Alabama: Appeals Court Examines Constitutionality Of Voting Rights Act Provision | The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times

A federal appeals court in Washington is reviewing the constitutionality of a provision of the Voting Rights Act that requires certain local and state governments to get permission from the U.S. Justice Department before implementing electoral changes. Bert Rein, representing Shelby County, Alabama in the suit against the federal government, today urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to strike down Section 5 of the 1965 law as unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge John Bates ruled for DOJ last September.

Texas: Supreme Court Rejects Judge-Drawn Maps in Texas Redistricting Case |

The Supreme Court on Friday instructed a lower court in Texas to take a fresh look at election maps it had drawn in place of a competing set of maps from the Texas Legislature. The justices said the lower court had not paid enough deference to the Legislature’s choices and had improperly substituted its own values for those of elected officials. The court’s unanimous decision extends the uncertainty surrounding this major voting-rights case, which could help determine control of the House of Representatives.

Iowa: The Semantics and Statistics of Santorum’s Win in Iowa | 538/

Amid the swirl of developments on Thursday came word from the Iowa Republican Party that it had certified the results from the state’s Jan. 3 caucuses — and that Rick Santorum, not Mitt Romney, had gotten more votes. Mr. Santorum received 29,839 votes in the state’s certified tally, 34 more than Mr. Romney, who had 29,805. Iowa Republicans were hesitant to deem Mr. Santorum the winner, however. Early Thursday morning, the state party chairman, Matt Strawn, instead described the result as having been “too close to call.” Later, Mr. Strawn was somewhat clearer. “One thing that is irrefutable is that in these 1,776 certified precincts, the Republican Party was able to certify and report Rick Santorum was the winner of the certified precinct vote total by 34 votes,” he told reporters, He cautioned, however, that there was ambiguity in the outcome because the results from eight other precincts were unaccounted for and had never been certified. How safe is it to assume that Mr. Santorum in fact won? And does any of this matter, other than to historians and data geeks?

Voting Blogs: When is an Election Over? Depends Who You Ask – and Why | Doug Chapin/PEEA

Not surprisingly, the recent news about the muddled finish in the GOP Iowa caucuses has got people talking about what it means to say an election is “over”. To an election official, an election is over when the outcome has been certified according to applicable state or local law. At that point, the process for that election is “final-final” and in the books. That’s why election administrators are so insistent about calling Election Night returns “unofficial” returns; experience teaches that lots of factors – including everything from math errors to multiparty litigation – can make the Election Night results turn out to be incomplete or incorrect.

Editorials: Despite Supreme Court ruling, Texas congressional map still very uncertain | The Washington Post

The drama over Texas’s new congressional map will drag on after the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday blocked an interim court-drawn map. The Court on Friday ruled that an interim 2012 election map drawn by a federal court in San Antonio must give greater deference to the original map drawn by the GOP-controlled Texas state legislature. The ruling is at least a temporary victory for Republicans, in that it blocks an interim map to be used for the 2012 election that is preferred by Democrats. But it’s still not clear that the end result will be any better for Republicans. In fact, it’s not clear what the end result will be at all.

Voting Blogs: Court rejects Texas maps, delays West Virginia map | SCOTUSblog

The Supreme Court on Friday unanimously overturned orders issued by a federal court in Texas that drew its own new maps for legislative districts, and ordered it to reconsider.  In an 11-page unsigned opinion, the Court said that the three-judge District Court in San Antonio may not have used the “appropriate standards,” which the Court spelled out in some detail.  Justice Clarence Thomas, in a separate opinion, repeated his view that a key federal voting rights act implicated in the Texas case is unconstitutional.  The decision is here.

National: Citizens United Fallout: Coalition Asks SEC To Order Corporate Disclosure Of Political Spending | Huffington Post

It used to be against the law for executives to spend funds from their massive corporate treasuries to directly influence elections. But two years ago this week, the Supreme Court declared such restrictions unconstitutional — and short of a constitutional amendment, it’s hard to get around that. The Court never said corporations should be able to spend all that money in secret, however. So on Thursday, a coalition of campaign reform and corporate transparency advocates called attention to their petition to persuade the Securities and Exchange Commission to require that corporations publicly disclose their political contributions.

Voting Blogs: It’s here – Global centralization of elections, privatized | GlobalResearch

In a major step towards global centralization of election processes, the world’s dominant Internet voting company has purchased the USA’s dominant election results reporting company. When you view your local or state election results on the Internet, on portals which often appear to be owned by the county elections division, in over 525 US jurisdictions you are actually redirected to a private corporate site controlled by SOE software, which operates under the name

Alabama: Key provision of voting rights law under court scrutiny | NBC

A central part of election law dating back to the historic civil rights struggles of the 1960s could be scrapped or curtailed in the coming months as a critical case makes its way through the courts. The fate of a key part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act is now being decided by the federal appeals court in Washington, as a three-judge panel weighs an appeal from Shelby County, Ala. asking the court to find that Congress exceeded its power when it renewed section 5 of the law in 2006.

California: Appeals court upholds Washington state’s open primary system |

In a decision that could foreshadow survival of California’s new “top two” primary system, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld a similar Washington state ballot initiative that changed the way voters choose candidates in primaries. Both states’ voters approved measures allowing the top two vote-getters in a primary to advance to the general election, regardless of party affiliation. The format replaced closed primaries, in which each party chose a candidate for the general election.

Florida: U.S. Supreme Court weakens Florida Democrats’ hand in redistricting disputes | Palm Beach Post

A House panel Friday worked to narrow the number of plans for Florida legislative and congressional boundaries, even as a U.S. Supreme Court ruling strengthened the Legislature’s hand in drawing new district boundaries. The House Redistricting Committee centered on one map each for House, Senate and congressional lines, heading toward a scheduled vote next week. The House is playing catch-up to the Senate, which earlier this week approved its own set of maps. “We’re moving as quickly as we can, but not to the detriment of the public or the membership” (of the Legislature), said Redistricting Chairman Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.

Idaho: Idaho Supreme Court Throws Out Redistricting Plan | Times-News

The Idaho Supreme Court overturned a controversial plan to redraw the state’s legislative districts Tuesday, ordering the commission that made it to adopt a new district map that more closely follows the state and U.S. constitutions.
Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs filed a petition on behalf of four Idaho counties and four cities in November, arguing that it wasn’t necessary to split so many counties to create 35 legislative districts of roughly equal population. In the 4-1 decision, the Supreme Court agreed that the adopted map splits more counties than is necessary to meet the U.S. Constitution’s requirement of one person, one vote. It ordered the Redistricting Commission to reconvene and adopt a map with minimal county splits.

Iowa: Who won the Iowa primary – and does it matter from a technical perspective? | Jeremy Epstein/Freedom to Tinker

As Americans know, the 2012 presidential season began “officially” with the Iowa caucuses on January 3. I say “officially”, because caucuses are a strange beast that are a creation of political parties, and not government. Regardless, the Republican results were interesting – out of about 125,000 votes cast, Mitt Romney led by eight votes over Rick Santorum, with other contenders far behind. The “official” results released today show Santorum ahead by 34 votes. However, it’s not so simple as that.

Texas: Supreme Court sides with Texas on redistricting plan | The Washington Post

The Supreme Court on Friday set aside Texas redistricting plans drawn by a federal court that were favored by minorities and Democrats, and ordered the lower court to come up with new plans based more closely on maps drawn by the Texas legislature. In an unsigned opinion that drew no dissents, the justices said a federal panel in San Antonio “exceeded its mission” in drawing interim plans for the state’s upcoming primaries. It said the court was wrong to believe its plans needed to be completely independent of the ones passed by the legislature. “A district court should take guidance from the state’s recently enacted plan in drafting an interim plan,” the justices wrote. They added, however, that courts must be careful not to incorporate parts of a state’s plan that might violate the Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act.

Texas: Voters? We don’t need no stinkin’ voters: Why recent changes to Texas election laws may unintentionally undermine voter turnout | State of Elections

The Texas Secretary of State is fighting to uphold Texas’s new voter photo identification law against federal scrutiny. The press has reported extensively on the battle brewing between the states and the United States Department of Justice over the impact that voter ID laws will have on voter turnout. Many groups believe that voter ID laws—which require persons to show photo ID before casting their votes—unfairly target minority voters, making it more difficult for them to participate in the democratic process. While the photo ID requirement is the most widely reported change to the Texas election process, it is not the only new roadblock likely to affect voter turnout in the Lone Star State’s upcoming elections.

Editorials: Voter ID legislation, not fraud, is the real problem | Michael Paul Williams/Richmond Times-Dispatch

The legislative drive against voter fraud is a solution in search of a problem. Proposed General Assembly legislation would scratch the current provision that allows voters to sign a sworn statement that they are who they claim to be if they’re unable to produce a required form of identification. Instead, they would cast a provisional ballot. For lack of an ID, a potentially eligible vote would not be counted on election night, and possibly not at all, if the would-be voter doesn’t provide the information. At the least, this measure would leave registrars sitting on more uncounted ballots after Election Day, potentially causing confusion for voters and candidates.

Editorials: Do Arab Women Need Electoral Quotas? | Foreign Policy

Women are at a crossroads in the Middle East and North Africa. This is widely reflected in the current battles over the adoption of quotas aimed at improving women’s chances of being elected into parliaments. Although women’s quotas were introduced as early as 1979 in Egypt, there are new efforts underway in the Middle East to implement them. Last year, Tunisia adopted a law requiring that party lists alternate between men and women. In a more restrained manner, Libya recently drafted an election law that gives women only 10 percent of the seats. However, the struggle for quotas has also met with resistance as in Egypt, which abandoned a 2010 quota law altogether that would have ensured the presence of 64 women in the parliament.

Finland: Publishing of poll results immediately before elections unlikely to be banned in Finland Experts would rather rely on self-regulation by media | Helsingin Sanomat

In the Tuesday presidential debate arranged by Helsingin Sanomat and the commercial television channel Nelonen, four Presidential candidates out of eight were of the opinion that gallup poll results should not be made public just before the election. The candidates complained that the gallup polls direct people’s voting behaviour and provide contradictory information. Addressing the situation by making changes to the country’s election laws seems unlikely, however, despite the fact that in certain European countries – France, for instance – this had been done. In Finland, too, putting restrictions in place on last-minute polls has been discussed, but such amendment preparations were never launched.

Latvia: Voting abroad on language issue possible in more places than ever | Latvians Online

A total of 85 polling stations in 41 countries—the greatest number ever—will be open outside the homeland on Feb. 18 for a national referendum to decide if Russian should become an official language alongside Latvian. The Central Election Commission in Rīga announced the list Jan. 20 after the Constitutional Court decided not to interfere in the referendum, although it will take up a case questioning the legitimacy of parts of Latvia’s initiative and referendum law.

United Kingdom: Scottish local election: UK ministers ‘silent’ over vote power plea | BBC

Westminster has been “silent” in response to calls for Holyrood to have the power to run all Scottish elections, an SNP minister has claimed. Derek Mackay said the Scottish government had asked UK ministers to devolve these responsibilities. But he said it had received no response from the UK government. Transferring powers to run local council and Holyrood elections was a recommendations of the Gould report into the 2007 election fiasco. In May of that year, voters were left confused because of the design and number of the ballot papers. There were also failings in the electronic counting system which saw thousands of ballot papers for the Scottish and local elections rejected.

Yemen: Yemen unrest may force election delay: minister | Reuters

Yemen’s presidential election, set for February, may be delayed by security concerns, the foreign minister said, raising the prospect that a U.S. and U.N.-backed plan to end months of unrest by easing the president from office may collapse. The comments – the first suggestion the vote might be held up – came after Islamist fighters seized an entire city, underscoring U.S. and Saudi fears that chaos born of political crisis may empower al Qaeda in Yemen, which sits alongside key oil and cargo shipping lanes in the Red Sea. The vote is central to the plan crafted by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a bloc of Yemen’s wealthy neighbors, to ease President Ali Abdullah Saleh from power after nearly a year of protests against his 33-year rule.