Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Voting in federal elections is an obstacle course for U.S. citizens compared with Australian voting rules

Next time you feel inclined to bitch about being obliged to exercise your right to vote in Australian elections, pause and be thankful you still have a relatively unfettered ability to vote.

Because the largest and most well-known Western democracy is bit by bit taking that right away from its own citizens – and given the number of far-right wing ideologues in the current Australian federal parliament and their obvious admiration for the US Republican Party we may yet have to fight to keep them from tampering with our near universal franchise.

The situation in the United States…..

The Nation, 4 November 2016:

Nearly half of counties that previously approved voting changes with the federal government have cut polling places this election.
When Aracely Calderon, a naturalized US citizen from Guatemala, went to vote in downtown Phoenix just before the polls closed in Arizona’s March 22 presidential primary, there were more than 700 people in a line stretching four city blocks. She waited in line for five hours, becoming the last voter in the state to cast a ballot at 12:12 am. “I’m here to exercise my right to vote,” she said shortly before midnight, explaining why she stayed in line. Others left without voting because they didn’t have four or five hours to spare.
The lines were so long because Republican election officials in Phoenix’s Maricopa County, the largest in the state, reduced the number of polling places by 70 percent from 2012 to 2016, from 200 to just 60—one polling place per 21,000 registered voters. Previously, Maricopa County would have needed federal approval to reduce the number of polling sites, because Arizona was one of 16 states where jurisdictions with a long history of discrimination had to submit their voting changes under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. This part of the VRA blocked 3,000 discriminatory voting changes from 1965 to 2013. That changed when the Supreme Court gutted the law in the June 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision.
The polling place reductions in Maricopa County were a glaring example of a disturbing trend. The Leadership Conference for Civil Rights surveyed 381 of the 800 counties previously covered by Section 5 where polling place information was available in 2012 or 2014 and found there are 868 fewer places to cast a ballot in 2016 in these areas. “Out of the 381 counties in our study, 165 of them—43 percent—have reduced voting locations,” says the important new report.

DemocracyNow! 7 November 2016:

On Saturday, the U.S. Supreme Court restored a Republican-supported law in Arizona banning political campaigners from collecting absentee ballots filled out by voters.
In New Jersey, a federal judge decided against the Democratic National Committee in a complaint it brought against the Republican National Committee, ruling that the RNC’s poll monitoring and ballot security activities did not violate a legal settlement.
But in a ruling hailed by voting rights advocates, a federal judge late Friday ordered county elections boards in North Carolina to immediately restore registrations wrongfully purged from voter rolls.
All of this comes as this year’s presidential election is the first in half a century to take place without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act.
In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down crucial components in Section 5 of the act in a case called Shelby County v. Holder, when it ruled that states with histories of voting-related racial discrimination no longer had to "pre-clear" changes to their voting laws with the federal government.
For more, we’re joined by Ari Berman, author of the recent article, "There Are 868 Fewer Places to Vote in 2016 Because the Supreme Court Gutted the Voting Rights Act."

New York University School of Law, Brennan Centre For Justice, 12 September 2016:

New Voting Restrictions in Place for 2016 Presidential Election

In 2016, 14 states will have new voting restrictions in place for the first time in a presidential election. The new laws range from strict photo ID requirements to early voting cutbacks to registration restrictions.

Those 14 states are: Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

(This number decreased from 15 to 14 when the D.C. Circuit blocked a voter registration requirement in Alabama, Georgia, and Kansas on September 9, 2016. Georgia was removed, but Alabama and Kansas remain on the map because certain restrictions remain in place. Other recent court rulings have impacted the map: North Carolina and North Dakota were removed after courts blocked restrictive laws. Despite a recent court victory mitigating the impact of Texas’s photo ID law, it is still included because the requirement is more restrictive than what was in place for the 2012 presidential election.)  

This is part of a broader movement to curtail voting rights, which began after the 2010 election, when state lawmakers nationwide started introducing hundreds of harsh measures making it harder to vote.

Overall, 20 states have new restrictions in effect since the 2010 midterm election. Since 2010, a total of 10 states have more restrictive voter ID laws in place (and six states have strict photo ID requirements) seven have laws making it harder for citizens to register, six cut back on early voting days and hours, and three made it harder to restore voting rights for people with past criminal convictions.

This page details the new restrictive voting requirements put in place during that time period.

Voting Restrictions in Place for First Time in Presidential Election in 2016

Status Key: 

The New York Times, 12 November 2016:

States won by Trump (red) and Clinton (blue) as at count on 12 November 2016

States won by Romney (red) and Obama (blue) in the 2012 US Presidential Election

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