National: When Voter Registration is a Crime |

Dawn Quarles, a high school teacher, is facing a $1,000 fine for doing something Florida has been cracking down on lately: registering students to vote. The state’s leaders want to stop registration drives that add more qualified voters to the rolls – and they are having a disturbing level of success.

Florida’s crackdown on voter registration is part of a larger national campaign against voting, which includes tough new voter ID laws in many states, rollbacks on early voting and other anti-democratic measures. Supporters of these laws argue that they are concerned with deterring fraud. But the real driving force is keeping down the number of voters – especially young, old, poor, and minority voters.

Quarles is a government teacher at Pace High School in the Florida Panhandle. Along with teaching her students about democracy, she has tried to get them to participate, by helping them register to vote. This should be a good thing. Our nation’s founders insisted that government should operate with the consent of the governed. Ideally, everyone who is eligible should be registered and vote.

National: Watchdogs accuse FEC of lax oversight | The Boston Globe

Transparency advocates yesterday excoriated the Federal Election Commission for what they called increasingly lax oversight of campaign finance as the country barrels toward what are expected to be the most expensive elections in history next year. The advocates – including nonpartisan watchdogs Democracy 21, Public Citizen, and the Campaign Legal Center – said the FEC has repeatedly failed to issue new regulations clarifying aspects of a Supreme Court ruling last year allowing companies and other organizations to spend unlimited amounts on elections.

Among the questions still unanswered: Can foreign companies with some US operations legally contribute to US elections? In the past, foreign citizens and companies have been barred from spending money in the American political system. Also unanswered: Should American organizations that spend money to influence elections have to disclose the source of the money?

California: Ranked Choice Put To The Test In San Francisco Mayor Race | NPR

Voters in San Francisco will use a system called ranked-choice voting, or instant runoff, to elect a mayor on Tuesday. The city is one of many around the country, including Portland, Maine, and Telluride, Colo., using the system, which allows voters to rank their favorite candidates; the winner is determined using a complicated mathematical formula. Ranked-choice voting, which eliminates the need for primary elections, will be put to the test in San Francisco where 16 candidates are on the ballot.

At a city senior center recently, elections worker John Draper explained the system to some elderly voters, assuring them that it was simple. “We just want to ask ourselves: Who do we want to win this election; Who is our favorite candidate? And vote for them in the first column,” Draper said.

Indiana: Tuesday’s paper ballots will be counted by hand |

When Bloomington residents vote in municipal elections on Tuesday, they’ll be making marks on paper ballots, which they’ll slip into a box. At the end of the day, the votes will be tallied by hand. That’s the same system local voters used more than 100 years ago.

In the November 2010 general election, Monroe County voters used electronic voting machines that automated tallying. Even in the May 2011 primary election, the votes — on paper ballots — were tallied using a high-speed optical scanner. Monroe County voters have been using voting machines, mechanical or electric, since the ’60s, but on Nov. 8, 2011, they will use the same system used by America’s founding fathers.

What happened? ES&S contract In December 2010, Monroe County signed a contract with Elections Systems and Software, of Omaha, Neb., for the purchase of digital scanners that would read paper ballots and tally votes. Such a system allowed verifiability: paper ballots, or a sample of them, could be compared to the machine’s tally to ensure accuracy.

Maine: Bring Same-Day Registration Back? Maine Votes | NPR

For nearly 40 years, voters in Maine have been able to walk into a polling place or town hall on Election Day and register to vote. But the Republican-controlled legislature this year decided to remove the option, citing the stress on municipal clerks and concerns about the potential for voter fraud.

Angry Democrats responded by launching a people’s veto campaign, and come Election Day this Tuesday, voters will consider whether to restore same-day registration. When Richard Vargas retired from the Marine Corps and returned home to coastal Maine 16 years ago, he was surprised to run into problems at the local polls, not once, but twice.

Editorials: North Carolina voter law changes hinder ballot access | Salisbury Post

In cities across the state, North Carolinians are going to the polls this week to exercise the most fundamental right of our democracy: the right to vote. The underlying principle of our democracy is that we are all equal in the voting booth: black or white, young or old, rich or poor. When we cast our ballot, we all raise an equal voice to determine the shape of our government.

Sadly, some North Carolina legislators seem determined to reduce the chorus of voices that will be heard in the 2012 elections. Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed an onerous bill to make voters show a government photo ID when they vote. It may seem like a common-sense requirement, but more people than you may imagine don’t drive or have a photo ID — and they are disproportionately people of color, the elderly, low-income citizens, women who change their names and the young. For example, a match-up of motor vehicle and election databases shows that while African Americans are 22 percent of N.C. registered voters, they are 32 percent of the roughly 500,000 registered voters without a state-issued ID.

Wisconsin: Just Ask Us: Are student IDs accepted under the new voter ID laws? | Wisconsin State Journal

All 26 campuses in the UW System use “smart” cards for student identification. These cards can be used for a wide array of monetary and security functions. But the issue at hand is that across the System’s 26 campuses, there are as many as 14 different versions of student IDs, and not all of them meet the new requirements, said David Giroux, spokesman for the System.

For example, the cards currently issued by UW-Madison do not meet the new voter ID law’s standard for voter identification. Wiscard IDs expire every five years, exceeding the two-year allowable time between issue and expiration dates on student IDs for voting, said Government Accountability Board Spokesman Reid Magney.

Bulgaria: Bulgaria’s Vote Fully Legal despite Organizational Trouble | Sofia News Agency

The first and the second round of Bulgaria’s presidential and local elections were held in compliance with the law, according to Krasimira Medarova, Chair of the Central Electoral Commission (CEC). In a Saturday interview for Darik radio, she confessed that the electoral process had been riddled with difficulties which led to “substantial problems in the processing of the protocols and the announcement of the results”,   but nevertheless insisted that no serious irregularities had taken place.

The CEC Chair noted, however, that it was the courts and not CEC which had the final say on contested election results. Medarova was adamant that she had not come across any of the allegedly flawed protocols from Sofia containing signatures of representatives of the Municipal Electoral Commission instead of the respective sectional electoral commissions.

Indonesia: Higher legislative threshold: Threat or remedy for democracy? | The Jakarta Post

The New Indonesia Party (PIB), the majority party on the Singkawang Legislative Council, may not be able to maintain its existence on the council should the much-debated bill on legislative elections be enacted in its current state. Singkawang regency, which is dominated by Chinese-Indonesians, saw four of its 25 legislative council seats filled by members of the PIB, a party known for its policies that accommodate the interests of the Chinese descents.

Although the party only gained 0.19 percent of votes nationwide in the 2009 polls, putting it in 34th position on the list of the total 38 political parties in the country, the PIB managed to win the majority of 11.91 percent of regional legislative votes in Singkawang. But that would mean nothing if the House of Representatives decided to approve the election bill that critics say would jeopardize democracy in the regions.

Liberia: Campaigns for presidential run-off ends|Africa|

Official campaign for the 2011 run-off presidential election in Liberia scheduled for Tuesday ends mid-night Sunday, according to the National Election Commission guideline. The election takes place despite boycott by main opposition party Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) leaded Winston Tubman.

Tubman was recently summoned to the Nigerian Federal Capital, Abuja by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to convince him to take part in the run-off following his party’s boycott threats. The ruling party, UP and the CDC were winners and runners-up in the first round of voting and were scheduled to contest for the presidency in a run-off on Nov 8, 2011. Despite the resignation of the former chairman of National Electoral Commission (NEC), James Fromayan, the commission said the election process will go ahead as all election materials and staffs have been deployed throughout the country.

Nicaragua: Daniel Ortega winning re-election in Nicaragua by wide margin | The Washington Post

President and one-time Sandinista revolutionary Daniel Ortega is headed for a mandate to stay in office in Nicaragua, overcoming a constitutional limit on re-election and reports of voting problems. Ortega had 64 percent of the votes in a count early Monday, compared with 29 percent for his nearest challenger, Fabio Gadea. Conservative Arnoldo Aleman, a former president, was a distant third with 6 percent after national elections on Sunday.

Only 16 percent of the votes have been counted, but electoral council President Roberto Rivas said a quick count representative of the entire vote gave Ortega a large advantage as well. The methodology of the quick count was not released.

Nicaragua: Observers decry vote irregularities as Nicaragua’s Ortega seeks new term |

Observers from the European Union and the Organization of American States reported Sunday that they had detected serious irregularities in voting in what is expected to be a re-election victory for Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. Ortega, a onetime leftist guerrilla leader and acolyte of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, is seeking his third term in office despite the Nicaraguan Constitution’s ban on presidents serving consecutive terms.

Voting was marred by scattered violence, including reports of gunfire that wounded four people near the coffee-growing city of Matagalpa and arson attacks on several rural precincts. Elsewhere, voting occurred without incident as Nicaragua’s 3.4 million voters aged 16 and older cast ballots for president, vice president and 90 deputies of the National Assembly. Even so, chiefs of the two major international observer teams in Nicaragua for the election voiced deep reservations about how the vote was conducted.

Pakistan: EC urged to impose system of proportional representation | Pakistan Observer

The advisor to the Ex-CM Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on political affairs, Sikandar Aziz Khan has suggested to the Election Commission of Pakistan to immediately impose the system of proportional representation for the larger interest of the country and the people as in this system votes will be cast in support of the political parties and not candidates that will result in enhancement of the percentage of cast votes.

Addressing a press conference in the press club on Thursday, Sikandar Aziz Khan advised the Election Commission of Pakistan to make immediate amendments in the law in this connection and adopt the system in which the seats in the national and provincial assemblies would be allotted to the political parties according to the percentage of received votes. He said the existing system had created a lot of defects in the ruling party and majority of the people were reluctant to cast their votes. He said from the existing system it was clear that those rich candidates were being brought to power who had spent huge funds on the elections and after wining the polls use every underhand method to get the money back.