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.

Indonesia: House factions compete as deadline to revise Indonesian election law nears | The Jakarta Post

The process of revising the 2008 Legislative Elections Law has come to a halt as factions in the House of Representatives continue to jockey to bolster their political fortunes in 2014, a senior lawmaker says. Gandjar Pranowo, chairman of the House working committee deliberating revisions to the law, said the process had to be finished by April to avoid disrupting preparations for the next elections. “All factions must leave their interests behind and make political compromises to settle the three major issues. Once the revision is endorsed into law, the General Elections Commission [KPU] and the Election Supervisory Body [Bawaslu] can prepare everything for the elections,” Gandjar said on Wednesday.