene. But they also suggested a last-minute case in state court, even though the primary is on Tuesday.
After moving to Kansas, Tad Stricker visited a state motor vehicle office to perform what he thought was the routine task of getting a new driver’s license and registering to vote. It was a familiar procedure for Stricker, 37, who has moved from state to state frequently in his work as a hotel manager. He filled out a voter registration form and got his driver’s license. He was not asked for more documents, he said. So he was stunned when he tried to cast a ballot in November 2014 and was told he was not on the voter rolls. A month later, a letter from the state said why: His registration had been placed “in suspense” because he had failed to meet a state requirement he did not know about – proving he was an American. Spurred by Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a national leader in pushing for anti-immigration and voting changes, more than 36,000 Kansas residents have joined Stricker in limbo since early 2013 under a state law that raises a new and higher barrier to voting in the United States: proof of citizenship.
Louisiana has repealed a century-old state law that required naturalized citizens to provide proof of their citizenship when they registered to vote, a change that effectively resolves a lawsuit’s discrimination claims. Civil rights groups that sued last month to block the 142-year-old law’s enforcement announced Wednesday that they will withdraw their federal lawsuit now that state lawmakers have removed it from the books. Their suit claimed the old law discriminated against foreign-born, naturalized U.S. citizens by arbitrarily subjecting them to “heightened” voter registration requirements that didn’t apply to native-born citizens.
A group of activists is asking a federal court to order a new primary for Baltimore voters, alleging that a series of irregularities and a “vote-buying scheme” marred the election’s outcome. Members of Voters Organized for the Integrity of City Elections, or VOICE, joined two candidates and an ex-offender as plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court moments before midnight Wednesday against the city and state elections boards. They are asking the court to declare the results of the primary “null and void,” order a new vote at the earliest date possible and appoint federal observers to oversee the election and “systemic changes in practices, procedures and personnel.” The filing also alleges that the administration of the election disenfranchised African-Americans, who make up the majority of Baltimore’s population. No hearing date has been set.
A panel of federal judges Thursday rejected the most recent challenge of North Carolina’s newly drawn congressional districts. In the unanimous decision, the three district judges left open the possibility for a different lawsuit to weigh the question of blatant partisan gerrymandering. The effect is that maps drawn by the legislature’s Republican leadership in February remain valid as voters cast early ballots in the primary election to decide which congressional candidates are on the ballot in November. The ruling came almost four months after the General Assembly redrew congressional lines in a response to a court order declaring two of North Carolina’s districts unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. In March, attorneys for David Harris of Durham and Christine Bowser of Mecklenburg County asked the three-judge panel to reject the new maps as “a blatant, unapologetic partisan gerrymander” that provided no legal remedy to the 2011 maps that were struck down on Feb. 5. The challengers also argued that the new maps intentionally limited minority representation.
Virginia: State Supreme Court calls special session to hear GOP challenge on felon voting rights | Richmond Times-Dispatch
The Supreme Court of Virginia will hold a special session on July 19 to take up the Republican challenge to Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s order restoring voting rights for more than 200,000 felons. Republican leaders in the General Assembly had sought to have the case heard as early as next month, arguing in court filings that the matter should be decided by Aug. 25 at the latest to avoid “casting doubt on the legitimacy” of the November election. “We are pleased the Supreme Court recognizes the urgency of our challenge to Governor McAuliffe’s unprecedented and unconstitutional expansion of executive power,” House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, said in a statement Wednesday. Howell is a plaintiff in the case along with Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr., R-James City, and four voters.
The results of Haiti’s contested first-round presidential elections were such a disaster that the process should recommence at zero, the head of a five-member panel charged with reviewing the vote told the nation Monday. Francois Benoit made the recommendation during a ceremony at the National Palace in which he handed over a 105-page report, the results of a month-long audit by the Independent Commission of Evaluation and Verification, to interim President Jocelerme Privert. Privert, in turn, gave the report to the revamped Provisional Electoral Council, which will ultimately decide whether to accept the recommendation. It had planned to announce a new elections calendar on Tuesday. The commission audited 25 percent of the results, or 3,325 tally sheets from 13,000 polling stations across the country. “The conclusion we have reached is that the evil started not only within the polling stations, but a little higher in the distribution of [accreditation cards]” Benoit said, referring to the tens of thousands of cards that were distributed to poll workers and electoral observers and went for as little as $3 on election day. The cards allowed individuals known as mandataires to vote multiple times and at any polling station. The card, he said, “frantically opened the way for … trading.”
Russia’s Central Election Commission (CEC) has ruled the final results of the Democratic Coalition’s online primaries void after their website came under attack from hackers. Personal data belonging to thousands of opposition voters was leaked online after the coalition’s website was targeted. The CEC ruled that it was impossible to establish any final results. “Due to external access to the server resulting in the unauthorized collection of data, the CEC believes it was impossible to continue safe and reliable voting procedures in these primaries,” said the Electoral Commission in a statement posted on the VKontakte page of the PARNAS opposition party. The hackers gained access to voters’ names, dates of birth, email addresses and phone numbers. The information, which was later released online, also contained account passwords and information on cast ballots.
Arizona: Attorney General hires independent investigator to probe election problems | Capitol Media Services
Attorney General Mark Brnovich hired a special investigator Thursday to determine if Secretary of State Michele Reagan broke any laws in the recent special election. Michael Morrissey, a former federal prosecutor, will review the failure of Reagan’s office to ensure pamphlets describing the issues on the May 17 ballot were delivered to the homes of all registered voters before the early ballots went out. That should have happened by April 20. Reagan does not dispute that at least 200,000 of the 1.9 million pamphlets were not mailed on time. And each of those was to go to a home with more than one registered voter, meaning at least 400,000 people may not have had the descriptions of the two measures before they mailed back their early ballots. She said, though, the blame lies with others, including a contractor and a consultant. But Ryan Anderson, spokesman for Brnovich, said the scope of the foul-up was actually larger than Reagan let on.
Voting Blogs: Bringing Common Sense to the Sunshine State | Ciara Torres-Spelliscy/Brennan Center for Justice
In 2000, Florida became ground zero for the debate over poor election administration as Vice President Al Gore and Governor George W. Bush both thought for weeks that they had won Florida’s (then) 25 electoral votes and therefore the presidency. The Supreme Court resolved the controversy in the infamous Bush v. Gore ruling. Florida’s election administration problems in 2000 included the poorly-designed butterfly ballot, in which the name of a candidate and the hole to be punched for the candidate were slightly askew; resulting in one vote total on day one and a different vote total in a mandatory machine recount. There were also long lines at many precincts, fueling voter dissatisfaction. In 2012, Florida was the next Florida. Fortunately for the nation, the Electoral College vote between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney wasn’t close and did not hinge on Florida’s (now) 29 electoral votes. Florida in 2012 witnessed such long lines at certain polling places that voters had to wait seven hours or more to vote.
Louisiana’s House Education Committee has approved a bill that will enable college students in the state to use their campus-issued student ID cards as an official form of identification for voting. Per a report from The Advertiser, the bill could enable campuses to implement the measure as early as this fall, although it won’t be required to take effect until 2019. According to House Bill 940, brought forth by Rep. Randal Gaines, D-LaPlace, valid student ID cards will be required to have a photo of the cardholder along with a signature in order for the credential to be accepted under Louisiana state voter identification laws.
When Larry Harmon tried to vote on a marijuana initiative in November in his hometown of Kent, Ohio, the 59-year-old software engineer found his name had been struck from the voter rolls. Two hours south in Zanesville, restaurant worker Chris Conrad, 37, was also told he was no longer registered. Both men later found out why: they had not voted often enough. As the Nov. 8 elections loom, officials in Ohio have removed tens of thousands of voters from registration lists because they have not cast a ballot since 2008. All U.S. states periodically cleanse their voter rolls, but only a handful remove voters simply because they don’t vote on a regular basis. And nowhere could the practice have a greater potential impact in the state-by-state battle for the White House than Ohio, a swing state that has backed the winner in every presidential election since 1960. Voters of all stripes in Ohio are affected, but the policy appears to be helping Republicans in the state’s largest metropolitan areas, according to a Reuters survey of voter lists. In the state’s three largest counties that include Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus, voters have been struck from the rolls in Democratic-leaning neighborhoods at roughly twice the rate as in Republican neighborhoods.
Two weeks after a record number of Oregonians voted in the state’s May primary election, the Oregon secretary of state shared data Wednesday on voter turnout and the state’s pioneering Oregon Motor Voter program. “I am encouraged to see these new ‘motor voters,’ many of whom may have never voted before, engage in the democratic process,” said Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins. “We have received positive feedback from many Oregonians and continue to hear praise from national civic organizations and other states that are looking to Oregon as a model for democratic engagement.” According to the most recent analysis by the state Elections Division, 8,135 votes were cast by Oregonians who were registered through the Oregon Motor Voter program. With 43,571 eligible OMV voters, this means 18.7 percent of the OMV-registered voters who were eligible to vote on May 17th (registered by April 26th) participated in the primary election. Read the full report here.
The Champlain Valley League of Women Voters is concerned about the effectiveness of motor voter registration, according to spokeswoman Sonja Schuyler. After Town Meeting Day, the League began hearing stories about town clerks being unable to find some voters who had registered through the Department of Motor Vehicles on their checklists. After polling Chittenden County clerks, the League found more than 600 cases of voters not being on the rolls, Schuyler said. Most were allowed to vote after being offered an affidavit to sign, but Schuyler said she had heard from some voters who were unable and unwilling to sign the form. “It creates a hassle for voters,” Schuyler said. The problems raise immediate concerns for the coming two elections, she said, including this summer’s gubernatorial primary election. There are also long-term questions about how well Vermont’s new automatic voter registration will work. Starting in 2017, Vermonters will automatically be placed on the voter rolls when they apply for or renew a driver’s license or nondriver identification card.
Virginia: Supreme Court takes up challenge to McAuliffe rights restoration order | The Washington Post
The Virginia Supreme Court next month will hear a legal challenge to Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s order restoring the voting rights of more than 200,000 felons. The court will take up the lawsuit, filed by state Republicans, on July 19 in Richmond during a special session scheduled to accommodate this and other cases. The decision came in response to Republicans’ request for an accelerated timeline. They would like the court to issue a ruling well ahead of the November general election. In their lawsuit, House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford), Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R-James City) and four voters argued that McAuliffe (D) could not legally restore rights to nearly a quarter-million felons with one sweeping executive order. Until now, governors restored voting rights to felons on a case-by-case basis. “We are pleased the Supreme Court recognizes the urgency of our challenge to Governor McAuliffe’s unprecedented and unconstitutional expansion of executive power,” Howell said in a statement.
Wisconsin Assembly district boundaries that Republicans drew up five years ago have robbed Democratic-leaning voters of their voices, attorneys argued as they wrapped up a federal trial over whether the lines are constitutional. Gerald Hebert, an attorney for a group of voters who sued over the boundaries, told the panel the boundaries represent the worst example of gerrymandering in modern history and punish Democrats and their supporters by diluting their voting strength. “Their right to vote is fundamental,” Hebert said during closing arguments. “It’s our voice in the government. It’s the only voice many of us have. It’s not right to target people and harm them because of their voting history. What did they do? They had the nerve to participate in the political process and go to the polls.”
Australia: Norfolk Islanders to have federal and NSW laws but no vote in state election | The Guardian
Norfolk Islanders will not have the right to vote in Australian state elections, despite the island’s legislation being abolished and replaced by federal and New South Wales laws. From July, the NSW government will deliver all state-level services, such as health and education. Islanders will also fall under the federal Medicare system and be eligible for social benefits, including the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Australia’s tax and immigration systems will also apply. The island lost its right to self-govern last May when the commonwealth abolished its autonomy, and the island has been in a transition period ever since as it prepares to come under Australian laws. While islanders will have the right to vote in the federal election and will be allocated to the electorate of Canberra, the NSW Legislative Council this week passed legislation about the application of services to Norfolk Islanders. Despite this, they will not have a right to vote in state elections as part of the legislation.
Canada: Liberals agree to give majority to Opposition on electoral reform committee | The Globe and Mail
The Liberals have backed down from their plan to hold the reins on a committee to study electoral reform in Canada, handing over the balance of power to the opposition and agreeing to give the Bloc Québécois and the Green Party a voice at the table. It is a major reversal from the government, which pledged to change the first-past-the-post voting system before the next federal election, but faced increasing criticism that it was trying to rig the system in the Liberal Party’s favour. Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef told the House of Commons on Thursday the government will support an NDP motion to give opposition members more say on the special committee – yet to be struck – to study voting systems and propose changes for Canada.
Last Monday, Kibera slum was a chaotic scene of stone-wielding protesters in conflict with Kenyan police forces armed with live ammo, water cannons, and tear gas. In the fourth so far in a series of weekly protests against Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), many protesters were prevented from leaving their homes in order to demonstrate peacefully in the city center. Calls for election reform have a long history in Kenya. The nation’s 2007 presidential elections led to what was widely termed “ethnic violence,” resulting in over 1,000 deaths and 600,000 displacements. Kibera, one of the world’s largest slums located in the capital of Nairobi, is home to the opposition leader’s stronghold and saw a disproportionate number of murders and displacement. As the August 2017 presidential election draws near, tensions are rising in Kibera once again.
Less than a decade after Peru imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori, voters will decide on Sunday whether to put his 41-year-old daughter back in the presidential palace where she once served as his first lady. Keiko Fujimori has a slight lead over her rival, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, ahead of the run-off vote, helped by her tough stance on crime and years of campaigning in poor villages in the populist style of her right-wing father. But with pollster Ipsos estimating a fifth of voters tend to remain undecided until election day, Kuczynski, a 77-year-old former investment banker, could stage a late surge. It is Fujimori’s second bid to become Peru’s first female president. Her critics fear a return to the days when her father ruled the Andean nation by decree, despite her repeated promises to respect the democratic institutions he trampled before his government collapsed in a vast corruption scandal in 2000. Alberto Fujimori, the son of Japanese immigrants, is serving a 25-year sentence for graft and human rights abuses committed during a crackdown on a bloody leftist insurgency.
Some EU nationals have been wrongly sent postal votes and polling cards for the UK’s referendum because of a “systems issue”, the Electoral Commission has said. The mistake means a number of EU nationals will have their votes cancelled and receive letters explaining they are not eligible to take part in the 23 June poll on British membership of the EU after all. The Electoral Commission said a “small number” of people were affected but it could not yet confirm exactly how many. The problem emerged when Iain Duncan Smith, a leading Brexit campaigner and former work and pensions secretary, complained to the Electoral Commission and David Cameron that he was hearing worrying reports from a number of sources about EU nationals receiving polling cards.