National: Republicans used to unanimously back the Voting Rights Act. Not any more. | The Washington Post

Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision on Shelby County v. Holder, which invalidated part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D-Vermont) proposed Voting Rights Act amendment to commemorate the occasion. “From its inception through several reauthorizations the Voting Rights Act has always been a bipartisan, bilateral effort,” Leahy said, “and it would be a travesty if it became partisan for the very first time in this nation’s history.” What was Leahy talking about? In 2006, when the Voting Rights Act was last reauthorized, no Republican senators voted against it. In 2014, no GOP senators have stepped forward to co-sponsor the amendment to update it.

National: Senators spar over the need for new voting rights legislation | Los Angeles Times

Republicans and Democrats in the Senate argued bitterly Wednesday about the need for a new law to protect the voting rights of minorities. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on proposed legislation to resuscitate a critical provision of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court a year ago. The court invalidated the system whereby most Southern states were required to clear changes to their voting laws in advance with the Justice Department. The new bill would attempt to get around the court’s objections by creating a new system in which any state with more than five voting rights violations in the previous 15 years would have to seek “pre-clearance.” Currently only Texas, Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana would be covered, which provoked outrage from Texas’ two senators, who both sit on the committee. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) asked why only four states would be covered, and not others such as Minnesota, which is represented on the committee by two Democrats. “Every state is covered by this if they violate the law five times in 15 years,” replied Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn).

National: GOP senators oppose voting law update | Gannett

The Voting Rights Act, which enjoyed strong bipartisan support for nearly a half-century, divided senators along party lines Wednesday as they debated whether minority voters still face enough threats to warrant updating the landmark law. Democrats, led by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont, said attempts to undermine minority voters remain pervasive, even if they’re less blatant than the tactics used when the law first passed in 1965. “Since 2010, 22 states have passed new voting restrictions that make it more difficult to vote,” Leahy said, citing a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice. “Of the 11 states with the highest African-American turnout in 2008, seven of those have new restrictions in place.”

National: Senate debates voting rights proposal | USA Today

In the year since the Supreme Court ended close federal oversight of elections in Alabama and some other states, discrimination against minority voters has crept back into place, voting rights advocates say. “The result of that decision is that minority voters have been left without critically needed voting protections for an entire year,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear testimony Wednesday that, because the Justice Department is no longer looking over their shoulder, several local and state governments around the country have restricted some people’s access to the ballot box.

National: NCSL Launches Elections Administration Research Database | National Conference of State Legislatures

What is the impact of major court rulings on voter ID laws? How are states ensuring voter registration lists are accurate? Which new voting system designs are being developed for the marketplace? Finding these answers and other information about elections policy can quickly eat up the kind of time that a lawmaker, legislative staffer or elections administrator can hardly afford to spend. But that was life before the Elections Administration Research Database, a new tool launched today by the National Conference of State Legislatures. The database brings together more than 1,900 reports that, altogether, address a wide range of elections topics. It is supported by generous funding from The Pew Charitable Trusts.

National: Cantor loss clouds prospects for new voting rights bill | The Washington Post

The recent primary loss by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor set off a barrage of political analysis that concluded that any large-scale overhaul of the country’s immigration laws was dead. But the ouster of Cantor (R-Va.) also upended Democratic hopes for a bill intended to counter a Supreme Court decision last year that halted several major provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Shelby v. Holder decision stalled the requirement that nine states — each with histories of racially discriminatory actions to keep minorities from voting — must submit any changes to voting procedures to the Justice Department before they can be implemented.

National: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: Expand Online Voter Registration Access | Associated PRess

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand says people across the country should be able use their computers, smartphones or electronic tablets to register to vote. The New York Democrat is announcing legislation Sunday that would force the 23 states that don’t have an online registration system to establish one. The bill also would expand enrollment access in states that currently have online systems by making them open to all eligible voters without requiring a state-issued ID.

National: Sen. Rand Paul seeks to expand voting rights to some ex-cons | Politico

Rand Paul is opening a new frontier for Republicans: Voting rights. The Kentucky senator is introducing this week a bill that restores voting rights to nonviolent felons in federal elections. Paul is also pursuing drug sentencing reform in the Senate and is mulling efforts aimed at easing nonviolent criminals back into the job market. He even wants to redefine some drug offenses currently classified as felonies to misdemeanors. Together, the moves add up to a concerted effort to get minorities, young people and civil libertarians excited about Republicans — groups that much of the party admits it needs. Paul argues he’s inspired by a sense of justice, but the expected 2016 contender won’t deny that his criminal justice portfolio is also motivated by politics. “I believe in these issues. But I’m a politician, and we want more votes,” he conceded in an interview. “Even if Republicans don’t get more votes, we feel like we’ve done the right thing.”

National: Court Rulings on Voter Restrictions Create Limbo as Midterms Near | New York Times

With the midterm elections only months away, efforts to carry out some of the country’s strictest photo ID requirements and shorten early voting in several politically pivotal states have been thrown into limbo by a series of court decisions concluding that the measures infringe on the right to vote. The most recent ruling came last Wednesday, when a federal judge ordered Ohio’s elections chief to restore early voting hours on the three days before Election Day. It is the second lower court decision in Ohio since 2012 that bolsters voter rights. The court decisions have gone both ways, but several have provided a new round of judicial rebukes to the wave of voting restrictions, nearly all of them introduced since 2011 in states with Republican majorities. The decisions have ensured that challenges will remain a significant part of the voting landscape, perhaps for years. And, with challenges still going through the courts, voting rules and requirements remain uncertain in several states before the midterm elections.

National: Senate panel to examine voting rights fix | The Hill

The Senate Judiciary Committee next week will examine legislation designed to restore the voting rights protections shot down by the Supreme Court last summer. Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has scheduled a June 25 hearing on the Voting Rights Amendment Act, his bill aimed at updating those sections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) deemed by the high court to be unconstitutional. The date marks the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision, which Leahy characterized as a “disastrous” threat to voting protections. He’s urging lawmakers to adopt his bill ahead of November’s midterm elections.

National: 22 states have passed new voting restrictions over the past four years | The Washington Post

Nearly half the nation has tighter voting restrictions today than four years ago. Since the 2010 election, 22 states have passed new voting requirements, according to the nonprofit law and policy institute the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, which advocates against many of the restrictions. In 15 of those states, this year marks the first major federal election with those new policies in place. Seven states are facing court challenges over their tighter voting laws. The restrictions have a disproportionate impact on the black population, according to a review of census data. While the 22 states are home to 46 percent of the overall population, they represent 57 percent of the nation’s black population. The Hispanic population, however, is underrepresented: just 42 percent live in the states with new voting requirements. The restrictions range from photo ID requirements to narrower windows for early voting.

National: DoD won’t release e-voting penetration tests | Politico

Officials have yet to release the results of a 2011 set of penetration tests on Internet voting software conducted by the Department of Defense, prompting election watchdogs to ask what the Pentagon might be hiding. A few months after the 2011 tests, an official said the results would be publicly available, and a year later, another said the first release was slated by the end of 2012. A representative now says it will release results in 2015, as material is considered “pre-decisional.” Meanwhile, elections officials and lawmakers from across the country are joining watchdogs in demanding the results.

National: How Block Chain Technology Could Usher in Digital Democracy | CoinDesk

In the digital age, it seems strange that people all around the world still use paper to vote. Of course, given bitcoin’s promise to remove paper from the financial system, many in the industry are beginning to ask if the same block chain technology can be applied to help modernize the democratic process. … Forget it, says Barbara Simons. “At this point we cannot do Internet voting securely,” warns the former IBM computer scientist who has conducted extensive research into Internet voting. Readers will point out that Internet voting is already happening, but she’s saying that we cannot guarantee its integrity. Simons, a former president of the Association for Computing Machinery, participated in a National Workshop on Internet Voting commissioned by former US President Bill Clinton, and authored a book, ‘Broken Ballots‘. She is a long-standing critic of online voting, and her research caused the US Department of Defense to nix an Internet voting system it was considering. “A lot of people think ‘I can bank online, so why can’t I vote online?’,” says Simons. “But, millions disappear from online bank accounts each year.”

National: Stalled Voting Rights Act gets June 25 Senate hearing | Miami Herald

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a June 25 hearing on a long-stalled bill to repair the 1965 Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court weakened the landmark civil rights legislation by weakening key provisions last year. ‘It is time for Congress to act,’ Leahy said in a statement Monday. ‘Just as Congress came together 50 years ago to enact the Civil Rights Act, Democrats and Republicans should work together now to renew and strengthen the Voting Rights Act, which has always been bipartisan.’ The hearing will occur on the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling that knocked out parts of the voting rights act and urged Congress to revisit it, saying the law needs updating to account for how times have changed.

National: Impacts of voting case extend past Kansas, Arizona | Associated Press

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and other top lawmakers have urged a federal appeals court to overturn a decision by a judge in Kansas that they say would limit the authority of Congress to regulate federal elections and derail its ability to pass legislation protecting the right to vote. Their friend-of-the-court filing last week at the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals comes in the lawsuit filed by Kansas and Arizona to force federal elections officials to help those states impose their proof-of-citizenship requirements on federal voter registration forms used by residents of the states. Both states argue the requirements prevent voter fraud by thwarting voting by noncitizens. Critics of such laws view them as suppressing voter turnout. But both sides agree the potential impacts of the case could extend to other states.

National: Experts see an elder vote evolution | Herald Tribune

The stereotype of the “greedy geezer” voter, a political bloc of 65-and-older Americans who hate taxes but love their government entitlements, is a figment of the public imagination, according to election data. These older voters do turn out at higher rates — a phenomenon that goes back for only four decades. But election results over time show that older voters’ choices and party affiliations closely mirror those of the rest of the electorate. There’s at least one exception to this pattern, however: Florida retirees, who often sever their community and family ties when they relocate south, and may or may not form new ones after they arrive. Older Americans vote at three times the rate of 18-to-24-year-olds in midterm elections. Even when picking a president, their turnout is about 40 percent higher, said social scientists speaking at Columbia University’s Age Boom Academy, a yearly symposium for journalists who write about generational trends.

National: Population Shifts Turning All Politics National | New York Times

When William E. Davis was growing up here in DeSoto County, just across the state line from Memphis, there were more than 300 dairy farms, and he was raised on one of them. “Now there are zero,” said Mr. Davis, 66, who is known as Sluggo, the chancery court clerk in a county that has been transformed into a booming suburb of over 168,000 residents. About 800 miles to the east, the same kind of sweeping changes have taken hold in the sprawling suburbs around Richmond, Va., where woods and farmland have been turned into gleaming new subdivisions with names meant to evoke the state’s colonial past. In both states, the growth fueled by a migration of newcomers from other parts of the country and even abroad is bringing nationalized politics to races further down the ballot. It was these new arrivals, more than any other voters, who most crucially rejected two influential Republican incumbents — the House majority leader, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, and Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi — in primaries this month, upending long-held assumptions about the appeal of traditional levers of power.

National: Political parties fight to manipulate voting times | Associated Press

Election Day is approaching, and you’ve made up your mind. There’s no need to wait. In many states, you now can vote early. Yet what’s convenient to you is increasingly an opportunity for political gamesmanship to the candidates on the ballot. In key swing states, Democrats and Republicans are battling this year to gain even the slightest electoral advantages by tinkering with the times, dates and places where people can vote early. Their sights are set not only on this year’s gubernatorial and congressional campaigns, but on an even bigger prize: control of the White House after the 2016 elections. Republican-controlled legislatures in Ohio, Missouri, North Carolina and Wisconsin all have taken recent steps to curtail early voting by limiting the days on which it’s available. Meanwhile, Democratic-led legislatures have passed measures expanding early voting or instant registration in Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts and Minnesota. And Democratic activists in Missouri are backing an initiative petition that could create one of the nation’s most expansive early voting systems.

National: Voter Fraud Is Rare, but Myth Is Widespread | New York Times

Is vote fraud common in American politics? Not according to United States District Judge Lynn Adelman, who examined the evidence from Wisconsin and ruled in late April that “virtually no voter impersonation occurs” in the state and that “no evidence suggests that voter-impersonation fraud will become a problem at any time in the foreseeable future.” Strikingly, however, a Marquette Law School poll conducted in Wisconsin just a few weeks later showed that many voters there believed voter impersonation and other kinds of vote fraud were widespread — the likely result of a yearslong campaign by conservative groups to raise concerns about the practice. Thirty-nine percent of Wisconsin voters believe that vote fraud affects a few thousand votes or more each election. One in five believe that this level of fraud exists for each of the three types of fraud that individuals could commit: in-person voter impersonation, submitting absentee ballots in someone else’s name, and voting by people who are not citizens or Wisconsin residents.

National: Bipartisan panel warms to weekend voting | The Hill

Republican and Democratic lawmakers agreed Wednesday that weekend voting could help increase voter turnout in elections. During The Hill’s Voting in America event, sponsored by advocacy group Why Tuesday?, Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) called weekend voting a “practical” and “common-sense solution” to ensure that hard-working people have the opportunity to vote, boosting turnout. He was joined by former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who suggested the Saturday voting model has worked well in states such as Louisiana. “We don’t encourage people to vote enough,” Lott said. Speakers discussed the issue in the immediate aftermath of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) shocking defeat, in which turnout was low in Tuesday’s primary.

National: Latino groups push for update to Voting Rights Act | McClatchy

Citing concerns about new state voter-ID laws and voter roll purges, a coalition of Latino organizations on Thursday called on Congress to push ahead with its update of the federal Voting Rights Act. Speaking in a news conference on the steps of the Supreme Court a year after justices struck down a key component of the federal law, members of three organizations released a report on what they say are potential problems in states with histories of discrimination. “We were told that this kind of voting discrimination doesn’t exist anymore,” said Luz Weinberg, a city commissioner from Aventura, Fla., who’s a member of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. “They said, ‘Give us some examples.’ So here are our examples; now it’s time for Congress to act.”

National: Tribal leaders welcome Holder’s voting access plan | Associated Press

Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday his office will consult with tribes across the country to develop ways to increase voting access for American Indians and Alaska Natives. Holder said the goal is to require state and local election officials to place at least one polling site in a location chosen by tribal governments in parts of the nation that include tribal lands. Barriers to voting, he said, include English-only ballots and inaccessible polling places. In Alaska, for example, the village of Kasigluk is separated into two parts by a river with no bridge. On election day, people on one side have just a few hours to vote before a ballot machine is taken by boat to the other side. Several other Alaska villages have been designated as permanent absentee voting areas, which is something allowed by regulation, according to Gail Fenumia, director of the state Division of Elections.

National: Can an election district have too many minority voters in it? | Constitution Daily

Under the Constitution, government officials are not supposed to sort people by race, for any public benefit. If they do, they have to come up with the strongest policy reasons, and even those will be severely tested in court.   The really hard part comes when race is taken into account as an attempt to remedy past racial discrimination. When does that become a new form of discrimination? Courts have long struggled with that remedy issue, and in no field of law has that effort been more difficult than in drawing new election districts, as almost always has to be done after each new federal Census. Populations do shift over 10-year spans, and districting maps thus may get out of date. Racial calculations do enter into the map-drawing process, for the simple reason that federal voting rights law requires it.

National: Obama administration to make push on American Indian voting rights | Reuters

Concerned that American Indians are being unfairly kept out of the voting process, the Obama administration is considering a proposal that would require voting districts with tribal land to have at least one polling site in a location chosen by the tribe’s government, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Monday. Holder said the Justice Department would begin consulting tribal authorities on whether it should suggest that Congress pass a law that would apply to state and local administrators whose territory includes tribal lands.

National: Republicans take photo ID laws beyond voting | MSNBC

For Republicans, requiring photo ID isn’t just for voting anymore. They like the concept so much they’re now expanding it to cover government benefits that low-income Americans rely on. In a growing number of states, and even in Washington, the GOP, citing fraud, is pushing laws that could deny needed benefits to those who are struggling, simply because they lack ID.n Studies suggest around 11% of Americans—including one in four African-Americans—don’t have a photo ID. Among those who receive government benefits, that number is almost certainly higher. North Carolina’s GOP-controlled legislature—which last year passed a voter ID requirement as part of the nation’s most restrictive voting law— advanced a bill Thursday that would make recipients of jobless benefits also show a photo ID. It’s expected to pass next week.

National: Senate Democrats Begin Efforts to Amend Constitution | Roll Call

It’s been 22 years since the last amendment to the Constitution took effect, but Senate Democrats are hoping to alter the nation’s founding document once again. The likelihood of crossing the threshold to amend the Constitution over campaign finance is slim to none, however. An amendment would have to garner support from two-thirds of the House and Senate, before being approved by three-fourths of the states. Despite that seemingly insurmountable hurdle, Senate Democrats are forging ahead with a plan to bring SJ Res 19 to the floor. This resolution would add a 28th Amendment, stating that Congress can regulate contributions and spending in federal elections. It would also give state governments the same authority in statewide contests.

National: Justice Department considers making request that would add polling sites to tribal lands | The Washington Post

The Justice Department is considering making a recommendation to Congress that would require any state or local election administrator whose territory includes part of an Indian reservation, an Alaska Native village or other tribal lands to locate at least one polling place in a venue selected by the tribal government. Associate Attorney General Tony West will announce the effort Monday morning at the National Congress of American Indians conference in Anchorage. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. also will release a video Monday that will announce the Obama administration’s plans to consult with tribal governments on a legislative proposal that would ensure that American Indians and Alaska Natives have “a meaningful opportunity to claim their right to vote.”

National: Judge denies attorneys’ fees for Shelby County in voting rights case | Montgomery Advertiser

Shelby County won the case that led the Supreme Court to strike down part of the Voting Rights Act, but that victory doesn’t mean the federal government should pay the county’s lawyers, a judge ruled last week. Washington D.C.-based lawyers for Shelby County had asked for $2 million in fees for the team that pursued the case all the way to the nation’s highest court. The case had challenged the Voting Rights Act’s formula that was used to determine which parts of the country needed to get pre-approval from the Justice Department before making any changes to their election procedures. The court found the formula unconstitutional. Its ruling ended the “pre-clearance” process for Alabama and several other states, a historic shift in how the federal government enforces anti-discrimination laws meant to protect minority voters.

National: Voting problems across south could spell trouble for November | MSNBC

We’re still more than five months from midterm elections, but already Republican voting restrictions are causing chaos in states across the South, and in some cases, blocking access to the ballot. The slew of problems, even in a recent series of low-profile elections, is raising fears that large numbers of voters could be disenfranchised this fall if the laws aren’t blocked before then. Because two of the states involved, Arkansas and North Carolina, are hosting tight Senate races this fall, it’s possible that the laws could even be decisive in helping Republicans gain total control of Congress. “The problems we’re seeing in places like Arkansas and North Carolina are only going to worsen in higher-turnout elections in November, when hundreds of thousands more voters will arrive at the polls,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “They demonstrate exactly why we’ve filed motions to put these laws on hold until they’ve been thoroughly vetted by the courts.”

National: Red, Blue States Find Some Common Ground on Elections Reform | Stateline

After nearly five years of partisan feuds over state elections laws, there are growing signs that lawmakers are finding common ground on both sides of the aisle, in blue and red states alike. During legislative sessions this year, several states enacted changes designed to ease the voting process, such as online voter registration and same-day registration.  When Illinois finishes the rollout of its online system this summer as expected, more than 100 million eligible voters will live in states offering online registration — about half of the nation’s eligible voters, according to the United States Elections Project. The raft of new measures comes on the heels of a bipartisan presidential elections commission report released in January that encouraged states to “transcend partisan divisions and view election administration as public administration that must heed the expressed interests and expectations of voters.”