Federal election observers can only be sent to five states in this year’s U.S. presidential election, among the smallest deployments since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 to end racial discrimination at the ballot box. The plan, confirmed in a U.S. Department of Justice fact sheet seen by Reuters, reflects changes brought about by the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to strike down parts of the Act, a signature legislative achievement of the 1960s civil rights movement. Voting rights advocates told Reuters they were concerned that the scaling-back of observers would make it harder to detect and counter efforts to intimidate or hinder voters, especially in southern states with a history of racial discrimination at the ballot box. The Supreme Court ruling undercut a key section of the Act that requires such states to obtain U.S. approval before changing election laws. The court struck down the formula used to determine which states were affected. By doing so, it ended the Justice Department’s ability to select voting areas it deemed at risk of racial discrimination and deploy observers there, the fact sheet said.
National: Congressional Democrats Introduce Transformative Automatic Voter Registration Bill | Brennan Center for Justice
Today, senior congressional lawmakers introduced the Automatic Voter Registration Act of 2016, a transformative bill that would add up to 50 million new voters by automatically registering eligible citizens to vote. The initiative, led by Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.) with Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), would also cut costs and improve the accuracy and security of America’s voter rolls. Under the plan, when a citizen interacts with a government agency — for example, to get a driver’s license, apply for public services, apply for a license for a firearm, register for classes at a public university, or when becoming a naturalized citizen — she is automatically signed up to vote, unless she declines. In the past 16 months, five states, several with bipartisan support, have adopted automatic registration, through the department of motor vehicles. Oregon, the first state to fully implement the plan, is now a national leader in voter registration rates, and has quadrupled its rate of new registrations at the DMV compared to previous years. The Automatic Voter Registration Act of 2016 builds off this tremendous momentum by expanding automatic registration nationwide, and to more government agencies.
Hillary Clinton committed Saturday to introducing a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision within her first 30 days in office, if she’s elected president. The announcement will come in a video during the closing keynote of the progressive Netroots Nation conference this afternoon, and it’s yet another attempt to adopt the positions of her vanquished primary rival Sen. Bernie Sanders. “The amendment would allow Americans to establish common sense rules to protect against the undue influence of billionaires and special interests and to restore the role of average voters in elections,” a Clinton spokesman said in statement. Last fall as the primary season ramped up and Sanders gained momentum, Clinton called for the 2010 Citizens United v FEC decision, which spawned the creation of super PACS, to be overturned. She also said she wanted more stringent political spending disclosure rules, and a new public matching regime so that presidential and congressional campaigns could more easily solicit small donations.
National: Google Search To Offer State-Specific Voter Registration Guide Ahead Of 2016 Elections | Tech Times
With the election season just around the corner in the U.S., Google is getting in on the action and looking to make things easier for prospective voters. Google Search will simplify the registration process for voters as it will offer state-specific voter registration guides prior to the 2016 presidential elections in November. On Monday, July 18, the Alphabet subsidiary will push out the new search functionality, which will aid users in registering to vote before the elections. “Starting on Monday, we’re introducing a new tool in Search to simplify the voter registration process to make it easier for you to have your voice heard,” revealed Google on July 15. When you type “register to vote” or a similar query in Google Search post July 18, you will be greeted with state-specific and in-depth guidelines on how you can register to vote, the eligibility criteria and the deadline for your state. All these details will be reflected at the top of the search page, as well as the Google app.
Colorado: Service members preserve voting rights but struggle to exercise them | Colorado Springs Gazette
One of the most sacred values the military protects is the right to vote, retired Air Force Col. Mike Turner says, so he is working to ensure the men and women of the military are practicing this right. He is the executive director of the nonpartisan Military Officers Association of America’s Military Family Initiative. The group recently received a grant to fund a military voter education program. “There is nothing that affects a military family’s quality of life more than the quality of people they elect to office,” Turner said. “Your vote is just the single most important manifestation of your democratic rights as a citizen of this democracy.” The Military Family Initiative received $218,300 from the Democracy Fund for the military voter education program.
Palm Beach County’s elections supervisor moved quickly to remove a Boca Raton mosque from a list of polling locations when she sensed voters were upset, according to records released Friday. But when her decision became public, she received even more emails criticizing her for discriminating against Muslims and giving into threats. The emails, released by the elections office in response to a public records request, provide the most comprehensive account yet on what led Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher to remove the Islamic Center of Boca Raton as a voting site. Complaints from voters started coming in by phone and email in late June, shortly after cards were mailed to voters showing their polling location as the mosque, at 3480 NW Fifth Ave., the emails show.
With little advance notice of the hearing, a state panel this week approved a temporary election rule that will have some Kansans vote with provisional ballots, but only their votes in federal races will be counted. Votes for state and local races will be tossed out. Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach proposed the rule. The Kansas Rules and Regulations Board approved it Tuesday morning after notice of the meeting was sent out Monday afternoon. The change will affect around 17,000 Kansans who registered to vote at the DMVbut didn’t turn in a citizenship document required under state law. The rule change comes after a federal court said those suspended voters should be allowed to vote, at least in federal races. Bryan Brown, an attorney in the secretary of state’s office, said despite an ongoing legal battle, the state needs to continue enforcing election security measures in the SAFE Act. “It has been passed by the Legislature. It has been signed by the governor. It is the law of Kansas. That is all the secretary of state is trying to do here,” said Brown.
A Las Vegas judge tossed the case of a Republican Nevada Assembly candidate who challenged the results of a primary race she lost last month and wanted two precincts in the Moapa Valley area to cast their ballots once again. Judge Elissa Cadish dismissed a case Tuesday that was filed by Tina Trenner, one of six losing candidates who are challenging their election results. Trenner argued that errors on voter registration cards sent to people in the Logandale area in December could have caused confusion in the race, which she lost to Pahrump Assemblyman James Oscarson by 133 votes. “There was an error,” Cadish said. “However, I do not have evidence to demonstrate that those errors are sufficient to change the results.”
On Election Day in 2014, Joetta Teal went to work at a polling station in Lumberton, North Carolina. Like all poll workers, she was required to stay until voting booths closed, so she decided to cast her own vote there. That was a mistake, she later discovered. What she didn’t know was that under a 2013 state law she had to vote in the precinct where she lived. The polling station where she voted was not in her precinct, so her vote was not counted. A Reuters review of Republican-backed changes to North Carolina’s voting rules indicates as many as 29,000 votes might not be counted in this year’s Nov. 8 presidential election if a federal appeals court upholds the 2013 law. Besides banning voters from voting outside their assigned precinct on Election Day, the law also prevents them from registering the same day they vote during the early voting period. The U.S. Justice Department says the law was designed to disproportionately affect minority groups, who are more likely to vote out of precinct and use same-day registration. Backers of the law deny this and say it will prevent voter fraud.
Cheryl Fleming can’t wait to vote in November. The 54-year-old who lives in Fairfax County had her voting rights restored in April by Gov. Terry McAuliffe after losing them in 1989 for forging checks to buy drugs. She has never seen the inside of a polling booth. “I was so excited I was screaming in the house,” Fleming said of hearing that she got her voting rights back. “I’ve put my life back together and this was still being held against me,” said Fleming, who now works as an Uber driver. If Republican lawmakers are successful in their legal challenge to McAuliffe’s executive order, Fleming and more than 200,000 ex-felons who’ve completed their sentences could again be stripped of the ability to vote. At issue when the Virginia Supreme Court meets Tuesday to hear the case is whether the state’s constitution allows governors to restore political rights en masse or requires them to be handled on a case-by-case basis.
The day Barack Obama was first elected president was bittersweet for Terry Garrett. As an African-American whose parents grew up in a segregated South, she was joyous as she witnessed the moment Americans elected the first African-American president. But she also felt angry, sad, left out. That day Terry had watched her children and husband cast their ballots, knowing she would not be allowed to do the same. The 48-year-old from Alexandria, Virginia, has never been allowed to vote. By the time she reached voting age, 18, she had been convicted of shoplifting. Centuries ago, her home state had forbidden people who committed a felony from voting. But this April, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe issued a sweeping executive order restoring the voting rights of all former felons who have completed their jail sentence and parole or supervised probation. Now, Terry hopes that she will be able to vote for the first time in her life this November. As a newly registered Democrat, she is hoping to elect another “first” president into office – the first female president, Hillary Clinton.
Croatia will hold a snap election on Sept. 11, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said in a statement on Saturday, following the fall of the government after a vote of no-confidence last month. Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic’s five month old center-right coalition government collapsed as a result of a split between the conservative HDZ party and its junior reformist partner, Most (“Bridge”). According to recent opinion polls, the HDZ is trailing the main opposition party, the Social Democrats (SDP), by 10 percentage points, although none of the biggest parties is likely to win an outright majority and a hung parliament is a distinct possibility.
Polls have opened in the island nation of Sao Tome and Principe where citizens are choosing a president. Over one hundred thousand voters are expected to cast their ballots in the poll which pits incumbent president Manuel Pinto da Costa against four other contenders. Two of the contenders, Evaristo Carvalho and Maria das Neves already pitted their strengths against Pinto da Costa in 2011 but lost. Sunday’s poll is expected to be a keen one among these three main contenders who have played different roles in the island nation’s political life.
United Kingdom: Scotland should look to ally with Nordic nations, not EU, says legal expert | The Guardian
Scotland could succeed as an independent country outside of the UK and the EU, a constitutional expert has said, advising it to ally with Nordic countries instead. With Spain threatening to veto any future independent Scotland from joining the EU, the woman who drew up Iceland’s post-crash constitution said the Scots should not fear being outside Brussels’ sphere of influence. Katrin Oddsdóttir, elected to draft a new Icelandic social contract after the financial collapse, said her country’s recovery showed that smaller nations could survive outside big unions. Speaking at the weekend following a lecture during the Galway international arts festival in Ireland, Oddsdóttir said that if there was a referendum to join the EU in Iceland, she would vote no – describing the union as a “gang” and a “bullying association”.