Editorials: Two Supreme Court cases threaten to unravel California election reforms | Contra Costa Times

For more than two decades, Californians have struggled to reform the state’s electoral process, to make it less partisan and public officials more responsive. After fits and starts beginning in 1990, state voters approved an independent redistricting commission, open primaries and term limits that now allow state legislators to serve up to 12 years. Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court could significantly undermine the reform effort with its review of two redistricting cases, one out of Arizona, the other out of Texas, and both with profound implications for California and the nation.

Editorials: How the Money Primary Is Undermining Voting Rights | Ari Berman/The Nation

In November 1963, Evelyn Butts, a seamstress and mother of three from Norfolk, Virginia,filed the first lawsuit in federal court challenging her state’s $1.50 poll tax. Annie Harper, a retired domestic worker from Fairfax County, filed a companion suit five months later. In March 1966, the Supreme Court overruled two previous decisions and overturned Virginia’s poll tax, stating that economic status could not be an obstacle to casting a ballot. “Fee payments or wealth, like race, creed, or color, are unrelated to the citizen’s ability to participate intelligently in the electoral process,” wrote Justice William Douglas in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections. “We conclude that a State violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment whenever it makes the affluence of the voter or payment of any fee an electoral standard.”

Editorials: Only Voters Count? Conservatives ask the Supreme Court to restrict states’ rights and overturn precedent. | Richard Hasen/Slate

For the second time in a year, the Supreme Court has agreed to wade into an election case at the urging of conservatives. In both cases it has done so despite the issue appearing to be settled by long-standing precedent. In a case expected to be decided next month, Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, conservatives asked the court to bar states from using independent redistricting commissions to draw congressional lines. In a case the court agreed to hear Tuesday, Evenwel v. Abbott, conservatives asked the court to require states to draw their legislative district lines in a particular way: Rather than considering the total population in each district, conservatives argue, the lines should instead divide districts according to the number of people registered or eligible to vote. Most states use total population for drawing districts, which includes noncitizens, children, felons, and others ineligible to vote. In both Supreme Court cases, there is great irony in the fact that they are being brought by conservatives, who usually claim to respect precedents and states’ rights. The challengers are not only asking the court to revisit issues that seemed to be settled by decades-old precedent. If successful, these cases will undermine federalism by limiting states’ rights to design their own political systems.

Editorials: What if congressional districts were drawn based on voters, not total population? | Philip Bump/The Washington Post

A case before the Supreme Court raises an esoteric but important question: Who do politicians represent? Our Amber Phillips has a thorough explanation of the ins-and-outs of the case. But the essential question is whether political districts should be drawn based on the number of people that live in the district, or based on the number of people in that district that can vote. The idea is that in districts where there are a lot of people but not a lot of eligible voters, those voters are more powerful given that they can have a larger effect on the outcome of any given election. It doesn’t take long to see all sorts of questions that the distinction draws. Should we count people who can vote or people who do vote? How does that shift the priorities of the official who wins the right to represent the district?

Editorials: ‘One Man, One Vote’ Keeps Changing | Noah Feldman/Bloomberg View

Does the Constitution guarantee one person, one vote? Or is it one citizen, one vote? This deceptively simple question is actually profound — and the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide it in the term that will begin in October. The answer will define the nature of American democracy for generations to come. The legal nature of the question can be stated simply. In the 1961 case Reynolds v. Sims, the Supreme Court announced a principle that was then referred to as “one man, one vote.” Until then it had been up to state legislatures to allocate congressional districts according to whatever principle they wanted. There was no requirement that districts have roughly equal numbers of residents, which meant that some districts might have many fewer residents and voters than others. The court said this imbalance violated equal protection of laws because it diluted the votes of those who lived in relatively overpopulated districts.

Editorials: Rejection of presidential age referendum shows ageism at heart of Irish society | Ireland Times

What happened on Friday was truly odd. In the same breath, the Irish electorate triumphantly extended equality to same-sex couples, and resoundingly denied it to young people. The result sent an unequivocal message: adults under the age of 35 are not held in equal esteem to those above that age. No matter how exceptional, competent or popular the individual, the idea of a person younger than 35 even presenting themselves to the electorate as a candidate for the highest office of State is apparently so preposterous as to require constitutional prohibition. To paraphrase three-quarters of the electorate: “It’s not just that we won’t vote for you. We won’t even let you run”. Granted, the mere representation of marginalised groups in political office does not necessarily translate to improved conditions – but their unqualified exclusion is symbolic of broader structural problems.

Editorials: Voter Turnout in U.S. Mayoral Elections Is Pathetic, But It Wasn’t Always This Way | CityLab

As far as recent history is concerned, voter turnout in most major U.S. city elections can accurately be described as anemic. On Tuesday in Philadelphia, just about 27 percent of registered voters went to the polls to give Jim Kenney a landslide victory in the city’s Democratic mayoral primary. In Los Angeles, 23 percent bothered to show up in 2013 for the sleepy election that Mayor Eric Garcetti won. Even New York’s high-profile 2013 election, which brought Mayor Bill de Blasio to power, attracted just 26 percent of registered voters to cast a ballot, the lowest turnout in that city since at least 1953. For many observers, that election signaled a historic repudiation of the aggressive police tactics and warm embrace of the super-rich that characterized the Michael Bloomberg era. But in a larger sense, it also proved that most New Yorkers didn’t care either way.

Editorials: Veto of felon voting bill disenfranchised 40,000 Marylanders | Cory McCray/Baltimore Sun

After the death of Freddie Gray, leaders from Annapolis came into our neighborhoods, shot some hoops, attended church services and gave lip service about change. But those leaders have never endured the high levels of poverty, lack of access to fresh food, dilapidated housing or high levels of joblessness that plague those neighborhoods. That is why many community members were not convinced by their words. On Friday, Gov. Larry Hogan gave them more reason to be skeptical. At 2 p.m. on the Friday before a holiday weekend, when many people were already away on vacation, he vetoed House Bill 980, which restored voting rights to ex-felons upon their release from prison, rather than waiting until they’re off parole or probation.

Editorials: 2016 presidential campaigns chase money, with no cop on the beat | USAToday

Money has always been the dark force of politics, but it’s reaching a tipping point in the 2016 presidential election. Whoever wins will be more beholden than any recent predecessor to megadonors who write huge checks. Campaigns are skating up to, or over, ethical and legal lines to maximize the dollars. There’s little worry about prosecution, though. The agency set up to enforce campaign laws after the Watergate scandals in 1974 — the Federal Election Commission — is mired in partisan stalemate on major issues, meaning there’s effectively no cop on the beat. That leaves no one (except the news media) to police the flood of big money set loose by court decisions in 2010 that made it legal for corporations, labor unions and rich people to give unlimited amounts to “super PACs,” which can support candidates as long as they remain independent from them.

Editorials: Editorial: Voter hammer | Lawrence Journal World

A bill that takes away local control of voter fraud prosecutions and allows people who violate state voting laws out of confusion or a simple misunderstanding to be convicted of a felony and sentenced to jail is now on its way to Gov. Sam Brownback’s desk. The measure, which already had been approved by the Senate, passed the House on a narrow 67-55 vote on Thursday. A key provision of the bill would give the Kansas secretary of state authority to prosecute voter fraud cases, something that has been advocated by Secretary of State Kris Kobach for several years.

Editorials: How Money Runs Our Politics | Elizabeth Drew/New York Review of Books

With each election come innovations in ways that the very rich donate and the candidates collect and spend increasingly large amounts of money on campaigns. And with each decision on campaign financing the current Supreme Court’s conservative majority, with Chief Justice John Roberts in the lead, removes some restrictions on money in politics. We are now at the point where, practically speaking, there are no limits on how much money an individual, a corporation, or a labor union can give to a candidate for federal office (though the unions can hardly compete). Today a presidential candidate has to have two things and maybe three before making a serious run: at least one billionaire willing to spend limitless amounts on his or her campaign and a “Super PAC”—a supposedly independent political action committee that accepts large donations that have to be disclosed. The third useful asset is an organization that under the tax code is supposedly “operated exclusively to promote social welfare.” The relevant section of the tax code, 501(c)(4), would appear to be intended for the Sierra Club and the like, not political money. But the IRS rules give the political groups the same protection.

Editorials: How the Money Primary Is Undermining Voting Rights | Ari Berman/The Nation

In November 1963, Evelyn Butts, a seamstress and mother of three from Norfolk, Virginia,filed the first lawsuit in federal court challenging her state’s $1.50 poll tax. Annie Harper, a retired domestic worker from Fairfax County, filed a companion suit five months later. In March 1966, the Supreme Court overruled two previous decisions and overturned Virginia’s poll tax, stating that economic status could not be an obstacle to casting a ballot. “Fee payments or wealth, like race, creed, or color, are unrelated to the citizen’s ability to participate intelligently in the electoral process,” wrote Justice William Douglas in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections. “We conclude that a State violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment whenever it makes the affluence of the voter or payment of any fee an electoral standard.”

Editorials: Why Poland’s presidential election may shake up the European Union | Ola Cichowlas/Reuters

On Sunday, Poland votes on a president. Warsaw has long been as island of stability in an increasingly volatile Central and Eastern Europe. But this presidential race is exposing the cracks in the country’s ruling elite and paving the way for what could likely be more unexpected results in the autumn parliamentary elections. The results of the first round of the presidential election came as a shock for the country’s ruling elite — and for all Europe. President Bronislaw Komorowski had been expected to win going away but he was suddenly confronting a tougher-than expected runoff. He had a week to persuade Poles to re-elect him as his party — and the European Union — begin to worry. The results suggested growing fatigue with Civic Platform, the party that has ruled Poland for almost a decade. The problem, however, is that there is no sensible alternative to it.

Editorials: Why Citizens United Just Scratches the Surface | American Prospect

Hillary Clinton told supporters on Thursday that if elected she will appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Citizens United, according to a Washington Post report. This is good news for our democracy—but the Court’s role in helping wealthy interests dominate politics goes far deeper than one bad case. In fact, justices appointed by the next president—whoever that is—should look to transform the Supreme Court’s entire approach to money in politics going back to cases starting in the 1970s, just as the Court has reversed course on New Deal economic protections, racial segregation, LGBT rights, and more.

Editorials: South Dakota’s Last Stand—Ballot Boxes, Red Herrings and Custer Envy | Stephanie Woodard/ICTMN.com

Jackson County, South Dakota, has dug in for a fight against Oglala Sioux plaintiffs who sued for a full-service satellite voting office on the portion of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation that overlaps the county. On May 11, Jackson County filed an answer to the Oglalas’ complaint. The document mostly reiterated legal arguments that had been rebuffed by U.S. District Court Judge Karen Schreier 10 days earlier, when she refused to dismiss the lawsuit, Poor Bear v. The County of Jackson. In her opinion, the judge wrote that the plaintiffs might be able to prove “intentional discrimination,” a Fourteenth Amendment violation. Judge Schreier presided over another Oglala voting-rights suit, Brooks v. Gant, which in 2012 resulted in satellite voting for another part of Pine Ridge.

Editorials: A note from the British election: Has the electoral system failed voters? | Syahrul Hidayat/The Jakarta Post

Despite all the overnight drama in the latest British election when the Conservative Party defied all pollsters’ predictions of a tight race with Labour, the composition of seats in parliament (the Commons) contradicts the share of votes among political parties. The winner, the Conservative Party, can form its own government without forging a coalition even though it only garnered 37 percent of the vote. Is it a fair result for voters? For the UK Independent Party (UKIP) and the Green Party (which both won one seat despite the overall share of votes of 12.6 and nearly 4 percent respectively) as well as their supporters the answer is surely yes.

Editorials: The Cost of Democracy | Shelby Fenster/NBC Nebraska

Putting pen to paper and signing a check for $40,000. The thought may almost make your squirm. But it’s decisions like that our counties, cities and school districts make every year. And in making those decisions, they have to weigh costs. When is one thing worth more than another? From 9th Street to school bonds, over the last couple of years, Central Nebraska has seen several special elections. But those elections don’t come without a price tag. And if the money is going to ballots and polling places– there’s something else that’s not getting it. So, we reached out to your city’s leaders, and to the people who run your children’s schools, to find out. “We live in an interesting community right now because I think the question of, what is the extent that we have voter input, is being questioned,” said Hastings Public Schools Superintendent Craig Kautz. But for schools, voter input isn’t a question– it’s a law.

Editorials: Campaign finance reformers should remain depressed | Jessica A. Levinson/The Sacramento Bee

It is time to rain on the parade of anyone who is vigorously celebrating the latest U.S. Supreme Court campaign-finance decision. In Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar, Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for himself and the four liberal members of the court, blessed the ability of states to prohibit judicial candidates from directly soliciting campaign contributions. Campaign-finance reformers celebrated the outcome and Roberts’ decision to side with the liberal wing of the court. Some let themselves wonder if this decision might represent the end of the high court’s march to deregulate our nation’s campaign-finance laws. But those revelers are wrong. The chief justice is nobody’s liberal, or even moderate. And the decision does not represent a sea change in the high court’s otherwise dismal campaign-finance jurisprudence.

Editorials: Manual count for credible, transparent elections in the Phillipines | Inquirer

As generally known, to achieve clean, honest, fair, accurate and transparent elections, the electoral process must demonstrate: Secrecy and sanctity of the ballot; transparency; credibility; and fast and accurate results that reflect the people’s will. Elections, excluding campaigns, have the following distinct processes: Voter’s registration; casting of ballot; counting of votes at precincts; canvassing of votes; and declaration of winners. Of the five processes, only counting and canvassing may be automated or electronically tallied. Prior to the advent of Smartmatic, everything was manual, with counting of votes taking several hours or more, and canvassing, several weeks or more, before national candidates were declared winners.

Editorials: Democrats embrace the logic of ‘Citizens United’ | Lawrence Lessig/The Washington Post

Since the Supreme Court cleared the way for unlimited independent political expenditures by individuals, unions and corporations, there has been a fierce debate among academics and activists about what the term “corruption” means. For five justices on the court, “corruption” means “quid pro quo” — a bribe, or an exchange of a favor for influence. But an almost unanimous view, certainly among Democrats, and even among many Republicans, has emerged that this is a hopelessly stunted perspective of a much richer disease. Certainly, quid pro quo is corruption. But equally certainly, it is not the only form of corruption.

Editorials: Is online voting a security risk? | ESET

The world is moving online and so too now is politics. But as online, electronic voting (e-voting) increasingly becomes a reality, are we opening ourselves up to vote rigging by power-hungry politicians or fame-seeking hackers? Voting has traditionally been a pen and paper exercise; a slip filled-in and placed into a sealed ballot, with results counted and recorded by independent volunteers. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the result can’t be swayed, unintentionally or otherwise. There have been some notorious examples of foul play – Slobodan Milošević was accused of rigging elections in 1996 and 2000 in Yugoslavia – while errors can also occur, as best illustrated by the 2000 US presidential election, when a fault with Florida’s ballot paper led some people to vote for the wrong candidate. … These risks are only magnified when voting systems are pushed online. Brazil, Belgium and Estonia are just a few examples of the countries to have taken to e-voting, and while they have seen the benefits from the improved speed, accessibility and legibility (no more illegible ticks or crosses), they are arguably more open to attack.

Editorials: As Utah’s GOP looks to an Internet presidential primary in 2016, be cautious, inclusive in adopting online voting | Richard Davis/Deseret News

The world of politics is changing dramatically. A few years ago, the notion of voting online was a dream. Now, it is becoming a reality. Universities are holding student elections online. Corporations are now using online voting to conduct shareholder meetings. In a few nations such as Canada, Estonia and Switzerland, online voting conducted by governments in official elections is becoming routine. Online voting is not common in the United States. The Reform Party selected its presidential candidate through online voting in 1996. The Democratic Party in Arizona held an online primary election in 2000. Some states have experimented with online voting for military personnel overseas. Those are rare exceptions. Why is online voting still a distant prospect? Security! Experiments of online voting systems have found them susceptible to hacking, which has made governments cautious about using them to determine electoral outcomes.

Editorials: While we focus on candidates, we lose sight of threats to democracy | Los Angeles Times

Over the past few days, the field of declared 2016 presidential candidates has picked up a few more names, each announcement quickly detailed and closely analyzed. Does getting bounced from her seat running Hewlett-Packard, and conducting a solitary and abysmal U.S. Senate campaign, make Carly Fiorina a serious contender? What about Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and TV host who already failed in his first bite at the presidential apple? Is former neurosurgeon Ben Carson in over his head? For those who follow politics like a spectator sport, these incremental news items are tidbits to be savored. For most of the rest of the country, they are tedious and irrelevant developments in an endless cycle of campaigning. But to the New York Review of Books’ Elizabeth Drew, the campaign minutiae distract from the more important story of the “three dangers” threatening the American electoral system: “voting restrictions, redistricting, and loose rules on large amounts of money being spent to influence voters. In recent years, we’ve been moving further and further away from a truly democratic election system.”

Editorials: Colorado GOP flubs chance for 2016 presidential primary | The Denver Post

Do Republican leaders in Colorado want a presidential primary or don’t they? It’s hard to tell. And the unfortunate result is that hundreds of thousands of Coloradans will be deprived for another four years of a convenient way to help nominate presidential candidates. Officially, GOP leaders are on board, with party chairman Steve House favoring a primary and a number of GOP lawmakers, including the Senate president, co-sponsoring a bipartisan bill creating a presidential primary. But four Republican senators killed that bill in committee Monday over the votes of three Democrats, with one of the Republicans citing mixed signals from the party chairman.

Editorials: Register Minority Voters in Georgia, Go to Jail | The New Republic

In the weeks leading up to the 2012 election, Helen Ho, an attorney who has worked to register newly naturalized immigrants to vote in the Southeast, made an alarming discovery. Some new citizens that her group, then known as the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center, had tried to register in Georgia were still not on the rolls. Early voting had begun and polling places were challenging and even turning away new citizens seeking to vote for the first time. After more than a week of seeking answers from the office of Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, which oversees elections, AALAC issued a sharply worded open letter on October 31 demanding that Georgia take immediate action to ensure the new citizens could vote. Two days later Ho received her response. In a letter, Brian Kemp, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, offered few specific assurances about the new voters in question and informed Ho that his office was launching an investigation into how AALAC registered these would-be voters. Kemp’s office asked that AALAC turn over certain records of its registration efforts, citing “potential legal concerns surrounding AALAC’s photocopying and public disclosure of voter registration applications.”

Editorials: North Carolina Supreme Court should move quickly on voting maps | News & Observer

The U.S. Supreme Court’s order remanding the N.C. Supreme Court’s flawed decision on voting district maps officially arrived in Raleigh on Tuesday. With that, the clock gets ticking for the state Supreme Court to make up for its disturbing delay in deciding the case. It should accelerate the process the second time around. Redistricting cases have a special urgency, and this one has been handled with intolerable foot-dragging. The state’s previous redistricting case in 2002 was resolved within five months. In the current case, a consolidation of Dickson v. Rucho and the NAACP v. The State of North Carolina, the lawsuits filed in November 2011 have waited more than three years and five months without resolution. Typical of the pace was the state Supreme Court’s taking 11 months after hearing oral arguments before issuing its 4-2 ruling in December upholding the maps.

Editorials: Photo ID is unnecessary | The Columbus Dispatch

Apparently it was too much to hope that Ohio House Republicans would stop grandstanding on “ voter fraud” long enough to allow Ohioans to enjoy at least one election without needless noise from the Statehouse and partisan interest groups. Less than a week after a settlement between Secretary of State Jon Husted and groups that sued over the state’s early-voting schedule, state Rep. Andrew Brenner, R-Powell, promises yet another bill to require anyone who wants to vote in Ohio to produce an identification card with a photo. Such measures in the past would have limited the acceptable ID types to state ID cards, driver’s licenses, U.S. military cards and U.S. passports. They have failed, for good reason: They aren’t necessary, and likely would do more harm than good.

Editorials: How Super PACs Can Run Campaigns | New York Times

The 2016 presidential campaign has barely begun, but it is already clear this will be the super contest of the “super PACs” — the fast evolving political money machines that are irresistible to candidates because they can legally raise unlimited money from donors seeking favor and influence. The idea of a super PAC created to support an individual candidate was little more than an experiment four years ago when strategists for Mitt Romney tested its potential after misguided court decisions shattered federal limits on spending on elections. President Obama, after initially denouncing unlimited contributions, used a super PAC in his re-election.

Editorials: Big Dangers for the Next Election | Elizabeth Drew/The New York Review of Books

While people are wasting their time speculating about who will win the presidency more than a year from now—Can Hillary beat Jeb? Can anybody beat Hillary? Is the GOP nominee going to be Jeb or Walker?—growing dangers to a democratic election, ones that could decide the outcome, are being essentially overlooked. The three dangers are voting restrictions, redistricting, and loose rules on large amounts of money being spent to influence voters. In recent years, we’ve been moving further and further away from a truly democratic election system. The considerable outrage in 2012 over the systematic effort in Republican-dominated states to prevent blacks, Hispanics, students, and the elderly from being able to vote—mainly aimed at limiting the votes of blacks and Hispanics—might have been expected to lead to a serious effort to fix the voting system. But quite the reverse occurred. In fact, in some of the major races in 2014, according to the highly respected Brennan Center for Justice, the difference in the number of votes between the victor and the loser closely mirrored the estimated number of people who had been deprived of the right to vote. And in the North Carolina Senate race, the number of people prevented from voting exceeded the margin between the loser and the winner.