The Voting News Daily: One-man Washington nonprofit helps steer Shelby County voting case, Confusion feared since ballots bear names of presidential contenders no longer in Florida race

Alabama: One-man Washington nonprofit helps steer Shelby County voting case | Shelby County’s name is on the case, but a one-man Washington, D.C., legal defense fund with pri­vate donors is the driving force be­hind one of the most important constitutional challenges to the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Project on Fair Representa­tion is the nonprofit run by…

Alabama: One-man Washington nonprofit helps steer Shelby County voting case |

Shelby County’s name is on the case, but a one-man Washington, D.C., legal defense fund with pri­vate donors is the driving force be­hind one of the most important constitutional challenges to the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Project on Fair Representa­tion is the nonprofit run by Ed­ward Blum, a one-time congres­sional candidate in Texas with two decades of experience in litigation over affirmative action, redistrict­ing and voting rights. After the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009 expressed some reservations about the constitutionality of Sec­tion 5 of the Voting Rights Act but no official ruling, Blum found in Shelby County a potential litigant to try again: a local government that had grown weary of the bur­dens of the Voting Rights Act and a willingness to take that complaint all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. So the Shelby County Commission agreed to let Blum’s Project on Fair Representation hire the lawyers and file the case that alleges two key parts of the landmark civil rights law are outdated and no longer necessary.

Florida: Confusion feared since ballots bear names of presidential contenders no longer in race | Palm Beach Post

Only four candidates are facing-off in Tuesday’s Republican presidential primary, but there are nine names to choose from on the ballot. Although five candidates have dropped out of the race, including Minnesota Congressman Michele Bachmann and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, their names are still on the ballot. Palm Beach County elections chief Susan Bucher said Friday she is worried the ballots may confuse voters. She wants to make sure residents don’t “waste” their vote by choosing a candidate who dropped out. “It is a statewide issue,” said Bucher, who has discussed her concerns with the Secretary of State’s office. “I am just concerned that people will waste their vote, in what appears to be a very close election.”

Indiana: Secretary Of State’s Voter Fraud Trial Starts | Fox News

Indiana’s top elections official is himself facing allegations of voter fraud. Secretary of State Charlie White, a Republican, is in the unusual position of being the person entrusted to protect the integrity of the ballot box, while at the same time fighting seven felony charges involving allegations he registered to vote at his ex-wife’s house and served as a local councilman when he actually lived outside the district. Jury selection in White’s trial is set to begin this morning at the Hamilton County Superior Courthouse, in Noblesville, Ind. “We’ve always abided by the law,” White told Fox News in an interview last November. Through a spokesman, he declined another interview on the eve of the trial.

Indiana: Recount prompts vote center questions – County won’t use vote centers in this year because of privacy concerns | Palladium-Item

Vote centers might go statewide in this election year after a multi-year pilot test by Wayne and two other counties and a law change last year that allows it. Fayette County, though, is abandoning vote centers in 2012, after its first experience during the 2011 city election, an election that went to a recount. Fayette County Clerk Melinda Sudhoff said the Fayette County Election Board agreed late last week not to use vote centers for this year’s presidential elections. The idea will be revisited in 2014, she said. Vote centers eliminate precinct voting and allow voters to vote at any of several locations before or on Election Day. The system reduces the number of polling places, equipment and workers, which cuts costs. Vote centers also make voting more convenient for some voters, but when they vote early at the centers, voters are actually casting absentee ballots, according to the law.

Indiana: Jury Set For Charlie White Trial | WRTV Indianapolis

A jury has been set in the criminal trial of Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White in Hamilton County. White is charged with seven felonies, including voter fraud and perjury, stemming from allegations that he lied about where he lived in 2010 so he could continue collecting his salary as a member of the town council in Fishers, just north of Indianapolis. Slightly fewer than 50 potential jurors were called for questioning Monday morning, RTV6’s Derrik Thomas reported.

North Dakota: Secretary of State warns against lax handling of ballot measure petitions | The Republic

North Dakota’s secretary of state says people who sign ballot measure petitions should make sure the petition carrier sees them do it. Al Jaeger says he’s heard reports of petitions being left unattended for people to sign. Jaeger says that’s against the law, and signatures on those petitions may not be counted. Jaeger says sometimes petitions are downloaded and circulated by people who may not be aware of the rules.

Pennsylvania: House speaker seeks federal redistricting ruling | Washington Examiner

The speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Monday asked a federal judge to rule that the state legislative district maps in place for the past decade are unconstitutional and may not be used for any future elections. Revisions to the state’s legislative map that reflect population shifts from the 2010 census are in limbo for now after a new map was rejected by the state Supreme Court last week. A spokesman for Speaker Sam Smith said the federal lawsuit was filed to resolve the ensuing “chaos” the state court’s decision creates for candidates seeking to run in special elections to fill six House vacancies.

Tennessee: Bills seek changes to voter ID law | Knoxville News Sentinel

The majority leaders of the state House and Senate have filed bills that could open doors for more people to have a valid photo identification card for voting under a law that was approved in last year’s legislative session. One bill filed Thursday by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Colliverville, and House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, would authorize county election commissions to issue a free photo ID. The bill (SB3707) would apply to registered voters who sign an affidavit stating they currently have no ID that is valid under current law. It is similar to a measure filed by House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, and Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney of Jackson. (HB2305).

Texas: Behind Closed Doors – Texas Redistricting Panel | The Austin Chronicle

Monday, Feb. 6. That’s the deadline set by the San Antonio redistricting panel for all parties to agree on interim House, Senate and Congressional maps, or they’ll miss the deadline for the April 3 primary. But what will the minority voting rights groups want from those maps, and can they stay on the same page? There were rumors floating around all weekend that there could be a deal struck as early as today, but with all parties heading to DC to catch closing arguments in the preclearance hearing tomorrow, Jan. 31, that seems unlikely. The Mexican American Legislative Caucus told the Chronicle this morning that a deal is not imminent, even though they are all working towards some kind of agreement.

Virginia: Rick Perry abandons lawsuit against Virginia election law |

Rick Perry — the states’ rights champion who claimed in court that the state of Virginia did not have the constitutional right to adopt its restrictive election laws — has quietly dropped a challenge to Virginia’s rules for ballot petitions. The state of Virginia barred Perry from the state’s March 6 presidential primary ballot after the Texas governor failed to garner the required number of legitimate signatures on his nominating petitions. Perry filed suit to win a place on the ballot — a subject that became moot when the Texan pulled the plug on his unsuccessful White House effort on Jan. 19.

Virginia: AARP Stands Up Against Voter ID Law | NBC29 WVIR

The AARP is sending a warning to state lawmakers about legislation requiring people show a photo ID to vote. If passed, they say it could a mean a lot of seniors will choose to stay home instead. The bill in question has passed the House of Delegates, and is now on to the Senate. But the AARP says as many as 18 percent of all people over the age of 65 don’t have an ID. Republican Delegate Mark Cole is pushing the legislation to make sure there are no fraudulent voters. “There’s no way to get that fraudulent vote back,” he said. But critics of his House Bill 9, which would require a photo ID to vote, say there’s just one problem – voter fraud, like Cole is worried about, has not happened in Virginia. In addition, David Debiasi with Virginia’s AARP says a disproportionate number of elderly people don’t have a photo ID.

Nicaragua: U.S. remains stringent on Nicaragua over election |

The United States will continue to give “aggressive scrutiny” to aid loans made to Nicaragua in light of reported irregularities in the country’s presidential election, the U.S. State Department says. Nicaragua’s November elections “were not conducted in a transparent and impartial manner,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement. “The elections marked a setback to democracy in Nicaragua and undermined the ability of Nicaraguans to hold their government accountable.” With 64% of the vote, Daniel Ortega won his second consecutive term and third presidential term overall. Nicaragua’s constitution bars presidents from being re-elected, but that did not stop Ortega from running in his sixth straight presidential race.

Russia: Vote Chief ‘Shocked’ at Yavlinsky Signature Irregularities | RIA Novosti

Russia’s chief election official has defended his decision to bar liberal opposition leader Grigory Yavlinsky from taking part in the country’s upcoming presidential election, saying the number of violations in his application to run for the post was “shocking.” “We didn’t expect to face such a great number of irregularities in the signatures collected in support of Grigory Yavlinsky,” Vladimir Churov, head of Russia’s Central Election Commission, said in an interview with the news magazine Itogi published on Monday. “It came as a genuine shock to us.”

Senegal: President clear to run for 3rd term | Korea Herald

Senegal’s highest court ruled just after midnight on Monday that the West African country’s aging leader was eligible to run for a third term in next month’s election, rejecting appeals filed by the opposition and eliminating the last legal avenue for challenging President Abdoulaye Wade’s candidacy. The court also rejected the appeal of music icon Youssou Ndour, stating that his candidacy was invalidated because he did not file enough valid signatures. The opposition has called on the country’s increasingly disenfranchised population to rise up against Wade, and protests are expected this week. When the constitutional court issued its initial ruling Friday and approved Wade’s third-term bid, angry youths clashed with security forces, stoning a police officer to death.

National: Military, overseas voting easier, report finds |

For military and overseas voters from 47 states and D.C., casting a ballot in 2012 will be a much different — and easier — experience than ever before. Since the 2009 passage of the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, which called for improved election access for those living or serving abroad, 47 states and D.C. have enacted new laws and reforms to protect this group of voters, the Pew Center on the States study released Friday found. The 2012 election is the first presidential contest where these voters will cast ballots with the newly implemented legislative and administrative changes. Pew found that 38 states and D.C. now have rules meeting or exceeding the MOVE act’s requirement to send absentee ballots no later than 45 days before a federal election, and eight states also moved their primary dates to accommodate that condition.

Editorials: International campaign finance: How do countries compare? |

The world economy may be bracing for another grim year, but political donors in the United States are breaking out their checkbooks to finance what is expected to be the most expensive presidential election in American history. The Center for Responsive Politics estimates $6 billion will be spent in the U.S. elections by campaigns, political parties and corporations hoping to propel their candidates into the White House and what writer Mark Twain once called the “best Congress money can buy.” The projected price tag of the 2012 U.S. election dwarfs that of other nations, but corruption monitors from Transparency International (TI) say it’s not just how much will be spent but where the money is coming from that threatens the integrity of politics around the world.

National: Super PACs target congressional races | The Washington Post

The powerful political groups known as super PACs, whose heavy spending has become a significant factor in the presidential race, are also beginning to play a role in congressional races around the country. The groups have set off a scramble among candidates in both parties, who are now struggling to cope with a flood of negative ads run by organizations that are outside their direct control. Targets of super PAC money in recent months include at least two dozen pivotal House districts around the country, along with high-profile Senate races in states such as Massachusetts, Ohio, Utah and Indiana, according to Federal Election Commission data and interviews with political strategists.

Indiana: Charlie White’s freedom, political future on the line | The Indianapolis Star

In the days after his indictment on seven felony charges, Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White received the same advice repeatedly from his top advisers: Don’t talk to the media about the charges. White listened and nodded in agreement, according to sources close to him, but when it came time to follow that advice, he went his own way. Before his March 11, 2011, initial hearing, White shocked his advisers by giving a 12-minute impromptu news conference about his theory that the charges, which included voter fraud and theft, are politically motivated. White, who had been one of the Republican Party’s most faithful servants, had gone rogue.

Indiana: Political stakes are high as Indiana Secretary of State White goes on trial | The Journal Gazette

Charlie White might not have been aware he could be breaking election law when he registered to vote at his ex-wife’s address in Indiana’s May 2010 Republican primary. But whether he acted deliberately or out of ignorance, experts say the action undermines the credibility of the state’s top elections office. “There are two scenarios, and neither one is very flattering,” said Robert Dion, a political science professor at the University of Evansville. “Either he was not aware of the law — and that doesn’t raise a lot of respect — that you have to live in the district you represent, (or) if he did know, that’s even worse.”

Iowa: Schultz hopes to blunt voter ID plan criticism | Globe Gazette

Secretary of State Matt Schultz jumped into one of the most partisan issues in electoral politics last week when he introduced a new voter photo identification bill, but he did so with a twist. Unique to his proposal is the idea that one voter can vouch for another in place of photo identification, something Schultz hopes will blunt criticism of his plan. He used the word “bipartisan” no fewer than 14 times during his Statehouse news conference and in answering questions from the media. When pressed, however, he acknowledged that he had bipartisan input, but not necessarily bipartisan support for his plan.

South Carolina: Lawsuit over voter ID could cost taxpayers more than $1 million | The Post and Courier

South Carolina taxpayers will be on the hook for a high-powered Washington attorney’s $520-an-hour rate when the state sues the federal government this week to protect its voter ID law. That litigation could cost more than $1 million, according to two South Carolina attorneys who have practiced before the U.S. Supreme Court. Supporters of South Carolna’s voter ID law say it is necessary to prevent voter fraud. Opponents say there is no proof that a voter-fraud problem exists.S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson has more than five dozen staff attorneys to handle the state’s legal affairs, but Wilson hired a former U.S. solicitor general to litigate the voter ID case at a rate of $520 an hour, a contract obtained last week reveals.

Texas: Democrats, minority groups near huge win with redistricting settlement | The Hill

The Texas state attorneys defending the state’s GOP-drawn redistricting plans from court challenges have reached out to settle litigation, according to sources in the state. The settlement would give minority groups and Democrats what they’ve been demanding from the start: more heavily minority, Democratic-leaning House seats. The result would likely mean at least four more Texas Democrats in Congress as of next year, a good start on the 25 or so seats Democrats need to win to retake control of the House. “They’re backed up against the wall and have to come to some agreement and it’ll be awfully favorable on our end,” said one of the plaintiffs in the case. Another plaintiff agreed.  “It’s clear they know they’re in a vulnerable position and that’s why they want to settle,” he said.

US Virgin Islands: Attorney waging battle to gain federal vote for USVI | Virgin Islands Daily News

Two of the most powerful rights citizens in a democracy have are the ability to vote and to choose who creates the laws to which they are subjected. V.I. attorney Russell Pate in September filed suit in U.S. District Court against six federal agencies to provide those two rights to the residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands. On Monday, Ronald Sharpe, U.S. Attorney for the Virgin Islands, filed to dismiss the complaint.The Federal Election Commission had already filed to dismiss on Nov. 7. Pate’s complaint seeks to give residents of the territory the ability to elect and run for the U.S. presidency. He compares territorial suffrage with the historic struggles for voting rights that required revolutionary changes to include minorities and women.

Virginia: Voter ID bills decried by Democrats advance | Richmond Times-Dispatch

A bill that would require voters who show up at the polls without identification to cast provisional ballots is headed to the House floor after being lambasted by Democrats in a committee hearing Friday. On a 16-6 vote, the Committee on Privileges and Elections advanced House Bill 9, sponsored by Del. Mark L. Cole, R-Spotsylvania, the committee’s chairman. The legislation would alter existing law, which allows anyone who claims to be a registered voter to cast a regular ballot, even without proper identification. All but one Democrat on the committee, Del. Johnny S. Joannou, D-Portsmouth, opposed the change, claiming it could suppress the votes of minorities as well as the elderly, the young and the poor. “There’s no way humanly possible that I can support this bill,” said Del. Algie T. Howell Jr., D-Norfolk. “I don’t know why we have this bill in front of us if we don’t have documented cases of voter fraud or problems at the polling place,” added Del. Kenneth C. Alexander, D-Norfolk.

Myanmar: Suu Kyi calls for changes to constitution | Reuters

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi called on Sunday for changes to the military-drafted constitution, on her first political trip since ending a boycott of the country’s political system last year and announcing plans to run for parliament. Thousands of supporters lined the roads, many shouting “Long live mother Suu,” as her motorcade wound through the rural coastal region of Dawei, about 615 km (380 miles) south of her home city, Yangon, the main business centre. The trip, only her fourth outside Yangon since her release from years of house arrest in November 2010, demonstrates the growing prominence of the Nobel Peace laureate as the Southeast Asian state emerges from half a century of isolation.

Cambodia: Ruling party secures expected victory in Senate elections closed to general public | The Washington Post

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s party secured an expected victory at Senate elections Sunday, according to preliminary results following the vote that was closed to the general population and criticized for lacking credibility. The ruling Cambodian People’s Party won almost 78 percent of votes, while the opposition Sam Rainsy Party won almost 22 percent, Election Commission chairman Im Suosdey told reporters. Official results were expected Feb. 4. The 61-seat Senate has no power to amend or veto legislation and is widely seen as an ineffectual body that rubber-stamps bills from the lower house, or National Assembly, which the ruling party dominates.

Chad: Chad holds first local elections | AFP

Voters in Chad went to the polls last Sunday for the first local elections in the central African country’s history, after the ballot had been rescheduled several times. Mayors were previously appointed directly by the central government.
Around one million people were eligible to cast their ballots, and voting appeared to be calm after polling booths opened at 7:30 am (0830 GMT). President Idriss Deby Itno voted in district No. 1 Djamabal Ngat, where some 50 voters were awaiting their turn.

India: 7 dead, 82% turnout in Manipur polls | The Times of India

The Election Commission’s assurance of peaceful elections came a cropper on the first day of polling in Manipur when seven persons, including a CRPF jawan and four poll officials, were killed even as an 82% turnout was recorded on Saturday. DGP R Baral said a suspected NSCN(IM) militant entered a booth at Thampi polling station in Chandel constituency and asked officials to stop polling. When they refused, he fired at them. A few CRPF men rushed in and returned fire, killing the rebel. “Six persons were killed on the spot. An injured later died in hospital,” said Baral. Among the deceased was a minor girl who had accompanied relatives to the booth. It’s learnt that three Naga militants entered the booth posing as voters. While one began firing from a pistol and was killed, the other two escaped, said a source.