National: Americans hate super PACs. But will they vote against them? | The Washington Post

Look no further than the Utah Republican Party convention over the weekend. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) took a strong majority of the vote and nearly avoided having to go to a June primary with his opponent — a good showing considering the position Hatch was in last year — and he did it in large part by running against outsiders who had come to Utah to unseat him. By the end of the campaign, polling showed that 62 percent of convention delegates had an unfavorable opinion of FreedomWorks, the main conservative group seeking to unseat Hatch, and 39 percent said their feelings were “very unfavorable” toward the group. The group, which played a major role in unseating Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) at the 2010 convention, had become a pariah and, undoubtedly, something of a boon to Hatch. One local columnist even suggested the group’s name was a “dirty word” in the Beehive State.

Alaska: Anchorage Election Commission finds 1/2 of precincts ran out of ballots; recommends no investigation |

A review by the Anchorage Election Commission found that more than half of city precincts ran out of ballots in the trouble-plagued April 3 elections, according to a report unveiled today. The commission is not, however, recommending a third-party investigation into the election or a new election. “All indications are that ballot shortages for (certain ballot types) were the result of unintended error on the part of the Clerk’s Office,” the report concludes. “While this created chaos during the final hours of the mayoral election, the problem did not meet the standards of malconduct, fraud or reckless indifference on the part of anyone involved.”

Alaska: Redistricting board plans appeal |

The Alaska Redistricting Board plans to appeal a judge’s rejection of its second stab at redrawing the state’s legislative boundaries. Executive Director Taylor Bickford also said Tuesday that the board plans to ask the Alaska Supreme Court to approve the new plan. As a backup, he said the board authorized its attorneys to draft a petition seeking to use its first plan for this year’s elections. Chairman John Torgerson would decide when any petition would be filed. The high court allowed for that option earlier this year when it sent the first plan back to the board for additional work. The court said that if the board couldn’t draft a plan that complies with its order in time for this year’s elections, it could petition to have the elections conducted under the plan as an interim plan.

California: Oakland Ranked-Choice Voting Repeal Blocked | East Bay Express

It looks as if the effort to repeal ranked-choice voting in Oakland has unraveled already. A group with close ties to ex-state Senator Don Perata’s campaign manager admitted to the Oakland Tribune that it won’t be able to gather the 20,000 signatures needed to qualify its proposal for the November ballot. And an alternative plan by Oakland Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, a longtime close friend and ally of Perata’s, to ask the city council to place the measure directly on the ballot does not have the necessary votes. De La Fuente, who plans to run for mayor this fall if there’s a recall election, has been a longtime opponent of ranked-choice voting, also known as instant-runoff voting. He worked with Perata in 2010 in an attempt to block Oakland from using it, even though 69 percent of city voters had approved the voting system. Perata later blamed ranked-choice voting for his loss in the 2010 mayor’s race to Jean Quan. Perata received more first-place votes than Quan did, but she garnered far more seconds and thirds, enabling her to win.

Colorado: Marks prevails in Jefferson County CO case |

A District Court judge has deemed election records in Jefferson County open to public review and has awarded attorney’s fees to Aspen election activist Marilyn Marks, who was denied access to the information. Judge Randall Arp, in a ruling issued Monday, directed Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder Pamela Anderson to provide the records requested by Marks and rejected the clerk’s claim that release of the information could violate voter rights to an anonymous ballot. Any information that could potentially lead to identification of an individual voter who cast a ballot could be redacted, Arp concluded. Marks said Tuesday that her legal expenses in the case total about $100,000. Jefferson is among several counties in Colorado where Marks has asked to view ballots or other election data under the Colorado Open Records Act, or CORA, helping fuel statewide debate about whether ballots cast by voters should be subject to the open-records law.

Florida: Third-party groups are registering voters – very carefully | Orlando Sentinel

In light rain outside a south Orlando pizza shop last week, Yohan Fonseca worked the trenches in one of Florida’s most contentious political battlefields. He was registering voters. “I love this work,” Fonseca, said after convincing Ramon Morales, 26, of Orlando, to fill out a registration form. “It’s really good to help the community. We need to vote.” Fonseca, 22, of Davenport, is a paid organizer for the non-profit Hispanic group National Council of La Raza. He and others are going where some long-time voter registration organizations say they are afraid to go: anywhere in Florida. Since passage last year of a new Republican-sponsored election-law rewrite, fierce debate has raged over whether new rules make it tougher for people to register and vote this election year. Among other changes, new law requires groups and individuals to turn in voter forms within 48 hours – they previously had 10 days – or face fines of $50 per late application, up to a maximum of $1,000 per organization per year.

Editorials: Minnesota’s election system after two recounts | MinnPost

After Minnesota took eight excruciating months to decide that Al Franken had beaten Norm Coleman in the 2008 U.S. Senate race, followed by the close (but not nearly as close as Coleman-Franken) 2010 gubernatorial race which resulted in a recount and raised the possibility that no winner would be sworn in on inauguration day, Minnesotans may feel a little cursed, a little shell-shocked and occasionally wondering what the rest of the country thinks is wrong with us election-wise. Those two experiences do suggest that – contrary to its national reputation as a solid blue state – Minnesota is very evenly divided politically in state races. But to those who understand the law and mechanics of elections, the two recounts also showed the Minnesota is a national model in the nuts and bolts of running elections and, when the elections are very close, running recounts that that inspire trust. At least that was the overwhelming sense of a panel of election experts that met yesterday at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School.

Ohio: GOP, Democrats close to election-law deal | The Columbus Dispatch

A potential last-minute agreement between House Republicans and Democrats could end a bitter fight over the repeal of a GOP-crafted election-law overhaul. Just minutes before voting to repeal House Bill 194 — and as House Democrats bombed away on the GOP in floor speeches — House Speaker William G. Batchelder, R-Medina, and Minority Leader Armond Budish, D-Beachwood, worked out a deal to suspend the vote. Republicans had planned to repeal House Bill 194 and end the November referendum effort. But Fair Elections Ohio, the coalition of Democrats and progressive groups that worked closely with President Barack Obama’s re-election team to challenge the law, resisted the repeal. The group argued that it would deny people the right to vote against the law and would have blocked early voting in the three days before Election Day. The group and other Democrats had promised to fight the GOP repeal effort in court. Republicans argued that the opposition simply was a political effort to keep the referendum to help drive up voter turnout.

Oregon: Computer Glitch Blocks Online Voter Registrations | OPB News

The Secretary of State’s office has identified a computer glitch as the cause of a problem Tuesday that blocked an unknown number of Oregonians from registering to vote in advance of a midnight deadline. Computer techs at the Secretary of State’s office believe the problem was likely due to a communications error between their servers and systems at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Spokeswoman Andrea Cantu-Schomus says while the system was down voters were greeted by a message telling them they could submit their changes by mail as long as they were postmarked that same day. She says the problem primarily seemed to affect requests for new registrations rather than changes to existing ones.

Texas: Voter ID battle intensifies in federal court, Texas Legislature | Lubbock Online

A pending law that would require Texas voters to show government-issued photo identification before casting a ballot has temporarily overshadowed the long redistricting battle the state is fighting with minority groups and civil rights organizations. The intensity of the latest legal battle became evident this week. First, on Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice asked a federal court in Washington for a delay of a July 9 trial that would determine whether the law the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature approved in last year’s session is constitutional. Then, on Tuesday, San Antonio Democratic Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer accused the Republican super majority of creating significant obstacles for a good number of Texans — mainly the poor and the elderly — to vote. And for its part, the office of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is representing the state in both legal battles, stressed the significance of the voter ID legislation on hold. “The Department of Justice has been seeking and receiving information since last summer,” Abbott’s deputy communications director, Lauren Bean, said in a statement. “They’ve had plenty of time to get ready for trial and still have two-and-half more months.

Texas: Attorney General accidentally released personal data in voter I.D. case | The Dallas Morning News

The state attorney general’s office accidently provided the Social Security numbers of Texas voters to opposing lawyers as part of a voter ID case, but none of the data leaked out, a top state attorney said Wednesday. The Social Security numbers were part of a database of 13.1 million Texas voters turned over to attorneys challenging a new law requiring voters to show state-issued photo identification. The list was supposed to include only the last four digits of the voters’ Social Security numbers, to allow groups to analyze whether the law would disproportionately keep minorities from voting. But when two groups opened encrypted discs supplied to them by the attorney general’s office, they discovered some entries included the full nine-digit number, said First Assistant Attorney General Daniel Hodge. The problem came about because the information was supplied by 254 county registrars using different forms over several decades and in some cases the full number was entered, he said.

Wisconsin: Government Accountability Board announces plan to speed Waukesha election reports | JSOnline

Vote results from throughout Waukesha County should be available online more quickly in the recall elections because municipal clerks will be entering unofficial results directly into a state vote canvass reporting system, rather than leaving it to the county clerk’s staff. Those results will simultaneously be available to the Waukesha County clerk’s office, which is still responsible for posting results on election night. In a statement Tuesday, Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel for the Government Accountability Board, said the agency created Wisconsin’s canvass reporting system using a federal grant in 2010 so county clerks could use it to report canvass results – the official totals that are checked several days after an election – to the state electronically. However, the Web-based system was built with a tool for municipal clerks to enter unofficial results on election night. Kennedy said all Waukesha County municipal clerks will be asked to use that tool for the May 8 primaries and the June 5 recalls.

Algeria: Abstaining Algerian voters warned: God will punish you | Reuters

A prominent Muslim cleric in Algeria has issued a religious decree saying God will punish anyone who does not vote in a May 10 parliamentary election, a warning aimed at the large numbers planning to abstain from a vote they view as irrelevant. Algeria’s authorities, under pressure to reform after last year’s “Arab Spring” revolts in neighbouring countries, say the vote will be more free and transparent than ever before. This though is met with scepticism by many ordinary Algerians. Sheikh Chemseddine Bouroubi, a well-known imam who follows a mainstream Algerian school of Islam, said people should vote to prevent foreign powers – who he said included Zionists – from fomenting a violent revolution in Algeria. “Algerians must vote because it is about Algeria’s stability, and it is about preserving our country from any foreign interference,” the imam told Reuters on Wednesday in a telephone interview. Allah will punish those who do not vote… Voting is a religious obligation,” said the cleric, who runs a charity organisation in the capital Algiers.

Egypt: Election Commission Allows Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s PM, Back In Race | Huffington Post

A panel of fundamentalist Islamic clerics on Wednesday endorsed the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood for president of Egypt, an attempt to prevent a split of the conservative Muslim voters. In another twist, Egypt’s election commission late Wednesday reinstated a candidate, a former regime official it disqualified just a day earlier, scrambling the projected voting even more. The ultraconservative endorsement boosted the Brotherhood candidate, Mohammed Morsi, who faces competition in next month’s election from a more moderate Islamist, Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh, who broke ranks with the group. Support for Morsi came from the Jurisprudence Commission for Rights and Reform, a panel of clerics mostly from the ultraconservative Salafis and new Islamist parties, but also including a Brotherhood member. The decision was announced at a news conference in Cairo.

Liberia: Election Academy Forum Kicks Off in Monrovia | Liberian Observer

West African Election Observers Network (WAEON) has decided to hold its next academy in Liberia in an effort at help strengthen civil society capacity to engage in post-election reform and development.  This capacity building academy will take place beginning today to Friday at a local resort in Monrovia. The forum opens between 9am and 10am with remarks from the Liberian Democratic Institute (LDI), WAEON Chairman Mashood Erubami, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), and Gabriel Smith, Chairman of the Elections and Inauguration Committee, House of Representatives.

Editorials: Mali – from democracy poster child to broken state | Reuters

Within weeks, Mali has plunged from being a sovereign democracy to a fractured territory without a state, occupied by competing rebel groups in the north while politicians and coup leaders in the south jostle for control of the capital Bamako. There is no sign the broken nation can be put back together soon – raising concerns among neighbours and Western powers of the emergence of a lawless “rogue state” exploited by al Qaeda and criminals. “We have never been in such a dire situation at any other time in our history,” said Mahmoud Dicko, influential head of the Islamic High Council in the poor former French colony once seen as a poster child for electoral democracy in West Africa. There is no state and two-thirds of the country is out of control,” he said of the seizure by a mix of Islamists and Tuareg-led separatists of the northern desert territory one-and-a-half-times the size of France.

Russia: Kremlin bill restoring gubernatorial elections passes in parliament, but barely | The Associated Press

The Russian parliament on Wednesday passed a Kremlin bill restoring gubernatorial elections, with opponents saying the new law will still allow the president to screen out undesirable candidates. The 450-seat State Duma, the elected lower house, approved the bill with 237 votes, just above the simple majority required. President Dmitry Medvedev submitted the bill in response to massive protests against his mentor Vladimir Putin in the run-up to the March election that gave Putin a third presidential term. Putin had scrapped direct elections of provincial governors during his presidency as part of a systematic rollback of democratic freedoms.

Editorials: Russia to elect regional heads; Putin foes cry foul | Reuters

Russian lawmakers approved legislation on Wednesday that will revive elections of regional leaders, but Kremlin opponents said the bill will give President-elect Vladimir Putin and his allies too much power over who is allowed to run. Putin abolished elections of provincial leaders as part of what critics called a rollback of democracy during his 2000-2008 presidency, appointing them instead to give him greater control over far-flung corners of the world’s biggest country. Restoring regional elections is part of a bid to please Russians fed up with their lack of political power and appease foes who staged the biggest opposition protests of Putin’s 12-year rule in recent months. But the bill, passed by a narrow margin in the lower house of parliament where the ruling United Russia party has a slim majority, requires candidates to have support from local legislators or government officials to run.