National: Appeals court sets September hearing in voting rights case | Associated Press

A federal appeals court will hear oral arguments in September in an appeal that could affect the voting rights of thousands of voters in Kansas, Georgia and Alabama in upcoming elections. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Thursday set a Sept. 8 hearing date in the case of a U.S. election official who without public notice required documentary proof of citizenship on a national voter registration form used by residents of the three states.

Voting Blogs: Working with observers to improve voting system reliability | David Levine/electionlineWeekly

The goals of election observation are enhanced public confidence in the efficiency and integrity of the election process, and more efficient election operations. Any voting system — whether an optical scan paper ballot system, a Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) system, or something else — has to function for the duration of the voting process, and election observers are trained to spot situations in which malfunctions, power outages, lengthy-set up times or other problems prevent voters from casting their votes, discourage them from doing do so, or cause votes already cast to be lost. Election observers look at how voting machines protect against malfunctions, whether election officials can easily repair basic problems, and whether officials have been trained to deal with problems that arise during the voting process. This means that one way to improve the reliability of voting systems in the United States is to have election officials work more closely with election observers.

Voting Blogs: Voting by mail and the next election meltdown | Voting by Mail

Polls released this week indicate that the November presidential election could be very close, much closer than previously expected. In most elections, the margin of victory is large enough to avoid questions about how the votes were cast and counted, but when elections are close and contested, things like how the voting machines function and what constitutes a valid ballot can become very significant. With voting by mail becoming increasingly common — according to a recent study by PEW Trusts, more than 20 percent of votes are now cast by mail nationwide — the possibility of a major controversy involving mail ballots is also increasing. Like other voting methods, voting by mail is not perfect. Sometimes ballots are lost in the mail, sometimes they arrive at election centers after the deadline. Mail voting is susceptible to fraud, there can be disagreements over whether a ballot is valid due to a postmark issue, and it may take days or weeks to count all the ballots, which can mean long delays without a clear victor.

Florida: Mosque is removed as a polling site after complaints and threats | Washington Post

For years, the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, Fla., served as a polling station for Palm Beach County voters. Since at least the year 2010, citizens have cast their votes within the pastel green walls of the mosque, whether it was for a presidential primary, a municipal election or a special primary. Last week, however, the mosque was removed as a polling site. The decision was made by Susan Bucher, Supervisor of Elections for Palm Beach County, after she received complaints, and threats, about the use of the mosque in the upcoming Florida primary in August and general election in November. Bucher, a Democrat, is running for re-election for the nonpartisan supervisor post. “We began receiving complaints from voters,” said Bucher in an email to The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board. “Some felt uncomfortable voting at the Islamic Center.” She had received a call “that indicated individuals planned to impede voting and maybe even call in a bomb threat to have the location evacuated on Election Day,” Bucher said, and she decided to relocate the polling place to the Spanish River Library about two miles away.

Kansas: A Primer On The New Kansas Regulation Limiting Voting Rights | KMUW

On Tuesday, a state board adopted a regulation proposed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office allowing thousands of Kansas voters whose registrations were suspended to vote in federal elections but not in state and local races. By presenting it as a temporary rather than permanent regulation, the office was able to submit it to the State Rules and Regulations Board, which exists only to approve temporary regulations. Such regulations don’t have to go through the typically elaborate process for permanent regulations, which require a 60-day public comment period before being adopted. Here’s an explanation of what happened Tuesday, what the State Rules and Regulations Board is, and how Kobach’s proposal came to be adopted with virtually no advance notice and no public input.

Massachusetts: Baker vetoes $1.2m of funding for new early-voting program | The Boston Globe

Governor Charlie Baker has vetoed $1.2 million in state spending that election officials argue is critical for a new statewide early-voting program, a move advocates say could cripple efforts to expand residents’ ability to participate in the presidential race this fall. The early-voting law, set to begin with the November general election, is intended to allow Massachusetts residents to vote up to 11 business days before Election Day, joining 36 other states that already have such provisions. Barring a legislative override of gubernatorial vetoes, state election officials said they cannot fully put in place a key element of an election reform signed by then-governor Deval Patrick in 2014. “I am very disturbed. This is very irresponsible,’’ said Secretary of State William F. Galvin, who oversees state elections and is a strong supporter of the early-voting system.

Michigan: Judge urged to stop Michigan ban on straight-party voting | Associated Press

Michigan’s new ban on straight-party voting will affect turnout in the fall election, especially among minorities who will be turned off by standing in long lines and combing through a long ballot, an attorney said Thursday as she urged a judge to stop a law that was passed by Republicans. “This is an election of great consequence. … Disruption would be very damaging,” Mary Ellen Gurewitz said. Gurewitz and co-counsel Mark Brewer, the former head of the state Democratic Party, represent three people and a union-affiliated group in a lawsuit that claims the ban on straight-party voting violates the rights of minorities and the disabled. Voters no longer can choose candidates of one political party with a single mark, bringing Michigan in line with 40 other states.

Ohio: Group eyes signature drive if congressional redistricting fizzles | The Columbus Dispatch

Supporters of congressional redistricting reform are getting antsy and may start getting serious about a citizen-led ballot issue if lawmakers don’t act by the end of the year. As it celebrated the 272nd birthday of Elbridge Gerry, the former Massachusetts governor and signer of the Declaration of Independence whose district drawing led to the term “gerrymandering,” the Fair Districts = Fair Elections coalition on Thursday again urged state lawmakers to act. Lawmakers placed legislative redistricting on the 2015 ballot and it passed overwhelmingly, but GOP leaders have shown no enthusiasm to bring more bipartisanship and rules to how congressional seats are drawn.

Gabon: Opposition Disputes Bongo’s Candidacy for Re-Election | Bloomberg

Gabonese opposition parties submitted more than 2,500 complaints over President Ali Bongo’s decision to run for re-election next month, including allegations that he was adopted and born abroad, and therefore not eligible to lead the oil-producing nation. Bongo, 57, won a first term in 2009 after the death of his father Omar Bongo, who ruled Gabon from 1967. His application for re-election was among about 20 other bids for candidacy submitted before the midnight deadline on July 12, Rene Aboghe Ella, head of the electoral commission, told reporters in Libreville, the capital.

Ireland: Call to give blind people right to secret vote | Irish Examiner

The Government has been asked to “rectify its failure” to provide blind and vision impaired voters with their constitutional right to a secret ballot. The call has come from the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) as a High Court challenge begins against the Department of the Environment, Community, and Local Government by Robert Sinnott of the Blind Legal Alliance. The action claims people who are blind or vision-impaired cannot vote in secret. People with sight loss are entitled to enlist the assistance of a ‘trusted friend’ or the presiding officer when casting their ballot.

Nauru: Government Wins Increased Majority in Elections; Opposition Cries Foul | Hawaii Public Radio

Final results are in from last weekend’s election in Nauru. The ruling party won 16 of 18 seats in voting described by outside observers as free and fair, but, as we hear from Neal Conan in the Pacific New Minute, opposition leaders disagree. President Baron Waqa was re-elected as parliament met yesterday for the first time since Saturday’s vote. His increased majority, the government said, promises more continuity and further stability. Nauru is one of the smallest countries on earth, with just eight thousand registered voters…but one of the more controversial. Once wealthy from mining the deposits left by seabirds, the impoverished island nation now relies heavily on income from Australian run camps that house asylum seekers intercepted at sea.

Zambia: Opposition Party Challenges Campaign Suspensions in 2 Cities | VoA News

A Zambian opposition party has challenged the electoral commission’s decision to suspend campaigns in Namwala and Lusaka following a surge in politically related violence in the two cities. The Forum for Democracy and Development petitioned the Constitutional Court, which by law must handle all election-related disputes in Zambia within seven days after they are filed. The Electoral Commission of Zambia said it has the constitutional authority to change campaign timetables, and that it therefore could suspend the campaigning after the violence, which allegedly was carried out by supporters of the main opposition United Party for National Development. The violence in Namwala left FDD parliamentary candidate Charity Kabongomana injured and hospitalized.

National: How State Voter ID Laws Could Be Problematic For Presidential Election | Wisconsin Public Radio

This November, U.S. citizens will cast a vote for president without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act for the first time in 50 years. In July of 2006, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 390 to 33 to restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for another 25 years. However, in June of 2013 a Supreme Court decision struck down a key part of the law, allowing nine – mostly southern – states to change their election laws without advance federal approval. Today, 17 states have new voting restriction laws in place for the upcoming election, many of which are in place for the first time, according to writer Ari Berman. “Whether that’s making it harder to register to vote, or cutting back on the amount of time people have to vote, or requiring stricter forms of ID to be able to vote that they didn’t need previously,” Berman said. “We’re seeing the impact already.”

Voting Blogs: Citizens United and the “Impossible Dream” | More Soft Money Hard Law

Justice Ginsburg’s recent press comments have been noted mostly for her openly expressed disdain for the Trump candidacy. Less surprising in the remarks was the Justice’s “impossible dream” that Citizens United be overturned. She has said this before, and since she dissented in that case, there is not much news here, unless anyone still had doubts that for this Justice, the killing off of that decision is a priority. The comment was reported at the same time as the Complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission by Representative Ted Lieu and others who intend to set into motion the reconsideration the Justice is hoping for. And so it invites an appraisal of its prospects for accomplishing the Justice Ginsburg’s “impossible dream.” As my colleague Marc Elias has pointed out, the FEC cannot succeed; this is a lost cause. When the Complaint fails, it may do little more than unnecessarily promote the belief that CU is here to stay. It is not clear why this is the best legal maneuver, or the most effective exercise in public communications, in the attack on Speechnow and Citizens United.

Arizona: The Wrong Lessons From a Voting Fiasco | Governing

For the 2016 presidential primary season, it was the classic and inevitable television “election moment”: As the clock ticked past midnight, thousands of Maricopa County, Ariz., voters were still standing in line to cast ballots in Arizona’s presidential primary. Longtime County Recorder Helen Purcell soon became the logical “film-at-11” culprit, especially after she’d initially suggested, not implausibly, that nearly 20,000 non-party-affiliated voters who couldn’t legally cast ballots in Arizona’s closed presidential primary had clogged the lines by showing up anyway on March 22. However, long lines hadn’t bedeviled Arizona’s other counties on primary day, and a likelier explanation soon emerged. With more than 1.2 million registered Democrats and Republicans, Maricopa County officials, aiming to save taxpayers’ money, had opened only 60 polling places. This compared to 200 in the 2012 presidential primary , and it was far fewer than other counties with far smaller populations. “We certainly made bad decisions … and didn’t anticipate there would be that many people going to the polling places,” Purcell later told the Arizona Republic. “We were obviously wrong — that’s my fault.”

California: Should felons be allowed to vote from behind bars? | Los Angeles Times

Thousands of felons serving time in county jails would be allowed to vote in California elections from behind bars under a bill moving swiftly through the state Legislature despite widespread opposition from law enforcement officials. Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) introduced the measure with an aim that providing convicts the right to vote will give them a better sense of belonging to society and possibly reduce their chances of committing new crimes when released. “Civic participation can be a critical component of re-entry and has been linked to reduced recidivism,” Weber told her colleagues during a recent heated floor debate on the bill. But police chiefs and sheriffs throughout California say the proposal that passed narrowly in the state Assembly undermines a longstanding social compact: those who commit a serious crime lose not only their freedom to live in society for a time but also their right to participate in democracy.

District of Columbia: The statehood convention that wasn’t | The Hill

Since Mayor Bowser announced her statehood initiative in April, the celebratory mood has gone from one of exuberance to consternation among some statehood supporters in just a short few months. The debate over the content of the Mayor’s proposed new statehood constitution and the sequence for its ratification have caused a flurries of discontent. Now, according to council Chairman Mendelson’s office, the final statehood constitution is unlikely to be put on the ballot in November for a vote up or down. However, the language of the city’s “advisory” referendum states that D.C. voters who approve the referendum “would establish that the citizens of the District of Columbia … approve a Constitution of the State of New Columbia to be adopted by the Council…” In other words, the D.C. Council may add or subtract whatever language it likes and call it a constitution, without District residents actually knowing what’s inside when they vote to approve it in the November.

Florida: It’s in the mail: First primary ballots headed to overseas voters | Tampa Bay Times

It’s seven weeks before primary election day in Florida, but the first wave of primary ballots is in the mail to voters living or stationed in dozens of countries overseas. By law, those ballots, many headed to active-duty military personnel, must be in the mail by Saturday, July 16, or 45 days before the Aug. 30 election. The counties that generally ship the most overseas and military ballots are Escambia, Okaloosa and Bay in the Florida Panhandle, along with Duval, Brevard and Hillsborough, all with large military installations. In Okaloosa County, the home of Eglin Air Force Base, Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux said Tuesday he mailed 3,600 ballots, and another 1,300 will be sent by Friday to voters who emailed requests to his office. On Lux’s office wall in Crestview is a map (above) dotted with dozens of pins marking the many destinations for his county’s overseas ballots.

Kansas: State board limits votes of 17,000 Kansans missing citizenship proof; Kobach-initiated process called ‘appalling’ / Lawrence Journal World

A state board on Tuesday approved a temporary regulation that will limit the voting rights of an estimated 17,000 Kansans, saying they can cast ballots only in federal races, not in state or local elections. The action by the Kansas Rules and Regulations Board — which one opponent called “appalling” — affects people who attempted to register at a local motor vehicle office but did not provide proof of U.S. citizenship. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach requested the temporary rule in response to a temporary injunction issued in May by U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson, who said the state cannot enforce its proof of citizenship law on people who registered under provisions of the National Voter Registration Act, commonly known as the “motor voter” law. The temporary rule means that voters who fall into that category will be given a full ballot, but their ballots will be set aside as “provisional” ballots and will be counted after Election Day when their county Board of Canvassers meets, and that board will count only votes cast in federal races.

Michigan: House Democrats seek to amend constitution, add ‘voter bill of rights’ | MLive

A constitutional amendment proposed by two representatives would alleviate long lines at polls by allowing no-reason absentee and early voting, they said Wednesday. Rep. Gretchen Driskell, D-Saline, and Rep. Jon Hoadley, D-Kalamazoo, introduced a “voter bill of rights” on Wednesday. The resolution would amend the constitution to allow no-reason absentee voting, early voting and automatic registration when a voter gets a driver’s license or state ID card. It would also automatically send ballots to Michiganders serving in the armed forces overseas. “To ensure that our voices are heard, and that our votes count, we need to update and modernize our elections so that they work for everyone who is eligible and exercises the right to vote. That’s why a voter bill of rights is so important,” Driskell said.

North Carolina: Legislative leaders not defendants in Wake County election suit | News & Observer

State legislative leaders may regret fighting against being part of the federal lawsuit that led to their new election maps for Wake County Board of Commissioners and school board being declared unconstitutional. In an article posted online Tuesday in the Carolina Journal, Rep. Paul Stam laments how Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore had been dropped as defendants so their attorneys weren’t in court to defend the maps. But an attorney for the plaintiffs points to how lawmakers didn’t want to be part of the litigation in the first place. Stam tells the Carolina Journal that no one went to bat for the lawmakers who redrew the districts when the case went before the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals this year. Stam, an Apex Republican and attorney, notes how the office of state Attorney General Roy Cooper would have been defending the districts if Berger and Moore were still defendants. “In contrast to Europe, which is inquisitorial, the American and English legal systems are called adversarial,” Stam said. “You count on the fact that each side will be represented, so the truth will come out.”

North Carolina: September date set for voter ID state trial | Associated Press

A challenge to North Carolina’s new voter identification requirement will go to trial in state court this fall setting the stage for a possible decision before early in-person voting begins for the big November election. Superior Court Judge Michael Morgan on Monday set Sept. 26 for the trial, which could last a week or two. Morgan asked lawyers in a Wake County courtroom to confirm the Oct. 27 start date for early voting, when perspective voters must show one of several forms of photo ID. A two-week trial would give Morgan less than three weeks to rule. The ID mandate was approved in 2013 and used for the first time in the March primary and again in the June congressional primary.

Utah: Judge denies motions to throw out claims in Navajo voting suit | The Salt Lake Tribune

A federal judge has denied motions to throw out some claims in a lawsuit that alleges vote-by-mail procedures adopted by San Juan County hinder the ability of Navajo citizens to participate in elections on equal terms with white citizens. U.S. District Judge Jill Parrish on Monday rejected defendants’ arguments that claims in the suit against San Juan County commissioners in their official capacity are redundant and should be dismissed because the county is also a named defendant. Two other motions, one to dismiss claims brought by the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission and the other to throw out claims brought by one of the seven tribal members who are plaintiffs, also were denied.

Ireland: Referendum to give emigrants a vote for president ‘only a first step’ | The Irish Times

Organisations representing Irish citizens overseas have welcomed the announcement that a referendum will be held early next year on the right of emigrants to vote in Presidential elections. Plans for a referendum were discussed last week at an interdepartmental group on diaspora affairs, chaired by Minister for the Diaspora Joe McHugh. Proposals will be brought to the Global Irish Civic Forum, a meeting of organisations and individuals working with Irish communities around the world, in Dublin next February. It is the second time such a meeting will take place; almost 200 people attended the first forum in June 2015. A recent poll of 350 Irish people who emigrated since 2008, carried out by Ipsos MRBI for The Irish Times, found 62 per cent would like a vote for the president.Sixty-three per cent wanted a say in general elections, 61 per cent in referendums, and 53 per cent in Seanad elections. The remainder of those surveyed were fairly evenly split between those who had no opinion on the issue, or who didn’t think they should have a right to vote.

Nepal: Embattled Prime Minister expected to face no-confidence motion | Reuters

Nepal’s prime minister is prepared to face a no-confidence motion in parliament after former Maoist rebels who had backed his coalition withdrew their support but he sees no need to step down, an aide said. The impoverished Himalayan country has been plagued by political turmoil for years and the bid by the Maoists to unseat Prime Minister K.P. Oli and form a new government has ushered in another phase of uncertainty. Oli, who came to power in October when the Maoists offered his party parliamentary backing to build a coalition, faces the prospect of a no-confidence vote if he cannot persuade other parties to stick with him. The main Maoist party accuses Oli of reneging on past promises and is expected to move formally lodge a motion of no-confidence in the prime minister on Wednesday.

Thailand: What you need to know about Thailand’s controversial constitution referendum | Asian Correspondent

Just a few weeks from now, on August 7, Thailand will hold a referendum on the latest draft constitution for the coup-ridden nation – one that has scrapped 19 constitutions since 1932. Counting down to the big day, authorities under the junta’s rule have arrested 16 activists campaigning against the draft constitution, and a number of international organizations have denounced the referendum for its undemocratic process. As Thais prepare to cast their votes, here is what you need to know about the referendum that isn’t quite a referendum. The ballot has two questions. The first asks if the voter accepts or rejects the draft constitution, which was penned by a committee appointed by the junta which abolished the old constitution after staging a coup on May 22, 2014.

California: State takes issue with Contra Costa elections chief over double-voting concerns | East Bay Times

The California Secretary of State’s office is taking exception to the Contra Costa County elections chief’s call for a change in how vote-by-mail voters are accommodated at election-day polling places, and wants to see evidence backing allegations made last week that following state rules allowed double-voting in the June 7 primary election. Secretary of State spokesman Sam Mahood said Monday his office as asked Contra Costa Registrar of Voters Joe Canciamilla to provide evidence that 113 people successfully voted twice in the primary election in that county. Canciamilla said this week he will comply.

Delaware: Governor signs law ending financial bar for felons to vote | Associated Press

Convicted felons in Delaware have one fewer hurdle to jump before having their voting rights restored. State lawmakers last month approved a bill that allows felons to vote before they have paid all fines, fees and restitution. Gov. Jack Markell who included the proposal in his State of the State address in January, planned to sign the legislation Wednesday at the Achievement Center in Wilmington.

Kansas: Kris Kobach’s latest sneak attack on voting rights of 17,000 Kansans | The Kansas City Star

Even a fellow Republican legislator on Tuesday questioned the timing of Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s latest attempt to prevent people from having full voting rights in Kansas. But the query from GOP Sen. Vicki Schmidt of Topeka was pushed aside as a Kansas board approved a policy that essentially could prevent at least 17,000 Kansans from voting in local or state elections in 2016. Schmidt wanted to know why Kobach waited until the last possible moment to get the Kansas Rules and Regulations Board to issue its opinion on rules governing the Aug. 2 and Nov. 8 elections. “Why is it an emergency now?” Schmidt asked. Her excellent point: Kobach could have brought this issue before the full Legislature when it met in special session in late June. But he didn’t. That’s an appalling attitude to have toward thousands of Kansas voters, because it denied their elected representatives from taking steps to restore full voting rights to them.

Louisiana: Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser draws ire of Secretary of State Tom Schedler with statements about voting laws | State Politics |

Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler has blasted recent remarks from Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser about the state’s voting laws as being “irresponsible.” The News Star reported on Monday that Nungesser, a Republican who took office in January, told the Ouachita Parish Republican Women that he wants better Republican voter turnout, but he claimed that Democrats busing in voters during the state’s early voting period remains a hurdle. “They don’t have to bring them to their precinct,” the report quotes Nungesser as saying. “They bring them all to one place, and if they can’t find their name, they’re allowed to fill out a piece of paper and vote. And if the election is not contested, that vote will count. Now they have a whole week to bus people who have no idea why they’re going there but to pull a lever for someone.” The News Star story didn’t include a response from Schedler, who is also a Republican, but on Tuesday, the Secretary of State’s office sent a news release criticizing Nungesser’s remarks as “nonsensical” and expressed personal offense.