Two cases challenging the pre-clearance provisions in Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act have reached the US Supreme Court. The Military Voters Protection Project released a report on efforts made by the States to assist overseas and military voters. GOP opposition prevented Democratic Senators from reviving the DISCLOSE Act. Former Republican Florida Attorney General and Governor and Independent Senate candidate Charlie Crist wrote an editorial on Voter ID for the Washington Post while the battle over current Governor Rick Scott’s voter purge continued. The Minnesota Supreme Court heard arguments over a proposed State constitutional amendment requiring Voter ID. The National Journal considered the inclusion of an option for “none of the above” on Nevada ballots. An investigation revealed claims of election fraud in the Wisconsin Senate recall and recount to be baseless and the Republic of Congo went to the polls to elect a new parliament amid accusations of fraud and vote rigging.
- National: Voting Rights Act Section 5 challenges reach Supreme Court | SCOTUSblog
- National: States praised, others faulted, for policies toward military voters | KansasCity.com
- National: Senate Republicans block Democratic bill to require disclosure of large political donors | The Washington Post
- Editorials: The voter ID mess subverts an American birthright | Charlie Crist/The Washington Post
- Florida: Voter purge fight isn’t over | The Washington Post
- Minnesota: State Supreme Court vigorously questions Photo ID supporters and opponents — but doesn’t tip hand | MinnPost
- Nevada: In Nevada, ‘None’ a Fearsome Foe for the GOP | NationalJournal.com
- Wisconsin: Wisconsin election reports reveal complainants’ violations, find no fraud | Journal Times
- Congo: Republic of Congo holds parliamentary polls | Al Jazeera
Attorneys for challengers to the constitutionality of the 1965 voting rights law’s key provision for federal regulation of state and local election laws urged the Supreme Court on Friday to settle the issue in the next Term, starting October 1. One new case arrived from the town of Kinston in North Carolina and a second came from Shelby County in Alabama. The D.C. Circuit Court has upheld the provision at issue — Section 5 — although the Supreme Court itself three years ago raised significant questions about its validity. The Kinston case reached the Court this morning. The petition is here, and the appendix (a large file) is here. The Shelby County case was filed in early afternoon; the petition ishere, and the D.C. Circuit Court ruling in that case is here. Not only has the time come to examine the constitutional questions the Court has raised, the Kinston petition argued, but the Justice Department’s “overzealous manner” of enforcement of Section 5 has put heavy new burdens on state and local governments covered by that provision. The Shelby County petition argued that the renewed law puts states into “federal receivership,” raising “fundamental questions of state sovereignty,” while denying equality only to designated states – predominantly in the South. Shelby County also assailed the Justice Department’s “needlessly aggressive exercise” of its veto powers over state and local election laws.
Although the Kinston case was found to be moot by the D.C. Circuit, the petition challenged that conclusion and argued that the Justices should grant review of both that case and the one from Shelby County, contending that the North Carolina case is a significantly broader challenge. When Congress in 2006 renewed Section 5 for an additional 25 years, it imposed added requirements on state and local governments covered by that section. The challengers in the Kinston litigation argued that those new burdens prove even more convincingly that Section 5 is now unconstitutionally broad as it applies to the state and local governments that remain the only ones targeted by Section 5. The Section applies throughout nine states, and to various county or city governments in seven other states.
That provision requires state and local governments that had a prior record of racial bias in voting to submit any change in their election laws, in advance of implementing such a change, either to the Justice Department or to a special three-judge District Court in Washington. Only if a change was given “pre-clearance” in Washington could it be put into effect. When the Supreme Court was last faced with a constituitonal challenge to Section 5, three years ago, it bypassed the constitutional question by expanding the option of covered governments to “bail out.” In doing so, however, the Court raised a variety of questions that suggested that the coverage formula may be seriously out of date, and thus may no longer be justified for just those covered governments.
Full Article: Section 5 challenges reach Court (UPDATED) : SCOTUSblog.
- Appeals Court Examines Constitutionality Of Voting Rights Act Provision | The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times
- US Supreme Court expected to hear Shelby County’s challenge to the Voting Rights Act | al.com…
- From Alabama, an epic challenge to voting rights | Reuters
- The Growing Debate Over the Voting Rights Act | Colorlines
- Do We Still Need the Voting Rights Act? | The New Yorker
With both a tradition of helping service members get their votes counted as well as a tight turnaround between its primary and general elections this year, Washington state officials decided to move up its primary date a few weeks, from late August to early August. The Military Voters Protection Project, a nonpartisan advocacy group, cited that schedule adjustment as an impressive effort to help ensure that the ballots of those serving in war zones are counted, and on Tuesday named Washington among 15 states that make extraordinary efforts to enfranchise military voters. The group noted state efforts to register service members to vote, to meet obligations to get absentee ballots out at least 45 days before elections, and legislative efforts to make good practices into law. The project says that less than 20 percent of 2.5 million military voters were able to request and return their absentee ballots in 2008 elections, and that in 2010 only 5 percent of military voters were able to successfully vote by absentee ballot. Those states making the list of 15 “all-stars” include Alaska, Florida, North Carolina, Texas and Washington. Eric Eversole, executive director of the military voter project, identified the states doing the worst job at helping military voters as Alabama, California, Illinois, New York and Wisconsin.
“Extraordinary efforts to help military service members in war zones votes should be universal. The reasons they aren’t are often just bureaucratic, or an inefficient system,” Eversole said. “But these are Americans willing to sacrifice everything for their country. We at least owe it to them to make sure their votes count.” He added that “extraordinary” efforts can mean simply complying with federal law.
Brian Zylstra, a spokesman for the Washington secretary of state’s office, said moving the state’s primary was necessary to be in compliance with a new federal law, the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act. That law requires absentee ballots be mailed to voters no less than 45 days before an election.
- Election clerks once again miss federal absentee ballot deadline | Wisconsin Reporter
- Pentagon Reverses Course on American Voters Living Abroad | NYTimes.com…
- Tens of thousands of service members’ votes not counted | TheState.com…
- Meet the hanging chad of 2012 – absentee ballots | NY Daily News
- Libyans vote in 1st nationwide election in decades but violence underscores challenges ahead | The Washington Post
Senate Republicans blocked Democratic-backed legislation requiring organizations pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into campaign ads to disclose their top donors and the amounts they spend. GOP opposition prevented Democrats from getting the 60 votes needed to bring what is known as the Disclose Act to the Senate floor. The vote was 51-44. Democrats revived the act during a presidential election campaign in which political action committees and nonprofit organizations, funded by deep-pocketed and largely anonymous contributors, are dominating the airwaves with largely negative political ads. Another version of the Disclose Act passed the then-Democratic-controlled House in 2010 but was similarly blocked by Republicans in the Senate. Republicans cite First Amendment rights and say the bill favors unions in opposing the legislation.
In a statement late Monday, President Barack Obama said he was disappointed and chided Republicans for blocking the bill. “Instead of standing up for the American people, Republicans stood with big banks and oil companies — special interests that certainly don’t need more clout in Washington,” Obama said. “I’m disappointed Republicans in Congress failed to take action and hold corporations and special interests accountable to the American people.” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky accused Democrats of wasting time on bills “they know won’t pass but which give them a chance to make a fuss about a problem that doesn’t exist and blow a kiss to the unions for good measure.”
The bill, which would not have gone into effect until next January, would have required any organization that spends $10,000 or more during an election cycle to file a report within 24 hours identifying any donors who gave $10,000 or more. Current election law requires super political action committees, or PACS, to make periodic reports to the Federal Election Commission, but nonprofit groups, including social welfare organizations, labor unions and trade groups, generally do not have to reveal the sources of election-related spending. “Perhaps Republicans want to shield the handful of billionaires willing to contribute nine figures to sway a close presidential election,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. He said this election was in danger of being bought by “17 angry, old, white men.”
- Citizens Dis-United: Justices May Take Another Look at Campaign Finance Case | ABA Journal
- After winning right to spend, political groups fight for secrecy | KansasCity.com…
- Senate Democrats Eye DISCLOSE Act Again | Roll Call
- White House responds to petition on replacing FEC commissioners | The Hill
- Who Benefits From Text Message Donations? Everyone! | Slate
For better or worse, the central principle behind the unlimited contributions to super PACs that will dominate this election cycle is simple: Money is speech, and we cannot limit speech. Yet many who hold this freedom as an article of faith are all too willing to limit an equally precious form of speech: voting. If we don’t speak out against these abuses, we may soon learn the hard way the danger of that double standard. And a dozen years after the 2000 recount that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, my state of Florida threatens to be ground zero one more time. As Florida’s attorney general from 2003 to 2007, I strongly enforced the laws against illegal voting. When swift action was necessary, I took it without hesitation. I did so out of respect for our democracy — voting is a precious right reserved only for U.S. citizens — but I’m concerned that zealots overreacting to contrived threats of voter fraud by significantly narrowing the voting pool are doing so with brazen disrespect and disregard for our greatest traditions.
As a result of insidious political maneuvers and a lack of respect for voters, we in Florida have been entangled in litigation. The courts and the Justice Department have been required to step in this summer to protect the integrity of the voting process against a sweeping voter purge that the Florida Department of State undertook under the guise of removing non-U.S. citizens from the voter rolls. Among those caught up in this shameless purging and notified that he was not a U.S. citizen eligible to vote: a 91-year-old World War II veteran, Bill Internicola, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge and has proudly exercised his right to vote for many years.
This is just the most recent example of a mean-spirited and all-too-partisan attempt to restrict access to the rolls and to the polls. A federal court also recently struck down provisions of a law Florida’s legislature passed in 2011, which put heavy burdens on organizations seeking to help voters: burdens that the court described as “harsh and impractical,” serving no purpose other than to make it harder for Americans to participate in the electoral process.
- Judge halts federal attempt to block voter purge | MiamiHerald.com…
- Justice Department Sues Florida Over Voter Purge | NYTimes.com…
- Florida county elections supervisors won’t resume voter purge | MiamiHerald.com…
- Battles Over Voter ID Laws Intensify | NPR
- Voter purge fight isn’t over | The Washington Post
The federal government is letting Florida use a Department of Homeland Security database of noncitizens to help purge voters from the state’s rolls. But voting rights activists say the fight over Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s controversial purge is far from over. Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) listens during the 2011 Governors Summit of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on June 20 in Washington, D.C. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)The agreement, a victory for Republicans, comes after months of back-and-forth between Scott’s administration and the federal government over access to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements database, which is designed to determine eligibility for benefits — not voting. Republican administrations across the country are cracking down on potential voter fraud, mostly through more restrictive voter ID laws. The Department of Justice has been fighting many of these efforts, with the support of Democrats who argue that the real goal is to disenfranchise poor and minority voters. Florida is being closely watched by both sides because the attempt to proactively remove ineligible voters from the rolls goes a step beyond other states’ efforts.
Florida Department of State spokesman Chris Cate said the agreement will be signed within days and the Scott administration will begin checking names against the database. “Homeland Security has been very cooperative,” he said. “The names we’re going to be sending to supervisors are names we have absolute verification through the SAVE database that someone is a noncitizen.” Florida began attempting to remove ineligible voters from the rolls back in 2011 but could not get access to federal data on noncitizens. So the state relied on data from the motor vehicles department. Those records are sometimes out of date, and the false positives and bad press that emerged led most Florida election supervisors to halt the purge. Only two counties continued the effort.
“That was really the hiccup with the previous data, that it was only as good as someone’s last interaction with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles,” Cate said. With the new database, the state will “make sure were not inconveniencing any eligible voters.” But voting rights activists say an extra database makes little difference. “Our antennae are way up,” said Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida. “We will be watching very, very carefully to make sure that eligible voters are not removed from Florida voting lists.”
Full Article: Florida voter purge fight isn’t over – The Washington Post.
- Justice Department Sues Florida Over Voter Purge | NYTimes.com…
- Florida to sue Department of Homeland Security in voter registration battle | The Hill
- Voter Registration groups relaunch drives, but state digs in on voter purge | Facing South
- Groups ask Justice Department to block voter ID law | TheState.com…
- Voter purge explained | The Washington Post
The Minnesota Supreme Court on Tuesday vigorously questioned attorneys from both sides of the Photo ID debate and is expected to rule by late August on whether the proposed constitutional amendment will appear on the November ballot. The suit, brought by the League of Women Voters and other activist groups, asks the court to strike the proposal from the ballot, arguing that the current language doesn’t accurately portray the amendment’s effects. An attorney for the state Legislature argued that the court lacks the authority to dictate the form or status of constitutional amendments. The justices’ mood in the courtroom — pointed at some times and lighthearted at others — gave little indication what the court will do with the amendment. At least two justices seemed to indicate that they consider the ballot question misleading — which is what opponents of the amendment argue — but then in almost the next breath defended the Legislature’s authority to craft amendments.
Opponents of Photo ID would have to convince the court that the ballot question — which makes no mention of a proposed provisional voting system or different standards for absentee voters — is “so unreasonable and misleading as to be a palpable evasion of the constitutional requirement to submit the law to a popular vote,” according to legal precedent. Bill Pentelovitch, an attorney for the League, told the court that the ballot question doesn’t adequately inform the public of what it’s voting on, a view that resonated with Associate Justice Paul Anderson. “Questions can be deficient by omission as well as misstatement,” Anderson told the Legislature’s attorney, Thomas Boyd. “Let me submit, you have a major omission here that I think can cause real problems for the voters.”
Anderson, one of the most outspoken justices at the proceedings, also questioned how the amendment itself would affect voting in the future. “Does this provisional voting provision in the amendment essentially eviscerate Election Day registration such that it would have affected one-sixth of the voters … in 2008?” he asked. “If the Legislature presents something that’s deceptive, don’t we have the right to review that?”
- Voter ID deal clears the way to fall ballot | StarTribune.com…
- GOP legislators take Ritchie to task over voter ID | StarTribune.com…
- Voter ID amendment supporters sue over ballot question title change | TwinCities.com…
- Photo ID details draw scrutiny of Minnesota’s high court | StarTribune.com…
- Voter ID Amendment Draws Youth Activists | Colorlines
President Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney must face down a dubious and slippery opponent in Nevada this November. The mystery foe cannot be tamed with television ads and never breaks a campaign pledge. Its name is “none of these candidates.” Nevada is the only state in the nation to offer voters the quirky ballot choice, and for more than three decades, statewide candidates here have had to contend with it. But this year, nervous Republicans have filed a federal lawsuit to try to oust “none” from the ballot. They worry that “none” could siphon away a sufficient number of anti-Obama voters from Romney to throw the state to the president. And because the Silver State’s six electoral votes are some of the most hotly contested in the nation, Republicans don’t want to leave anything to chance.
The Republican National Committee declined to comment for this story, but an official there acknowledged that the party is bankrolling the lawsuit, filed last month, to add “clarity” to the ballot. In this state, known for its love of long odds, it’s not as outlandish as it sounds that “none” could have a big impact on the outcome. It has before. In 1998, now-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid squeaked past Republican John Ensign by barely more than 400 votes in his reelection bid; “none” tallied more than 8,000 votes that year.
“None” has even won some primary elections, albeit not recently. When “none” wins, the second-place finisher is named the winner, and that is the crux of the GOP lawsuit, which argues that “none” is disenfranchising Nevada voters. “One of the above candidates is going to get elected,” said Bruce Woodbury, a Republican and a former longtime Clark County commissioner, who is among those signing onto the lawsuit. He called the “none” option a “bait-and-switch scam.” The lawsuit’s chances are slim, said Rick Hasen, an election-law expert and a professor at the University of California (Irvine) law school. “None of the above is functionally equivalent to a person not voting for a political office,” he said. Plus, Hasen added, the Constitution gives state legislatures broad latitude to design presidential ballots.
- Special election to replace McCotter could be shelved | Detroit Free Press
- Who Benefits From Text Message Donations? Everyone! | Slate
- GOP Examines What Went Wrong With Caucuses | ABC News
- Foreign Corporations, Non-profits and the Holding of Citizens United | Money, Politics and the Law
- Voting Rights Act Section 5 challenges reach Supreme Court | SCOTUSblog
The various claims of recall election fraud were found to be baseless, according to sheriff’s investigators’ reports, which revealed no criminal conduct but rather complainants’ own violations. Following the June 5 recalls in which state Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine, unseated Republican incumbent Van Wanggaard in the 21st Senate District race, multiple allegations of irregularities at area polls had surfaced, followed by prominent state Republicans calling the local efforts “an utter mockery.”
The Government Accountability Board promptly blasted the unsubstantiated allegations of election fraud for undermining voter confidence. And, subsequently, the Racine County District Attorney’s Office, upon reviewing the sheriff’s investigation results, announced: “Based on the information that was received, it was determined that said information did not rise to the level required for a criminal prosecution.”
- Recount confirms Democrat wins Senate recall election | Leader-Telegram
- Democrat defeats GOP senator in recall recount | Wausau Daily Herald
- Senate race tightens by handful of votes in recount | Journal Times
- Some voters didn’t sign poll books, but state officials say votes do count in Wisconsin recall recount | Journal Times
- Recount under way in state Senate recall race | RealClearPolitics
Voters in the oil-exporting Central African state of Congo Republic have turned out to elect a new parliament, with the ruling party of President Denis Sassou Nguesso and its allies seen holding the majority. Opposition parties have complained about a lack of access to state media during campaigning, and voter turnout was thin at a number of polling stations in the capital Brazzaville, some of which stayed open up to two hours late during the voting on Sunday. The ruling Congolese Workers’ Party (PCT) and a cluster of allied parties control all but a dozen of the nearly 140 seats in the lower house after the opposition boycotted the last poll in 2007, accusing the government of vote rigging.
Gaspard Kaya Magane, vice-president of the main UPADS opposition group, accused candidates allied to the government of using state media and resources to dominate the campaign for these elections, an accusation Nguesso rejected. ”I believe that the instructions I gave for fair, free and transparent elections have been followed because they passed peacefully across the country. That is a step in the right direction,” Nguesso said as he voted in Brazzaville.
Nguesso came to power in a 1997 coup and has won two elections since then, including a 2009 presidential vote marked by accusations of fraud. A constitutional limit on presidential terms means he must step down in 2016, although some opposition groups say they believe his party will seek to change that.
- Minnesota Election Law Ballot Measure – So Much More than Just Voter ID | Brennan Center for Justice
- Voting Rights Act Section 5 challenges reach Supreme Court | SCOTUSblog
- States praised, others faulted, for policies toward military voters | KansasCity.com…
- Senate Republicans block Democratic bill to require disclosure of large political donors | The Washington Post
- The voter ID mess subverts an American birthright | Charlie Crist/The Washington Post