Changes to state voting laws — some geared toward expanding access to the polls, some intended to prevent fraud and thus making it harder to vote — have been proliferating in recent years. But how much of an impact will they have on the 2016 elections, from the presidential contest on down? While it’s still early, a review of states that have changed their election laws since the last presidential cycle suggests that the impact will be felt widely by voters but won’t necessarily affect the outcome of contests in more than a few states. All told, 17 states — most of which are solidly conservative — have tighter voting laws in place this year, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. The new laws range from strict photo ID requirements to early voting cutbacks to registration restrictions. Such laws are often decried by opponents as harmful to minorities and young voters — groups that are more likely to vote Democratic. But many of the states that have implemented such measures aren’t considered competitive in the presidential election. Nor do many of them have competitive gubernatorial elections this year.
The Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation was among the organizations breached by suspected Russian hackers in a dragnet of the U.S. political apparatus ahead of the November election, according to three people familiar with the matter. The attacks on the foundation’s network, as well as those of the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, compound concerns about her digital security even as the FBI continues to investigate her use of a personal e-mail server while she was secretary of state. Clinton Foundation officials said the organization hadn’t been notified of the breach and declined to comment further. The compromise of the foundation’s computers was first identified by government investigators as recently as last week, the people familiar with the matter said. Agents monitor servers used by hackers to communicate with their targets, giving them a back channel view of attacks, often even before the victims detect them.
On April 22, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued a sweeping executive order that changed the lives of 200,000 ex-felons in Virginia, instantly restoring their right to vote. This order leaves only Kentucky, Florida and Iowa with blanket lifetime disenfranchisement policies for ex-felons. In these three states, no citizens convicted of a felony are allowed to vote, regardless of the crime committed, absent government-granted exceptions to the policy. Governor McAuliffe’s act is a reminder that public support for giving ex-felons the right to vote after prison is significant, and growing—but this type of order doesn’t go far enough. Ex-felons should be able to vote, yes. But so should prisoners themselves.
Editorials: Want to help end voter suppression? Junk the caucuses. | Jim Kessler/The Washington Post
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have vowed to tear down barriers to voting, especially for the poor and minorities. The Democratic Platform Committee has already heard testimony calling for changes to make it easier to vote. But no one is calling for a change Democrats could make to remove barriers to voting in their own party: junking caucus elections that are elitist, inconvenient, intimidating, anti-Democratic and suppress the vote. If voter suppression is truly a Democratic concern, consider that fewer people participated in the 17 caucus races in the recently completed Democratic nominating contest than those who turned out for the Wisconsin primary alone. These 17 caucus races with minuscule turnout selected 528 earned delegates to the convention. Wisconsin, where roughly the same number of voters cast a ballot, chose just 86 delegates. If that seems undemocratic, it is.
Editorials: The Gutting of the Voting Rights Act Could Decide the 2016 Election | Ari Berman/The Nation
On June 21, 1964, the civil-rights activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Mickey Schwerner were abducted in Neshoba County, Mississippi, and brutally murdered by the Ku Klux Klan. The killings in Mississippi, where only 6.7 percent of African Americans were registered to vote in 1964, shocked the nation and helped lead to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Yet opponents of the VRA never stopped fighting the law. Ronald Reagan, who called the VRA “humiliating to the South,” kicked off his general-election campaign for president in 1980 at the nearly all-white Neshoba County Fair, which had long been a hotbed of white supremacy. Reagan spoke nearly 16 years to the day after the bodies of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner were discovered, and told the crowd, “I believe in states’ rights”—a phrase that had long been the rallying cry of Southern segregationists. (I tell this story in more detail in my book Give Us the Ballot.) “For a presidential candidate to kick off his campaign there, that was heartbreaking,” said civil-rights leader John Lewis. “It was a direct slap in the face of the movement and all of the progress that we were trying to make.”
A U.S. district court judge may decide two critical issues in Arizona before the November presidential election: whether to stop the state’s new so-called “ballot harvesting” law from taking effect and whether to force elections officials to count out-of-precinct provisional ballots. The Democratic National Committee and a group of voters have filed a lawsuit accusing officials of voter suppression after people in Maricopa County – the state’s largest county – waited for hours to cast their ballots in the March 22 presidential preference election. They also claim that making ballot harvesting a felony could disenfranchise thousands of minority voters.
Nebraska: Secretary of State questions ACLU survey on felon voting rights, follows up with counties | Omaha World Herald
Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale took issue Tuesday with an ACLU survey that reportedly found half of the state’s county election officials gave wrong answers when asked about felons’ voting eligibility. ACLU of Nebraska said Monday that 47 of 93 county officials answered incorrectly when asked by phone: “Can a former felon register to vote?” In Nebraska, someone with a felony conviction can register to vote two years after completing all terms of a sentence.
A federal appeals court asked tough questions Tuesday about North Carolina’s Republican-backed law that imposed tighter rules for voting, including a photo identification requirement at the polls. The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is considering legal challenges from the Justice Department, civil rights groups and citizens who allege the North Carolina law illegally discriminated against minority voters. Allison Riggs, a lawyer for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, argued that North Carolina engaged in an unprecedented rollback of voting rights, which intentionally targeted minorities who tend to vote for Democrats. State lawmakers “knew the disparate impact of every one of these provisions,” she said.
A federal judge has been asked to temporarily block the enforcement of North Dakota’s Voter Identification Law. The request was filed by attorneys who represent members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. Earlier this year, they filed a lawsuit that claims North Dakota’s voter ID requirements ”disproportionately burden and disenfranchise Native Americans.” Court documents say an injunction would restore the right to cast ballots by signing an affidavit, or by a poll worker’s personal knowledge of a voter’s eligibility.
Much of the support for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump this year comes from voters who feel the system is rigged. On Monday the 4th Circuit Court in Richmond lent support to that notion. Sanders and Trump themselves agree — at least in broad strokes. Sanders says he “wouldn’t use the word rigged,” just “really dumb.” Trump is (surprise!) not so restrained: “It’s a rigged system, it’s a corrupt enterprise.” Those complaints look a trifle odd coming from those sources. Nationwide, Hillary Clinton received 3 million more votes than Sanders did in the Democratic primaries and caucuses. Trump complains the system is rigged and corrupt in one breath — and then boasts about how many states he won in the next. Merits aside, Trump and Sanders are complaining about the nominating processes of the Republican and Democratic political parties, which are essentially private organizations. Any advantages or disadvantages a candidate faces are imposed by internal party rules, not the machinery of government. That’s not the case regarding third parties, which face obstacles imposed by law.
Last month’s Austrian presidential election vaulted the country into the international spotlight after nationalist Norbert Hofer and Green politician Alexander Van der Bellen clashed in an acrimonious campaign that rang with the same divisive tones heard ahead of this week’s Brexit vote. After Van der Bellen won the May 22 duel by a whisker — the final count gave him 30,863 lead out of 4.5 million votes — Hofer’s Freedom Party began collecting reports alleging irregularities at the polls. On June 8 they contested the election result before nation’s Constitutional Court. On June 20 the court’s 14 judges began questioning 90 witnesses, mostly election officials and volunteers, in an unprecedented exercise to determine how votes had been counted. A verdict is expected before July 8 — incidentally the day when Van der Bellen is scheduled be inaugurated.
Japan’s parliamentary election campaign kicked off Wednesday as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling party seeks a mandate for his economic policies amid opposition criticism that the lives of the ordinary people are not improving. As more than 380 candidates took to the streets across the nation, pleading for votes from vans outside train stations and shopping arcades, Abe opened the campaign with a pledge to proceed with his “Abenomics” plan to revive the economy and pull the country out of a slump. “The biggest topic of this election is economic policies,” Abe told a crowd in Kumamoto, a southern city struck by deadly earthquakes in April. “This is an election in which we decide whether to return to that dark doldrums or not.” Up for grabs in the July 10 vote are 121 seats, or half of the seats in Parliament’s less powerful upper house.
Latvia: Estonian and Latvian non-citizen petition for voting rights sent to European Parliament | Baltic Times
Latvian leftist MEPs Andrejs Mamikins (Harmony) and Tatjana Zdanoka (Russian Union of Latvia) have submitted petitions in support of Latvian and Estonian non-citizens to the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions. Mamikins told LETA that they had collected over 20,000 signatures under the petition, and there were residents of Belgium, the United Kingdom, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, the United States, Canada, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh among the signatories of the petition. The petition seeks the rights for Estonia’s non-citizens to become members of political parties and to vote in the European Parliament election and, in the case of Latvia’s non-citizens, the right to vote in the European Parliament election.
United Kingdom: Brexit Voters Suspect Referendum Is Rigged, MI5 Participating In Backing ‘Remain’ | International Business Times
With only two days left before polls open in the historic Brexit vote on whether the United Kingdom will remain a member of the European Union, some voters believe spies and intelligence agents are playing roles in the referendum. Approximately a third of voters from political parties that support Britain leaving the EU believe the MI5 intelligence agency, Britain’s equivalent of the CIA, is working with the government to prevent a “leave” vote from taking place. A survey of 1,656 voters conducted by YouGov from June 13-14 asked potential voters whether it was true “MI5 is working with the U.K. government to try and stop Britain leaving the EU.”
Editorials: The polls called last year’s election wrong. Will they get the referendum right? | Peter Kellner/The Guardian
As the referendum results flow in, the pollsters will be as nervous as the Brexit and remain campaigns. Having worked hard to scrape the egg of their faces after last year’s general election, they would hate having to do the same again. As things stand, some pollsters seem certain to be more embarrassed than others. A year ago, their final headline figures were much the same; they were all wrong together. (The experience was especially painful for me, as the then-president of YouGov. On the night, other pollsters could grieve in private. I had to sit for 10 hours in the BBC studio, pretending to stay calm.) This time there have been big variations, both between individual surveys by the same companies and, on average, between polls conducted online and those conducted by telephone. Monday night was typical – the ORB/Telegraph phone poll showed remain 7% ahead, while the YouGov/Times online poll reported a 2% leave lead. If that difference persists in the final polls, somebody is bound to have awkward questions to answer.
Zimbabwe’s electoral body said on Tuesday it was failing to register voters at any given time in lockstep with the country’s laws due to crippling financial constraints. And given its dire straits, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) said it was only registering new voters in areas with by-elections. Critics say the failure to keep the process open is jeopardizing thousands of prospective voters and undermining the country’s electoral system.