National: Will the Courts Protect Voting Rights? | The Nation

Last week brought two rare pieces of good news for voting rights advocates. In Wisconsin, Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan granted a temporary injunction, requested by the League of Women Voters, preventing implementation of the state’s photo identification requirement for voting. Meanwhile, the Third Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals reaffirmed a 1982 consent decree preventing the Republican National Committee from intimidating minority voters.  Unfortunately, voter intimidation and disenfranchisement will still occur, in Wisconsin and throughout the country.

National: Questions linger in US on high-tech voting |

As many as 25 percent of Americans are expected to use paperless electronic voting machines in the upcoming November elections, according to the Verified Voting Foundation, but confidence has been eroded by incidents showing vulnerabilities. The foundation, which seeks more reliable election systems, contends that voting machines in 11 states are all-electronic, with no paper systems for recounts, and that many other jurisdictions have some of these systems in place. … Pamela Smith of the Verified Voting Foundation said these incidents highlight the fact “that you can have insider challenges as well as outsider hacks. It points out that you have to be able to check the system.”
Election security and technology has been an issue in the United States since the 2000 president election marred by “hanging chads” in Florida that muddled the result.

National: The Super PAC Paradox | Roll Call

When GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum gave his victory speech in Missouri after the primary there on Feb. 7, he shared the stage with a white-haired gentleman who stood practically at his elbow the entire time.
Investment fund manager Foster Friess probably did not strike audience members as someone special as he smiled merrily behind the former Pennsylvania Senator. But Friess is at the center of a growing controversy over unregulated money and alleged campaign finance violations in the 2012 campaign. At issue is whether unrestricted super PACs are illegally working hand-in-hand with the candidates they support. Campaign finance watchdogs say the collusion is flagrant. Super PAC organizers argue just as loudly that they are meticulously following the rules.

National: Republicans lose appeal on poll-watching tactics | Thomson Reuters

The Republican National Committee on Thursday lost a bid to dissolve a decades-old legal agreement with the Democratic National Committee over the GOP’s use of improper election tactics. The agreement dates to 1982, when the Republican National Committee settled a lawsuit brought by the Democratic National Committee accusing the GOP of trying to intimidate minority voters. Under the agreement, the Republican National Committee must obtain court approval before implementing certain poll-monitoring activities in minority precincts. The Republican Party filed suit in November 2008 to void the agreement. But the Philadelphia-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit rejected the GOP’s request on Thursday, affirming a New Jersey district court’s ruling. “If the RNC does not hope to engage in conduct that would violate the Decree, it is puzzling that the RNC is pursuing vacatur so vigorously,” Judge Joseph Greenaway wrote on behalf of the three-judge panel. He noted that the party sought to escape the decree at a critical moment, in time for the upcoming election cycle.

California: Voters confront ‘top two’ primary | San Jose Mercury News

When Californians prepare to cast votes for state legislators and members of Congress in June, they’ll get a ballot unlike anything they’ve seen before.
Republicans will be startled to see Democrats on their ballot. Democrats will be shocked to see GOP candidates. The top two vote-getters will advance to November, regardless of party. So when Californians enter voting booths for November’s general election, they might have a choice between a Republican and a Republican — or a Democrat and a Democrat. And they most likely won’t have a chance to pick a Green, Libertarian or other third-party candidate; those candidates probably won’t have made it onto the November ballot.

California: Los Angeles County crowdsources ideas for new voting system | 89.3 KPCC

Los Angeles County is by far the biggest election jurisdiction in the U.S., but if dealing with 4.5 million voters isn’t enough, the county is also hampered by an outdated voting system. The registrar says it’s due for a major facelift, and he’s looking to the public for answers. Logan says a countywide election can mean organizing up to 5,000 polling places and 25,000 poll workers on election day. “Election day is equivalent to a military operation. We literally have helicopters bringing the ballots back to our headquarters, we have people deployed all over the county — it’s a mega operation,” Logan says.

Colorado: Spokesman for Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler rejects voter suppression accusations against him | Denver News

​Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler claims he’s under unwarranted attacks by media and Democratic leaders like Rick Palacio, who recently accused Gessler’s proposed voting policy as an attempt at voter suppression. Palacio connected Gessler’s legislations to the 1965 civil rights movement, during which advocates protesting for African-American voting rights were beaten by police. “This time, however, Americans won’t be faced with night sticks. They’ll instead be faced with new laws written by the Republican legislature and the Secretary of State,” Palacio said at a Monday press conference. Rich Coolidge, a spokesman for Gessler’s office, replies to Palacio’s comment: “Instead of giving Colorado voters a positive message about his candidates, chairman Palacio is resorting to fear-mongering and distorted, negative attacks. I hope this doesn’t set the tone for the rest of the year.”

Guam: Guam and Saipan Make Tempting Targets for Delegate-Hungry GOP Candidates | The Daily Beast

Until this week, the last time Guam and Saipan were fought over was during World War II. However, as the GOP presidential primary season goes on and on and on and on, the caucuses held on Guam and Saipan, the main island of the Northern Mariana Islands, will loom surprisingly large. Because of the strange delegate math the GOP uses, these relatively unpopulated islands in the middle of Pacific Ocean will combine to send six more delegates to the Republican convention in Tampa as the crucial early state of New Hampshire. This normally would make for a quirky factoid, paired with the fact that Guam is apparently home to the world’s largest Kmart, or that Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, took off from the Northern Marianas. But the increasingly fraught nature of the Republican race means that their presidential caucuses tomorrow will actually matter.

Massachusetts: What it costs towns to run an election | Raynham Call

Massachusetts towns and cities spent thousands of dollars to prep voting machines, staff polling locations and notify voters of any big changes in their election routines for last week’s presidential primary. While municiple clerks expected  relatively few voters to show up, that makes little difference in terms of cost for an election. Clerks typically organize for a busy day, just in case a crowd shows up ready to exercise its civic duty. “There’s a certain base amount of work that has to be done before any election,” said Donna Hooper, president of the Massachusetts Town Clerks Association, who is also the town clerk for Lexington. “You have to prepare and be ready for a full turnout.”

Texas: Confusion reigns in Texas elections calendar | Star Telegram

Confusion is the constant in Texas’ presidential primary election this year. Delayed more than two months because of political wrangling, the primary is now scheduled to be the second major election day in May, calling voters back to the polls just more than two weeks after they cast ballots in city and school district elections. New voter registration cards – which will tell residents whether there’s been any changes in their precincts and local, state and federal political districts – likely won’t be sent out until late April, after the overseas and military ballots are sent out. “I’m sure there will be some confusion,” Tarrant County Elections Administrator Steve Raborn said. “We’re having these leapfrog elections, and runoffs, and in some cases polling places will be different, and some early voting sites will be different. “There’s so many things that are changing, moving.”

Wisconsin: Wisconsin recall election to be held June 12, board likely to dismiss challenges | The Badger Herald

The Government Accountability Board requested an additional two weeks to complete the review of the signatures supporting the recall of Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican senators, despite also announcing the likelihood of denying the senators’ challenges. A statement from the GAB’s petition review staff said they would not be able to finish the reviewing of the 1.9 million signatures by March 19. They are requesting the deadline be moved to March 30, which would result in the primary for Walker’s recall election on May 15, with the general election slated for June 12. These extensions require a judge’s approval. The statement from the GAB also said the staff recommended the board dismiss challenges from the four Republican senators to the petitions, which, if the board dismisses them, would officially trigger recall elections for the senators.

Canada: Yarmouth Nova Scotia opts for October e-vote | The Chronicle Herald

Voters in Yarmouth won’t be filling out paper ballots or using polling booths in this year’s municipal election. Yarmouth town council voted late last week to do away with paper and conduct the October vote entirely by computer and telephone. Some communities that have chosen electronic voting have also opted for a paper ballot backup system, but the Town of Yarmouth is not one of them, said Mayor Phil Mooney. If folks don’t want to vote from their living rooms or the front seats of their cars using a smartphone, they can still come to town hall and use equipment set up there, said Mooney. “There’s going to be one central poll,” he said Saturday.

Canada: Robocall scandal angers marchers | Winnipeg Free Press

More than 100 people rallied in Winnipeg Sunday to urge the House of Commons to get to the bottom of the robocall scandal. “This is something that affects everyone,” said 22-year-old Jonathan Ventura, carrying a polling station sign with arrows pointing in all directions. The student, who doesn’t belong to a political party, was joined by MPs past and present, pro-democracy, peace, labour and environmental group members at the corner of River Avenue and Osborne Street, carrying signs and waving Canadian flags. Similar demonstrations took place across Canada Sunday.

East Timor: Reports of voter intimidation in East Timor | Sky News

Concerns have been raised about possible intimidation of voters in a number of electoral districts in East Timor by members of the military loyal to their former chief and presidential hopeful Taur Matan Ruak. East Timorese will vote on March 17 in what will be just the second free presidential election in the tiny country since it gained independence a decade ago. Despite leading candidates, including incumbent president Jose Ramos-Horta, having downplayed the risk of a repeat of the violence which marred elections in 2007, observers on the ground have voiced fears about the potential for unrest. ‘I am completely reassured about security,’ Dr Ramos-Horta said told AAP. ‘Our police and the United Nations police are alert all over the country. They have tremendous experience over the years in assessing the situation, in pre-empting any security threats so I am very confident it will be okay.’

Egypt: Egypt begins first ever free presidential elections |

The first ever free presidential elections in Egypt have begun, with candidates now able to submit their applications. Politicians from the era of the deposed president Hosni Mubarak, ex-military officers and moderate and hardline Islamists are expected to become the frontrunners in a vote due to start on 23 May. The elections follow decades of authoritarian rule, with all of the country’s former presidents elevated from the ranks of the military and usually approved by referendum.

The Gambia: Gambia Opposition Leader wants Legislative Vote Postponed | VoA News

The leader of Gambia’s main opposition United Democratic Party said his and five other parties plan to boycott the country’s March 29th legislative election unless the Independent Election Commission [IEC] can assure them of a level playing field. Ousainou Darboe’s comments came as other opposition leaders in The Gambia have asked the Economic Community of West African States [ECOWAS] to arbitrate the dispute ahead of the election. Darboe said the ruling Alliance for Patriotic Re-orientation and Construction Party of President Yahya Jammeh is also abusing the power of incumbency in order to tilt the election results in its favor. “I have joined with other opposition parties in the country not to participate in the upcoming National Assembly election.  This due is to the fact that the IEC has rejected our demand for a postponement of the election so as to enable a level playing field being created, which would allow for a free, fair and transparent election,” he said.

Indonesia: As Jakarta Poll Nears, The Fraud Alert Rises | The Jakarta Globe

The week-long window for political parties to register their candidates for the Jakarta gubernatorial election opens on Tuesday, but already poll organizers are voicing concerns about the potential for fraud. Aminullah, a member of the Jakarta General Elections Commission (KPUD), said on Sunday that registration would run from Tuesday until next Monday. “The required documents that they must file with us are the same as those for the independent candidates, except of course without any petitions of support from registered residents,” he said. The required documents include a copy of a high school completion certificate, a statement of good conduct from the Jakarta Police and a letter of support from the nominating party or parties.

Iran: Ahmadinejad rivals rack up parliament wins in Iran | AP

Conservative rivals of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appeared on course Saturday to gain firm control of parliament after elections that could embolden Iran’s nuclear defiance and give the ruling clerics a clear path to ensure a loyalist succeeds Ahmadinejad next year. Although Iran’s 290-seat parliament has limited sway over key affairs _ including military and nuclear policies _ the elections highlight the political narratives inside the country since Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election in 2009 and sets the possible tone for his final 18 months in office. Reformists were virtually absent from the ballot, showing the crushing force of crackdowns on the opposition. Instead, Friday’s elections became a referendum on Ahmadinejad’s political stature after he tried to challenge the near-total authority of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to decide critical government policies such as intelligence and foreign affairs.

Lesotho: Lesotho parliament to be dissolved on March15 | Public Eye Daily

King Letsie III is expected to dissolve parliament on Thursday next week ahead of the country’s 8th parliamentary elections. Speaking yesterday on the sidelines of a Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations seminar held to discuss the country’s preparedness for the polls, the Independent Electoral Commission spokesperson, Mrs ‘Mamatlere Matete told Public Eye the 7th parliament is supposed to be officially closed on March 15, in line with the country’s constitution. “The term of the current parliament ends on the 15th of March 2012, as it began its tenure on March 15 2007. Therefore, we expect the King to dissolve the parliament as indicated in the country’s constitution. “Again, in line with Lesotho’s constitution, we should host elections within 90 days of the dissolution of parliament, and this is what we are expecting to happen,” said Matete.

Russia: How a mysterious change to voting tallies boosted Putin at St Petersburg polling station: a citizen observer reports | Telegraph

After Russia’s parliamentary elections in December, it was impossible for anyone in my country not to know that there had been electoral fraud on a massive scale. But I am a historian and obsessed with verifying information for myself. For that reason I joined the more than 3,000 citizens in St Petersburg who committed themselves to monitoring last week’s presidential election. In training sessions, lawyers explained the kinds of irregularities that might occur and how to avert – or at least to record – them. They lectured us on the relevant laws and regulations. They told us how to prevent ballot stuffing and how to detect “carousel voting”, when people vote more than once. “But remember,” they warned on several occasions. “The members of the electoral commission are not your enemies: think positively about them and don’t forget the presumption of innocence.”

Slovakia: Leftist opposition wins big in Slovakia election | Newsday

A leftist opposition led by one of the few leading politicians in Slovakia to escape voter anger over a major corruption scandal has been propelled back to power in an early parliamentary election, according to almost complete results on Sunday. Smer-Social Democracy of former Prime Minister Robert Fico is a clear winner with 44.8 percent of the vote, or 84 seats in the 150-seat Parliament, with the votes from 5,842 of the 5,956 polling stations counted by the Statistics Office early Sunday. The result allows Fico to govern alone, which has not happened to anyone since the country was created as an independent state following the split of Czechoslovakia in 1993.