Several Countries Reject Venezuela’s Election To Rewrite Constitution – Emma Bowman July 30, 201711:21 PM ET

Members of Argentina’s Venezuelan community protest against the election for a constituent assembly on Sunday, in Buenos Aires, as Venezuela holds the controversial vote. | Alejandro Pagni/AFP/Getty Images

Months of opposition to President Nicolas Maduro’s plan to strengthen his party’s power has resulted in more fatal clashes on the day of the election.

Citing Venezuela’s chief prosecutor’s office, the Associated Press reports 10 people were killed in Sunday’s unrest.

“Seven police officers were wounded when an explosion went off as they drove past piles of trash that had been used to blockade a street in an opposition stronghold in eastern Caracas,” the AP says.

At least two of the dead were teenagers, reports NPR’s Philip Reeves.

The vote is to create the National Constituent Assembly, composed of new delegates who will rewrite Venezuela’s Constitution. As NPR has reported, that rewrite would have the power to dissolve the National Assembly, an opposition-heavy body of lawmakers.

Multiple media reports and social media said polling places were near empty in the Caracas, the Venezuelan capital.

Opposition parties, who boycotted the vote, see the move as a step towards dictatorship, NPR’s Reeves says. So does much of Venezuela’s public, who’ve long expressed no appetite for the new assembly.

Two weeks before Sunday’s official vote, opposition activists held a symbolic referendum: 98 percent of voters rejected Maduro’s call to rewrite the 18-year-old constitution.

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Supreme Court to Consider Limits on Partisan Drawing of Election Maps – Brent Kendall Updated June 19, 2017 7:24 p.m. ET

High court to consider whether excessive partisan gerrymandering violates constitution

The Supreme Court in Washington.

The Supreme Court in Washington. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider whether there are constitutional limits to how far lawmakers can go in drawing electoral districts to maximize partisan political advantage, a case that could have profound implications for U.S. elections.

The justices in a brief written order said they would review a redistricting case from Wisconsin, where a three-judge lower court last year invalidated a redistricting planenacted by the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature in 2011.

In a hint of the potential divisiveness of the case, the high court on a 5-4 vote stayed the effect of the lower court ruling while it hears the case. That means Wisconsin officials for now won’t have to put a remedial redistricting map in place.

The stay suggests the court is proceeding with some trepidation as it wades into a highly political issue that has bedeviled justices in the past. The court’s four liberal justices would have denied the stay and left in place the lower court’s order requiring a new map by Nov. 1.

Political gerrymanders are as old as the republic, though they have become more sophisticated as the technological possibilities of mapping have expanded with time. Both Republicans and Democrats have been accused of engaging in excessively partisan line-drawing in states where they hold power.

Critics say the tactic creates too many uncontested districts, encourages overly partisan candidates and enables the party in power to skew voting results in its favor.

Other cases are pending in court, including ones challenging Republican-backed lines drawn in North Carolina and map-making by Democrats in Maryland. Any rules announced by the high court would almost certainly affect districts drawn by state lawmakers both for Congress and for state legislatures.

Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said the timing of the case was particularly important with a new census on the horizon in 2020. States traditionally redraw their congressional and legislative districts after each decennial census.

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Debtors’ Prisons: Life Inside America’s For-Profit Justice System (Part 1/2) – Published on Aug 16, 2016

VICE’s Justice series examines the winners and losers of the for-profit criminal justice system. Imprisoning people for being poor has technically been illegal in this country for two hundred years, but it is still a reality. Municipalities with small, low-income populations and correspondingly low tax bases regularly pay their salaries, and pad their budgets by issuing “quality of life” and traffic fines to people for minor offenses—and sending them to jail if they can’t pay.

VICE examines the ways these local governments have turned broken-windows policing into profit, and meets the people who are fighting back.

Japan vs. The Islamic State – Vice News Published on Mar 6, 2015

The brutal beheadings of Japanese nationals Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa by the Islamic State in January have shocked the island nation and lent momentum to an effort to expand the limitations imposed on its constitution and military after its defeat by the United States in World War II.

Leftists in Japan fear that the incident will encourage a departure from the country’s pacifist constitution, whose Article 9 states that “the Japanese people forever renounce… the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.” Right-wingers, meanwhile, see an opportunity to allow Japan to assert itself as a truly sovereign state.

VICE News reports from Japan as its prime minister and right wing are pushing for re-militarization of the pacifist nation, amid protests from the left who staunchly oppose any changes to Article 9 of the constitution.

Judge strikes down Arkansas voter ID law as unconstitutional – By Zachary Roth 04/24/14 06:25 PM—UPDATED 04/24/14 08:11 PM

A judge has struck down Arkansas’s voter ID law, ruling that it violates the right to vote guaranteed in the state’s constitution.

Screen Shot 2014-04-25 at Apr 25, 2014 3.28

In an opinion released Thursday afternoon, Circuit Court Judge Timothy Fox wrote that the law, passed last year, “is unconstitutional as it adds additional qualifications for voters” beyond what’s in the constitution, and “impairs the right of suffrage” contained in the constitution.

“We just received the Court’s decision and are in the process of reviewing it,”said Aaron Sadler, a spokesman for Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, adding, “The State Board of Election Commissioners has already contacted us requesting an appeal and we will work as quickly as possible on the board’s behalf to appeal this decision.”

The law had been challenged by the Pulaski County Election Commission. A separate challenge was filed last week by the ACLU of Arkansas.

Fox’s opinion cited an 1865 ruling by the state Supreme Court, holding that laws depriving qualified voters of the right to vote are unconstitutional. That decision overturned an 1864 law passed by Unionists that disenfranchised anyone still supporting the Confederacy.

The voter ID measure requires that voters present a limited range of government-approved forms of identification. Out-of-state college IDs, for instance, are not allowed. Voters without ID must cast provisional ballots, then go to the county clerk to affirm that they’re too “indigent” to afford ID. And unlike some other states’ ID laws, this one does nothing to help voters obtain identification, such as providing transportation to government offices.

The law was approved last year by Arkansas’ GOP-controlled legislature, but it was vetoed by Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, who said it “unnecessarily restricts and impairs our citizens’ right to vote.” Lawmakers then overrode Beebe’s veto.

The law could make it harder for key Democratic groups, including minorities and students, to get to the polls this fall. Arkansas Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor is one of the party’s most vulnerable incumbents this cycle, and the race could determine control of the U.S. Senate.

Thanks to an outdated law, anything stored online for more than 180 days doesn’t get the protections of the Fourth Amendment. Congress has the chance to fix the problem, but will it?

Why Congress Should Pass the ECPA Amendment Act
by Ben Jacobs Jul 30, 2013 3:06 PM EDT

Is Congress about to pass the first significant privacy-protection legislation since 9/11?

Right now if you store any information in “the cloud” for longer than 180 days, the government does not need a warrant to search it, only a subpoena, which does not require judicial approval. This means all those emails in your inbox from last year, the Google Docs that you’ve been working on for a while, and everything you have saved in your Dropbox are essentially not covered by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

How this is possible? It’s because when the law governing this, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), was written in 1986, five years before Tim Berners-Lee had even invented the Internet, and has not been updated since. It was written at a time when no one ever conceived that email or data would be stored online; after all you had to connect via a dial-up modem to get information displayed in one of 16 colors available on your computer monitor. If information was left online for an extended period, it had likely been forgotten or abandoned. But today, the ECPA allows that, in theory, law enforcement need not go through a judge in order to go through your inbox.

The disconnect between statute books and modern life has led to a bipartisan push to update the law. The ECPA Amendment Act, co-sponsored by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Mike Lee (R-UT), would extend the warrant requirement to communications stored online for more than 180 days. The bill is not perceived to be terribly controversial—after all, as one Senate aide points out, it is not intended to radically change the law, but simply to restore the balance that Congress originally intended when it passed ECPA in 1986.

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