National: Holder to wade into debate over voting rights | The Washington Post

The Obama administration on Tuesday will wade into the increasingly divisive national debate over new voting laws in several states that could depress turnout among minorities and others who helped elect the president in 2008.

A dozen states this year tightened rules requiring voters to present state-issued photo identification at the polls, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Although Democratic governors vetoed four of the measures, liberal and civil rights groups have been raising alarms about the remaining laws, calling them an “assault on democracy” and an attempt to depress minority voter turnout. Supporters of the tighter laws say they are needed to combat voter fraud.

With the presidential campaign heating up, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. will deliver a speech Tuesday expressing concerns about the voter-identification laws, along with a Texas redistricting plan before the Supreme Court that fails to take into account the state’s burgeoning Hispanic population, he said in an interview Monday.

National: Democrats Fret About Stricter Voter ID Laws | Roll Call

Congressional Democrats are warning that stricter voter identification laws sweeping through state legislatures could suppress voters in the 2012 elections. At least 34 states have introduced legislation, with varying degrees of restrictiveness, that would require voters to display identification at the polls before they are given a ballot. Some of these laws require voters to produce photo identification; some do not.

The battleground state of Wisconsin has a new law requiring photo IDs, while proposals at various legislative stages in the perennial presidential swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania are also giving Democrats heartburn. The more restrictive voting ID measure in Ohio is pending Senate floor consideration. A bill to introduce ID rules for the first time in Pennsylvania has passed the state House and is currently in a state Senate committee. Democratic National Committee spokesman Alec Gerlach said Ohio is “one of the states where this has been a big concern.”

Editorials: Railroad Blues – redistricting season is upon us again | Jonathan Rodden and Jowei Chen/Boston Review

Redistricting season is upon us again. Politicians and interest groups are pouring over proposed and finalized maps, and pundits are trying to keep score. How many seats will the Democrats pick up in California? How many will they lose in Missouri?

More important than score-keeping, however, is whether the composition of the legislature reflects the partisanship of the electorate. Will a party that wins 50 percent of the votes get 50 percent of the seats? In most states the answer is no. Republicans can expect a sizable advantage, and not because of gerrymandering.

Editorials: GOP push vs. voter fraud based in rumor, not reality | Chicago Sun-Times

This summer, Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted did something remarkable: He spoke out against his own party’s legislative proposal requiring voters to present photo IDs at polling places. Husted said he would “rather have no bill than one with a rigid photo identification provision that does little to protect against fraud and excludes legally registered voters’ ballots from counting.”

Husted’s position is a stark contrast to a national Republican drive to pass voter ID requirements. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 38 states considered some type of voter ID and/or citizenship requirement in their last legislative session. Seven passed them, bringing the total with such laws to 15.

National: Republicans rewriting state election laws in ways that could hurt Democrats | The Washington Post

Looking to capitalize on their historic gains last year, Republican lawmakers in several states are rewriting their election laws in ways that could make it more difficult for Democrats to win.

They have curbed early voting, rolled back voting rights for ex-felons and passed stricter voter ID laws. Taken together, the measures could have a significant and negative effect on President Obama’s reelection efforts if they keep young people and minorities away from the polls. As the primary season kicks into gear, Republican presidential hopefuls are hitting the road and meeting voters in Iowa , New Hampshire and other early primary states.

“It all hits at the groups that had higher turnout and higher registration in 2008,” said Judith Browne-Dianis, a civil rights lawyer who co-directs the Advancement Project, which has been tracking the new regulations.

Voting Blogs: Mahoning County’s Voting Machine Switch and the Growing Buyer’s Market in Voting Technology | PEEA

Mahoning County, OH (Youngstown) recently announced that it will be switching to optical scan voting machines for the November 2012 general election. The decision means County voters will no longer rely on touchscreen machines as the primary method of casting ballots, as they have since they were purchased in 2002.

The Mahoning story is a perfect example how the market for voting technology has changed in the years since passage of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), enacted by Congress in 2002 in response to the controversial 2000 Presidential election.

HAVA authorized almost $4 billion in federal funds for election improvements at the state and local level – much of which were earmarked for voting machine upgrades. Those funds – and the various mandates included in HAVA – made election offices motivated buyers and created a huge sellers’ market as vendors rushed to help states and localities spend their newfound dollars. In this environment Mahoning County’s $2.95 million purchase of 1100 touchscreen machines was typical.

Voting Blogs: Cuyahoga Dispute Raises Question: Who’s in Charge of Elections? | PEEA

A fascinating battle is shaping up in Cuyahoga County, OH where County Executive Ed FitzGerald is preparing to ask the County Board to defy a recent directive by Secretary of State Jon Husted prohibiting county election offices from mailing out unsolicited absentee ballot applications to voters by having the County use non-election funds to do so.

The substantive issues in this dispute are important – especially given the growing number of voters in Ohio who cast their ballots outside of a traditional polling place – but just as interesting is the tug of war developing between Husted (a Republican) and FitzGerald (a Democrat) about ultimate control over election policy in Cuyahoga County, which is home to the city of Cleveland and its suburbs.

What’s at stake in the Cuyahoga dispute is nothing less than who will have ultimate control of local election policy in Ohio – and maybe elsewhere.