The Supreme Court has decided to take up Texas’ redistricting plan on an expedited briefing and argument schedule. Even though it’s not directly a case involving preclearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, functionally the Court’s decision will likely have significant implications for Section 5. While it’s never easy to predict what the Court might do, as I explain below, I think that ultimately the Court will find a way to continue down its recent path of decisions limiting the procedural protections afforded to minority voters by Section 5.
Boiled down to the essentials, the facts of the Texas case are relatively simple. Texas is a jurisdiction covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. So in order to implement any redistricting plan, Texas needs to go through the process of securing preclearance (or pre-approval) from the federal government—either from the Department of Justice (DOJ) or from a three-judge panel of the D.C. District Court where DOJ serves as defendant. DOJ had some issues with the substance of Texas’ congressional and State House plans, alleging that the plans were discriminatory in effect and purpose in their treatment of Latino voters. Texas sought preclearance of its plans by moving for summary judgment, but the D.C. District Court decided that DOJ had created material issues of fact that necessitated a trial. Read More
Americans Elect, an organization trying to draft a nonpartisan presidential ticket through online voting, has achieved what it called a “major milestone” in its effort, securing access to the ballot in California, the group announced today.
After collecting a record-breaking 1.62 million signatures, Americans Elect announced its nominee will be on the ballot in California, making the largest state in the nation’s 55 electoral votes up for grabs for an independent presidential candidate in 2012. “It’s a huge hurdle,” said Americans Elect Spokeswoman Ileana Wachtel. “It is probably the hardest state to get access in. Once California is accomplished I think anything could be accomplished. Any state is doable.”
Americans Elect now has a spot on the ballot in 12 states. It joins six other parties on the California ballot including, of course, Republicans and Democrats but also the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, the American Independent Party and the Peace and Freedom Party. Read More
A report released earlier this month by the NAACP found that Florida is among the states with the “most restrictive” felon disenfranchisement “laws in the country” — one of many aspects of the state’s voting practices that will limit voter participation among minorities, according to the group.
The subject of voting rights in the U.S. has received renewed attention since sweeping changes to voting laws were passed in states across the country. Voting rights advocates in Florida have largely focused on new limitations on third-party voter registration, early voting days and ballot measure signatures. Little scrutiny, however, has been given to a rollback of voting rights for ex-offenders, also referred to as returning citizens.
According to the NAACP report (.pdf), Florida is one of only four states in the country that “denies the right to vote permanently to all individuals convicted of any felony offense.” Read More
With two weeks remaining before Iowa kicks off the 2012 campaign with its first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses, the state Republican Party is taking steps to secure its electronic vote collection system after receiving a mysterious threat to its computers.
A video claiming to be from a collective of computer hackers has jolted party officials with a worst-case scenario: an Iowa caucus marred by hackers who successfully corrupt the database used to gather vote totals and crash the website used to inform the public about results that can shape the campaign for the White House.
While confident in the safeguards protecting the vote count itself, and aware the video may be a hoax, members of the state Republican Party’s central committee told The Associated Press they are taking the threat seriously and have authorized additional security measures to ensure hackers are unable to delay the release of results. Read More
The chief of Burma’s Election Commission (EC) said in a press conference on Friday that upcoming parliamentary by-election will be free and fair and the country’s existing political parties can now start their election campaigns. During the by-election, expected to be held in March, the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development party (USDP), opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) and Burma’s other political parties will compete for 48 vacant parliamentary seats.
Ex-army general Tin Aye, the EC chairman, vowed during the press conference in Naypyidaw on Friday that the by-election will be held in a free and fair manner and that the EC will be independent and not submit to any outside influence. If his prediction comes to fruition, it would stand in contrast to the 2010 parliamentary elections, Burma’s first in 20 years, which the NLD boycotted and observers condemned as widely fraudulent. Read More
Candidates can start campaigning freely now for the by-election, Union Election Commission (UEC) chairman Tin Aye said on Friday. The date of the election has not been set, but it is expected to be about 90 days after the start of campaigning.
A total of 48 seats at the union or regional level are open. Political parties are free to campaign without informing the EC of their plans, according to sources. There are some constituencies in which there may be no election due to fighting in ethnic areas.
EC chairman Tin Aye said this election would be free and fair. The commission will spend 700 million kyat (US$ 897,436) in comparison to nearly 1,100 million kyat (US$ 1.41 million) for the 2010 election, according to the EU announcement. UEC member Myint Oo said an education campaign would begin on the procedure for absentee ballots and the regular voting process. Read More
Congo’s top opposition figure has urged the armed forces to obey him after losing elections he says were fraudulent. Etienne Tshisekedi said on Sunday he would offer a “great prize” to anyone who captured President Joseph Kabila.
A close aide to Kabila dismissed Tshisekedi’s comments as showmanship and said the opposition leader had made similar calls against former President Mobutu Sese Seko that had been ignored by the people. However, the veteran politician’s comments do threaten to escalate a row over the results of a November 28 presidential contest, which international observers say lacked credibility.
“I call on all of you to look for [Kabila] wherever he is in the country and bring him here alive,” Tshisekedi said in his first news conference since official figures showed he was soundly beaten by Kabila. “If you bring Kabila here to me you’ll receive a great prize,” he said, urging the armed forces to obey the country’s “legitimate authority”. Read More
Islamists and liberals accused election officials Thursday of filling out ballot forms for elderly or confused voters at some polling stations during the second round of parliamentary elections. If confirmed as a pattern, the reports could chip away at the credibility of what has so far been the freest and fairest vote in Egypt’s modern history.
Under Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year regime, elections were systemically rigged and the corruption was a major impetus behind the popular uprising that ousted the authoritarian leader in February. But as the polls closed, it was still unclear how widespread the problems were. Read More
Labour is weighing up legal advice over a challenge in the Waitakere electorate, after it emerged National Cabinet minister Paula Bennett could be tossed out of Parliament if Labour won an electoral petition.
With the Waitakere result hanging on just nine votes, the Electoral Commission has confirmed there are no guarantees that any candidate who loses their seat as the result of an electoral petition would automatically be returned to Parliament off the party list. But it acknowledges that the outcome is far from certain and the courts could take different views. Read More
The exact number of protesters present is unknown; estimates for the Moscow protest vary from twenty thousand to one hundred thousand, and rallies on a more minor scale also took place in other Russian cities—including Saint Petersburg. Voice of America (VoA) reported the demonstrations as the largest pro-democracy protests since Vladimir Putin came to power eleven years ago. Other reports describe the demonstrations as the greatest since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Police estimated that ten thousand people were present at demonstrations in St. Petersburg. Corruption and a rejection of Putin were the most commonly-cited grievances from questioned protesters.
Opposition leader Evgenia Chirikova told VoA the protests were in favour of fresh elections, and the release of political prisoners. During the demonstrations, protesters chanted “[p]olice, part of the people” at the riot police. Echo of Moscow host Alexei Venediktov described the protesters as “the new generation, the Putin generation”. These people “voted, had their votes stolen, and now they want a fair system”, said Venediktov.
Konstantin Kosachyov, a United Russia parliamentarian, dismissed the concept of discussions with the protest organisers. “With all respect for the people who came out to protest, they are not a political party,” he stated. Student Daniil Klubov, a leader of the St. Petersburg rally, told the BBC that he does not “belong to any political movement” and is “just a student who is tired of all these lies”. Read More