Editorials: Prison-Based Gerrymandering | New York Times

The Census Bureau has steadfastly resisted calls to end the practice of counting inmates as “residents” of their prisons instead of the cities and towns where they lived and to which they typically return. The bureau’s new director, John Thompson, seems at least open to ending this wrongful practice. Counting inmates at their correctional institutions encourages prison-based gerrymandering, by which state lawmakers draw legislative districts that consist partly or even mainly of prison populations, even though inmates are denied the right to vote in all but two states. This enhances the political power of the mainly rural districts where prisons are built and undercuts the influence of the urban districts where many inmates came from.

Editorials: Montana needs better voting access | Great Falls Tribune

The ability to vote is one of the basic rights every American citizen can claim as his or her own. It is a right, which through years of protest and activism, has become not only a hallmark of democracy but of equality. The right to vote, and the ability to do so, represents the most basic element of a government in which the people have the ability to govern themselves. Yet today across the country, and especially here in Montana, American Indians are being denied their rights to basic voting practices that are common among other populations. Currently, there is a suit that has been appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The lawsuit is fighting for the installation of satellite voting centers on every reservation in Montana. Representatives of the Northern Cheyenne, Crow and Gros Ventre and Assiniboine tribes filed the suit in 2012 when the state denied a request to install satellite voting offices on several reservations.

Editorials: Why Germany’s Politics Are Much Saner, Cheaper, and Nicer Than Ours | Olga Khazan/The Atlantic

It’s the day before the German election, and Stefan Liebich, a member of the Bundestag for the far-left Die Linke party, is standing on the sidewalk at a busy intersection, smiling and shaking hands. He has a boombox and an assistant who fills up crimson balloons that say “Really Red” — to differentiate them from the slightly-less-red balloons being inflated by their rivals, the Social Democrats (SPD), who have a similar setup just a few feet away. He’s in peak campaigning mode, yet he takes a 45-minute break to talk to a group of foreign journalists, including me, who can’t vote and don’t speak German. Liebich’s casual arrangement seems fitting for someone running for, say, student council in the U.S., but he’s actually just a few thousand votes from losing his seat in parliament if Die Linke doesn’t garner a large enough percentage in the upcoming election. He says he is “excited” to see whether or not he makes it in. It may seem barebones, but this is a typical last-day campaign event for a parliamentarian in Germany, where campaigns get government funding, parties are allocated TV advertising time, and microtargeting of voters is unthinkable.

Editorials: Voter suppression? – States move to tighten rules | Columbia Daily Tribune

The expected is happening. After the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed a key provision in the Voting Rights Act, a number of GOP-led states quickly moved to restrict access to the polls by passing or strengthening voter identification laws. Critics say the new rules disproportionately affect minorities, including the elderly. Supporters say they are protecting the integrity of elections against fraud. On paper, both are legitimate goals, but as staked out in this debate, both can’t coexist legally. It’s a job for federal courts. If I had judicial authority, based on what I know now the decision would be easy. The new rules in Texas and North Carolina and Florida are an unconstitutional interference with voting rights.

Editorials: How to save money and reduce rancor in campaigns | Krist Novoselic/Salon.com

While Bill de Blasio’s win in the Democratic contest for mayor was the big story out of New York on election day earlier this month, there were other national implications: one of our greatest cities showcased why it’s time to leave 19th century democracy behind. Election officials had to haul old lever machines out of storage, with highly predictable troubles involving broken machines and frustrated voters. In an equally outdated voting rule, voters could only indicate support for one candidate in each race, rather than rank them in order of preference — meaning that instead of a primary winner being determined on election day, there now needs to be an additional run-off election held in the city a few weeks later. When you can only choose one person in a multi-candidate field, the candidate with the most votes can earn well under 50 percent. (On Tuesday, Boston had a mayoral race in which the top vote-getter had just 18 percent; that city will have a runoff between the top two finishers.)

Editorials: The Dishonesty of Voter ID Laws | New York Times

The Justice Department on Monday sued North Carolina over the state’s restrictive new voting law, which requires photo identification for in-person voting and cuts back on early voting and same-day registration — all of which will disproportionately affect black voters. The suit, which follows similar litigation against Texas, is the latest effort by the department to go after voting discrimination in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in June striking down part of the Voting Rights Act. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. called the North Carolina law “an intentional attempt to break a system that was working,” and he said that it was clearly intended to discriminate on the basis of race. But North Carolina and Texas represent only one front in the continuing battle to protect voting rights. Twenty years after Congress passed the “motor voter” law to make it easier for Americans to register to vote, numerous states keep trying to make it harder, relying on vague and dubious claims of voter fraud to push through misguided and harmful legislation.

Editorials: State, not counties, should run South Carolina elections | The State

The problem with combining the Richland County elections and voter registration commissions wasn’t the idea: There’s no good reason to have two separate agencies handling such interrelated functions. The problem — the reason the merger led to one of the biggest election fiascos in the state’s modern history, the reason a Circuit Court judge has declared the law that combined the agencies unconstitutional — was the way our legislators chose to accomplish it. They accomplished it through a law that applied only to Richland County, which our state constitution prohibits in almost all cases. And one reason our constitution prohibits such laws is that they invite and involve state legislators meddling into the internal operations of agencies — in this case, giving them the power to hire the director of the new agency, which they did for clearly political reasons and to clearly disastrous results.

Editorials: If You Thought Citizens United Was Bad, Wait for This Supreme Court Case | Norm Ornstein/The Atlantic

It is tempting to think that there is only one issue hitting Washington these days: the coming apocalypse over a government shutdown and a possible default. It is, to be sure, the Big One, and it should dominate our discussion and analysis. But there are many other issues looming out there that deserve broader focus and attention. One is the farm bill, a case study in dysfunction and chaos over the past three years which has devastated farmers hit by the most significant drought since the Great Depression and which, if unresolved by the end of the month, could cause milk prices to skyrocket, among other things. A key part of that dispute is the most punitive, cruel, and hypocritical action taken by Congress in years: the move by the House to slash food stamps in the face of a continuing stagnant economy. Such action would leave hungry millions of Americans, including children, despite the fact that their erstwhile breadwinners cannot find work. In the process, the move would also strike down state waivers for food stamps in favor of a rigid work requirement, without providing any funds for work training. House Republicans, led by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, pushed this plan as a way to cut government spending — even as he and his colleagues voted to keep in place generous taxpayer subsidies for multimillionaire big farmers and billionaire farm conglomerates. Government spending is OK, apparently, if it is for fat cats and contributors, just not for poor people.

Editorials: A vote for fairness in Pennsylvania elections | Lancaster Intelligencer Journal

State Sen. Mike Folmer carries a dog-eared copy of the Pennsylvania Constitution in his breastpocket. When it comes to elections, he opens the booklet to Article 1, Section 5 where it states, “Elections shall be free and equal, and no power, civil or military, shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise thereof.” And then he asks how free and equal elections are in the commonwealth when Republican and Democratic candidates for Congress and row offices need 1,000 signatures to gain access to the ballot while independents or members of a third party are required to obtain upwards of 60,000 signatures. In his view, that makes Pennsylvania’s ballot process unconstitutional. Whether the rules in place are constitutional or not is for the courts to decide. But we agree with him on one count: It’s clearly unfair.

Editorials: The Court Case That Pivots on What ‘Corrupt’ Really Means | Lawrence Lessig/The Daily Beast

Early next month, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that will be a test as much of the five conservative justices as of the law they will review. Ever the optimist that principled reasoning will prevail, I’m betting that the conservatives will pass the test (hoping for once to be proven right!). The issue in McCutcheon v. FEC is the limitation on aggregate contributions to federal campaigns. To simplify it radically: under federal law, individuals can give up to $2,600 to any candidate in any election cycle. But the total amount they can give to federal candidates in aggregate is capped at $123,200 per year. So, for example, while I can give $1,000 to any candidate I want, I can’t give that much to more than 123 candidates in one year (poor me!). Critics of the law say it “abridges” their “freedom of speech.” They should be allowed, these critics argue, to give as much as they want in aggregate, so long as the contribution for any candidate is limited to $2,600. Since 1976, the Supreme Court has been pretty clear about the basic question that must be answered in a case like this. The First Amendment limits Congress’s power to regulate political speech—severely, and rightly, in my view. Only if Congress can show a “compelling” interest can it restrict the freedom of individuals to contribute to political campaigns. Even then, the restriction must be “narrowly tailored” to the interest the government seeks to advance. “Good enough for government work” just doesn’t cut it when the issue is political speech.

Editorials: What makes elections information helpful to voters? | CivicDesign

Every election department (and many advocacy groups) create flyers and small booklets to help voters learn about elections. But when we looked for guidelines for good communication with voters, we found very little. There were some political science and social psychology experiments that measured the impact of get-out-the-vote campaigns, but there was little about what questions voters have, and how to answer those questions well. As a companion to the research on county election websites, we did a study of how new voters used election information booklets. We recruited people who had voted for the first time in the 2008 election or later. Our participants were young people, recently naturalized citizens, and people with lower literacy. As new voters, we hoped that they would remember their first experiences clearly and would still have questions about elections.

Editorials: Voting access must extend to all Americans | The Missoulian

The ability to vote is one of the most basic rights every American citizen can claim as their own. It is one, through years of protest and activism, which has become not only a hallmark of democracy, but of equality. The right to vote, and the ability to do so, represents the most basic element of a government in which the people have the ability to govern themselves. Yet today, across the country, and especially here in Montana, American Indians are being denied their rights to basic voting practices which are common amongst other populations. Currently, there is a suit that has been appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is fighting for the installation of satellite voting centers on every reservation in Montana. Representatives of Northern Cheyenne, Crow, and Gros Ventre and Assiniboine tribes filed the suit in 2012 when the state denied a request to install satellite voting offices on several reservations. Satellite voting offices allow for early voting, a practice that increases voter access and enables people who are unable to get to the polls on election day to still cast a vote.

Editorials: Wisconsin’s Anti-Voting Law Heads to Federal Court | Penda D. Hair/Huffington Post

With deceptively little fanfare or attention, a federal judge in Wisconsin is poised to preside over the first trial challenging a photo ID law under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. On Nov. 4, 2013, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman will hear a challenge brought by Advancement Project and pro bono counsel Arnold & Porter to the state’s 2011 restrictive law. The lawsuit hinges on Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bars racially discriminatory voting practices. The statute is taking on increased importance in the wake of the Supreme Court’s June 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, in which the court blocked preclearance protections under Section 5 of the law. The Wisconsin trial is noteworthy for several reasons. First, as the leading democracy of the world, the U.S. should work to keep our voting system free, fair, and accessible to all Americans. Yet, Wisconsin is one of dozens of states pursuing restrictive voter laws that block some eligible Americans from voting, denying them the opportunity to participate equally in our democracy. Wisconsin’s photo ID law is one of strictest in the country. If the law is allowed to go back into effect, it stands to turn back the clock on Wisconsin’s historically strong protection of voting rights.

Editorials: A call for a right-to-vote amendment on Constitution Day | Janai S. Nelson/Reuters

Are today’s liberal politicians willing to go to the mat for a seemingly old-fashioned, civil-rights era throwback like the right to vote? If they care about preserving access to the franchise in the face of the many newfangled voting restrictions that conservatives are now aiming at minority, young or poor voters, they will. And, if they care about advancing the ideals of an inclusive American democracy, they must. When the members of the Constitutional Convention signed the United States Constitution on September 17, 1787, the democracy we have now was unfathomable. Today, the right to vote is not determined by property ownership, skin color, gender or wealth — as it was legally at the birth of our Constitution and for many decades after.  What has remained constant during America’s democratic metamorphosis, however, is the absence of an affirmative right to vote. On this Constitution Day, I echo the call to amend our Constitution so that it includes an affirmative right to vote. Proposals to amend the Constitution to include an affirmative right to vote are usually taken most seriously at the time of general elections, especially for the presidency.  That’s when the public is most aware of the frailties of our democracy. However, as we celebrate the founding document that has served as a model for democracies the world over, we must consider how to fill its hollow areas.

Editorials: It’s Time To End Our Failed Affair With Campaign Finance Laws | Paul Sherman/Forbes

It’s an old cliché that appearances can be deceiving, but, in the upside-down world of campaign finance law, appearances are all that the government needs in order to criminalize peaceful political activity.  That’s because nearly 40 years ago, in the U.S. Supreme Court’s first major campaign finance decision, the Court held that such laws are justified as a means of avoiding even the mere “appearance” of corruption.  Since then, lower courts across the country have taken this principle and run with it, upholding limits and sometimes even outright bans on the financing of political speech based on only the flimsiest of evidence. That might be about to change.  Shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court reconvenes this October, it will hear argument in McCutcheon v. FEC, a major challenge to federal campaign finance law.  And although the issue in the case is narrow, its repercussions could be widespread.

Editorials: Broken system – plan to move citizenship information from the Kansas Department of Revenue to election officials falls apart | Lawrence Journal World

So much for the “seamless” system of moving citizenship information from the Kansas Department of Revenue to Kansas election officials. The demise of the system touted by Secretary of State Kris Kobach when he pushed for passage of a law requiring new Kansas voters to provide proof of citizenship was confirmed in a recent interview in which Secretary of Revenue Nick Jordan said Kansas no longer plans to require people obtaining or renewing driver’s licenses to produce proof they are living in the U.S. legally. If people voluntarily present birth certificates, passports or other citizenship documents when getting their licenses, that will be noted on their driver’ licenses, but the Revenue Department apparently will take no responsibility for gathering or forwarding that information to facilitate voter registration in the state. The federal “Motor Voter” law requires that people be allowed to register to vote when they get a driver’s license, but it includes no provision for proving citizenship. State officials originally had planned to require additional information on drivers licenses to conform to a 2005 federal anti-terrorism law. However, after learning recently that Kansas already complies with the federal law, the Revenue Department decided to shift its policy. The driver’s license offices have had problems of their own serving customers in a timely fashion, and, as Jordan noted, the primary purpose of those offices is to issue driver’s licenses, not collect voter registration data. “(P)eople are coming in for a driver’s license,” he said, “and we want to move them through.”

Editorials: Thompson Bows Out – Calls NYC Board of Elections a “Disgrace,” Needs Replacement with Professionals | New York Times

William Thompson Jr. made a gracious exit from the race for mayor of New York on Monday, throwing his support to Bill de Blasio, who probably got slightly more than 40 percent of the vote in last Tuesday’s Democratic primary, which he needed to avoid a runoff with Mr. Thompson. We say probably because the New York City Board of Elections hasn’t finished counting the votes. For the last week, Mr. Thompson has been in the awkward position of hanging around to see whether Mr. de Blasio’s unofficial 40.3 percent holds up. Mr. Thompson, who got 26.2 percent of the vote, saw that his odds were very long, and got on with his life. In leaving the race, Mr. Thompson called the board’s failure to deliver official results nearly a week after the vote a “disgrace.” He’s right, though its incompetence is hardly a surprise.

Editorials: McCutcheon Supreme Court case could give money more say in politics | Facing South

Why are social justice organizations up in arms about an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case involving political contribution limits? It might have something to do with America’s widening income inequality, which in many ways is being financed by wealthy campaign donors. A ruling in favor of lifting limits on the amount individuals can contribute would allow the wealthiest of the wealthy to control parties in ways that would make the Great Gatsby proud. McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission is seen by campaign finance reform watchdogs as a sequel to Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court decision that held the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting political independent expenditures by corporations, associations, or labor unions. Independent expenditures are campaign communications that support or oppose candidates but are made independently of the candidate, committee, or party. In other words, the Supreme Court said that money talks and political races are not the venue to hush it — even if spending by Fortune 500 companies might drown out the political expressions of people of color and those of limited means.

Editorials: Elections fixes for the next mayor | New York Daily News

The Election Day scene on Tuesday was all too familiar to lots of New Yorkers. Just one example among many: Early morning, voters at a downtown Brooklyn polling site were told they would have to cast their votes on paper ballots because its voting machines were broken. “We’re going back to paper ballot? You’re kidding,” said one disbelieving voter at the site — who just happened to be Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota. Over the years, many New Yorkers have suffered problem-plagued elections, with broken machines, long lines, chaotic poll sites and inadequately trained polling inspectors who unintentionally disenfranchise voters.

Editorials: Electronic voting won’t solve the two biggest problems with the Australian system | Luke Mansillo/Sydney Morning Herald

Americans love their democracy. As soon as one election is over people start campaigning for the next one two or four years away. There is no other nation on this planet as keen on elections as Americans. In 2000 Arizona held a primary election with the option of internet voting. This was a world first and was thought to completely revolutionise voting as it was the first legally binding public election. The only problem was all Macintosh computers failed to register a vote when users thought they had registered a vote. People were not happy to have their democratic right as a citizen taken off them because of the technology. This disenfranchisement and failure of the voting system is a major reason why we do not universally have internet voting or other forms of electronic voting today. Electronic voting also has drawbacks. It was detailed after the 2000 Florida Presidential election when the new computer ballot system in some of the counties did not leave any paper trail. This did not allow a manual hand recount when the need arose. No computer system is foolproof. Computer systems can have errors or a polling place may lose power. If there is no paper trail there is no way to check and verify a count.

Editorials: Electronic voting is the wrong answer to the right question | Chris Duckett/ZDNet

It’s nice to see that Australia’s new digital minister is looking to technology to solve the issues plaguing the nation, but moving towards a system of electronic voting is a needless and expensive solution to a problem in process. On ABC News Breakfast this morning, Malcolm Turnbull floated the idea of electronic voting machines to reduce the number of informal votes cast at last weekend’s election. “About 6 percent of Australians voted informally in the House of Representatives,” Turnbull said. “The overwhelming majority of them, what scrutineers have told me over the years is 90 percent plus, have voted informal either because they have just marked ‘1’ against a candidate who they favour and not filled in the other boxes, or they have filled in the other boxes incorrectly. “I think this is a very big issue, and one of the ways that can be dealt with is if we consider electronic voting.” Oh, dear. For a man who Prime Minister-Elect Abbott claimed “virtually invented the internet” in Australia, I would have expected a longer memory on the issue of electronic voting.

Editorials: Say no to e-voting: defending the pencils of democracy | Crikey

Another election is winding up, so it’s time for the compulsory round of people complaining that the system is flawed and that technology would magically fix some of the problems. Quite a few are troubled by the pencils, including Clive Palmer, who listed pencils as part of his comprehensive spray against Australia’s “corrupt system”. He told AAP:

“There’s absolutely no way I will win based [on] voting irregularities and the security of the ballots. We think it’s a corrupt system. Until that’s sorted out Abbott won’t be getting any legislation through the Senate with our support.”

But the Australian Electoral Commission has good reasons for using pencils.

“The AEC has found from experience that pencils are the most reliable implements for marking ballot papers. Pencils are practical because they don’t run out and the polling staff check and sharpen pencils as necessary throughout election day. Pencils can be stored between elections, and they work better in tropical areas.”

Besides, if someone intent on defrauding the election broke into the room where the ballots were stored overnight, do you think the best mode of attack would be to erase votes one by one, in a way that couldn’t be detected?

Editorials: Latest Florida voter purge scheme threatens immigrants’ voting rights | Facing South

It seems Florida just can’t resist the urge to purge. Last year, Gov. Rick Scott (R) went toe to toe with the federal government and civil rights groups for the power to needle thousands of Floridians — mostly Latinos — about their citizenship under the threat of voter roll expulsion. Scott lost that battle thanks in part to the Voting Rights Act. But not long after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Shelby v. Holder that the VRA coverage formula was unconstitutional, Scott began planning how to reinstate his purge program. This week, Floridians of color are speaking out against those purge plans as a class of people who are most likely to be challenged by the Florida government about their citizenship. The Florida organizations LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Florida New Majority and the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition, along with the national civil rights organization Advancement Project*, are speaking out against Scott’s plans and calling for county elections supervisors to reject the call to interrogate those the state has determined as possible “non-citizens.” The groups fear that Scott’s revived list maintenance scheme may unduly burden new naturalized citizens, most of whom are Latino and Haitians.

Editorials: How to reform Australian Senate voting in one easy step | The Age

The grabbing of Senate seats by micro-party candidates with a handful of primary votes and a manipulated preference flow, while other party candidates with hundreds of thousands of votes are bypassed, is a matter demanding reform. The problem is that neither Labor nor the Coalition want to give up their own potential to manipulate the system by hijacking preference flows. Maybe now they will. As leader of the Greens, after the 2010 election I took a simple reform to the Gillard government. It was rejected. Perhaps the Abbott government will take it up. As everyone will remember from voting last Saturday, in the Senate we are required to either put ”1” in the box of the party of our choice above the line, or number all the candidates in the order of our own preference below the line. Fewer than one in 10 voters bother with the second choice. As the number of Senate candidates has grown, the second choice has become less and less attractive. The problem with the easier option of just voting ”1” for a party above the line is that the voter cedes control of her or his flow of preferences to the backroom operators of that party. Across Australia millions of votes cascade to other parties in an order the voters would not select themselves. The law requiring parties to lodge, pre-election, their choice of preference flow has led to the dark art of manipulation of preferences for unwarranted electoral advantage.

Editorials: Florida leaders wasted time on phantom voter fraud | Orlando Sentinel

It’s time to face reality: There’s no significant problem with voter fraud in Florida. If it did exist, highly trained investigators with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement would’ve been able to find it. Late last month, the law-enforcement agency quietly closed two high-profile cases, having found no fraud of any significance. Only one arrest was made. While other cases are pending, there’s nothing to suggest the epidemic of voter fraud hyped by Gov. Rick Scott and Republican lawmakers in advance of the 2012 presidential election. They played on fears at the time to pass a law that reduced early voting days from 14 to eight and restricted voter-registration drives. Both changes made voting harder — especially on groups likely to back Democrats. After Florida was embarrassed by hours-long lines on Election Day, some of those “reforms” were undone in last spring’s legislative session.

Editorials: Independent Cambodian Election Inquiry Needed | Thomsen-Reuters

The Cambodian government-controlled National Election Committee (NEC) has failed to address credible allegations of voter fraud and other irregularities or systematic unfairness in the election process. The NEC announced official election results on September 8, 2013. The NEC results give the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) 68 seats and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), led by Sam Rainsy, 55 seats. Earlier the ruling party-dominated Constitutional Council dismissed all meaningful complaints about the conduct of the July 28 election.

Editorials: What voting fraud problem? | South Florida Sun Sentinel

It’s time to face reality: there’s no significant problem with voter fraud in Florida. If it does exist, highly trained investigators with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement have been unable to find it. Late last month, the law enforcement agency quietly closed two high-profile cases, having found no fraud of any significance. The first case involved a group called Florida New Majority Education Fund, which sought to sign up voters in under-represented groups that tend to vote for Democrats. In this case, no arrests were made. The second case involved Strategic Allied Consulting, a vendor for the Republican Party of Florida. In this case, one arrest was made. A man admitted to stealing the identify of a former girlfriend’s ex-husband and filling out two false registration forms. While other cases are pending, there’s nothing to suggest the epidemic of voter fraud trumpeted by Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature in advance of the 2012 presidential election.

Editorials: Democracy wins for ECSU student, but what about the rest of North Carolina? | Charlotte News Observer

The North Carolina Republican Party and its elected legislators haven’t been subtle about their aim to suppress voting. The GOP majority in the General Assembly and the Republican governor approved a Voter ID law, ended straight-ticket voting and pre-registration by 16- and 17-year-olds and cut back on opportunities to vote early. When it comes to weighing the public’s will through elections, they’re like a butcher with his thumb down on the scale. Now that they’re in charge, Republicans mean to hold on to power any way they can, even if it means bending, challenging or just changing the rules. But last week, a young man named Montraviaus King, a student at Elizabeth City State University in northeastern North Carolina, won a right that never should have been challenged. He can run for the city council there using his campus address as his official address, his voting address. So says the State Board of Elections, reversing a decision by the Pasquotank County Board of Elections.

Editorials: History Repeats Itself: Why Is South Dakota Denying American Indians an Equal Opportunity to Vote? | Eunice Hyon Min Rho/Huffington Post

Every election, South Dakota voters have 46 days when they can vote early, which makes it easier for people to take part in our democracy. But the rules appear to be different for American Indian voters living on reservations in the state–at least according to recent actions by the South Dakota’s Secretary of State, who is stonewalling a request for early voting sites in three American Indian communities. Officials in Shannon County, which is home to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and has a population that is 92 percent American Indian, planned to offer only six days of early voting. For the other 40 days, voters would have to travel up to three hours for the nearest early voting location. This created a significant hurdle for voters for whom arranging and paying for transportation would be no small feat–you see, Shannon County is one of the poorest areas in the country where over half of the residents live below the poverty line. After county residents sued over this clear disparity in voting opportunities, Secretary of State Jason Gant relented. Until 2019, South Dakota will use federal Help America Vote Act funds – designed, as you might imagine, to help Americans vote – to set up early voting locations within Shannon County for the full early voting period.

Editorials: The pulpit should be free of politics | Los Angeles Times

Churches and other nonprofits long have been forbidden from endorsing political candidates. But erratic enforcement of the law has emboldened supporters of legislation in Congress that would end the restriction. Far from needing to be repealed, the ban on politics in the pulpit ought to be enforced more aggressively. A bill sponsored by Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) would repeal a 1954 amendment to the tax code sponsored by then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson. The amendment says that churches and other so-called 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations may not “participate in, or intervene in … any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”