The Justice Department on Friday blocked a new South Carolina law that would require voters to present photo identification, saying the law would disproportionately suppress turnout among eligible minority voters.
The move was the first time since 1994 that the department has exercised its powers under the Voting Rights Act to block a voter identification law. It followed a speech this month by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. that signaled an aggressive stance in reviewing a wave of new state voting restrictions, largely enacted by Republicans in the name of fighting fraud.
In a letter to the South Carolina government, Thomas E. Perez, the assistant attorney for civil rights, said that allowing the new requirement to go into effect would have “significant racial disparities.” Read More
The federal agency responsible for inspecting voting equipment said Thursday that a ballot scanner used in several key battleground states can freeze up without warning, fail to log errors and misread ballots.
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission said the ballot reader, made by Omaha-based ES&S, is not in compliance with federal standards. And while it’s the first time the 8-year-old agency has taken such a step, it falls just short of decertification — a move that could force election officials to abandon the machines on the eve of the 2012 presidential primaries.
The DS200 optical-scan system is designed to read paper ballots fed into the machines by voters themselves at their precincts. It’s used in all or part of Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, New York and Wisconsin. Read More
As Colorado shapes up to be a swing state during the 2012 General Election, suggested changes to Secretary of State (SOS) rules governing election integrity and transparency could further endanger Coloradoans’ rights to an anonymous ballot and honest elections.
Those hoping for a fair election outcome in a crucial race for the White House will instead probably face relaxed security precautions for already compromised electronic voting devices. They also could be faced with a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) blackout that would deny access to key election documents for nearly 90 days during the election cycle.
The CORA block would prevent poll watchers, media, and ordinary citizens from examining ballots, and would delay and restrict examination of logs, poll books, and other essential election information in the event of a disputed election. This even after Colorado Sec. of State Scott Gessler won a lawsuit in August 2011 against Saguache County Clerk Melinda Myers, with District Judge Martin Gonzales ruling that ballots are public records and Gessler as well as ordinary citizens have a right to request and inspect them. Read More
For many keeping a close eye on Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White’s legal battle for his political life, their interest is not so much about White as the office — and who will replace him if he is removed from office. On Thursday, a Marion County judge overturned an Indiana Recount Commission decision and ruled that White, who was elected in November 2010, was not legally registered to vote. Thus, the judge said, he did not meet the requirements to be on the ballot, and the second-place finisher should take his place.
An attorney for White filed in Marion County for an emergency stay of that ruling, and a judge has frozen the case until a Jan. 3 hearing on whether to grant that stay. Meanwhile, in five weeks, a Hamilton County jury is scheduled to decide a criminal case against White. Prosecutors have filed seven felony charges, including voter fraud, against him. If he is convicted of any of them, he would be removed from office.
But there is a key difference between the two procedures: If he wasn’t qualified for the ballot, a Democrat would take his place; if he is ejected from office because of a felony conviction, Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels would choose his replacement. Read More
Scanners Cuyahoga County has used to tally election results since 2008 are defective, missing some votes, freezing up inexplicably and failing to log problems, according to a federal government agency. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission released its findings this week, after a 20-month investigation spurred by an April 2010 Plain Dealer story. The paper reported a tenth of the machines arbitrarily powered down and locked up, failing certification tests required by federal law.
The manufacturer, Omaha-Neb.-based Elections Systems & Software Inc., tried to fix the problems this year, but the upgrade actually created more problems, according to the report. If the company can’t correct the flaw, the government could decertify the machines — leaving Cuyahoga and jurisdictions without the country no way to conduct elections in a presidential year. Read More
A federal judge in Washington has rejected a lawsuit filed by a conservative North Carolina legislator seeking to overturn a key section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Rep. Stephen A. LaRoque, a Republican, and four other Kinston men filed a lawsuit last year claiming that Section 5 of the landmark civil rights law is unconstitutional. The section requires jurisdictions with a past history of racial discrimination to seek pre-approval from the U.S. Justice Department before making changes in voting procedures. Read More
The Justice Department on Friday entered the divisive national debate over new state voting laws, rejecting South Carolina’s measure requiring photo-identification at the polls as discriminatory against minority voters.
The decision by Justice’s Civil Rights Division could heighten political tensions over the new laws, which critics say could depress turnout among minorities and others who helped elect President Obama in 2008. A dozen states this year passed laws requiring voters to present state-issued photo identification, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Although Democratic governors vetoed four of the measures, liberal and civil rights groups have raised alarms about the remaining laws. Opponents of the laws say they would discriminate against minorities and others, such as low-income voters, because some don’t have the necessary photo identification and lack the means to easily obtain ID cards. Conservatives and other supporters of the tighter laws say they are needed to combat voter fraud. Read More
The U.S. Department of Justice will block the voter ID provisions of an election law passed in South Carolina earlier this year because the state’s own statistics demonstrated that the photo identification requirement would have a much greater impact on non-white residents, DOJ said in a letter to the state on Friday. The decision places the federal government squarely in opposition to the types of voter ID requirements that have swept through mostly Republican-controlled state legislatures.
Officials in DOJ’s Civil Rights Division found a significant racial disparity in the data provided by South Carolina, which must have changes to its election laws precleared under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, because of past history of discrimination. The data demonstrated that registered non-white voters were 20 percent more likely than white voters to lack the specific type of photo identification required to exercise their constitutional rights, according to a letter sent to South Carolina and obtained by TPM.
“Put differently, although non-white voters comprised 30.4% of the state’s registered voters, they constituted 34.2% of registered voters who did not have the requisite DMV-issued identification to vote,” Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez, who heads the Civil Rights Division, wrote in the letter to South Carolina. “Non-white voters were therefore disproportionally represented, to a significant degree, in the group of registered voters who, under the proposed law, would be rendered ineligible to go to the polls and participate in the election.” Read More
Comedian Stephen Colbert is offering to pay half a million dollars to help subsidize South Carolina’s first-in-the-South GOP presidential primary, as state officials struggle to pay for it, but there’s doubt whether it would even be legal.
The Charleston native wrote in an op-ed Thursday in The State newspaper in Columbia that Colbert Super PAC — a type of political action committee that allows him to raise unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions and individuals — will bridge the gap after state Republicans refused to contribute anything above $180,000 collected in candidates’ filing fees.
The state Election Commission, which administers South Carolina’s voting, has said it has $1 million on hand for the primary but is short of the total $1.5 million price tag. Spokesman Chris Whitmire says the Commission has notified budget officials the state may need to seek permission to run a deficit to fund the primary. Read More
One woman who has been voting for more than eight decades in this state was told this week she may no longer be eligible to vote. She’s worked for years at the Tennessee State Capitol and has her old state ID, but that’s not good enough under the new voter ID law.
Thelma Mitchell cleaned this governor’s office for his entire term. She has been a fixture at the State Capitol for more than 30 years, yet this year she was told “you’re no longer allowed to vote.”
“I ain’t missed a governor’s election since (Frank) Clement got to be the governor,” said Mitchell. The 93-year-old Mitchell voted for the first time in 1931, soon after women gained the right to vote in the United States. “It meant a lot to me,” said Mitchell. Read More
Four Republican presidential candidates – Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Ron Paul — submitted paper work in time to qualify for Virginia’s March 6 primary ballot.
No other GOP contender will be on the Virginia ballot. Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Sen. Rick Santorum and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman did not submit signatures with Virginia’s State Board of Elections by today’s 5 p.m. deadline. Those who submitted the required signatures must clear another hurdle. The Republican Party of Virginia has until Tuesday to certify which candidates qualify. Read More
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has failed to qualify for Virginia’s March 6 Republican presidential primary, according to the Republican Party of Virginia. Volunteers at state GOP headquarters are continuing to assess whether former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has amassed the required 10,000 signatures of registered voters.
Earlier today the state GOP certified that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul will be on the ballot for the state’s Republican primary. Read More
Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi formally registered her party Friday for any upcoming elections, returning the Nobel laureate to the political arena and winning plaudits from her political rivals in Myanmar’s military-dominated parliament.
Suu Kyi decided last month to formally rejoin politics after recent reforms by the nominally civilian administration that took power this year. Suu Kyi, National League for Democracy leader Tin Oo and other party members registered the party at the Union Election Commission in the capital, Naypyitaw.
The party boycotted last year’s general elections because of restrictive rules that among other things prevented Suu Kyi from being a candidate. The government has since lifted many of those restrictions. The government had taken the NLD off the list of legally recognized political parties because of the boycott. Read More
The State Election Commission (SEC) has issued an order banning the use of animals by political parties during election campaigns. In a letter to all political parties, the SEC said donkeys, bulls, elephants and cows cannot be used for politics. Often donkey with blackened face are paraded on streets to highlight the failure of the government or portrayed as rivals.
“The political parties found misusing the animals to highlight any issues during the local bodies elections will be dealt firmly. The candidates have no business to inflict atrocities against animals to highlight the public cause. The politicians have been urged to show restrain in abusing each other taking animal names. Several instances of politicians calling each other donkeys or dogs have been brought to the election commission’s notice,” state election commissioner Neela Satyanarayan said on Friday. Read More