Battles over voting rights are heating up in states that could play a critical role in the November election. The pressure is on to resolve key issues in a timely manner as courts are often reluctant to make legal changes too close to Election Day. “It’s very important not to disrupt the machinery and the administration of the voting process,” says Edward Foley of the Moritz College of Law at the Ohio State University. “Judicial rulings too soon to the election can be disruptive, and in the past the Supreme Court has made it very clear that it doesn’t want that disruption.” … In the coming days, Supreme Court justices will rule on an emergency petition filed by North Carolina asking the court to allow provisions of the state’s omnibus 2013 election law to remain in effect. The law boosts voter ID requirements, restricts early voting days and eliminates same-day registration.
Terry Whitehat remembers gathering at the community hall in Navajo Mountain each election day, where Navajo Nation members in this remote Utah community would cast their ballots. The tribal members would catch up with friends and family and eat food under the cottonwood trees in the parking lot. So when Whitehat, a social worker who has lived most of his life on the reservation, received a ballot in the mail for the 2014 elections, he said it caught him off guard. The county began conducting elections by mail in 2014. Members of the Navajo Nation who live in the area could no longer physically vote in the village. If they wanted to vote in person, they would have to drive to the only remaining polling place at the county seat in Monticello, a 400-mile round trip from Navajo Mountain. Whitehat and a half-dozen other Navajo community members, along with the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, sued the county. They claimed the move to a mail-only election disenfranchised Native Americans, especially those who don’t read or speak English and had limited access to mail. They said it also violated the Voting Rights Act and the 14th Amendment.
When Donald J. Trump’s campaign recently began to enroll “election observers” to monitor the vote this November, the news media reacted with shocked surprise. Politico called the move “unprecedented in a presidential election,” and others predicted that it could lead to voter intimidation, or worse, at the polls. But we don’t have to guess at what partisan election observers might look like. There’s a long history of such behavior at American elections, much of it quite ugly. At an 1859 election in Baltimore, “challengers” snatched ballots from voters, sparking citywide riots that left two dozen beaten, four stabbed and eight shot. The Baltimore Sun complained that many citizens considered such violence “ordinary incidents of a popular election.” They were right: Intimidation and violence were a regular part of the electoral process. We’ve come a long way, for sure — but with angry partisanship and even political violence on the rise, it’s worth asking what happened, and how we can avoid the same thing today.
Texas has been trying to make its voter photo-ID law happen since 2011, despite the fact that the U.S. Justice Department and federal courts have found on numerous occasions that it would burden black and Latino voters. Most recently, the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals struck the law down in a July ruling that the law may have even been passed with the express purpose of racial discrimination. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said on Monday that the state would appeal that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court; good luck with that with the high court down a justice. But much like in North Carolina and Wisconsin, the reason Texas insists on having a photo voter-ID law is that it swears that zombie relatives, “illegal aliens,” and cloned voters are rigging elections. Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate known for plushly accommodating endless conspiracy theories, is the latest to indulge the voter-fraud fantasy. He’s lately been baselessly fomenting predictions of election-rigging as the only explanation for how he could lose in a battleground state like Pennsylvania.
With Donald Trump’s unorthodox and vitriolic campaign seeming to suck up all the oxygen on the planet, it is easy to lose sight of a core truth this election has revealed: A presidential contest between a billionaire and a multimillionaire does not magically lessen the influence of the wealthiest over our elections and public policy. If anything, the sagas of Trump and Hillary Clinton only illustrate the scope of a much wider problem. Let’s start with Trump, who despite professing to be worth billions of dollars has stepped away from an unfulfilled promise to self-fund his campaign. During the primaries Trump billed himself as the only candidate not beholden to the big donors. A year ago he explained: “By self-funding my campaign, I am not controlled by my donors, special interests or lobbyists. I am only working for the people of the U.S.!” Never mind that Trump never fully funded his campaign and that his only plan to fix our broken campaign finance system has been to elect people too rich to be bought by other rich people. Now, facing the need to raise or spend hundreds of millions of dollars to stay competitive with Clinton and the fundraising of Democrats and their allied super PACs, Trump has given in, not only raising money for his own campaign but giving the green light to the supportive super PACs he used to scorn.
I’ve been genuinely confused about the whole Foundationgate thing. Did big donors to the Clinton Foundation get extra special access to Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State? By all the evidence, no. They may have tried to get access, but for the most part they didn’t. So far I haven’t seen any emails that even remotely suggest otherwise. If anything, Hillary seems to have been unusually careful to avoid entanglements with the Foundation. So what’s the problem? I chatted about this on Twitter last night with Rick Hasen, a guy I trust on these kinds of things. But I still came away confused. So here is Hasen at greater length this morning in USA Today.After talking a bit about Donald Trump, he turns to Hillary:
… The Clinton team is quick to argue that there’s no evidence the meetings Clinton gave to big donors led to any official actions. But those donors get more than just a picture with a candidate; they get a chance to make their pitch for the policies they want pursued or blocked, a pitch the rest of us don’t get to make because we don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars or more to contribute to campaigns.
This is fine. If the beef with Hillary is that she’s an ordinary politician who’s more likely to see you if you’re (a) important, (b) a party wheelhorse, and (c) an important donor, then I have no argument. I also have no argument that this is unseemly.
Legislation authored by Senator Ben Allen (D – Santa Monica) that will transform the way elections are conducted in California passed the state Assembly today on a vote of 42 – 28. “Our current system of limiting voters to one polling location on a single day has failed. It is time to implement a new voting model that allows people to vote conveniently, close to where they work, shop and congregate,” Senator Allen said. Under the new system, every voter will receive a vote by mail ballot that can be returned by mail, or dropped off at numerous locations throughout the county called vote centers. Voters will be able to vote in person at the vote centers for 10 days prior to Election Day, including two weekends.
Palm Beach County elections officials and political candidates Wednesday urged voters to vote early or submit mail-in ballots this week because of the threat of a tropical storm or hurricane affecting South Florida on Election Day. As of a 2 p.m. National Hurricane Center tropical weather outlook, a tropical wave, which would be named Hermine if it gains tropical storm strength, was southeast of Puerto Rico and was given a 80 percent chance of development by Saturday. The hurricane center has said it could affect South Florida between late Saturday and Monday as anything from a tropical disturbance to a hurricane. That would suggest it would be gone by Election Day, and unless it’s caused damage or flooding or knocked out power, Election Day could go on as scheduled, Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said Wednesday afternoon. She said polling machines already have been deployed to the 461 polling locations for the county’s 868 precincts.
Editorials: Court ruling in Kansas voter ID law case could have national ramifications | Mary Sanchez/The Kansas City Star
The exasperation in at least one judge’s voice is palpable. As is the mental scurrying of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as he studiously replies to the queries. The audio of arguments made Tuesday in a Denver courtroom provides a 30-minute summary of why this case is so crucial to the right to vote. The back and forth between the three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Kobach and lawyers representing the American Civil Liberties Union deftly outlines the dangers of Kobach’s long-running arguments to undercut the right to vote. Of course, that is not Kobach’s stated intention, but it will be the outcome if he prevails. What the courts will ultimately decide is this: How far can Kobach legally go to satisfy his urge to chase after nonexistent voter fraud? And if he gets his way, how might any decision in the case bleed out to other states, harming even more people’s right to vote?
The highest appointed elections officer in Henderson County has explored deputizing civilians to patrol the polls on Election Day. At an Aug. 16 public meeting, Bob Heltman, chair of the Henderson County Board of Elections, discussed the idea of a “posse comitatus,” in which civilians would be deputized and armed to serve the sheriff. He said he asked the sheriff whether such a posse could patrol the polls, but he has since discovered the idea is unfeasible. “‘I said ‘have you heard of a posse comitatus? What’s the story?”” he said. “Well, the net result of all that is there’s no time to even try to do it.” Heltman, who was appointed to the board five years ago by the Republican party, said he discussed the idea as part of the board’s safety plan to prevent terrorism, but he has abandoned it.
A federal judge has denied Pasadena’s request to throw out a lawsuit challenging its controversial city council redistricting plan, which a group of Hispanic and Latino residents alleges dilutes the voting rights of the suburb’s growing minority population. Judge Lee Rosenthal’s ruling Wednesday after a roughly two-hour court hearing means the case continues toward trial, which Rosenthal has tentatively set for November. Wednesday’s session was one of the first significant hearings in the voting rights case, which has received national attention as emblematic of modern-day battles over the issue more than 50 years after the Voting Rights Act was passed.
US Virgin Islands: Territorial Voting Rights Lawsuit Faces Setback As Election Nears | Virgin Islands Consortium
Six U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands saw their hopes of being able to vote for President in November take a step backward as a federal court ruled on Tuesday that Congress can deny the right to vote for state residents who move to certain U.S. territories while protecting it for those who move to other territories or a foreign country. Still pending are plaintiffs’ claims that a similar Illinois law also violates equal protection. Lead plaintiff Luis Segovia, a U.S. citizen who lives in Guam, served an 18-month tour in Iraq with the U.S. Army followed by a 10-month tour in Afghanistan as part of the Guam National Guard, yet as things stand he won’t be able to vote for President in November. Three other plaintiffs are also veterans – two from Puerto Rico and another from Guam. Also joining the lawsuit is the Iraq Afghanistan and Persian Gulf Veterans of the Pacific, based in Guam, and the League of Women Voters of the Virgin Islands. The case is part of a broader effort to secure voting rights in U.S. territories and the District of Columbia through a new constitutional amendment.
Wisconsin: Good government group slams vote to allow ethics commission to make political donations | Capital Times
A good government group is decrying the decision made Tuesday by members of Wisconsin’s new ethics commission to opt not to ban themselves from donating to political campaigns. “Just how stupid do they think Wisconsinites are?” asked Common Cause in Wisconsin director Jay Heck, who blasted the members of the commission who voted against considering a proposal to ban themselves from making political contributions. Wisconsin’s nonpartisan Government Accountability Board was replaced this summer with two separate commissions charged with overseeing elections, ethics, lobbying and campaign finance rules in the state. Commissioners on each board are partisan appointees, split evenly between Republicans and Democrats.
Australia: Northern Territory election: voters forced to wait for fully analysed costings | The Guardian
Both major parties contesting the Northern Territory election on Saturday are yet to release fully analysed costings of their campaign and other commitments. The governing Country Liberal party released its costings on Tuesday afternoon – past their own deadline of Monday but well before Labor’s release, planned for Thursday. The CLP has claimed its costings would see a positive balance of $35.78m over three years from 2018-18 and said its analysis of Labor’s commitments had found a debt of $523.51m over the same period. However, the CLP costings have not yet been assessed by Treasury, meaning voters will receive fully analysed data from both parties at about the same time. The deputy chief minister, Peter Styles, said he hoped Treasury would return the CLP costings soon.
Belarus’ Central Election Commission approved the lists of documents on the basis of which voters will be issued ballot papers at polling stations, BelTA has learned. CEC Secretary Nikolai Lozovik noted that in accordance with the established rules a ballot paper is issued by election commission staff on the basis of the two documents. The first…
China: Another candidate’s election material banned from public estates for ‘HK independence’ phrase | Hong Kong Free Press
Another pro-democracy Legislative Council election candidate has said his pamphlets were banned from being distributed at public housing estates by the Housing Department as they contained the phrase “Hong Kong independence.” Avery Ng Man-yuen, the League of Social Democrats chairman who is running in Kowloon West constituency, condemned the department’s decision outside its headquarters in Ho Man Tin on Wednesday: “Shame on political censorship, it is interfering with the fairness of the election.” Ng said the department originally agreed the pamphlets on August 11. After they were printed, his volunteers started distributing them to residents. “But on August 16 morning, Kai Ching Estate’s management office called to say the pamphlets’ approval was retracted, because pamphlets mentioned ‘self-determination’ and ‘Hong Kong independence’,” Ng said.