WASHINGTON (AP) _ Voting rights advocates say persistent reports of robocalls incorrectly telling voters they can cast ballots over the phone and fears of aggressive challenges by monitors at polling places threaten to mar Election Day in many key states.

     Advocates say the fake phone calls continued to crop up in Virginia, North Carolina and Florida, primarily among African-American voters. Voting rights groups are making calls reminding voters they can’t cast ballots over the phone.

     The last-minute telephone tactics are only the latest in months of legal and political battles over more restrictive voter ID and other laws.

     Many of these issues could resurface in the courts after Tuesday, particularly if the presidential race is too close to call or heads for a recount in states such as Ohio or Florida.

     FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) _ Virginia’s Board of Elections is sending out last-minute instructions to local election boards clarifying poll watchers’ rights in the wake of a lawsuit from Fairfax County Democrats.

     The state board sent instructions Monday urging election officials to be “as flexible and transparent as possible” today (Tuesday) in their dealings with Democratic and Republican poll watchers. Continue reading

Virginia is holding its sixth annual sales-tax holiday on energy-efficient products.  From Friday through Monday, residential consumers can save money by buying sales-tax exempt heat pumps, dishwashers, washing machines, insulation, toilets and other products. They must be $2,500 or less and certified as being energy efficient with the Energy Star and WaterSense designations. This is Virginia’s third tax-free holiday of the year. Hurricane-preparedness items get a tax-free weekend in May and back-to-school items get a similar weekend in August.

Click here for a full list of qualifying products.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) _ The University of Virginia’s governing board has reinstated President Teresa Sullivan after outcry over her ouster earlier this month. The board’s 15 members voted unanimously Tuesday to reinstate Sullivan after two weeks of protests on the historic campus founded by Thomas Jefferson. Continue reading

ROCKY MOUNT, Va. (AP)  — A judge has upheld a jury’s negligence verdict against the state from the 2007 mass killings at Virginia Tech, but has sharply reduced damages awarded to two families.

Franklin County Circuit Judge William Alexander II today reduced the jury’s damages awarded to each family to $100,000, the statutory cap on damages against the state. Jurors had awarded each family $4 million.

The lawsuit was filed by the families of two students who were among the 32 left dead on the Blacksburg campus after a rampage by a student gunman. Attorneys successfully argued the university waited too long before alerting the campus of the first two shootings.

The April 16, 2007, shootings were the deadliest in modern U.S. history.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Virginia’s unemployment rate remained at the lowest rate in three years in May and is still below the national average.    The Virginia Employment Commission says Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate stayed at 5.6 percent in May. That’s 0.6 percentage points lower than a year ago. Virginia’s jobless rate has been trending down since January 2010, when joblessness peaked at 7.3 percent.  Continue reading

 ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) _ Annual tuition and mandatory fees for in-state students at Virginia Tech are rising by 3.9 percent next academic year. Meeting in Arlington on Thursday, Tech’s Board of Visitors approved the increase, which translates to an annual cost of $10,923. That’s up from $10,509 from the just-completed academic year.  Continue reading