Editorials: Voter ID rules: A solution in search of a problem | The Washington Post

For the second time in three months, the Obama administration has blocked a state law pushed by Republicans that, using the pretext of a nearly nonexistent problem of voting fraud, discriminates against minority voters by establishing more stringent voter ID rules. Memo to Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell: You might be next. In December, the Justice Department moved against South Carolina, saying its new law would suppress turnout among African American voters, who are more likely than other voters to lack identification. On Monday, the department blocked Texas from enforcing a similar measure requiring voters to show photo IDs at the polls, which federal officials said would disproportionately affect Hispanic voters.

National: Michael Steele: “I Wanted a Brokered Convention” | Mother Jones

Is the never-ending and ever-bitter 2012 Republican presidential race—which at this point seems to be alienating independent voters—Michael Steele’s revenge? In January 2011, Steele, the first African American chair of the Republican National Committee, was unceremoniously denied a second term by the party’s governing council, after a tumultuous two-year stint marked by the historic GOP takeover of the House but also multiple gaffes (Steele called Afghanistan “a war of Obama’s choosing”), blunders (spending $2000 in party funds at a West Hollywood bondage-themed nightclub), and charges of profound financial mismanagement. But during his rocky tenure at RNC HQ, Steele pushed for and won significant changes in the rules for the party’s presidential nomination process and shaped this year’s turbulent race. “I wanted a brokered convention,” Steele says. “That was one of my goals.”

National: Groups Wage Battle Over Voter ID Laws | Roll Call

For Rock the Vote volunteers who roam rock concerts and college campuses looking for students to register, the typical dress code is jeans and a T-shirt.
But this year, many Rock the Vote organizers have traded their college clothes for suits and ties. That’s because they’re spending almost as much time in the courtroom fighting new restrictions on voters as they are out registering voters. Rock the Vote is one of several dozen organizations, from civil rights groups to Latino, labor and women’s groups, that have launched a multipart campaign to push back against new registration rules for voters that have been enacted in many states. The fight over voter access has triggered state-level lobbying, ballot initiatives and lawsuits, and the issue will likely land before the Supreme Court.

Alabama: Military ballots may decide primary election | The Montgomery Advertiser

If primary elections are close enough today in 29 counties, including Montgomery and Elmore, the results might not be known until near the end of the month. More than 1,000 military and overseas absentee ballots won’t be counted until later in the month, which could make some races too close to call today. That includes the GOP presidential contest, where the winner may not become known today if the non-absentee vote totals show the race is too close to call. There are also absentee ballots, the secretary of state’s office did not know how many, sent to Alabamians living elsewhere in the United States.

Alabama: Super-PAC Ads Dominate Republican Race in Alabama, Mississippi | Bloomberg

Television advertisements in Alabama and Mississippi promoting rival Republican presidential contenders have been paid for almost entirely by independent political action committees instead of the candidates’ campaigns. So-called Super-PACs supplied 91 percent of the 5,592 campaign ads that aired on broadcast television stations in the two states in the past month, according to data from New York- based Kantar Media’s CMAG, which tracks advertising. Alabama and Mississippi hold primary elections today, and polls indicate a close race in each among former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

American Samoa: Republicans Meeting At American Samoa Bar To Pick 2012 Nominee | Huffington Post

What do you get when 50 or so Republicans gather in a restaurant-bar? In American Samoa, you get a presidential caucus. The U.S. territory, located about 2,300 miles south of Hawaii, gets its chance Tuesday to choose delegates to the Republican National Convention and vote on a presidential candidate. It’s a decidedly local affair. Republicans will meet at Toa Bar & Grill. The six delegates picked at the caucus will join three American Samoa “superdelegates” at the convention.

Illinois: Federal judge says super PACs not bound by Illinois limits on contributions | chicagotribune.com

Political action committees that act independently of a candidate are not bound by Illinois’ limits on campaign contributions aimed at curbing corruption, a federal judge ruled Tuesday. In a case brought by the abortion rights group Personal PAC, U.S. District Judge Marvin Aspen ruled the organization could create its own independent-expenditure PAC and take unlimited contributions. Aspen found that previous rulings by the U.S. Supreme Courtand the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago “prohibit governments from enforcing limiting contributions to independent-expenditure-only PACs.”

Maryland: Tea Party Spawns New Effort Against Voter Fraud | NPR

As part of a new campaign, dozens of citizen groups around the country are searching voter registration lists, looking for problems. They’re also training poll watchers to monitor this fall’s elections. Leaders of the effort — spawned by the Tea Party movement — say they want to make sure that elections are free from voter fraud. But critics say it’s part of a campaign to suppress the votes of minorities, students and others who tend to vote Democratic. Cathy Kelleher and Cathy Trauernicht say that’s not true. They’re founders of Election Integrity Maryland, one of the groups involved. They call themselves concerned citizens.

New York: Redistricting End Is Nigh | Roll Call

There’s a growing bipartisan sense in top political circles in New York that the Congressional redistricting map released by a federal judge late last night represents the final lines for the 2012 cycle. Despite certain Democrats and Republicans pushing furiously for the Legislature to draw a map — one that creates a new majority-minority district in New York City or shores up Rep. Peter King (R) on Long Island or creates better districts for Reps. Kathy Hochul (D) and Chris Gibson (R) upstate — competing agendas make it more likely than not that the judge’s map will the final one. “At this point, I’d be surprised if something other than this is” the map, said one national Republican familiar with New York redistricting. That’s a sentiment plugged-in Empire State Democrats echoed in interviews with Roll Call. The map, viewable here (PDF), now goes to a federal three-judge panel for review. That panel will hold a hearing Thursday and decide soon thereafter if those lines will become law. A decision is expected Friday or, at the latest, Monday.

Ohio: Inquiry launched into PAC supporting little known candidate | USAToday

Federal prosecutors in southern Ohio are looking into whether a mysterious political action committee that helped nominate an unknown congressional candidate violated federal election laws. The “Victory Ohio Super PAC” made a series of automated phone calls supporting Waverly, Ohio truck driver William R. Smith in last week’s Democratic primary for Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District seat. The PAC did not disclose its activity to the Federal Election Commission, which it would be required to do if it spent more than $1,000, so there’s no record of who is responsible for the calls.

Pennsylvania: Tough voter ID bill heads to 3rd day of debate | Coshocton Tribune

A measure that could become one of the nation’s toughest photo identification laws for voters headed toward a third day of debate in Pennsylvania’s state House of Representatives as the sparring between Democrats and Republicans on Tuesday showed no signs of changing minds on a key election-year issue for both sides. Republicans who are pressing the bill easily beat back procedural challenges by Democrats earlier in the day, and its passage in the House is the last step before it goes to Gov. Tom Corbett, who said Tuesday he would sign it immediately. House Majority Whip Stan Saylor of York County said the delay until Wednesday after six hours of debate did not mean that support for the bill is wavering within Republican ranks. Republicans were committed to giving Democrats ample time to speak, and added Thursday to the calendar as a potential voting session day in case it’s needed, Saylor said.

Pennsylvania: Veteran IDs problem with voter measure | Lancaster Online

A controversial proposal requiring all Pennsylvania voters to show certain photo identification at their polling places could make it more difficult for many disabled veterans to cast ballots. The legislation being debated by the state House would not permit disabled veterans to use photo ID cards issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that are not stamped with an expiration date. Republicans who support the voter ID measure say the intention of the bill is to crack down on voter fraud, and they say requiring voters to produce a recent photo of themselves is crucial to the effort. But critics say the legislation is a slap in the face to Americans who served their country and are merely seeking to exercise their civic duty.

Tennessee: Super Tuesday voting glitch prompts Lincoln Davis lawsuit | The Tennessean

Former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis is suing the state, claiming that he and thousands of other Tennesseans were illegally taken off voter rolls in a recent purge of old registrations. Davis filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court Monday that says state election officials broke the law by not requiring more than 70,000 voters to be notified that their registrations had been canceled. Davis decided to sue after he and his wife were turned away at the polls when they attempted to vote in the Fentress County Democratic primary last Tuesday. “We’re seeing what I believe (is) an attack on individuals’ opportunity to be able to vote,” Davis said.

Wisconsin: Supporters Plan to Appeal Voter ID Decision | WUWM

Wisconsin’s new voter ID law has been dealt another blow. A judge in Madison on Monday issued a permanent injunction against the photo ID requirement. As WUWM’s Marti Mikkelson reports, supporters plan to appeal. Under the Republican-approved Voter ID law, people must present a valid driver’s license or other government issued photo identification in order to vote. The law took effect for local primary elections in February, but low turnout resulted in few problems. Last week, a judge temporarily blocked the photo requirement, barring it from being in effect for the April 3 presidential primary. On Monday, Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess issued a permanent order. He ruled in the lawsuit the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin filed. Executive Director Andrea Kaminski says it based its challenge on Wisconsin’s constitution.

Wisconsin: Just over 931,000 signatures submitted for Walker recall, Government Accountability Board says | JSOnline

The Government Accountability Board announced Monday that just over 931,000 signatures had been submitted to recall GOP Gov. Scott Walker – well over the 540,208 valid signatures needed, but short of the more than 1 million signatures recall organizers had said they had turned in. It is the first time the board, which runs state elections, has provided any kind of official number of how many signatures against Walker were submitted in January. Nearly 843,000 signatures were submitted against Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, the board found. Staff for the board has preliminarily disqualified about 25,500 signatures against Walker and about 29,000 against Kleefisch. Other signatures could be removed as officials continue their review of them.

El Salvador: Examining El Salvador’s Vote | Fox News

On Sunday, El Salvador’s 4.5 million voters went to the polls to select the 84 deputies of the unicameral congress as well as the mayors of the 262 municipalities across the country.  As with most off-year elections (ones without a presidential candidate on the ballot), this election was seen as an important gauge of public sentiment in preparation for the 2014 presidential elections. There have been important changes in the political landscape of El Salvador since the last presidential election that makes this an important election to analyze.  In 2009 the FMLN, with Mauricio Funes at the lead, won the presidency after almost 20 years as the primary opposition party in the country.  In true democratic fashion, the people gave the opposition a chance to govern. For its part, after governing the country for almost two decades the center-right party ARENA was seen as stagnating and in need of rejuvenation. The final outcome of this process of entropy had seen ARENA struggling to contain fallout emanating from a brutal struggle between itself and former President Tony Saca.

El Salvador: FMLN Suffers Minor Setback at the Polls | Upside Down World

By 1 p.m. in the afternoon on Sunday, the sun was beating down hard on the polling center in Metapán, a mid-sized town in El Salvador just 15 kilometers south of the Guatemalan border. While there was nothing strange about the scorching sun, these national assembly and municipal elections were the first of their kind. To the surprise of the FMLN (Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front), the former rebel group turned political party whose candidate Mauricio Funes won the Presidency in 2009, the right-wing ARENA (National Republican Alliance) gained seats in the national assembly following electoral reforms that the right-wing had pushed through.

Iran: U.N. questions Iranian elections | UPI.com

There are “serious concerns” about how the Iranian government vetted the candidates for recent parliamentary elections, a U.N. rights official said. Supporters of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei gained the upper hand in March 4 parliamentary elections, the first election since the divisive 2009 presidential contest. Khamenei had said Iran would be governed better by a parliamentary system.

Russia: Russia’s election cameras: what next? | FT.com

Cameras set up at polling booths provided endless hours of amusement on Russian election day earlier this month. Now Rostelecom, the Russian phone company, is looking to get more mileage out of the video surveillance system it helped install. As Rostelecom announced today, the Rb13bn ($440m) video surveillance project will live on, helping to transmit classroom lessons via the web and provide more security in schools. While many poo-pooed Vladimir Putin’s December proposal for video surveillance in polling booths – arguing that the cameras would not actually detect or prevent fraud – the fact that the surveillance system was implemented so fast, and went off without a hitch, is likely to make it a gold standard for Russian infrastructure projects.

Serbia: Parliamentary Elections Set for May | Moscow Times

Serbia’s president on Tuesday called for parliamentary elections for May 6. The government that emerges is expected to take Serbia into talks on joining the EU, which would be a setback for Russia, a longtime Serbian ally. After years of bitter rivalry, Serbia’s two main parties may join forces to push through the reforms needed to eventually join the European Union. But past events suggest that horse-trading over a new coalition government will take months.