In the final session of a trial that could yield a crucial decision about a policy that has been disputed for years, a federal judge heard closing arguments on Monday about North Carolina’s voter identification law. The arguments capped a six-day bench trial, before Judge Thomas D. Schroeder of Federal District Court, that included emotional testimony about voting rights and technical analyses of the law’s impact. The outcome will be seen as an important measure of what voting-related laws federal courts might allow states to pursue and enforce. The North Carolina chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. and other plaintiffs argued Monday, as they have for months, that the Republican-controlled General Assembly drafted the voter identification law in 2013 as a surreptitious way to curb the influence of black and Hispanic voters. The N.A.A.C.P. has argued that those voters are less likely to have one of the six accepted forms of identification required and often face more hardship in obtaining them. “They knew that all these provisions, taken individually and together, have racially discriminatory intent,” said Catherine Meza, a lawyer for the United States Justice Department, which joined the N.A.A.C.P. in the litigation.Full Article: Closing Arguments Given in Key Voter Rights Trial - The New York Times.
Observers of our polarized democracy often blame party primaries for producing some of our most extreme politicians. It’s well known that the most vociferous and partisan activists have a disproportionate influence in primaries. Less well known is this: 44 states have “sore loser” laws of one form or another. These laws effectively block a candidate who fails to win a party primary from appearing on the general election ballot, as either an independent or as the nominee of another party. These laws deprive voters of a full array of choices. They are arguably even more insidious than partisan redistricting, which affects House races but not Senate ones.Full Article: Perverse Primaries - NYTimes.com.
Parties competing in Algeria’s general election on May 10th faced a weary cynicism among voters. So far the Arab spring has passed the country by. Still recovering from the grim legacy of a civil war of the 1990s, in which at least 100,000 Algerians are thought to have died, few people seem tempted to take the revolutionary road. But nor do many see much of a way forward using the ballot box, at least not in the form being presented by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Since a general election in 1992 was interrupted by the army to prevent a win by the Islamic Salvation Front, Algeria’s powers-that-be have not left national elections to chance. Mr Bouteflika came to power in 1999 after six leading candidates had withdrawn from the contest in protest against alleged fraud. With a nod to demands for democracy elsewhere in the region, this time the authorities let in more than 450 foreign election observers, including, for the first time, 140 from the EU. They do not seem to be making much of a difference. In any case, few commentators predicted that as many as the 35% who turned out last time would bother to vote. Yet 21 new parties had been approved since February. The authorities’ preferred outcome is said to be a parliament made up of a “mosaic” of parties, with no strong block having a dominant voice. A handful of genuine opposition parties, including the old Socialist Forces Front (FFS in French) and the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Front (FJD), evidently believed it worth striving to limit the scope for fraud. So they highlighted the dearth of their party representatives at polling stations and secured, as a last-minute concession, the interior ministry’s agreement to put party representatives on the commissions that supervised vote-counts at governorate level.Full Article: Algeria’s election: Still waiting for real democracy | The Economist.
Election fever is spreading in Algeria ahead of the official start of the campaign season on Sunday April 15th. Authorities have appealed to voters to participate in the May 10th elections and have invited international observers to witness the vote, giving assurances that the poll will be free and transparent. The ruling coalition that once held a majority in parliament and government no longer exists. The Movement for a Society of Peace (MSP) was the first to leave, even though it retains its ministerial posts in the government and its seats in parliament. MSP leader Bouguerra Soltani has formed a “Green Alliance” with two other Islamist parties, Ennahda and El Islah, with the goal of becoming head of the ruling coalition.Full Article: Algeria begins election campaign (Magharebia.com).