Russia: Kremlin accused of silencing Russia’s independent election watchdog | Telegraph

State prosecutors paid a surprise visit to the Moscow office of Golos (‘Voice’), a Western-sponsored but operationally independent election watchdog, on Thursday and served it with legal papers accusing it of breaking the country’s election law. Demanding that its representatives appear in a Moscow courtroom on Friday morning, prosecutors accused the group of consistently painting a negative picture of an unnamed political party, an overt reference to Mr Putin’s United Russia party.

“It is obvious that the people who organised this campaign against us are the same people who are committing electoral fraud across the country,” GrigoryMelkonyants, Golos’ executive director, told The Daily Telegraph. “It is an act of administrative (government pressure). It is a special operation designed to put us out of action and to destroy the only independent election watchdog in Russia.”

Editorials: The Elections In South Ossetia Are Completely Terrifying | Business Insider

South Ossetia, a tiny central-Asian state, had a presidential election this weekend. If you are wondering why you’ve never heard of the country, its probably because most of the world doesn’t recognize it. After the Russian-Georgian conflict in 2008, breakaway Russian-dominated state South Ossetia was recognized by Russia and a few other countries, such as Venezuela, Nicaragua and the two Pacific island nations of Tuvalu and Nauru. The rest of the world still views it as a part of Georgia

And when we say an election, that word should be used with caution too. Time’s Simon Schuster does a good job setting the scene for the somewhat crazy situation before the election even started as pro-Kremlin groups tried to ensure the pro-Kremlin president remained in power:

“In June, a group of armed men, representing the South Ossetian army and the office of the presidential guard, walked into the parliament building and demanded that the lawmakers allow President Kokoity to stay for a third term in office. This would require changing the constitution, which the lawmakers refused to do. Several of them, barricaded inside the chamber by the armed intruders, called the press to complain of a “military coup,” and Kokoity quickly got nervous.

Colorado: Ballot transparency a statewide debate |

A candidate’s request to inspect ballots cast in Aspen’s 2009 municipal election has set in motion similar efforts around Colorado. The end result might be new rules that govern the review of ballots or that withhold them from public inspection altogether.

Meanwhile, Aspen resident and 2009 mayoral candidate Marilyn Marks is expected to review on Tuesday 100 ballots cast in Pitkin County’s Nov. 1 election. Rather than simply eye the ballots, though, Marks has suggested that county Clerk and Recorder Janice Vos Caudill and a group of election officials look over 100 to 200 ballots with Marks and discuss whether any of them are “identifiable.”

The potential to link a voter to a particular ballot via various election information that is available to the public through the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) has emerged as a concern among county clerks across the state as they respond to ballot requests from Marks and others.

Editorials: For Citizens, Voting Rights and Responsibilities |

This little essay is about voting rights, but let’s start by looking at this national population chart from the 2010 census. The chart shows that America is more and more a multiracial and multiethnic country. More than a quarter of Americans now say that they are something other than simply “white.” Blacks are no longer the largest minority group; Hispanics are.

Since the last census in 2000, the Hispanic population has grown by 43%, and the Asian population has grown by 43.3%. The black and white populations are growing much more slowly, at 12.3% and 5.7% respectively.

And it’s interesting that the number of Americans who identify themselves as belonging to “two or more races” has grown by 32%. That percentage doesn’t count those Americans who, like our president, are of more than one race but who for whatever reason declined to identify themselves in that way on the census form.

Editorials: Students hit by voter ID restrictions | Emily Schultheis/

Tough new voter identification laws have shaken up college campuses around the country, where students — one of the groups most affected by the measures — are scrambling to comply.

The new laws could also put Republicans in a bind: Even as the party has ramped up its youth outreach efforts — hoping to siphon some of the youth vote from President Barack Obama — it has also backed state-level laws that make it harder for college students to vote. The College Democrats have spoken out against the laws, but so far the College Republicans seem unconcerned. The groups’ opposing views of the laws mirror their parties’ positions: Democrats believe the laws suppress legitimate votes; Republicans insist they’re necessary to combat voter fraud. “It’s not about being a Democrat or a Republican; it’s about wanting to be able to vote,” said Alejandra Salinas, president of the College Democrats of America.

National: New voting tech innovations for 2012 |

Ahead of Nov. 6, states are making innovative changes to make it easier to cast ballots and get information about where, when, and how to vote. On tap for next year: secretaries of state offices are set to carve out a larger presence on Facebook and Twitter, roll out pilot programs offering voters the chance to do everything from marking their ballot on a tablet to finding a polling place on a smartphone app, and allow expanded online voting for some in the military or living overseas.

In Oregon, where disabled residents used iPads to cast ballots during a pilot test for the special election earlier this month, officials say they are ready to deploy the tablets again in January. And the state’s step forward could very well spark a trend: the secretary of state’s office told POLITICO that Washington state, Idaho, California, West Virginia and Johnson County, Kansas have all contacted Oregon about the use of the iPads for voting.

Editorials: Opinion: Dems continue fight for voting rights | Will Crossley/

With the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, our nation reached a critical juncture in its history – turning the page on a sad chapter of racial discrimination and voter suppression. In the nearly 50 years since, the United States has largely continued on a trajectory of reform and progress. Additional federal laws have streamlined and safeguarded the voter registration process; significantly expanded ballot box access, and increased political participation by traditionally underrepresented voters.

We witnessed the culmination of these positive changes in the 2008 presidential election – which had the largest and most demographically diverse electorate in U.S. history. There were record numbers of African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans and young voters, who overwhelmingly supported Sen. Barack Obama and Democratic candidates across the country.

Now, with the 2012 election fast approaching, Republicans are doing everything in their power to turn back the clock on this progress for political purposes.

Maryland: Prosecutors: GOP ‘robocall’ plan to suppress black votes hatched on hectic Election Day |

A plan by former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s campaign manager to suppress black votes in Baltimore and Prince George’s County was hatched shortly before 3 p.m. on a desperate, hectic Election Day last year, prosecutors alleged Tuesday in Baltimore Circuit Court.

Needing low voter turnout in those jurisdictions, aides to Ehrlich, a Republican, conferred with political consultant Julius Henson on a strategy to keep those votes down, according to emails presented to the jury in the election fraud case against Ehrlich’s campaign manager, Paul Schurick, 55, of Crownsville.

“What does Julius need to make city turnout stay low?” campaign political director Bernie Marczyk wrote in a 2:53 p.m. email to Schurick, proposing additional bonuses for Henson if he could keep residents from the polls.

Maryland: Robocall Trial Gives Rare Glimpse Behind Slimy, Election-Day Tactic | NPR

An interesting political trial got under way Tuesday in Baltimore. It involves robocalls made during the 2010 rematch between former Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich, a Republican, and the Democratic incumbent Gov. Martin O’Malley.

The calls were made Election Day afternoon by consultants working for the Ehrlich campaign and went to about 110,000 Democratic voters. The voters were told to “relax,” that “O’Malley and President Obama have been successful. Our goals have been met. The polls were correct, and we took it back.” The caller, never identified, went on to say that “the only thing left is to watch it on TV tonight.”

New York: Chautauqua County Election Commissioner Arraigned On Misdemeanors |

Norman P. Green was arraigned Monday in Chautauqua County Court on two election law misdemeanors. Green is the county’s Democratic election commissioner. The attempt to indict on felony charges failed to pass grand jury.

“I think it shows the system works, as far as grand juries,” said James Subjack, who is representing Green. “We’re looking forward to bringing the facts out to the public and I’m very confident that ultimately the charges will be dismissed either by motion or trial.” County Court Judge John Ward has recused himself from the case, which is now assigned to a Cattaraugus County judge.

North Carolina: Attorney General: Local Voter ID laws unconstitutional | NC Policy Watch

Attempts by the state legislature to pass local bills requiring voters in some, but not all, counties to produce photo identification at the polls would fail to meet the constitutional guarantee of equal protection, according to a recent analysis by the N.C. Attorney General’s Office.

The state Department of Justice, in a Nov. 23 advisory letter sent to Gov. Bev Perdue’s office, indicated that a strategy by GOP leaders to circumvent Perdue’s June veto of a voter ID bill would run into constitutional issues. Having individual counties ask for more stringent identification rules would create an unconstitutional scenario where voters in some counties face more hurdles to vote than in other areas.

“It is therefore our views that significant equal protection concerns would arise if voter identification requirements were established for some voters and not others based merely on their county of residence,” wrote Grayson Kelley, the chief deputy Attorney General, in the letter. He later added, “The enactment of local acts applying photo voter identification requirements in only certain counties would raise serious equal protection issues under both the United States Constitution and North Carolina Constitution.”

Editorials: Reflections on Congo’s elections |

Elections have passed throughout most of the Congo – voters are now suspended in a weird limbo of several weeks as they wait for election results to be announced. Sitting in bars and living rooms, people in Bukavu send and receive dozens of text messages a day regarding the results seen outside voting offices and compilation centers – “Vital is ahead in 8 out of 32 centers in Goma!” “Tshisekedi takes a surprising lead in Beni territory!”

I won’t delve into too much speculation about the result yet. It is too early to do so; results just began trickling into the central compilation centers in Kinshasa yesterday. It looks like Tshisekedi did well, and that the race will be close, but beyond scattered results here and there, there is more speculation than anything else.

Congo: Chaos in DR Congo poll |

Voting in parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo extended into a third day on Wednesday, after logistical problems prevented many voters from casting their ballots on election day, two days earlier. Some opposition leaders are already calling the elections a sham.

Four presidential candidates said the elections, which had been set to start and finish on Monday, should be cancelled. The official results are expected on December 6, and analysts are warning that violence could erupt unless all participants in the election agree to respect the final outcome.

The African Union and European Union have urged calm, calling on political forces in the country to only use legal means to challenge the results. The US said it was concerned by “anomalies”.

Egypt: Partial Results Show Muslim Brotherhood In The Lead |

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood was leading in initial, partial results from Egypt’s parliamentary elections but it was facing stiff competition in many places both from more hard-line Islamic groups and from a liberal-secular alliance, judges overseeing counting said Wednesday. The trend from results so far mirrored expectations that the Brotherhood, Egypt’s most powerful fundamentalist group, would make the strongest showing in the first parliament elections since the fall of Hosni Mubarak.

Still, it was too early to extrapolate whether their victory was bigger or smaller than expected, with counting still continuing from the first round of voting, which took place on Monday and Tuesday. The Brotherhood had the biggest share of votes in the capital Cairo and the country’s second biggest city, Alexandria, on the Mediterranean coast, as well as the southern city of Luxor, Port Said on the Suez Canal, and Kafr el-Sheikh, a major city in the Nile Delta, according to judges in each area.

Egypt: A Surge For Islamists Leaves Many Wondering What Comes Next |

A massive election turnout in this largely conservative Muslim coastal city has contributed to what many are estimating to be a sweeping victory by Egypt’s Islamist parties in the country’s first democratic elections this week.

The voting, which began Monday in the country’s largest metropolitan areas and continues into January, will decide the makeup of the country’s first elected parliament since the ouster of strongman Hosni Mubarak. The newly-elected body will be empowered to craft a new constitution.

South Ossetia: Alla Dzhioyeva declares herself president |

Troops fired warning shots into the air Wednesday as thousands rallied to support a presidential candidate whose apparent victory over a Kremlin-backed rival was annulled in the breakaway Georgian province of South Ossetia. A handful of soldiers who guarded the main government building in the capital of Tskhinvali fired the shots as several thousand supporters of Alla Dzhioyeva approached. Marching in the heavy snow, they chanted her name and shouted “Justice!”

South Ossetians broke away from Georgia in a war in the early 1990s. Spiraling tensions between pro-Russian separatists and the Western-learning Georgian government triggered a brief war between Russia and Georgia in 2008. Since then, Russia recognized South Ossetia as an independent nation, but only a few other nations around the world followed suit.

South Ossetia: Opposition leader rejects new vote |

South Ossetia does not need a new presidential election, the candidate whose apparent victory over a Kremlin-backed rival was annulled in the breakaway Georgian province said Thursday. As anti-corruption crusader Alla Dzhioyeva spoke, armed troops surrounded the government building in the separatist capital of Tskhinvali, gearing up for a rally of her supporters.

Dzhioyeva declared herself president after she led with about 57 percent of Sunday’s runoff vote with ballots from 74 of the 85 precincts counted, while rival Anatoly Bibilov trailed with 40 percent. But the separatist government annulled the vote due to alleged violations and barred Dzhioyeva from participating in the new vote.

“I won my election, 17,000 out of 30,000 (voters) cast their ballots for me,” the 62-year-old former school principal told journalists. “This is our victory, and they want to steal it.” She said thousands of supporters would rally later in the day in front of the government building as South Ossetia’s Supreme Court deliberates her appeal on the annulment and whether she is allowed to run in the March re-vote.

The Voting News Daily: Washington state political parties challenge top 2 primary in federal appeals court, Universities Prepare for Wisconsin Voter ID law

Editorials: Washington state political parties challenge top 2 primary in federal appeals court | Dave Ammons/Tukwila Reporter Washington’s political parties are back in federal appeals court, continuing their six-year  challenge of the state’s popular voter-approved Top 2 Primary. The Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties of Washington asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday to throw…

Colorado: Election Commission punts request to view ballots |

The battle over ballots at Aspen City Hall continues. On Tuesday, the Aspen Election Commission decided to punt on two public-records requests to view ballots that were cast in the city’s 2011 municipal election held in May.

Commissioner Ward Hauenstein said that while he favors an open and transparent government, he received outside advice from a Denver attorney who said the Election Commission could not rule on the matter because it isn’t the custodian of election records.

“According to information provided by you, the Aspen Election Commission does not have personal custody of the paper ballots in question,” attorney John S. Zakhem wrote. “Therefore, the [commission] is not the custodian of the paper ballots and is not obligated to produce them in response to the [Colorado Open Records Act] request.”

Georgia: College Park Georgia election stolen, challenger claims  |

Roderick Derun Gay is again trying to overturn another College Park election he contends was stolen from him. AJC file Roderick Derun Gay filed a lawsuit asking the Fulton County Superior Court to throw out Mayor Jack Longino’s victory in the College Park election on Nov. 8.

Gay, 52, said Monday that he filed a lawsuit asking the Fulton County Superior Court to throw out Mayor Jack Longino’s tsunami-like victory on Nov. 8 because he said the election was “illegal and the votes certified are false.” Longino, 58, was dismissive about the lawsuit. “I think it’s about a sore loser,” he said. Gay said City Clerk Lakeitha Reeves, who served as the election superintendent, refused to allow him or his representative to inspect the tally from electronic voting machines or examine the absentee ballots cast.

Oklahoma: Court orders voter ID challenge moved to Oklahoma City | Tulsa World

A Tulsa County judge is prohibited from hearing a constitutional challenge to the state’s voter identification law, the state Supreme Court ruled this week. The Supreme Court issued a brief order Monday regarding a venue issue in a lawsuit filed in Tulsa County against the state Election Board.

The state’s highest court indicated that a constitutional challenge to the law had to be brought in the county of the Election Board’s official residence, which would be Oklahoma County. At a September hearing, District Judge Jefferson Sellers decided that the lawsuit filed in June on behalf of plaintiff Delilah Christine Gentges could proceed in a Tulsa County courtroom. Sellers did not rule on the merits of the suit’s constitutional challenge.

South Dakota: Elections board spars with South Dakota Secretary of State Gant | The Argus Leader

Secretary of State Jason Gant attempted Tuesday to bypass the state board of elections — which has rule-making authority under state law — in approving new forms and introducing legislation. At the regular meeting in Sioux Falls, board members questioned Gant’s attempt to change forms such as those used for voter registration without the board’s final approval on the actual form.

One board member also questioned Gant bringing forth legislation this session without the board’s approval. The board, in place since the 1970s, is composed of auditors and former legislators from both parties. Its purpose is to help make bipartisan decisions and ensure public participation on election rules and policy.

US Virgin Islands: Committee approves elections bill, but with a lot of language removed | Virgin Islands Daily News

Members of the Senate Rules and Judiciary Committee approved a number of bills Monday, including a measure that makes changes to the territory’s election laws. Two bills failed to move out of committee, one to make government employees buy gas for their government vehicles and one to create a special conference to develop the government’s revenue forecasts.

The elections bill passed Monday is separate from the election reforms recently submitted to the V.I. Legislature by the Joint Board of Elections. The bill considered Monday, sponsored by Sen. Usie Richards, was based on legislation submitted by prior boards of elections. Through amendments passed Monday, much of the bill’s language was removed, leaving only a few items in the measure.

Editorials: Washington state political parties challenge top 2 primary in federal appeals court | Dave Ammons/Tukwila Reporter

Washington’s political parties are back in federal appeals court, continuing their six-year  challenge of the state’s popular voter-approved Top 2 Primary. The Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties of Washington asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday to throw out the system, which allows voters to choose their favorite for each office, without respect to party, with the two favorites advancing to the November General Election ballot.  Neither party is guaranteed a November runoff slot, and the Top 2 is not a nominating election, but rather a winnowing contest.

Jeff Even, deputy state solicitor general, representing Secretary of State Sam Reed and the voters, said the oral argument went well, and that he is optimistic that the state will be able to keep the Top 2 system in place.  California voters recently adopted the system. The three-judge panel gave no indication when they will rule, but Even said he would expect the state to know by next spring that it can run the big 2012 election system with the Top 2 in place.

West Virginia: Redistricting plan to cost $462,000 for Raleigh | The Register-Herald

That court-approved redistricting plan is costing Raleigh County more than a few thousand voters being shipped to adjoining counties. All told, once the need to add 24 new precincts — and five voting machines for each — along with poll workers, janitorial service and, in some locales, rental fees are taken into account, Raleigh County’s tab is a whopping $462,000, says Commissioner Dave Tolliver.

Only last week, the state Supreme Court upheld the hotly disputed plan for the House of Delegates, as well as the Senate’s non-controversial one, saying neither one violated the West Virginia Constitution. What no one mentioned in all the debates in the House was the bill that will follow.

Wisconsin: Universities Prepare for Wisconsin Voter ID law | WUWM

Last week, UW-Madison announced plans to issue students a special identification card for voting. UW-Milwaukee is following suit. The university said Tuesday it will create a secondary card to comply with Wisconsin’s new photo ID law.

As WUWM’s Ann-Elise Henzl reports, schools are deciding whether to accommodate students. It comes with a cost. Under Wisconsin’s new voting law, a variety of identification cards are acceptable at the polls, including university IDs. However, UW System spokesman David Giroux says no UW ID cards contain all the information the law demands.

Canada: British Columbia may launch Internet voting pilots | FierceGovernmentIT

The Canadian province of British Columbia may be inching closer to instituting Internet voting following a Nov. 21 recommendation by Elections B.C., the governmental organization responsible for conducting local elections.

In a report to the legislative assembly, Chief Electoral Officer Keith Archer says he recommends (legislators “may wish to consider,” he says) parliamentary authorization of Internet voting pilots for provincial elections. “I love the idea,” B.C. Attorney General Shirley Bond told the Vancouver Sun, adding that she’s empaneling experts to examine Internet voting.

Congo: Vote Extended To Second Day |

After an election marred by missing ballots and violence, officials extended voting to a second day Tuesday in an attempt to prevent further unrest in sub-Saharan Africa’s largest nation. Country experts had urged the government to postpone Monday’s presidential and legislative elections, arguing that a delayed vote was better than a botched one.

Congo is in a race against the clock, though, because the five-year term of President Joseph Kabila expires next week, and the country could face more unrest if he is seen as staying past his constitutional mandate. The vote is only the second since the end of Congo’s last war, and the first to be organized by the government instead of the international community. The election was supposed to mark another step toward peace, but if the results are not accepted by the population, especially the country’s fractured opposition, analysts fear it could drag Congo back into conflict.

Egypt: Elections Process Complexity Threatens Vote |

With Egypt’s first democratic elections since the fall of Hosni Mubarak now less than a day away, voter confusion and the complexity of the process threaten to undermine the balloting — assuming, that is, that renewed unrest doesn’t sideline voting altogether. For much of the past week, campaigning and party politics were largely set aside, as anti-regime protests and violent clashes with Egyptian security forces commanded most of the country’s attention.

Now, several revolutionary activists insist that unless the ruling military regime that has governed Egypt since February promises to turn over power to a civilian president, the vote for a parliament shouldn’t go forward at all. Many of them have once again taken to Tahrir Square, the site of the original revolution earlier this year, and pledged to stay there until the military yields.