Illinois: GOP eyes voter rolls amid close Illinois campaign | Associated Press

In a sign of how close the contest for control of President Barack Obama’s home state is expected to be, Illinois Republicans are mounting what they call an unprecedented and costly campaign to have ineligible people purged from voter lists and recruit their own election judges before November. With their sights on unseating a Democratic governor and winning back several congressional seats, Republicans have allocated $1 million in Cook County alone — from fundraising and the Republican Governors Association — to examine voter rolls and recruit 5,000 GOP election judges to watch over polling places in Democrat-heavy Chicago. In two counties east of St. Louis, the party is examining obituaries to ensure the deceased are removed from the rolls and tracking down death certificates. They’re looking for addresses where utility service has been cut off to determine if registered voters have moved. And they’re checking to see whether people are voting from addresses for vacant lots or commercial properties. Similar efforts are planned for Cook County. State election officials say they also have noticed an uptick of GOP inquiries about voter registrations in at least two other counties in central Illinois.

North Carolina: State Asks Supreme Court to Intervene in Voting Rights Fight | TIME

Attorneys for North Carolina and voting rights groups battling it out over the state’s 2013 voting law will have yet another hurdle to clear before it becomes clear if that law will or will not be in effect come early November’s elections. Just days after the civil rights organizations challenging the law celebrated an appellate court decision to lessen its impact by allowing same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting during upcoming midterm elections, they now have until 5 p.m. ET Sunday to respond to the state’s request that the U.S. Supreme Court enjoin the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to block parts of the law. In a petition filed late Thursday, North Carolina attorneys say the lower court’s decision, set to be in effect during a statewide general election for the first time this November, “represents a massive and unprecedented last-minute change” before the state’s early voting period starts Oct. 23. “North Carolina is not prepared for the changes and will not have enough time to implement them in an orderly manner,” the petition reads.

North Carolina: 2 New Limits on Voting in North Carolina Are Rejected by U.S. Court | New York Times

A federal appeals court on Wednesday forced North Carolina officials to restore two provisions for ballot access that had been eliminated in a law passed by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature that civil rights groups said would disproportionately harm black voters. The 2-to-1 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit restores “same-day registration,” which allows North Carolina voters to register and cast ballots in single visits to locations for early voting. The ruling also sets aside another part of the law and directs the state to count provisional ballots that are filed outside of voters’ home precincts. The elimination of same-day registration and out-of-precinct provisional voting were two of the numerous restrictive changes enacted in the law, known as H.B. 589, that was signed by Gov. Pat McCrory in August 2013. The law was one of several passed recently in Republican-controlled statehouses on the grounds that they would protect the integrity of the electoral process or save money. But many Democrats see them as blatant efforts to suppress the turnout of minorities, young voters and others.

Editorials: Supreme Court could weaken voting rights — again | Zachary Roth/MSNBC

With four major voting rights cases currently before the courts, access to the ballot for the upcoming midterms hangs in the balance. But the stakes could be much higher still. If one of the cases winds up before the Supreme Court, as looks likely, it could give Chief Justice John Roberts and his conservative colleagues a chance to decisively weaken safeguards against race bias in voting. And with the Republican-controlled Congress unlikely to pass new voting protections, that could usher in a bleak new era for voting in America — half a century after the issue looked to have been put to rest. “I’m very worried that the Supreme Court will take a case on the merits, and write an opinion that drastically constricts the right to vote,” said Daniel Tokaji, an election law scholar at Ohio State University. “I think that is a very real danger, given the conservative composition of this court, which has shown itself to be no friend to voting rights.” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg this week named the Shelby County v. Holder ruling, which neutered the Voting Rights Act’s strongest provision, as one of the current court’s three worst. But Shelby  left open a key question: What kinds of voting restrictions is the post- version of the VRA strong enough to stop? Any of the four pending cases could give the court a chance to provide an answer.

North Carolina: 4th Circuit Court of Appeals hands NAACP partial victory on voter ID law | Associated Press

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a federal district court’s denial of a preliminary injunction on some parts of North Carolina’s controversial new voter ID law. The higher court will delay elimination of same-day registration and prohibition on counting out-of-precinct ballots. “The court’s order safeguards the vote for tens of thousands of North Carolinians. It means they will continue to be able to use same-day registration, just as they have during the last three federal elections,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, in a statement.

Click here to read the full opinion (.pdf)

Editorials: Voting Rights Victory in North Carolina | Ari Berman/The Nation

Last year, North Carolina passed the most sweeping voting restrictions since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Civil rights groups like the North Carolina NAACP and ACLU asked the courts for an injunction against three major parts of the law before the midterms—a reduction in early voting by a week, the elimination of same-day registration during the early voting period and a prohibition on counting ballots accidentally cast in the wrong precinct. In early August, District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder denied the injunction, saying the plaintiffs had not proven “irreparable harm.” Two of three judges on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overruled parts of Schroeder’s ruling today, reinstating same-day registration and the counting of out-of-precinct ballots for 2014. In not-so-good news for voting rights, the appeals court also upheld: “(i) the reduction of early-voting days; (ii) the expansion of allowable voter challengers; (iii) the elimination of the discretion of county boards of elections to keep the polls open an additional hour on Election Day in ‘extraordinary circumstances’; (iv) the elimination of pre-registration of sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds who will not be eighteen years old by the next general election; and (v) the soft roll-out of voter identification requirements to go into effect in 2016.”

Ohio: Supreme Court Blocks Order to Restore 7 Days of Voting in Ohio | New York Times

The Supreme Court on Monday blocked an appeals court ruling that would have restored seven days of early voting in Ohio. The Supreme Court’s order was three sentences long and contained no reasoning. But it disclosed an ideological split, with the court’s four more liberal members noting that they would have denied the request for a stay of the lower court’s order extending early voting. Dale Ho, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said the court’s action “will deprive many Ohioans of the opportunity to vote in the upcoming election as this case continues to make its way through the courts.” The ruling, which reflected a partisan breakdown in many court decisions nationwide on voting issues, saw the five Republican-appointed justices uphold the voting restrictions enacted by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature in February. The new limits removed the first week of Ohio’s 35-day early voting period, in the process eliminating the only week that permitted same-day registration, a feature most often used by minorities.

Ohio: Husted wants Supreme Court to back Ohio’s early voting cuts | MSNBC

Jon Husted, Ohio’s Republican secretary of state, is going to the mat to impose cuts to early voting, and he’s asking the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on his behalf. His office is framing its fight for the cuts – which already been found to discriminate against blacks and Hispanics – as a matter of “protecting states’ rights.” Late Thursday, Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine filed documents asking the nation’s highest court for an emergency stay to reverse a ruling by a federal appeals court panel on Wednesday. The decision earlier in the week upheld an injunction blocking the cuts from taking effect during this fall’s elections. Earlier on Thursday, Husted and DeWine filed a separate appeal for a rehearing of the case by the full appeals court. The cuts are being challenged by a coalition of civil and voting rights groups led by the ACLU. A full trial on the cuts is scheduled for next year.

Editorials: The GOP’s war on voter registration | Jamelle Bouie/Chicago Tribune

As holidays go, National Voter Registration Day is self-explanatory. Created in 2012 by the League of Women Voters, it’s a day in September when volunteers work to register voters and increase participation. In the last two years, the effort helped add 350,000 people to the voter rolls, and this year more than 2,000 groups have organized events to mark the occasion and repeat the success. In Atlanta, for example, the NAACP, the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, and the American Legal Advocacy Center of Georgia gathered at the State Capitol to host a mass registration event. Likewise, in Ohio, the state Democratic Party held registration events in Cincinnati and Columbus, by way of a statewide bus tour. And on a more national note, the Democratic National Committee issued a message in support of National Voter Registration Day. The Republican Party has not responded with similar enthusiasm.

North Carolina: Appeals court hears voter suppression case | Associated Press

A federal appeals court is hearing arguments in a case challenging a new North Carolina voting law that critics say will suppress minority voter turnout in November. The Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set Thursday for an expedited hearing in Charlotte. The court will consider whether the November elections can be held under the voting law approved by Republican lawmakers. In early August, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder denied a motion seeking to hold the November vote under old rules, saying the groups failed to show they would suffer “irreparable harm.” But lawyers for the North Carolina branch of the NACCP asked the appeals court to review Schroeder’s ruling.

National: 5 States Put Voting Reform to the Voters | Governing

American election reform, where states look to either impede or assist people’s ability to influence government with their vote. Ballots in at least five states — Connecticut, Montana, Missouri, Illinois and Arkansas — focus on some kind of election reform. Most states have made voting harder in the past decade by enacting voter ID laws, ostensibly to guard against voter impersonation, a problem that the public believes to be more widespread than the evidence suggests. For example, a five-year crackdown by the Justice Department under President George W. Bush resulted in only 86 people being found guilty of voter fraud across all 50 states, according to a 2007 investigation by The New York Times. In part because many of these voter ID laws have already passed, the majority of the legislative activity in 2014 actually focused on making voting more convenient. … Based on interviews with state and local election officials in states with early voting, the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School argues that early voting brings a host of benefits, including shorter lines and less administrative burden on election day. Nonetheless, eight states have cut back on early voting since 2010. One recent example is North Carolina, where the legislature decided to cut a week of early voting, eliminate same-day registration during early voting and reduce the hours of early voting on the final Saturday before election day.

Montana: State to Vote on Same-Day Voter Registration | Flathead Beacon

Montana voters will lie to rest a divisive issue this November when they fill out their General Election ballot – whether to continue allowing new voters to register on Election Day, as the state has allowed since 2006. The legislative referendum will appear on the ballot after heated legal debate. In February, the state Supreme Court ruled the issue could proceed when it denied a petition by voting-rights groups attempting to occlude the referendum from the ballot. The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the referendum in 2013, placing it on the 2014 ballot, though it was rewritten after opponents argued that language in the referendum’s ballot initiative was misleading. The language asserted that ending same-day registration was necessary to comply with federal law. If the referendum passes and same-day registration is rescinded, voter registration would end at 5 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day.

Editorials: America is a democracy. So why do we make it hard for certain people to vote? | Steven W Thrasher/The Guardian

Since I first registered to vote on my 18th birthday, I haven’t missed voting in a single election that I can remember. My feat has been nothing short of a pain in the ass, given that I have moved 14 times in the 19 years since. This week, I almost failed to vote for the first time: I had moved – again – in the gap between the board of elections deadline to change my address and the New York state primary election. I did try to update my voter registration online, but didn’t receive a confirmation. I was confused if I was eligible to vote where I now live, or at the last address where I had been registered. We don’t have same-day registration here in New York, so I steeled myself against the guilt and decided not to bother. But the guilt set in anyway: I saw on Facebook how many of my friends had voted; I felt the ghosts of my father, grandfather and great-grandfather prepare to raise up from the grave and beat my black behind for giving up so easily when they’d fought much harder challenges – like the Klan – to exercise their right to vote. So I went down to what should be my precinct (and will be, once the change of address takes effect). My name wasn’t on the rolls, but because I was already a registered voter, I was allowed to fill out a provisional ballot. It wasn’t an easy process to navigate, it took a lot of time, and my vote may not even be counted.

National: Voting rights cases may be headed back to Supreme Court | USA Today

The Supreme Court’s decision last year eliminating a barrier against voting procedure changes in mostly Southern states came with a caveat: Chief Justice John Roberts warned that the Voting Rights Act still included a “permanent, nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting.” Now federal courts from Texas to Wisconsin are on the verge of deciding whether Roberts was right — or if what remains of the 1965 law after the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling is less able to stop states from making it harder to vote. An appeals court hearing Friday in the Wisconsin case, following a two-week trial in a Texas district court, might point the way back to the Supreme Court. Cases in North Carolina and Ohio also could be headed that way. Those states and others have made voting more difficult in recent years to combat what they claim are instances of voter fraud. Texas imposed strict new photo identification rules hours after the Supreme Court ruling. North Carolina cut back on early voting, same-day registration and provisional balloting. They were among 15 states freed in whole or in part from Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires states with a history of discrimination to clear any changes with the Justice Department. The high court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder struck down the list of states dating back a half century.

North Carolina: ‘Monster’ election law disenfranchised more than 450 primary voters, report finds | Facing South

More than 450 North Carolina citizens whose votes would have counted in the 2012 election had their ballots rejected during this year’s primary due to election law changes made last year by the Republican-controlled legislature. Those disenfranchised were disproportionately African Americans and Democrats, lending support to claims that the new law is discriminatory. Those are among the findings of a new report by the voting rights watchdog group Democracy North Carolina, which analyzed provisional ballots cast in this year’s primary. The analysis focused on provisional ballots rejected due to two recent changes in state voting rules: one ending same-day registration and the other requiring election-day ballots to be cast in one’s own precinct. Bob Hall, the group’s executive director, interviewed a dozen of the affected voters to gather more details about what happened. “I was blown away, I have to say,” Hall said at a Sept. 10 press conference outside the state elections board, referring to what he heard from voters whose ballots were rejected.

Montana: AARP Joins Fight To Preserve Same-Day Voter Registration In Montana | MTPR

AARP has joined those fighting a Montana ballot measure that would end the practice of allowing voters to register on Election Day. The non-profit advocacy group for older Americans claims 37 million members nationwide. Its national board president was in Billings yesterday to advocate for easier voting access. Jeannine English doesn’t mince words when speaking against Legislative Referendum 126. “It’s a form of voter suppression.” She calls this ballot measure an out-of-state-crafted solution looking for a problem. English is from Sacramento, CA. She has expertise in election issues, including: campaign finance reform and government integrity. Earlier this year she was named the national president of AARP. She says it’s important for older Americans to be involved in the Democratic process. She’s worried measures like  LR-126 would limit the number of people who can vote.

North Carolina: Hundreds of Voters Are Disenfranchised by North Carolina’s New Voting Restrictions | The Nation

Craig Thomas of Granville County, North Carolina, registered to vote before he deployed to Afghanistan with the US Army. After serving abroad for eighteen months, he went to vote early in the state’s primary on April 30. He returned from Afghanistan to the same house, in the same precinct, but was told at the polls that there was “no record of registration” for him. In the past, Thomas could’ve re-registered during the early voting period and cast a regular ballot under the state’s same-day registration system. But same-day registration was one of the key electoral reforms eliminated by the North Carolina legislature last year when it passed the nation’s most onerous package of voting restrictions. In 2014, Thomas had to cast a provisional ballot, which was not counted. After fighting abroad, he was disenfranchised at home. Thomas was one of 454 North Carolina voters who would have had their ballots counted in 2012 but did not have them counted in the 2014 primary because of North Carolina’s elimination of same-day registration and prohibition on counting a provisional ballot cast in the wrong precinct, according to a new review by Democracy NC. (North Carolina also cut early voting by a week and mandated a strict voter ID law for 2016, among other things.)

North Carolina: Federal appeals court to weigh in on voter laws before November elections | News Observer

The NAACP and others challenging the sweeping changes to North Carolina election laws in 2013 will have an opportunity to make arguments to a federal appeals court that the November elections should be held under old laws. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set Sept. 25 as the date for oral arguments on the pros and cons of an emergency appeal filed in late August by the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, registered Democrats in North Carolina and others. The hearing will be in Charlotte, according to documents filed in federal court Tuesday. Nearly a month ago, U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder rejected a similar request from the organizations and Democrats challenging the election law overhaul. Schroeder ruled the challengers had failed to make the case that voters would suffer “irreparable damages” if elections were held under the 2013 rules.

Editorials: Why the GOP is so obsessed with voter fraud | Salon

It is rare for a politician to publicly deride efforts to boost voter turnout. It is seen as a taboo in a country that prides itself on its democratic ideals. Yet, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie last week slammed efforts to simplify voter registration. Referring to Illinois joining other states — including many Republican-led ones — in passing a same-day voter registration law, Christie said: “Same-day registration all of a sudden this year comes to Illinois. Shocking. It’s shocking. I’m sure it was all based on public policy, good public policy to get same-day registration here in Illinois just this year, when the governor is in the toilet and needs as much help as he can get.” Christie was campaigning for Illinois GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, who is challenging Democratic incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn, who signed the same-day registration bill into law in July. Christie, who chairs the Republican Governors Association, denounced the effort to boost voter turnout as an underhanded Democratic tactic, despite the Illinois State Board of Elections being composed equally of Democrats and Republicans. Referring to the same-day voter initiative, Christie said Quinn “will try every trick in the book,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Christie said the program is designed to be a major “obstacle” for the GOP’s gubernatorial candidates. The trouble with such rhetoric – beyond its anti-democratic themes — is its absurd assertions about partisan motives. After all, many of the 11 states with same-day registration laws currently have Republican governors.

Illinois: Christie Slams Effort To Boost Voter Turnout For 2014 Election As Democratic ‘Trick’ | International Business Times

During a campaign stop in Illinois on Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie decried efforts to simplify voter registration. He suggested that the higher voter turnout produced by such efforts is harmful to Republican candidates, and that Illinois’ new same-day voter registration statute is a Democratic “trick.” Referring to Illinois joining other states — including many Republican-led ones — in passing a same-day voter registration law, Christie said: “Same-day registration all of a sudden this year comes to Illinois. Shocking. It’s shocking. I’m sure it was all based on public policy, good public policy to get same-day registration here in Illinois just this year, when the governor is in the toilet and needs as much help as he can get.” … Christie, who chairs the Republican Governors Association, denounced the effort to boost voter turnout as an underhanded Democratic tactic. (The Illinois State Board of Elections is composed equally of Democrats and Republicans, according to the Chicago Tribune.) Referring to the same-day voter initiative, Christie said Quinn “will try every trick in the book,”  according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Christie said the program is designed to be a major “obstacle” for the GOP’s gubernatorial candidates. In fact, most of the 11 states with same-day registration laws currently have Republican governors.

North Carolina: NAACP appeals federal judge’s ruling to let 2014 elections proceed under new voting rules | News Observer

The NAACP has appealed a federal judge’s decision to allow elections to proceed under the sweeping changes made to North Carolina voting laws in 2013. U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder rejected a request earlier this month by the NAACP and other challengers of the 2013 overhaul to hold the November elections under old election laws instead of the ones at the heart of the lawsuit scheduled for trial in July 2015. The NAACP, the League of Women Voters, registered Democrats in North Carolina and others contend that voters will suffer “irreparable damages” if any elections scheduled before the hearing of the lawsuit are held under the laws adopted by the Republican-led General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory last summer.  “If one person’s right to vote is denied or abridged this election, this democracy suffers,” the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, said in a prepared statement. “While restoring the rights of North Carolina voters and renewing the integrity of democracy in our state will require a long legal fight, we must start now by doing everything we can to block this law for the November election.”

Montana: McCulloch supports same-day voter registration | Ravalli Republic

Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch was in Hamilton Thursday, talking about the state’s controversial same-day voter registration, what she sees as the biggest challenges facing Montana election officials and the Democratic Party’s selection of a new candidate for U.S. Senate. If it passes in November, initiative LR126 will eliminate same-day voter registration, a move McCulloch opposes as the state’s top elections administrator. “Since 2006, 29,000 Montana voters have used same-day voter registration,” said McCulloch. “Most of those are people who moved across the state or moved across the city and they are getting their kids in school, they are getting their house set up and they are getting into new jobs and the last thing they think about – because they don’t have to – is registering to vote in their new place. They can do that on Election Day.

North Carolina: Court Rules Voting Rights Rollback to Stay In Place Until After Midterm Elections | The Atlantic

A federal judge has temporarily authorized North Carolina to implement a sweeping new law that threatens to reduce access to the polls, particularly for African-American, Latino, and young voters. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder, a George W. Bush appointee, is an early test of the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision, which overturned key parts of the Voting Rights Act. In 2000, North Carolina started rolling out efforts to make it easier to register and vote, only to yank those efforts back thirteen years later. When the state legislature was controlled by Democrats, it authorized counties to conduct up to seventeen days of early voting, including Sunday voting, which enabled black churches to transport parishioners to the polls. It also allowed citizens to register and vote on the same day. Sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds could preregister, often at their high schools, ensuring they’d be on the rolls when they turned eighteen. And voters who showed up at the wrong precinct could still cast ballots in certain races. From 1996 to 2012, the state’s ranking in turnout among voter-eligible adults shot up from 43rd to 11th, according to the United States Elections Project at George Mason University. African-American participation pulled even with white participation.

Editorials: Where Voting Is Now Easier | New York Times

At a time when many states are making it harder to vote, 16 states have provided some good news over the last year by deciding to go in the opposite direction. In various ways, they have expanded access to the polls, allowing more people to register or to vote more conveniently. The list, compiled by the Brennan Center for Justice, includes these states:
• Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Virginia and West Virginia. They created online registration systems, a big improvement over unreliable and inconvenient paper systems.
• Colorado and Louisiana. They will allow 16- and 17-year-olds to preregister when they apply for a driver’s license. Colorado also added Election Day registration, and it is encouraging mail-in voting without an absentee excuse.
• Maryland. It will allow same-day registration during early voting, which was expanded from six to eight days.
• Delaware. It will allow most felons to vote immediately after completing their sentences.

Editorials: There’s No Good Argument For Voting Restrictions | Seth Michaels/TPM

In last week’s Kansas primaries, officials turned away a 97-year-old woman named Beth Hiller at the polling place. The reason? She didn’t have an ID with her. Thanks to a recent state law, Hiller had to get back on the shuttle and head back to her nursing home without getting to exercise her most basic right. In theory, conservatives are supposed to oppose laws that don’t solve a problem and have unintended consequences. But voter ID is the clearest example we have of a law that helps nobody and hurts lots of people — yet these laws have been a major priority for Republican legislators across the country. A report from the Brennan Center identifies 22 states, including Kansas, that have implemented new voting restrictions since the Republican wave of 2010. Take North Carolina, where unified Republican control was followed almost immediately by a sweeping set of changes restricting access to the polls. For no good reason, North Carolina cut out a week worth of early-voting days, ended same-day registration, and put a strict voter ID requirement in place, among other changes.

North Carolina: After loss in court, voting rights activists turn attention to mobilizing in the streets | Facing South

Following a federal judge’s decision last week to deny a request by the U.S. Department of Justice and civil rights groups to block North Carolina’s restrictive new voting law from being enforced during this November’s election, voting rights activists are turning their attention from the ongoing legal battle in the courtroom to organizing voters to turn out despite the new rules. “We will not falter in our efforts to mobilize until this extreme law is completely repealed,” said Rev. William Barber of the N.C. NAACP, one of the civil rights groups that sought the injunction. “Our movement against this voter suppression law is built on the legacy of those who have testified before us, with their feet and blood, to fight for equal rights in North Carolina and the nation.” On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas D. Schroeder declined to issue a preliminary injunction that would have prevented restrictive provisions in the voting law passed last year by the Republican-controlled North Carolina legislature and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory (R) from taking effect during this year’s general election. Those provisions include a shorter early voting period and an end to same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting and straight-party voting.

North Carolina: Voting suits continue despite ruling | Associated Press

Civil rights activists opposed to North Carolina’s dramatic voting law changes will use the ballot box and the courts to try to overturn them after a judge refused to block them from being used, attorneys for the state NAACP said Monday. A U.S. District Court judge declined late last week to prevent continued implementation of several provisions being challenged in court by advocacy groups, voters and the federal government. But Judge Thomas Schroeder allowed a trial on the constitutionality of those provisions to continue as planned next July, rejecting requests of the state to throw out the three lawsuits. The provisions, already used in the May primary, eliminated same-day registration during early voting, reduced the early-voting period by a week and eliminated the counting of ballots cast on election day outside of a person’s home precinct. Voters also are being told at the polls to prepare for a photo identification requirement in 2016. Political parties also can send in more observers to monitor voting.

Montana: Speaker: Compulsory voting boosts turnout, but not likely in U.S. | Billings Gazette

Increasing voter participation rates may be as simple as fining eligible voters for not showing up at the polls. It worked in Belgium, and it’s working in Australia. Peter Miller, a 2002 graduate of Billings Senior High School who’s now a John Templeton Foundation post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, told the League of Women Voters of Billings Thursday that compulsory voting is “a proven way to increase turnout,” but noted it has very little chance of becoming law in the U.S. According to its website, the Templeton Foundation supports research on subjects ranging from complexity and evolution to creativity, forgiveness, love and free well. The foundation encourages civil, informed dialogue among scientists, philosophers and theologians. Every Election Day, Australian voters are almost all in — and if they don’t vote, they pay a $50 fine, Miller said. During the last national election, 93 percent of eligible Australians voted. By comparison, 57 percent of Americans cast their ballot in 2012.

Editorials: Eric Holder goes to the mat for voting rights | Zachary Roth/MSNBC

The Obama administration’s interventions last week in two major voting rights cases gave a big boost to efforts to challenge restrictive voting laws in two crucial swing states. But they did something else, too: They offered more evidence that Attorney General Eric Holder is determined to match his tough talk about the need to protect voting with action. Indeed, when Holder steps down as the nation’s top law enforcement officer—which could happen as soon as this year—his commitment to ensuring access to the ballot for all eligible Americans could stand out as his most important achievement. In his rhetoric, Holder has left little doubt that he sees the issue of voting rights as a defining moral question for the country, raising the topic again and again in speeches and interviews over the last few years . “This comes down, in some ways, to a fundamental question of who we are—who we are as a people,” he told The New Yorker for a profile published in February. “The history of this nation has always been to try to expand the franchise. Whether it’s freed slaves, women, young people, we’ve always found ways to make it easier to vote…To turn our backs on that history is inconsistent with who we say we are as a nation.”  And for a man with a reputation as a cautious and soft-spoken bureaucrat, he’s often used surprisingly pointed language to call out Republicans for making voting harder.

National: Justice Department backs challenges to voting laws in Ohio and Wisconsin | The Washington Post

The Justice Department on Wednesday supported legal challenges to voting laws in Ohio and Wisconsin as part of the Obama administration’s ongoing effort to challenge state legislation it believes unfairly affects the ability of minority voters to cast ballots. In Wisconsin, the department filed an amicus brief supporting a ruling by a federal judge that struck down a law that requires voters to show photo identification at the polls. In Ohio, Justice officials filed a “statement of interest” in a challenge by a civil rights group to a state law curtailing early voting and same-day registration. “These filings are necessary to confront the pernicious measures in Wisconsin and Ohio that would impose significant barriers to the most basic right of our democracy,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a statement. “These two states’ voting laws represent the latest, misguided attempts to fix a system that isn’t broken. These restrictive state laws threaten access to the ballot box.”