This year’s primaries have been filled with complaints about the voting process. Voters in Arizona were furious that they had to wait up to five hours to cast ballots. Thousands of New Yorkers had their names mistakenly dropped from voter registration rolls. Republican candidate Donald Trump called his party’s nominating system “rigged.” Bernie Sanders said the Democrats’ nominating system was “dumb.” And many state voting laws, like strict new photo ID requirements, faced court challenges by those who said they would block minorities and other voters from participating in the election. Supporters defended the laws as necessary to prevent fraud at the polls. All this controversy has left many voters uneasy, and raised questions about how confident Americans are that their votes count, and will be counted accurately in November. So far at least, voters do seem to have faith that the system works. Most say they’re confident — at least somewhat — that their votes will be counted correctly.
Next week marks the third anniversary of an incredibly consequential U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down key provisions of landmark civil rights legislation. The high court’s 5-4 ruling in Shelby County vs. Holder meant that Alabama and many other southern states no longer had to seek federal approval to change their election laws under the Voting Rights Act. But what happened, and how we got there, is so much more complicated. To really understand the narrative arc of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, you have to go back 100 years to the end of the Civil War and the three so-called “Reconstruction Amendments” to the U.S. Constitution. The 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments outlawed slavery, established citizenship for blacks, and gave them the right to vote. “For nearly a century, the U.S. government had done very little to defend voting rights under the 15th Amendment, and you fall into a long, deep period of disenfranchisement,” University of Oklahoma political scientist Keith Gaddie told KGOU’s Oklahoma Voices. “By 1910, across the South – including Oklahoma – you have a variety of different acts, state actions, put into place that keep blacks out of the polling place and the last black officeholder has been driven from politics.” … There was no federal statute to enforce voting rights until 1957. Blacks that did try to register to vote faced poll taxes, literacy or educational competence tests, and even violence. Georgia had the highest rate of black voter registration in the Deep South by 1960, but even then, only 1 in 4 blacks eligible to vote registered. “In 1946, a black man voted in the gubernatorial election in Georgia and was shot dead in the streets in Spaulding County,” Gaddie said.
Voting Blogs: Again Before the Supreme Court: Can There Be “Issues Speech” During Campaigns? | More Soft Money Hard Law
The Supreme Court will soon decide whether to take up a major case about disclosure and this has received little attention—far less than it should. At issue is the clarification of how far government authority extends in requiring the disclosure of the financing of “issues speech”–speech or just information about candidates’ positions that does not involve engaging in advocacy of their election or defeat. There are reasons why the case might have been overlooked: it involves a small organization in a small state, and the activity concerns state and local, not federal (much less presidential), candidates. Perhaps, also, because it is “just” about disclosure, this case might be supposed to pose little danger of harm to anyone’s rights or legitimate expectations. This is serious business. As the states move along with their own reform programs, and as litigation proceeds under different standards applied by different circuits and diminishing consistency in the treatment of federal and state or local-level enactment, disclosure doctrine is losing its coherence, and key constitutional distinctions once taken for granted are being rapidly eroded. One disturbing result: the “big” and sophisticated spenders at the federal level are more protected than the “little guy” at the levels below.
Voting Blogs: When Should a Voter’s “Clerical Error” Invalidate a Ballot? | Edward B. Foley/Election Law @ Moritz
Roland Gilbert accidently wrote the current date, instead of his birthdate, when filling out the form on the envelope for submitting his absentee ballot in Ohio’s 2014 general election (which included a gubernatorial race). It’s a mistake that all, or at least most of us, have made at one time or another in our lives when filling out forms. Is it a mistake that should disqualify Roland Gilbert’s absentee ballot from being counted? As a policy matter, I certainly think not. Moreover, this policy position recently has been adopted by the American Law Institute, a prominent nonpartisan organization most famous for its Model Penal Code, Uniform Commercial Code, Restatements of Law covering a wide variety of fields (like contracts, torts, and property law), and other law-improvement projects. In its new Principles of Law project concerning Election Administration, the ALI takes the position that an absentee ballot should not be invalidated if the identity of the absentee voter can be verified and the voter is registered and eligible to cast the ballot. (Full disclosure: together with my Election Law @ Moritz colleague Steve Huefner, I serve as Reporter to the ALI project that developed this and related principles.)
A complaint alleging that Secretary of State Michele Reagan broke the law when she decided not to issue a new election procedures manual for the 2016 cycle could lead to her removal from office, the attorney who filed it said. Tom Ryan, an activist Chandler attorney who has made a name for himself targeting elected officials over allegations of improprieties or lawbreaking, filed a complaint against Reagan with Attorney General Mark Brnovich on Thursday. Ryan alleged that state law mandates that the secretary of state update and reissue a procedures manual for every election cycle, which Reagan did not do. Reagan argues that the law doesn’t require a new manual every two years, and that it was sufficient for her to leave the 2014 manual in effect. But if Ryan is right, Reagan could be forced from office. In his complaint, Ryan cited a statute stipulating that “a person charged with performance of any duty under any law relating to elections who knowingly refuses to perform such duty” is guilty of a class six felony. Arizona law prohibits anyone convicted of a felony from holding elected office. “If she has violated the law and it’s a class six felony, she should be removed from office.
Editorials: District of Columbia’s Democratic Primary Highlights Their Statehood Blunder | Pat Garofalo /US News & World Report
Tuesday is officially the last election day of the 2016 Democratic presidential primary campaign. Not that it matters much, of course: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is already the presumptive nominee. But going 57th in the primary order and having their votes rendered largely meaningless by the previous contests is nothing new to Tuesday’s set of voters – after all, we’re casting our ballots in the District of Columbia. Yes, adding a lot of insult to plenty of injury, the voters of Washington, D.C. – myself included – were stuck at the end of the presidential politics playlist, relegated to a footnote in the campaign, after already being largely disenfranchised at the national level. But it doesn’t have to be this way: That D.C. is still stuck in representative purgatory highlights one of the biggest mistakes Democrats made during the Obama era.
Thousands of Kansas residents who signed up to vote at motor vehicle offices but were kept off the rolls by a state law requiring proof of citizenship could be allowed to cast ballots in the November general election, under a ruling on Friday by a U.S. appeals court. Kansas’ secretary of state, Kris Kobach, a Republican who has become a national leader in pushing for voting changes, had asked the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to place on hold a decision last month by a lower-court judge ordering the state to begin registering 18,000 residents affected by the law. In requesting the stay, the state said the order to begin to register voters would “result in extraordinary confusion on November 8, 2016.” The Denver-based federal appeals court, however, rejected the argument.
Voting machines in western Hidalgo County were “either faulty or tampered with” to rig the Democratic Party primary runoff election, according to a lawsuit filed Monday. Bail bondsman Arnaldo Corpus — who challenged Justice of the Peace Precinct 3 Place 2 Marcos Ochoa in the primary — filed the lawsuit. Ochoa won 54 percent of 6,625 ballots cast, defeating Corpus, according to results published by the Hidalgo County Elections Department. Corpus, though, claims the Elections Department count isn’t correct.
Utah: How a Utah county silenced Native American voters — and how Navajos are fighting back | High Country News
To understand why Wilfred Jones wanted an ambulance, you have to understand where he lives. San Juan County, in southeastern Utah, is nearly as big as New Jersey but is home to fewer than 15,000 people. The lower third is part of the Navajo Nation and is almost entirely Ute and Navajo. The upper two-thirds are white and predominantly Mormon. Jones, a 61-year-old grandfather with jet-black hair and a diamond stud in each ear, lives in the lower third, five miles south of the blink-and-you-miss-it town of Montezuma Creek. It’s rough, rocky country, where bullet holes riddle the road signs and lonely pumpjacks ply oil from the earth. The nearest services are in Blanding, some 40 miles north. Sixteen years ago, when Jones joined the board of the Utah Navajo Health System, he realized his neighbors were dying because the closest ambulances — the county’s, in Blanding, and the tribe’s, in Kayenta, Arizona — were an hour away “on a good day.” So Jones asked the county commission if one of San Juan’s ambulances could be housed in a garage in Montezuma Creek. From there, it would take half the time to rush an elder suffering a heart attack to medical care.
The Supreme Court of Virginia will hold a special session July 19 to take up the Republican challenge to Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s order that restored 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. They argued 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 elections. The McAuliffe administration has refused to release the list of the 206,000 felons, saying that state election law exempts from the Virginia Freedom of Information Act individual records maintained in the state’s voter registration system. Edgardo Cortes, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Elections, asserted in an email Wednesday that “all information received from other entities for the purpose of maintaining accurate voter registration records” is “part of our statewide voter registration system and covered by this exemption.”
Wisconsin: Legislature’s budget committee approves $250,000 for voter ID education | Wisconsin State Journal
The Legislature’s budget committee Monday approved spending $250,000 for a public education campaign on the controversial voter ID law. The campaign, details of which still must be settled by the new Elections Commission, would inform the public about the need to bring a valid photo ID to vote in the upcoming fall primary and general elections. The money would pay for radio and television public service announcements, website ads, online videos and possibly ads at movie theaters, on buses and on social media. The campaign includes English and Spanish ads newspapers can run, but doesn’t include funds for print ads, spokesman Reid Magney said. The committee passed the motion unanimously with one member absent after addressing concerns raised by a Republican lawmaker that the campaign would be a “waste of money” because most people already know about the law.
In an interview with Der Standard newspaper, University of Vienna professor Theo Öhlinger also said that two of the complaints in the 150-page document filed with the constitutional court were “very serious”. One of those complaints is about postal votes being counted in some places by municipal officers rather than the electoral commission as a whole. Öhlinger added that it was also a serious concern that interim results were being published online before the polling stations had closed. The run-off presidential election on May 22nd was won by the independent Alexander Van der Bellen, the former leader of the Green party, who defeated the anti-immigration Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer by a margin of only 30,863 votes.
“Elections are exciting!” proclaims “election visualist” Garei Zamamiya in an interview with Weekly Playboy (June 20). A lot of people will be surprised to hear that. If Japanese election campaigns were as exciting as they are noisy, it would be a different story, but everyone knows they’re not, with debate dumbed down to imbecility and outcomes largely foregone conclusions. Zamamiya may have a point, however, with reference to the Upper House election slated for July 10. Two factors set it apart. One is a question of some urgency: Will the governing coalition led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe procure a two-thirds majority enabling it to revise the Constitution?
Kenya’s main opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy said its supporters will resume protests on Thursday if the government doesn’t meet its demand for talks on changes to the national electoral body. The group has staged weekly demonstrations in the capital, Nairobi, and other cities since April to demand the resignation of officials at the electoral agency over alleged corruption and bias. Clashes with police have left at least five people dead. “CORD has called off Monday protests because of high level engagement involving the church, business community and diplomats pending a response from the government,” spokesman Dennis Onyango said in a text message. He said he expected the U.S. to appeal to the government to take part in talks.
Venezuela’s government has asked the Supreme Court to reject the opposition’s proposal to hold a referendum to remove President Nicolas Maduro from office.
It accused the leaders of the recall referendum movement of fraud. On Friday the National Electoral Council (CNE) declared more than 600,000 signatures on a petition for the referendum invalid. The opposition says the electoral authorities are biased against them. Venezuela is on the brink of economic collapse, facing high inflation and the shortage of food and basic goods. The opposition blames the Socialist policies of Mr Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, for the country’s economic decline.