This November, we’ll have the first presidential election since the Supreme Court gutted some protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act back in 2013. Since then, every change in states freed from federal oversight was designed to make it harder for minorities, the poor, the elderly and the young to vote — most likely for Democrats, in states governed by Republicans. Only, it is not only minorities who will be affected. An unintended consequence of this suppression could be that poor, working-class white voters who want to register for the first time to vote for Donald Trump could find themselves shut out under the same rules designed to make it harder for more left-leaning minority voters to cast ballots. It was only after Congress passed the Voting Rights Act that African Americans and other minority voters began to enjoy the protection of federal law. Under that law, states with a history of minority voter suppression had to get “pre-clearance” for all changes in voting procedures and poll locations to make sure these changes didn’t keep eligible voters from casting ballots.
Donald Trump has made clear he’s a big supporter of strict voting laws. He worries that people can “sneak in through the cracks” of the system and vote “many, many times,” and that “illegal immigrants” are voting. “Look, you’ve got to have real security with the voting system,” Trump has said. That attitude makes sense. Trump may be trailing in the polls, and his cash-strapped campaign may be struggling to build a viable operation in key swing states. But the new wave of Republican-backed restrictions on voting — which look set to keep Democratic voters from the polls — could wind up being Trump’s ace in the hole if the race is close this fall. Tight voting laws also could boost the GOP in a host of House, Senate, governor, and state legislative races. That’s in part because many of the states that have imposed the strictest voting rules — think Wisconsin with its controversial ID law, or North Carolina, with a multipronged measure that critics call a “monster voter suppression law” — are pivotal battlegrounds. It’s also because minorities and young people — the very voters who are most turned off by Trump and the GOP, and on whom Hillary Clinton will be counting on for a strong turnout — are the ones most likely to be tripped up by barriers to the polls.
California: Touchscreen ballots and a choice in polling stations could be the future of voting in L.A. County | Los Angeles Times
A few weeks after a primary election riddled with polling-day issues, Los Angeles County officials announced they’ve completed the first phase of a major planned overhaul of the county’s voting system. County Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan envisions a future system in which, instead of being directed to designated polling stations on a single Tuesday, voters will be able to choose from hundreds of voting centers around the county during a 10-day window leading up to election day. There, instead of marking their selections with pen and paper, they will enter their selections on touch-screen ballot-marking devices, print out a paper ballot to review their selections, and feed the ballot back into the machine to be stored and counted. The county began exploring a redesign of the system in 2009. In 2014, the county Board of Supervisors approved a $15-million contract with the Bay Area design firm IDEO. The planning and design process has cost $14 million to date, Logan said.
Nearly a month after the June 7 primary, California still is tallying ballots, a task that regularly dumbfounds the uninitiated with its snail-like immunity to speed. “Yes, They’re Still Counting the Presidential Primary Votes,” The New York Times carped last week, wondering how the cradle of high tech could have such inefficient elections. A week before, The Washington Post quoted Sen. Bernie Sanders supporters speculating that Sanders actually had won the Democratic primary but no one knew because of the slow vote count. In fact, California election results are the way they are because this state bends over backwards not to disenfranchise voters. This year, some in the Sanders camp actually worsened matters by switching parties at the last minute and casting provisional ballots, which have to be individually verified.
Colorado: State Supreme Court spikes ballot initiative on legislative, congressional boundaries | The Denver Post
A ballot initiative that would have created a bipartisan commission to draw congressional and legislative districts won’t be on the November ballot, after the Colorado Supreme Court voided it in a ruling released Tuesday. By restructuring the way state and congressional boundaries are drawn, Initiative 132 asked too much of voters and violates the “single subject” rule required of ballot initiatives, the court determined. “Further, Initiative 132 removes the power to draw congressional districts from the General Assembly and reallocates that constitutional power to the new Redistricting Commission,” the ruling states. “This constitutes an additional third subject.”
Civil rights groups demanded Tuesday in an open letter that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach rescind his instructions to local election officials to throw out votes cast in upcoming local and state races by tens of thousands of people who registered at motor vehicle offices without providing proof of U.S. citizenship. The executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, Micah Kubic, says Kobach is “deliberately creating chaos” for voters and “acting out of petulance.” At issue is an email sent from Kobach’s office to county election officials last month outlining the state’s plans for implementing a two-tiered election system in the wake of a federal court order requiring Kansas to allow such voters to cast provisional ballots in the federal race. Kobach wants to allow election officials to throw out any provisional ballots in which votes were cast in state and local races and count only votes cast for president and U.S. Senate and House races.
Kansas has a statute that allows the governor to use the executive aircraft for personal or political travel as long as he reimburses the state, but mentions no other state agencies. The Kansas Highway Patrol, which oversees aircraft operations, says it has no specific guidelines and leaves its usage up to each state agency. Kobach defended his use of the plane by saying that he’s doing it less than former Republican Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh, who also flew with family members and logged about 8,700 miles over two years. He added that filling empty seats doesn’t increase the agency’s costs. Kobach said in an email that he plans to visit all 105 county election officials to observe voting equipment and voting sites and discuss implementation of voter ID and proof-of-citizenship laws.
Cities and towns are bracing for November as they gear up to offer early voting for the first time. “Right now, our biggest thing is the money,” said Elizabeth Camara, chair of the Fall River board of election commissioners. Her board is currently working to get the necessary budget approvals to pay for the staffing required for early voting. She is still working out how much the early voting process will cost Fall River, but estimates a regular election day costs the city between $60,000 and $70,000. “It’s still hard to say because we haven’t gotten anything in place. The biggest expense is the staff,” Camara said. Small and mid-sized towns such as Fall River, Quincy, and New Bedford are grappling with a unique problem: how to make their stretched budgets go even further, to comply with a new state law that requires early voting be made available.
A New Jersey appeals court has rejected a constitutional challenge to the state’s requirement that would-be voters register at least 21 days before an election.
In a published ruling, the three-judge Appellate Division panel said in Rutgers University Student Association v. Middlesex County Board of Elections that the 21-day deadline does not amount to an undue burden on citizens who want to exercise their right to vote. The lawsuit was filed by the Rutgers University student body governing association. Appellate Division Judge Michael Haas, joined by Judges Thomas Manahan and Mitchel Ostrer, on July 1 upheld a decision by Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Heidi Currier to dismiss the lawsuit. A separate panel two years ago remanded the case to Currier, with the demand that she more fully explain why the 21-day deadline codified in N.J.S.A. 19:31-6.3(b) did not impose an onerous burden.
The outcome of the federal election is still unknown despite electoral officials spending the day sifting and counting postal votes. The numbers were firming hourly on Tuesday evening, with different analysts projecting slightly different results, but the Coalition can now claim 68 seats in the House of Representatives, with the chance of picking up at least another four seats. The Coalition needs 76 seats to claim an outright majority. By 8pm on Tuesday, no analyst was projecting that to happen yet. It means a minority government is a strong possibility.
Austria will re-run a presidential election run-off on Oct. 2, giving far-right eurosceptic candidate Norbert Hofer the chance to reverse a wafer-thin defeat, this time in the shadow of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. Hofer and his FPO (Freedom Party) have already raised the prospect of Austria holding a similar referendum, yet political analysts say the tactic risks foundering on a deep bedrock of support for European integration. Hofer, 45, lost out in May by just 31,000 votes to pro-European former Green Party leader Alexander Van der Bellen, 72, narrowly failing to become the EU’s first far-right head of state. But Austria’s highest court annulled the vote, finding that sloppiness in the count, while not intended to manipulate any votes, had potentially been serious enough to change the outcome, and required a re-run.
Japan: Politics a man’s world in Japan as few females stand in 2016 Upper House election | The Japan Times
A key issue female Japanese voters focus on in election season is whether the men who dominate politics are serious about welcoming more women to their ranks. More female lawmakers are needed to speak for Japanese women at a time when the nation faces challenges such as an acute shortage of places at children’s day care facilities. Out of 389 candidates in Sunday’s Upper House election, 96 are women, down nine from the Upper House election three years ago. The ratio of female candidates to males is up by 0.5 percentage point to 24.7 percent because the overall number of people running has fallen from 433 to 389.
The Nauru MP and former president, Sprent Dabwido, says he suspects the government has intervened to stop local media from running the opposition’s campaign advertising. Nauru’s general election is on Saturday, and Mr Dabwido also accused the government of manipulating the police commissioner to prevent the opposition from holding a rally. He said local media had been running the government’s election advertising for weeks, but had yet to broadcast the Opposition’s commercial. “One is ready to go right now, one is almost ready,” he said.
Thailand: Prime Minister bans discussion of Thailand draft constitution ahead of referendum | Washington Times
Thailand’s new constitution was supposed to bring at least the appearance of legitimacy and normalcy for the government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. But with a month to go before a national referendum, critics and human rights activists say a law essentially banning any real discussion of the document is just the latest sign that little is likely to change two* years after Mr. Prayuth seized power in a military coup. Thailand’s Constitutional Court last week upheld a law that metes out 10 years in prison to anyone who voices an opinion — pro or con — about the government-backed draft constitution or campaigns for or against it before a nationwide Aug. 7 referendum. Monitoring of the vote by opposition groups, the United Nations or international rights activists is also blocked.