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Editorials: 2012 – the year of elections | Fareed Zakaria/CNN.com

2011 will likely be recorded as a year of historic change. Mass uprisings have upended governments across the Arab world. Economic mismanagement in Europe led to changes at the top in Italy, Greece and Spain. 365 days ago you couldn’t have predicted these events. You couldn’t have imagined so many leaders would lose their jobs. So what if I told you that you can predict that in 2012, a lot of leaders will say goodbye? No, I’m not gazing into a magic crystal ball. You see, 2012 is the year of elections.

59 countries will be tallying up votes – local, state or national. There are 193 countries in the world so that’s about a third of the world’s nations. 26 of these may see a change in national leadership. Together, these changes could affect 53% of the world’s population, representing half of the world’s GDP. And a lot of the change is concentrated in the world’s most powerful countries. Four out of the five U.N. Security Council members could see changes at the top. That’s Russia, China, France, and, of course, the U.S. These four countries alone represent 40% of the world’s GDP. Read More

Editorials: Holder’s Voting Rights Gamble – The Supreme Court’s voter ID showdown. | Rick Hasen/Slate

On the Friday before Christmas Day, the Department of Justice formally objected to a new South Carolina law requiring voters to produce an approved form of photo ID in order to vote. That move already has drawn cheers from the left and jeers from the right. The DoJ said South Carolina could not show that its new law would not have an adverse impact on racial minorities, who are less likely to have acceptable forms of identification.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley denounced the DoJ decision blocking the law under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act: “It is outrageous, and we plan to look at every possible option to get this terrible, clearly political decision overturned so we can protect the integrity of our electoral process and our 10th Amendment rights.” The state’s attorney general vowed to fight the DoJ move in court, and thanks to an odd quirk in the law, the issue could get fast-tracked to the Supreme Court, which could well use it to strike down the Voting Rights Act provision as unconstitutional before the 2012 elections.

The current dispute has an eerie echo. More than 45 years ago, South Carolina also went to the Supreme Court to complain that Section 5 unconstitutionally intruded on its sovereignty. Under the 1965 Act, states with a history of racial discrimination like South Carolina could not make changes in its voting rules—from major changes like redistricting to changes as minor as moving a polling place across the street—without getting the permission of either the U.S. Department of Justice or a three-judge court in Washington, D.C. The state had to show the law was not enacted with the purpose, or effect, of making minority voters worse off than they already were. Read More

Iowa: Suspected hackers could target Iowa caucuses | WQAD

A Christmas scrooge stole credit card information from a Texas-based company Saturday, by hacking into its website. We’ve told you about a cyber threat that could impact the Iowa caucuses on January 3rd. Turns out, this latest internet breach could be affiliated with the same group of hackers, which released credit card information from Stratfor, a think-tank that concentrates on security issues, totaling losses of $1 million.

The group thought to be behind it is called Anonymous. That’s the same one responsible for threats made against the upcoming Iowa caucuses. How the group could hamper the process is unknown. University of Iowa professor, Douglas Jones, has two theories. Read More

Iowa: GOP explains moving vote tabulation away from HQ | Politico.com

Iowa GOP chair Matt Strawn was largely mum when I asked yesterday about a tip I got that the state party was moving the vote-tabulation away from their headquarters to an “undisclosed location.” But after the Iowa GOP HQ was flooded today with questions from Ron Paul backers and conspiracy-minded types about why the Republicans were compiling the votes from the state’s 99 counties in private, the state party’s executive director confirmed that they were going off-site and said it was only to avoid a sabotage.

“The Party is simply moving off-site in the event that protesters or others attempt to disrupt the reporting process by cutting phone lines, etc,” said party ED Chad Olsen. He added: “Every vote is counted. Every vote is reported. The vote-counting process is carried out in public.”  Read More

Montana: State Supreme Court Upholds State’s Century-Old Ban on Corporate Money in Elections | freespeechforpeople.org

The Montana Supreme Court today upheld Montana’s century-old ban on corporate political expenditures in state elections. The Court’s 5-2 ruling sets up the first direct challenge to the US Supreme Court’s January 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which equated corporations with people under the First Amendment and swept away longstanding precedent that had barred corporate expenditures in federal elections. Montana’s 1912 Corrupt Practices Act came under legal attack following the Citizens United decision, and Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock has vigorously defended the state’s law in the Montana courts, leading to today’s state supreme court ruling.

“[T]he State of Montana, or more accurately its voters, clearly had a compelling interest to enact the challenged statute in 1912,” wrote Chief Justice Mike McGrath for the Court’s the majority opinion in the case of Western Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. State of Montana. “At that time the State of Montana and its government were operating under a mere shell of legal authority, and the real social and political power was wielded by powerful corporate managers to further their own business interests.” Read More

Voting Blogs: Politics and Pictures: Rhode Island and its new voter ID law | State of Elections

In elections past, Rhode Island has not required photo identification for a ballot to be counted. However, with the passage of a new law the state has at least superficially joined the ranks of states which have approved legislation that will hamper the voting rights of its most vulnerable citizens. Yet the truth may not be so simple. Rhode Island’s law is less restrictive and more benign than legislation passed by other states which may explain the unique politics behind the passage of RI’s new photo identification bill.

The law will be implemented in two stages. “The first stage will require non-photo ID beginning Jan. 1, 2012. The second stage will require photo ID beginning Jan. 1, 2014.” For the upcoming 2012 election, voters are able to vote by establishing their identity through possession of forms of ID that do not have their photo, “including without limitation”: a birth certificate, social security card, or government-issued medical card. The language “without limitation” can reasonably be construed as meaning that “any current photo identification that includes the name and photograph of the voter will be accepted.” Read More

Virginia: Rick Perry to ‘Activist Judges’: Save Me | Garrett Epps/The Atlantic

Rick Perry appears to be riding into the sunset, but he is not leaving the stage without exercising a true politician’s prerogative of cheerfully sacrificing any principle, no matter how strongly stated, when it becomes inconvenient.

If there’s one thing we know about Perry — one dry-gulch bedrock to his cowboy constitutional philosophy — it’s that he just hates them activist judges and all the perverted things they have done to the Fourteenth Amendment. “[T]he Fourteenth Amendment is abused by the Court to carry out whatever policy choices it wants to make in the form of judicial activism,” he lamented in his book, Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington. In particular, courts “should be particularly protective of our founding structure — a unique structure of dual sovereigns that placed power as close to the people as was practical so that the people could govern themselves.”

Surely that would mean that the people of Virginia should have a right to determine what level of support a candidate needs to be a serious presidential candidate, deserving of a place on its primary ballot? Or should that decision be made by “unelected judges”? Well, actually, unelected judges are suddenly looking right good to Gov. Perry. Perry last week failed to qualify for the Virginia Republican Primary ballot, both a humiliating blow to his dignity and a concrete setback to his hope of remaining in the presidential race after his expected low showing in Iowa.  Read More

Bosnia: A new government: Bosnia’s December surprise | The Economist

Out of the blue, Bosnia’s leaders have agreed to form a government, almost 15 months after the October 2010 general election. The country’s politicians had supposedly been on the verge of agreement for so long that most observers had lost faith they would ever be able to strike a deal. There was even talk of a new election.

The deal came on December 28th. “We did not get what we thought we should, but no one got everything they wanted,” said Milorad Dodik, president of the Republika Srpska, the Serbian-dominated half of the country. A corruption investigation into Mr Dodik was dropped on the same day the deal was struck. Vjekoslav Bevanda, a member of one of the two main Bosnian Croat parties, has been nominated for the post of prime minister. Read More

Ghana: I got a ‘permit’ to film Electoral Commission’s strong room – Film-maker | GhanaWeb

The heavily criticised director of ‘An African Election’ – a movie on the 2008 elections of Ghana – Jarreth Merz, has revealed that his political neutrality and background did the trick to give him access to the Strong Room of the Electoral Commission of Ghana.

The director of the award-winning movie said he sought permission from the Electoral Commission and mainly the political parties’ representatives in the Strong Room after a gentleman’s agreement was reached that he will not make the video clips public until the elections were over. He stated that one of the major reasons why he was allowed to film all the actions in the Strong Room uncensored was due to the fact that he was seen to be a “neutral” person. Read More

India: Election Commission declares stringent steps for free and fair polls in Uttarakhand | NewsTrackIndia

Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi hereon Friday, issued strict guidelines to ensure free and fair assembly elections in Uttarakhand. Briefing the mediapersons about the preparations, the Chief Election Commissioner revealed that observer’s teams will keep a tab on all activities of the candidates to ascertain if they are indulging in resorting to money and muscle power including luring the voters with liquor.

“Our general observers and expenditure observers will keep an alert eye on money, muscle power and liquor during the state polls and they would check that any such things do not affect the elections,” said Qureshi. He mentioned that the Election Commission has specified all necessary guidelines and that it is monitoring the pre-polls process in the five states where polls are scheduled to take place. Read More