Editorials: Virginia Needs to Fix Its Racist Voting Law | Dale E. Ho/The New York Times

The Virginia Supreme Court will hear arguments on Tuesday in a lawsuit that aims to strip the right to vote from more than 206,000 people, including one in five African-American adults in the state. If state lawmakers win, they will keep Virginia trapped in a shameful part of history: when former Confederate states passed felon disenfranchisement laws after Reconstruction to suppress black political power. Under Virginia’s Constitution, a person with a single felony offense can’t vote unless the governor restores his or her voting rights. This wasn’t always the case. Virginia’s 1870 Constitution, passed during Reconstruction, barred voting for those convicted of corruption or treason. But delegates to Virginia’s 1902 constitutional convention adopted new voting restrictions, including a ban on voting for all felons, poll taxes and a literacy test. They were not shy about their intentions. Virginia’s new constitution would “eliminate the darkey as a political factor,” explained Carter Glass, a convention delegate and, later as a United States senator, an author of the Glass-Steagall banking law. Their goal was to ensure “complete supremacy of the white race in the affairs of government.”

Gabon: Ali Bongo’s candidature validated amidst controversy | Africanews

Gabon’s National Electoral Commission, CENAP, has validated the candidature of president Ali Bongo Ondimba and 13 others vying for the presidency. “Out of the 13 candidates, there was that of Ali Bongo. There was consensus on the other 13 candidates except that of Ali Bongo. The plenary assembly usually takes decisions based on consensus and when there is no consensus, the vote of the bureau decides. A vote took place in accordance with the law of the electoral commission. Therefore, only electoral commission decided, concerning Ali Bongo’s candidature 5 votes against 3 for the opposition.” The decision has however been strongly criticised by opposition representatives at the electoral commission who are raising voices that Ali Bongo has changed his birth certificate.

Ghana: Angry mob besieges Electoral Commission’s office in Cape Coast | Ghana Web

Angry residents surrounded the Electoral Commission (EC)’s office in Cape Coast on Monday threatening to halt the on-going exercise to re-register National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) registrants whose names were deleted. The exercise, which commenced on Monday, is to enable NHIS registrants whose names were expunged from the electoral roll in accordance with a court order to be re-registered. The angry mob accused the EC of scheming to disenfranchise them by deleting their names as part of NHIS registrants even when they never registered with the NHIS cards in 2012. They demanded answers from the regional officials.

Ireland: Referendum in Ireland on whether Irish abroad should have voting rights at home looks likely | Irish Post

A referendum is likely to be held in Ireland asking the electorate whether millions of Irish living abroad should have a vote in the next Presidential election. A spokesman for the Department of the Taoiseach told The Irish Post why a referendum was necessary: “Any such vote granted to those not living in the Republic would require a change in the constitution. This in turn needs a referendum to enact such a change.” The department confirmed that discussions have been entered into by the Minister for the Diaspora Joe McHugh. However, no date had been fixed for any referendum and neither had the exact wording of any such question been formulated.

Thailand: Regime blames opponents for pre-referendum disorder | Bangkok Post

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has blamed opponents of the government for stepping up disorder ahead of the draft charter referendum following the destruction of a copy of eligible voters’ lists in the North over the weekend. NCPO spokesman Piyapong Klinpan said that the destruction of the lists put up on a notice board was unprecedented. It was not an act of sabotage between conflicting political parties or persons but an act against the government who was inviting people to cast their votes in the Aug 7 charter referendum. “It is believed that it was an act of those with different stances from the government’s,” Col Piyapong said.

National: U.S. curtails federal election observers | Reuters

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.

National: Clinton pledges constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United ruling | Politico

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.

Florida: Emails shed light on decision to remove mosque from list of polling sites | Sun Sentinel

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.

Kansas: Two-Tiered voting system will impact thousands | Salina Post

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.

Nevada: Judge dismisses GOP Assembly hopeful’s election challenge | Associated Press

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.”

North Carolina: Voting law changes could put 2016 ballots at risk | Reuters

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.

Virginia: Battle over felons’ voting heads to Virginia Supreme Court | Associated Press

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.

Virginia: Battle over felons′ rights could swing US election | Deutsche Welle

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: President calls snap election for Sept. 11 | Reuters

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.

Sao Tome and Principe: Sao Tome and Principe votes in presidential election | Africanews

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”.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for July 11-17 2016

Several noted computer security experts were interviewed in an Pacific Standard article about internet voting. The FBI investigated a hacking threat against Arizona’s voter registration database and deemed the threat credible, labeling it an “8 out of 10” on the severity scale. Responded to threats of violence Palm Beach Couty Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher was forced to rescind an invitation to the Islamic Center of Boca Raton to host a polling site in the upcoming primary and general elections. A small group of state officials approved a new rule Tuesday that will enable 17,000 Kansans to vote in federal elections but not in state and local races. Conservative activists received a frosty reception from a three-judge panel in Baltimore Tuesday as they sought to scrap Maryland’s bitterly disputed congressional district map. A federal judge struck down an obscure element of Virginia’s presidential primary laws, handing a symbolic victory to a Republican National Convention delegate who has refused to support Donald Trump. Advocacy for online voting by Australian politicians and entrepreneurs has not eliminated the security and integrity concerns surrounding internet voting and the UK House of Commons has scheduled a debate on a petition calling for a second EU referendum that was signed by more than four million people.

National: Why Can’t We Just Vote Online? | Pacific Standard

During the 2012 American presidential election, 129 million people cast ballots, while 106 million eligible voters neglected to do so. That’s only a 54.9 percent conversion rate, not to mention the 51 million voters who weren’t registered. Meanwhile, in 2015, there were almost 172 million Americans making purchases online. Those are apples and oranges, admittedly, but the ease with which the shopping occurs only helps its proliferation. If the ultimate goal is maximizing the country’s voting turnout, shouldn’t we develop an Internet voting system? Voting from a computer at home could be far easier than waiting in long lines at polling stations or filling out mail-in forms. But can it ever happen? “For as far into the future as I can see, the answer is no,” says David Jefferson, a computer scientist in the Center for Applied Scientific Computing at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. In May 2015, Jefferson examined the possibility of Internet voting in a paper called “Intractable Security Risks of Internet Voting.” For anyone who has ever owned a personal computer, the first problem is obvious: malware.
“Unless we were to re-design the Internet from the ground up, there’s not likely to be a solution to these problems.” “We’re not even remotely close to guaranteeing that there’s no malware on your computer,” Jefferson says. The malware can do whatever task it’s programmed to accomplish, from erasing votes cast to changing them. And they can do these things without leaving any trace. “The malware might erase itself a half second later, and so there might be no evidence. And that’s one of half a dozen of problems.”

Editorials: Potential Arizona voter data hack gets whimper of an explanation | News-Herald

Arizona voters deserve to know if their personal information on file with the state of Arizona remains safe from identify thieves. If there is any threat to the security of the voter registration database, it deserves not only an investigation but full disclosure of the outcome. Right now, every voter in the state has legitimate reason to at least wonder if their personal information has been compromised. A couple of weeks ago, the FBI investigated a hacking threat against the state’s voter registration database and deemed the threat credible, labeling it an “8 out of 10” on the severity scale. The database contains not only names and addresses but also driver license numbers, partial Social Security numbers and other personal information that identity thieves can match with other partial personal information and commit fraud. As the investigation progressed, the state shut down its voter registration website.

Florida: People vote in churches and synagogues. Why not a mosque? | Associated Press

Palm Beach County voters have been assigned to polling stations in about 80 Christian churches and five synagogues or Jewish centers this year, along with schools, government buildings and other locations. Until last week, a single mosque was part of this mix. County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher had invited the Islamic Center of Boca Raton to host a polling site for the Aug. 30 Florida primary and Nov. 8 general elections. Then she disinvited the mosque after an anti-Islamic backlash. She told the center’s president that she received about 50 complaints, including threats of violence, from people who don’t want to vote in a mosque, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Florida. But moving the polling station to a nearby library hasn’t saved Bucher from criticism. U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel, both Palm Beach Democrats, issued statements Tuesday night opposing religious discrimination. “If we are going to use places of worship as polling places, we should not discriminate,” Deutch said.

Kansas: State board approves Kobach’s proposal on suspended voters | The Wichita Eagle

A small group of state officials approved a new rule Tuesday that will enable 17,000 Kansans to vote in federal elections but not in state and local races. The policy change is meant to comply with a recent federal court order by ensuring that people who registered at Department of Motor Vehicles offices but did not provide proof of citizenship are allowed to vote in federal elections this year. These voters will receive the same ballot as everyone else, but local election officials will be instructed not to count their votes for state and local races unless they provide proof of citizenship. The ballots will be considered provisional. Opponents say this creates a tiered voting system and question its legality. But Bryan Caskey, state director of elections, said the state will continue to enforce its proof-of-citizenship requirement while it appeals the federal ruling. “That law is still in effect, so they are not considered registered voters under the laws of the state of Kansas,” Caskey said. “They are allowed to vote for federal office and federal office only due to the injunction granted by Judge Robinson.” The federal ruling was based on the 1993 federal “motor-voter” law, which allows people to register to vote when getting their driver’s licenses.

Maryland: Congressional map’s foes receive skeptical hearing | Baltimore Sun

Conservative activists received a frosty reception from a three-judge panel in Baltimore Tuesday as they sought to scrap Maryland’s bitterly disputed congressional district map. The federal judges peppered a lawyer for the challengers with skeptical questions as they considered a motion by the State Board of Elections to dismiss the lawsuit. The panel did not rule on the motion but expressed doubts about the plaintiffs’ constitutional assertions and their legal standing to bring the suit in the first place. The plaintiffs — led by a trio of prominent Republicans — sued last year in the latest of several efforts to throw out the congressional map and force the General Assembly to draw a new one. They are represented by lawyers from the conservative legal group Judicial Watch.

Virginia: Judge strikes down primary law challenged by anti-Trump convention delegate | Richmond Times-Dispatch

A federal judge struck down an obscure element of Virginia’s presidential primary laws Monday, handing a symbolic victory to a Republican National Convention delegate who has refused to support Donald Trump. U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne permanently barred Virginia from enforcing a law that requires a winner-take-all system in which the first-place finisher of the GOP primary would technically be entitled to all 49 of the state’s delegates. The statute conflicts with the Republican Party’s primary rules, which allocate Virginia’s delegates proportionally based on the primary results. Carroll “Beau” Correll, a Winchester attorney who supported Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, argued that the state law violates his constitutional rights to free speech and freedom of association by requiring him and all other delegates to vote for Trump on the convention’s first ballot.

Australia: Electronic voting may be faster but carries security risks | The Australian

The federal elections have mercifully come to an end, but the prolonged vote count has re-energised calls for online electronic voting. The clamour for a speedy outcome is understandable given the 21st century demand for instant gratification, but there are unintended consequences that bear careful consideration. Not only do we run the risk of introducing a whole new set of problems but also potentially undermine the very fabric of our unique democratic system. Entrepreneurs are quick to make claims that their online voting systems are safe and secure, but are unable to provide iron clad guarantees. The potential reward for the successful supplier of an online electronic voting system would be $50 million to $100m annually so there can be no doubt that pressure will mount on the Australian Electoral Commission and equivalent state bodies. … Writing in The Conversation, Vanessa Teague and Chris Culnane from the University of Melbourne and Rajeev Gore from the Australian National University identified three reasons why we shouldn’t move to an online voting system: it might not be secure, the software might have bugs and, most important, if something goes wrong we might never know.

United Kingdom: Second EU referendum petition to be debated in Parliament after receiving more than 4 million signatures | The Independent

A House of Commons debate on a petition calling for a second EU referendum will take place on Monday, 5 September. The Commons Petitions Committee confirmed the record-breaking online petition, signed by more than four million people, will be put forward for debate. The petition, which was set up by a Brexit supporter before the referendum was held, called for the Government to annul the results if the Remain or Leave vote won by less than 60 per cent on a turnout of less than 75 per cent. A House of Commons spokesman said in a statement: “The Committee has decided that the huge number of people signing this petition means that it should be debated by MPs. “The Petitions Committee would like to make clear that, in scheduling this debate, they are not supporting the call for a second referendum.

National: Election Cases Move Toward U.S. Supreme Court, Risking Deadlocks | Bloomberg

At the shorthanded U.S. Supreme Court, the next deadlock may affect the November election. A group of voting-rights cases is making its way to a court that’s all but guaranteed to have a lingering vacancy through the election. The divisive nature of the issues may leave the eight justices unable to decide who can cast the ballots that will determine control of the White House and Congress. The disputes involve voter-identification requirements in Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin; an early-voting period in Ohio; a variety of restrictions in North Carolina; and proof-of-citizenship laws elsewhere. The cases pit Democrats and civil-rights groups claiming discrimination against Republicans arguing the steps are warranted to prevent voter fraud. “They affect the rights of voters to be able to cast an effective ballot that will be counted accurately,” said Rick Hasen, an election-law professor at the University of California, Irvine.

National: Oregon legislators propose national vote-by-mail bill | The Oregonian

Voting rights across the country are under attack, according to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden’s office. To combat that, Wyden and Sen. Jeff Merkley introduced a bill Thursday to expand Oregon’s vote-by-mail system nationwide. Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer is spearheading a related measure in the House. The bill – the Vote By Mail Act of 2016 – would require every state to provide registered voters the chance to vote by mail and send ballots and pre-paid envelopes out at least two weeks before an election. It would also amend the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 to provide for automatic voter registration through a state’s department of motor vehicles.