Florida: Judge halts federal attempt to block voter purge | MiamiHerald.com

A judge on Wednesday rejected the federal government’s attempt to block Florida’s voter purge of non-U.S. citizens, partly because the purge has been suspended. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle said federal laws that prohibit the systematic removal of voters close to an election do not refer to noncitizens. He also accepted the state’s claim that its purging efforts are over for now. The ruling came as part of a request by the U.S. Department of Justice, which sought a retraining order stopping the purge efforts. The agency argued that the purge violates a federal law, the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, which outlaws systematic removals of voters less than 90 days before a federal election. Florida’s primary is Aug. 14. Hinkle interpreted the law to refer to people who were lawfully registered to vote before being removed, such as felons or the deceased. He said the law is silent as to noncitizens.

National: Tens of thousands of service members’ votes not counted | TheState.com

Tens of thousands of military service members attempting to vote by absentee ballot in recent years haven’t had their votes counted because of various problems with the system, according to authorities that track voter participation. The Military Voter Protection Project, an organization founded by a Navy Reserve member who previously was a Justice Department lawyer, is promoting efforts to ensure that the votes of all military members are counted. “The problem has always existed, given the high degree of mobility of our fighting forces,” said Eric Eversole, founder and executive director of the Military Voter Protection Project, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. But the issue is a bigger concern during a presidential election year with a military force totaling more than 3 million, including active-duty and reserve forces.

Florida: State moves to block voter-registration group | MiamiHerald.com

State officials are considering ways to stop a Washington nonprofit from sending any more registration forms to voters. By their own estimate, officials with a Washington nonprofit have registered 200,000 voters in Florida the past eight years. This year, the same group, the Voter Participation Center, has mailed another 420,000 registration forms to residents hoping to enlist more. But state officials are considering ways to stop the center from sending any more registration forms, which the state calls confusing. “We have contacted the organization, expressed our very serious concern that they are misleading voters, offered to provide them the complaints sent to the department about their mailings, and asked that they make a concerted effort to improve their lists so that only eligible voters who aren’t registered are being contacted,” Chris Cate, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office said in an email to the Times. The objections come as the state has made other moves to block greater access to the ballot box.

Alaska: Federal government role in Alaska elections questioned | adn.com

Alaska election officials should not be barred from implementing the new redistricting plan because a requirement that the plan be approved by the federal government is unconstitutional, attorneys for the state contend. A federal three-judge panel is scheduled to hear arguments Thursday in the case brought by several Alaska Natives, who want the state barred from implementing the plan until the U.S. Justice Department weighs in on it. Justice has about a month yet to do so. Alaska’s primary is scheduled for Aug. 28. A divided Alaska Supreme Court in May approved use of the plan for this year’s elections, but any plan must pass muster both with the courts and Justice.

North Carolina: New voter ID bill unlikely | WRAL.com

Lawmakers start their last week of work for the legislative session tonight. As legislators look to wrap up unfinished business, a key House leader says its unlikely that a new voter ID bill will be forthcoming this year. “It’s gone,” said Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, who chairs the committee which oversees election laws and would have been the point person to shepherd a new voter ID bill through the House. Under current law, most voters do not have to show ID when they come to the polls. Under a version of voter ID bill that Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat, vetoed last year, most voter would have to provide photo identification before casting a ballot. Proponents of the measure say voter ID would help make sure people don’t vote in the name of others or cast ballots when they’re not qualified to do so. Opponents say there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud and ID laws would disproportionately keep poor, elderly and college-age voters from casting ballots.

Georgia: Justice Department challenges Georgia on military, overseas ballots | ajc.com

The federal government has sent a letter to Georgia officials saying the state’s schedule for runoff elections violates federal law on military and overseas absentee ballots and threatening a lawsuit if the matter isn’t resolved quickly. U.S. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez on June 15 sent the letter to Attorney General Sam Olens and Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Olens’ office declined to comment on the letter, but Kemp said the state is in the middle of the primary election and doesn’t intend to make changes suggested by federal officials. Runoff elections are required in Georgia if no candidate earns more than 50 percent of the vote. Federal law requires that absentee ballot be sent to military and overseas residents at least 45 days before federal elections, including runoffs, the letter says.

Alaska: Attorney General Challenges Voting Rights Act ‘Preclearance’ | Alaska Dispatch

In a Thursday press reelase, the state of Alaska has expressed its opposition to the federal requirement that Alaska obtain federal pre-clearance for changes the state makes to its election process. The announcement comes more than a week after a U.S. District court judge ruled in Anchorage that preparations for the next Alaska election can proceed, pending federal approval of a revised plan to redraw the state’s election districts based on data from the 2010 Census. The judge didn’t rule on the merits of the plan, but did pave the way for a three-judge panel to consider on June 28 whether election planning can proceed pending final approval from the U.S. Department of Justice under Section 5 of the U.S. Voting Rights Act.

Florida: Voter registration law challenged | Palm Beach Post

Florida officials appear to be backing away from a controversial law that put new restrictions on voter-registration drives and roused complaints that it discourages participation by African-Americans and other potential voters in this year’s elections. An attorney representing Florida told a federal three-judge panel in Washington on Thursday that the state may withdraw its request for judicial approval of the registration limits, part of a 2011 rewrite of the state’s elections law. The panel is reviewing this and other controversial aspects of the new law passed by the Republican-run Legislature. The state had requested the judicial “pre-clearance” rather than seek approval from the U.S. Department of Justice under requirements of the Voting Rights Act.

Florida: Judges hear arguments on voting law changes | MiamiHerald.com

Lawyers for the state of Florida and the Justice Department argued in federal court on Thursday about whether Republican-backed changes to Florida’s voting laws constitute a violation of the federal Voting Rights Act. William S. Consovoy, a lawyer representing Florida, said the disputed changes to Florida’s law – which include provisions trimming the number of days for early voting, placing restrictions on voter registration drives and requiring voters to cast provisional ballots if they change their addresses from another county on Election Day – are not discriminatory. “There is not even remotely enough evidence of a disproportionate impact,” on minority groups, he told three federal judges. Elise S. Shore, a lawyer for the Justice Department, countered that these changes to Florida’s law have a clear “racial impact.” “The evidence is compelling that each of the changes was done for a discriminatory purpose,” she said.

Georgia: DOJ: Runoff election dates violate federal law on military and overseas absentee ballots | The Republic

The federal government has sent a letter to Georgia officials saying the state’s schedule for runoff elections violates federal law on military and overseas absentee ballots and threatening a lawsuit if the matter isn’t resolved quickly. U.S. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez on June 15 sent the letter to Attorney General Sam Olens and Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Olens’ office declined to comment on the letter, but Kemp said the state is in the middle of the primary election and doesn’t intend to make changes suggested by federal officials. Runoff elections are required in Georgia if no candidate earns more than 50 percent of the vote. Federal law requires that absentee ballot be sent to military and overseas residents at least 45 days before federal elections, including runoffs, the letter says. Georgia’s state primary runoff is scheduled for three weeks after the state primary election, and Georgia’s general election runoff is scheduled for four weeks after the general election. Both of those elections have federal offices on the ballot, and the time between the election and the runoff is less than 45 days in both cases.

Arizona: Voter ID law opponents ask Supreme Court to let lower court’s rejection stand | Arizona Capitol Times

Opponents of Arizona’s voter identification law asked the U.S. Supreme Court Monday to let a lower court decision take effect that would end the state’s requirement of proof of citizenship for voter registration. Justice Anthony Kennedy last week ordered a temporary stay of that ruling in response to state officials who said the decision, coming “on the eve of a new election cycle,” would have thwarted Arizona’s ability to “ensure fair federal elections.” Kennedy gave opponents of the law until Monday to file a response to the stay. Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne has until Wednesday to reply. Arizona has been requiring proof of citizenship since 2005, after the passage of Proposition 200. That law requires county recorders to reject any voter registrationform without proof of citizenship and it requires people to present identification when they show up to vote.

Mississippi: With voter ID awaiting federal scrutiny, Mississippi tries to tally how many people lack photo cards | The Republic

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said Monday he’s trying to determine how many people in Mississippi lack the type of photo identification that might eventually be needed for voting. In last November’s election, 62 percent of Mississippi voters approved a constitutional amendment that would require voters to show a driver’s license or other form of photo ID at the polls. House Bill 921, passed this spring by the GOP-controlled Legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, aims to put the mandate into law. Because of Mississippi’s history of racial discrimination, it is required by the 1965 Voting Rights Act to get federal approval for any changes in election laws or procedures. Such approval is not guaranteed. In recent months, the Justice Department has rejected ID laws from Texas and South Carolina, amid concerns that they would dilute minority voting strength.

Alaska: Judge allows election to proceed, despite redistricting concerns | Alaska Dispatch

A federal court in Alaska ruled on Friday against a group of Alaska Natives who wanted the court to stop the state from preparing for what it called an “illegal” redistricting plan for the 2012 elections, pending a ruling from a court. U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason found that the preparations for the election will not cause “specified irreparable damage,” prior to an upcoming hearing on the plan. She did not, however, express an opinion on the merits of the pending redistricting plan. On June 28, a three-judge panel will consider whether election planning can proceed pending final say from the Department of Justice on whether the plan violates the federal Voting Rights Act.

Florida: Voter purge explained | The Washington Post

Laws designed to clamp down on voter fraud have been causing controversy all over the country. But in Florida, an attempt sparked by Gov. Rick Scott (R) to remove non-citizens from the voter rolls has become particularly heated, devolving into dueling lawsuits, with officials refusing to carry out directives from the secretary of state. The Department of Justice is suing the state over the purge. Florida is suing the Department of Homeland Security. What happened? As the Miami Herald reported, Scott became interested in the number of non-citizen voters early in his tenure. The state wanted to use the Department of Homeland Security‘s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database, but federal officials denied access. Instead, the state elections board relied on the information from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to determine citizenship. Then-Secretary of State Kurt Browning abandoned the effort, saying the data was too flawed. (For example, some people gain citizenship after getting a driver’s license. Some names on the list were simply there by mistake.)

Virginia: Federal appeals court affirms right to access voter registration applications | Daily Record

A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, rejecting an Alabama county’s challenge to the landmark civil rights law. The provision requires state, county and local governments with a history of discrimination to obtain advance approval from the Justice Department, or from a federal court in Washington, for any changes to election procedures. It now applies to all or parts of 16 states. In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said that Congress developed extensive evidence of continuing racial discrimination just six years ago and reached a reasonable conclusion when it reauthorized section 5 of the law at that time. The appellate ruling could clear the way for the case to be appealed to the Supreme Court where Chief Justice John Roberts suggested in a 2009 opinion that the court’s conservative majority might be receptive to a challenge to section 5. Judge David Tatel wrote for the Court of Appeals majority that the court owes deference to Congress’ judgment on the matter.

Editorials: Citizens United: Watergate redux | Fred Wertheimer/Politico.com

When the Supreme Court issued its disastrous Citizens United decision, five justices took the nation back to the era of secret money, unlimited campaign contributions and corporate funds at the core of the Watergate scandal. On June 17, 1972, a burglary at the Watergate Hotel began the unraveling of the worst political and campaign-finance scandals of the 20th century — and the downfall of President Richard Nixon. Yet today, massive amounts of secret money, unlimited contributions and corporate funds are again flowing into federal elections. The same elements that corrupted government decisions and officeholders in the early 1970s have returned. As baseball great Yogi Berra said, it is “déjà vu all over again.” During the Watergate scandals, we had the benefit of the special prosecutor, congressional hearings led by Sen. Sam Ervin and aggressive investigative journalism to crack through the secrecy and reveal the depths of government corruption. Such official government efforts are absent today, however, even as huge, and/or secret contributions are flowing into the 2012 presidential and congressional races. This money has the power to influence future government actions — just as huge, secret contributions were used in the Watergate era to buy government decisions. After Watergate, 20 corporations were criminally convicted for illegal campaign-finance activities. The hotel break-in itself was financed with secret campaign contributions.

Florida: Some counties aren’t suspending purge | MiamiHerald.com

Election officials in two southwest Florida counties are not ending a contentious push to remove potentially ineligible voters from the voter rolls. Gov. Rick Scott initiated the push last year. But most counties in Florida stopped efforts to identify and remove non-U.S. citizens from the rolls amid conflicting legal opinions between the state and federal government. The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday sued Florida, saying the state must halt the purge because it is too close to the next federal election.

Florida: Legal voters may or may not have been purged | StAugustine.com

Florida Gov. Rick Scott often says that no actual citizens have been removed from the voter rolls in his program to make sure noncitizens don’t have the chance to cast ballots. “Not one person has been taken off the voter rolls that was a resident, a U.S. citizen who has the right to vote,” Scott, a Republican, said Tuesday in Miami. But that might not be the case. In two counties — Collier and Lee — at least nine people have been removed from the voter rolls under Scott’s program, and elections officials have no solid proof that those people are noncitizens. More could be purged soon. It’s that lack of certainty that concerns Democrats, liberals and voting-rights groups, who have sued the state to stop the program. On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice also filed suit.

Florida: Justice Department Sues Florida Over Voter Purge | NYTimes.com

The Department of Justice on Tuesday followed through on warnings that it would sue Florida over the state’s plan to remove noncitizens from its voter rolls. The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Tallahassee, intensified a legal battle between the Obama administration and Republican leaders in Florida, a crucial swing state. Florida has asked county election officials to remove up to 2,600 voters who may be registered illegally. But the federal government’s suit says the state’s list is “outdated and inaccurate.”

Florida: Noncitizen voter purge grew from 5-minute conversation | McClatchy

Florida’s latest elections controversy began in the smallest of ways: a five-minute chat a year ago between Gov. Rick Scott and his top election official. At the time, about February 2011, the newly elected governor was touring the office run by then-Secretary of State Kurt Browning, who put on a presentation about Florida’s voting rolls and elections issues for the political newcomer. That’s when Scott — a Republican who campaigned as an immigration hardliner — asked a simple question: How do we know everyone on the rolls is a U.S. citizen? “I said it was an honor system,” Browning recalls. “That’s how it’s always been done.” “People don’t always tell the truth,” Browning recalled Scott saying. So Browning decided to find out how many noncitizens were actually on the rolls.

Florida: Florida to sue Department of Homeland Security in voter registration battle | The Hill

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) said he will sue the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to move forward with his controversial attempt to purge the voter rolls in his state of ineligible voters. “I have a job to do to defend the right of legitimate voters,” Scott told Fox News on Monday. “We’ve been asking for the Department of Homeland Security’s database, SAVE, for months, and they haven’t given it to us. So this afternoon, we will be filing a lawsuit, the secretary of State of Florida, against the Department of Homeland Security to give us that database. We want to have fair, honest elections in our state and we have been put in a position that we have to sue the federal government to get this information.” Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner produced the lawsuit, filed in Washington, D.C. district court on Monday, shortly after, along with a statement. “For nearly a year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has failed to meet its legal obligation to provide us the information necessary to identify and remove ineligible voters from Florida’s voter rolls,” Detzner said. “We can’t let the federal government delay our efforts to uphold the integrity of Florida elections any longer. We’ve filed a lawsuit to ensure the law is carried out and we are able to meet our obligation to keep the voter rolls accurate and current.”

Florida: Voter Purge Adds to Debate Over Voting Rights Act | Article 3

In this firefight, the first shot was Governor Scott’s, the next belonged to the Department of Justice and the winner might just be the civil rights era Voting Rights Act up for Supreme Court review next term. What’s the story? Governor Scott’s chief election official announced Florida’s intention to sue the Department of Homeland Security for access to a federal database that would help state officials better identify and remove non-citizens currently on their voter rolls. Moments later the Justice Department counter-sued Florida for violation of federal laws. Why? Unlike other Southern States, from Alabama to Mississippi to Virginia, the state of Florida is not covered as a whole but it does have five jurisdictions subject to Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Passed in an effort to outlaw discriminatory voting practices that had been responsible for the widespread disenfranchisement of African Americans, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requires covered jurisdictions to seek preclearance from federal judges, or the Department of Justice, before changes can be made “to any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting.” Florida’s unilateral action was in violation of this act.

Florida: Gov. Scott: DOJ ‘stonewalling’ attempt to protect voting rights | The Hill

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) called his determination to remove ineligible voters from Florida’s voting rolls “a no-brainer” on Tuesday, charging the administration with “stonewalling” the attempt. “We’re sitting here trying to watch how we spend our money, pay down our debt, do the right things for the citizens of our state, and the federal government tells us, ‘Oh, no, you can’t do the right thing for our citizens and we’re going to sue you,’ ” Scott said on Fox News. “It doesn’t make sense.” Scott announced on Monday that Florida is suing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in order to move forward, in response to the Department of Justice (DOJ) filing a suit against the state over actions taken for the purging attempt. “This is protecting the rights of U.S. citizens and not diluting their vote by non-U.S. citizens,” Scott said. “When non-U.S. citizens register and vote, it is illegal, it is a crime.” Florida began purging county voting rolls this year in order to eliminate ineligible voters ahead of what will likely be a hotly contested election, but stopped due to the administration’s protests.

South Carolina: Justice Department sued over South Carolina Voter ID records | The Post and Courier

A national conservative watchdog group has added a new wrinkle to the contentious debate over South Carolina’s voter ID law. Judicial Watch announced Tuesday that it has sued the Department of Justice, saying it has not turned over public records related to its decision to block the state’s requirement that voters present government-issued photo IDs in order to vote. The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment. Judicial Watch said it filed a Feb. 6 Freedom of Information Act request for the records, and the Justice Department acknowledged receipt of the request 10 days later. But the department still has not turned over any records, which were due no later than March 29, the conservative group said Tuesday. Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit against the department over the matter in U.S. District Court last week.

Texas: State bracing for legal battle against feds over voter ID law | Houston Chronicle

Texas is preparing for a legal showdown next month in federal court over a new voter photo ID law passed by the Legislature but blocked by the Justice Department which cited discrimination against minority voters. “We objected to a photo ID requirement in Texas because it would have had a disproportionate impact on Hispanic voters,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told a recent conference of black clergy. Despite legal maneuvering by Texas and Justice Department lawyers, a three-judge U.S. District Court panel has cleared the docket for a July 9 trial. And it remains highly questionable whether the new law could be implemented in Texas by the November general election.

National: In a world of super PACs, Mitt Romney rules | The Boston Globe

It seemed like just another campaign appearance – Mitt Romney taking time from the trail to address a ballroom full of well-heeled donors. It was anything but. When Romney spoke last summer at fund-raisers for a super PAC run by three of his former top aides, it marked a turning point in his campaign and, in some ways, in the modern history of campaign finance. The group, Restore Our Future, capitalized on Romney’s support to raise $57 million by the end of April and has become one of the most powerful forces in the race for the White House – the financial engine behind the fusillade of broadcast ads, most of them harshly negative, that felled his GOP challengers one by one. No candidate in the 2012 race adapted more swiftly and effectively to the rise of the super PACs in the wake of US Supreme Court and other rulings that effectively removed any barriers to individual and corporate donations to such so-called independent groups.

Alaska: Natives sue to stop state from holding ‘illegal’ primary election | Alaska Dispatch

A group of Alaska Natives wants a federal court to stop the state from using what it calls an “illegal” redistricting plan for the 2012 election. Uncertain is what effect the lawsuit, reqAlauesting a preliminary injunction to stop that plan, will have on the Division of Election’s efforts to hold an Aug. 28 primary elections. That election would use newly drawn boundaries for the state’s 40 voting districts. Those boundaries were approved under an emergency redistricting plan that received the blessing of the state Supreme Court to allow the 2012 elections to go forward. With the lines redrawn, elections will take place for 59 of Alaska’s 60 legislative seats.

Texas: State prepares for court over voter ID law | San Antonio Express-News

Texas is preparing for a legal showdown next month in federal court over a new voter photo ID law passed by the Legislature. The law was blocked by the Justice Department over claims that it discriminates against minority voters. “We objected to a photo ID requirement in Texas because it would have had a disproportionate impact on Hispanic voters,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder explained to a conference of black clergy in a speech about the continued need of protections under the Voting Rights Act. Despite legal maneuvering by Texas and Justice Department lawyers, a three-judge U.S. District Court panel has cleared the docket for a July 9 trial. And it remains questionable whether the new law can be implemented in Texas by the November general election.

National: Will Election 2012 be another Florida 2000? | Reuters

The 2008 U.S. presidential election was the first in 12 years in which large numbers of Americans did not believe the result was unfairly influenced by the machinations of politically biased state election officials. But it was also the first in a dozen years that was not close, as Democrat Barack Obama cruised to a blowout victory over Republican John McCain. With 2012 shaping up to be another tight contest, experts say controversy is likely this year, especially given that 33 of the 50 state election authorities are led by partisan politicians, who are free to work for candidates’ campaigns. “People don’t pay attention to problems of partisanship until it’s too late,” said Richard Hasen, an elections law specialist at the University of California-Irvine.

National: From Alabama, an epic challenge to voting rights | Reuters

Four years ago, in Calera, asmall city of gentle hills, tall oaks and nine stoplights, an invisible line was drawn a few miles north of the center of town. It stretched up beyond Highway 22 and looped west across Interstate 65, sweeping in recent housing developments, the brown-brick Concord Baptist Church and a new Wal-Mart. The narrow five-square-mile rectangle enlarged Voting District 2. It also radically changed the district’s racial mix. The expansion brought in hundreds of white voters, cutting the proportion of black registered voters to one-third from more than two-thirds. The city, which said it had to redraw its district map to account for a population increase and land annexations, contended the new boundaries would not discriminate against blacks. The U.S. Department of Justice was not persuaded. In a tersely worded, three-page letter emailed to the Calera city attorney on August 25, 2008, it voided the new map.