Government plans that will force people to prove their identities at polling stations in May’s local elections risk disenfranchising members of ethnic minority communities, according to a leaked letter to ministers from the equality and human rights watchdog. In a move that will fuel controversy over the treatment of migrants in the UK following the Windrush scandal, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has written to the Cabinet Office minister David Lidington, raising its serious concern that the checks will deter immigrants and others from participating in the democratic process. The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the plan for compulsory checks was more evidence of the kind of “hostile environment” that Theresa May’s government wanted to create for people who had come to settle in Britain. In a speech on Sunday, Corbyn will claim that Theresa May’s determination to cut immigration at all costs was responsible for the Windrush scandal. He will say: “British citizens who came to our country to rebuild it after the war have faced deportation because they couldn’t clear the deliberately unreachable bar set by Theresa May’s ‘hostile environment’ for migrants.”
The Voting News
If a person is convicted of first-degree murder in the state of Vermont, he or she will retain the right to vote — even while incarcerated. But a person who commits perjury in Mississippi could be permanently barred from casting a ballot there. It is up to states — not the federal government — to say whether convicted felons can vote, and which ones, and when. So the rules for convicted criminals can change, sometimes drastically, from one state to the next. (The issue can be knotty within states, too: This past week, New York’s governor announced plans to sidestep a resistant State Legislature to give the vote to felons on parole.) It’s a lot to keep track of, but here’s an overview of where states stand — at least for now — on felons’ voting rights.
Arkansas: Attorney general again rejects bid to create panel to draw state’s districts | Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on Thursday rejected, for the second time, the ballot title for a proposed constitutional amendment that would create an independent commission to draw Arkansas’ legislative and congressional district boundaries. Rutledge first shot down the proposed amendment’s title last month, citing ambiguities in the text. She noted additional unclear terms Friday. Little Rock attorney David Couch, who wrote the proposal, said the objections raised in Friday’s opinion are different from those raised in the first rejection.
The candidate from Paraguay’s ruling Colorado Party won Sunday’s presidential election, according to official results with 96 percent of ballots counted, pointing to another five years of pro-business policies in the major soy producer. The country’s elections authority said Mario Abdo, a 46-year-old former senator who campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, had an “irreversible” advantage over his main rival, Efrain Alegre, a lawyer from the center-left GANAR coalition. “My administration will be committed to gaining the confidence of those who did not accompany us,” Abdo said in his acceptance speech.
A fledgling Turkish political party founded by a popular former interior minister will be allowed to run in snap June elections, authorities ruled on Sunday, after 15 parliamentarians from the main opposition switched parties to bolster its ranks. Turkey’s top electoral board ruled the nationalist Iyi (Good) Party would be allowed to participate in the polls, a board official said. President Tayyip Erdogan this week called for snap parliamentary and presidential elections on June 24, more than a year earlier than scheduled. The announcement wrongfooted the troubled opposition and brings Erdogan closer to his long-sought goal of a presidency with sweeping executive powers.
As this year’s midterm elections approach, the country is still unprepared for another Russian attack on the vote, and President Trump continues to send mixed signals — at best — about what he would do if the Kremlin launched an even more aggressive interference campaign than the one that roiled the 2016 presidential race. In last month’s omnibus spending bill, Congress set aside more than $300 million for states to invest in hardening their election infrastructure. They have a lot to do. New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, which tracks election technology and procedures nationwide, reports that most states are using electronic voting machines that are at least a decade old, many running antiquated software that may not be regularly updated for new security threats. Though most states recognize that they must replace obsolete machines, not much has changed since 2016.
Senators are working to again revise legislation designed to help guard digital voting infrastructure from cyberattacks after meeting with state officials. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) told The Hill that he expects to work out the final details of the bill within “weeks,” after state election officials expressed some remaining concerns with the current version. Lankford and a slate of bipartisan co-sponsors originally introduced the legislation, called the Secure Elections Act, last December, months after the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that Russian hackers tried to break into voting systems in 21 states as part of a broader effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Texas: Why everyone is mad in the Texas redistricting fight that’s taken seven years | The Texas Tribune
Everyone in the Texas redistricting fight is pissed off. In their latest brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, the voting and minority rights groups challenging Texas’ political maps painted Republican state lawmakers as “opportunistically inconsistent in their treatment of appearance versus reality.” Pointing to the lawmakers’ 2013 adoption of a court-drawn map that was meant to be temporary, the groups chronicled the actions as “a ruse,” a “shellgame strategy” and a devious “smokescreen” meant to obscure discriminatory motives behind a previous redistricting plan. Channeling their anger toward the lower court that found lawmakers intentionally discriminated against voters of color, state attorneys used a February brief to denounce the court’s ruling as one that “defies law and logic,” suffers multiple “legal defects” and “flunks the commonsense test to boot.”
Gov. Greg Abbott has asked Attorney General Ken Paxton for a legal opinion on whether Abbott can suspend state election law to call a special election “as soon as is legally possible” to fill the congressional seat left vacant when embattled U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, resigned two weeks ago. In a letter to Attorney General Ken Paxton Thursday, Abbott said he is concerned that state and federal law may not allow an election earlier than September. Abbott said he is concerned that coastal Texans continuing to seek federal relief from Hurricane Harvey damage lack representation in Congress. Abbott writes in the letter that “it is imperative to restore representation” to the voters of the 27th Congressional District, which stretches from Corpus Christi to Bastrop and Caldwell counties. Abbott noted that all of the district’s 13 counties are covered by his most recent disaster declaration for areas affected by Hurricane Harvey.
The Democratic National Committee opened a surprise legal assault on President Trump on Friday, filing a lawsuit in federal court alleging that the organization was the victim of a conspiracy by Russian officials, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks to damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential run. The 66-page complaint, filed in federal court in New York, uses the publicly known facts of the investigation into Russia’s election meddling to accuse Mr. Trump’s associates of illegally working with Russian intelligence agents to interfere with the outcome of the election. In the document, the committee accuses Republicans and the Russians of “an act of previously unimaginable treachery.”