National: Electronic voting 2012: Here we go again | Marketplace

Elections come and go and many issues change, but one seems to remain: electronic voting. Two years ago, four years ago, eight years ago — the story’s been about the same: the machines don’t seem ready for primetime, but we’re using them anyway. This week, the official verdict came back on some electronic vote-reading machines in the South Bronx that seemed a little fishy in the last congressional election, 2010. Larry Norden is with the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU and says sometimes the voting machine “was essentially overheating and because it was overheating, it was reading a lot of phantom votes — a vote that the voter didn’t actually cast, but that the machine saw.” The upshot is that in some districts in the Bronx, it turns out more than a third of votes weren’t counted. Things could get really scary in a state that’s gone all electronic, like South Carolina. University of South Carolina computer scientist Duncan Buell is worried for 2012: “I’m not sure there’s any real change from four years ago to now.” Seriously? What’s taking so long?

National: After Fiery Speech, Voting Rights Amendment Is Pulled |

Sometimes during lengthy floor debates on bills, interesting things happen in the witching hours. Such was the case late Wednesday, when Representative John Lewis of Georgia pushed back with a fiery speech directed at an amendment offered by Representative Paul C. Broun of Georgia that would have barred the Justice Department from using money to enforce a part of the Voting Rights Act. At around 10 p.m., Mr. Lewis, a former civil rights leader, took to the podium to denounce the amendment, which sought to end financing for enforcement of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, designed to protect minority voters from being disenfranchised.

Editorials: Is Black and Latino Voter Registration Threatened or Not? | The Nation

On May 4 the Washington Post published what Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo called an “alarming—and darkly ironic” story stating voter registrations have dropped for African-Americans and Latino Americans. WaPo reporter Krissah Thompson wrote in her lead:

The number of black and Hispanic registered voters has fallen sharply since 2008, posing a serious challenge to the Obama campaign in an election that could turn on the participation of minority voters.

By some accounts, it was true. Census numbers, which measured between the 2008 presidential and the 2010 midterm elections, showed that the number of African-American registered voters had fallen from about 17.3 million to about 16.1 million nationally. But the Obama campaign and a number of academics disputed the Post’s conclusion that Obama might be in trouble, instead saying the Census’s methodology is flawed and that voter registration among African-Americans and Latino Americans is actually up.

National: Civil rights groups launch voter registration drives earlier |

Voter registration among blacks is down from 2008, prompting the NAACP and other civil rights organizations to launch registration drives two months earlier than in past presidential election years. Leaders of the NAACP and other groups blame the decline on new state laws requiring people to produce identification to register or placing limits on who can run a voter registration drive. They also say the foreclosure and job crises have affected black Americans in large numbers. Another likely factor, said Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation: The excitement over the prospect of electing the first black president has faded.

Alaska: Supreme Court Rejects Interim Redistricting Plan |

The Alaska Supreme Court has rejected a request by the Alaska Redistricting Board to use its original redistricting plan for this year’s statewide elections, instead ordering the use of one amended after court decisions as an interim plan. The redistricting plan has been subjected to several legal challenges, with judges rejecting both an initial plan and a revised one in recent months. In its ruling on the original plan, the state Supreme Court said it improperly prioritized compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act over the state constitution, sending the plan back to be redrafted.

Kansas: Kobach concedes voter-citizenship plan dead |

Secretary of State Kris Kobach conceded Thursday that Kansas won’t require first-time voters to provide proof of their U.S. citizenship ahead of this year’s elections because the Senate’s top leader effectively killed the proposal. Kobach, who pushed the proposal, declared it dead after Senate President Steve Morris assigned the legislation to a hostile committee. The House passed the bill Wednesday, and Kobach had hoped Morris would bypass a committee review, making an up-or-down vote possible in the Senate to determine whether the bill went to Gov. Sam Brownback.

Maryland: Keith Russell Judd, federal inmate who challenged Obama in West Virginia, tried to get on Maryland ballot |

Keith Russell Judd, better known as the federal inmate who scored 41 percent of the vote against President Barack Obama in the West Virginia primary, wanted to be on the ballot in Maryland, too. Without Judd in his path, Obama cruised to an 88 percent victory. Blame U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett, who last year dismissed Judd’s complaint against the Maryland State Board of Elections in which he alleged he was being wrongly kept on the ballot. Bennett referred to Judd, who is serving a 210-month sentence in a Texas federal prison for extortion, as a “prolific and vexatious litigant who has filed more than 748 cases in federal courts since 1997.” Restrictions or sanctions have been placed on Judd’s “abusive filings,” Bennett wrote, by at least six courts. He concluded Judd’s claims were “frivolous and a patent ruse to waste judicial time and resources.”

New Hampshire: Sponsor says Voter ID bill in jeopardy | Concord Monitor

A voter identification bill that had the support of the Senate, town clerks and the secretary of state’s office is in jeopardy because of changes made yesterday by a House committee, said Sen. Russell Prescott, a Kingston Republican and the bill’s sponsor. The House Election Law Committee voted 13-7 to require photo identification at the polls months earlier than clerks say is feasible, and to disallow students to use their IDs to vote. The changes, if passed by the full House, would take effect immediately, for this year’s general election. Prescott’s bill pushed the start date to elections after Jan. 2013, to give voters and clerks time to get used to the new requirements. “I worked really hard with (clerks and state officials) to make a clean voter ID bill,” Prescott said yesterday. “We have a bill I think a lot of people support. I am saddened that this amendment has passed.”

New York: Overheated ES&S DS200 automates election, places 60K votes itself | ITworld

The voting machine that cast between 50,000 and 60,000 extra votes for New York gubernatorial candidates in November has a bug that causes it to misread some ballots and add additional votes to others when the machine itself overheats, according to a review by the state Board of Election. All of the so-called “over-votes” were thrown out after election workers reported an unrealistic spike in the number of votes from the machine, from manufacturer Election Systems and Software (ES&S), which apparently overheated during the hour or so the polling location was closed for lunch. In 2010 NYC’s City Board of Elections decided to replace its old lever-driven voting machines, that required voters to flip a lever to register their choices with a newer model from ES&S. Rather than flipping a lever, voters fill in oval spaces on paper ballots, then scan the ballots into the voting machine to register their choices. The machine counts votes automatically; the stored paper ballots remain serve as the source for recounts or backups for lost votes.

South Carolina: Lawyer drops bid to restore South Carolina ballot | AP/The Charlotte Observer

An attorney is abandoning his effort to reinstate nearly 200 candidates left off of June 12 primary ballots by a South Carolina Supreme Court decision, saying Friday he is focusing instead solely on allegations the state violated the Voting Rights Act in sending separate ballots overseas for federal and local races. “The court has ordered Amanda Somers to focus on the issues where she has clear standing. And that we will do,” Todd Kincannon told The Associated Press. “Amanda Somers is focused entirely on military absentee ballots from here on. It’s clear at this point the military absent ballot issue is about the only issue left in this election.” Kincannon filed a federal last suit last week on Somers’ behalf, saying the state Senate hopeful’s candidacy was thrown into question after state Supreme Court justices ruled that financial- and candidate-intent paperwork must be filed simultaneously.

Texas: Assisted voting in Hidalgo election raises questions |

One in five people who cast early ballots in Hidalgo’s City Council election brought someone else into the voting booth for help, Hidalgo County Elections Administrator Yvonne Ramon said Thursday. While Texas law allows voters to seek assistance in special circumstances, unusually high assistance rates often indicate political machines — and, critics say, voter coercion — at work. Of the 2,144 people who voted early in the Hidalgo election, 483 had help, Ramon said, about 22.5 percent of voters. “I think a majority of the people who are being assisted are school employees at Hidalgo ISD and Valley View ISD,” said Mayor John David Franz, who said he’d heard disturbing reports of able-bodied teachers asking for assistance. Members of the city’s longtime political machine, the Concerned Citizens of Hidalgo, attempt to intimidate voters by asking if they need assistance, Mayor Franz said. Anyone who refuses is “sending the signal you’re not on the team.” High rates of assisted voting and questions about the influence of political machines at the ballot box aren’t unusual in Hidalgo County.

West Virginia: Legislators eye ballot rules after felon’s primary run |

An imprisoned felon’s surprising showing in West Virginia’s Tuesday primary has officials reviewing the rules governing how candidates get their names on the ballot. Keith Judd received more than 72,400 votes against President Barack Obama, around 41 percent of the total, providing stark evidence of the incumbent Democrat’s unpopularity in the state. Judd has run for president since at least 1996, frequently petitioning to get on the ballot in West Virginia and other states. But since 1999, he’s pursued his candidacies from federal prison: he’s serving a 17-year sentence for making threats, and is currently held at the Texarkana Federal Correctional Institute in Texas. Senate Judiciary Chairman Corey Palumbo sees this topic as ripe for legislative review during the monthly interim study meetings that begin next week.

Algeria: Islamists fall to government party in election | KFVS12

Islamists suffered a surprising defeat in Algeria’s parliamentary elections, bucking a trend that saw them gain power across North Africa after Arab Spring uprisings. The three party Islamist “Green Alliance” claimed Friday the results were rigged to keep them out of power in a country that has experienced decades of violence between radical Islamist groups and security forces. The Green Alliance was widely expected to do well, but instead it was the pro-government National Liberation Front that has ruled the country for much of its history since independence from France that dominated the election. The FLN, as it is known by its French initials, took 220 seats out of 462, while a sister party, also packed with government figures, took another 68 seats, giving the two a comfortable majority. The Islamist alliance, which took just 48 seats, less than in the last election, said the results differed dramatically what their election observers had witnessed in polling stations.

Algeria: After improved turnout, Algeria awaits election results | DW.DE

Results of parliamentary elections in Algeria are expected Friday afternoon, after authorities announced better-than-expected turnout in the ballot. Still, fewer than half the potential voters made their voices heard. The government in Algiers reported relatively high turnout in parliamentary elections late on Thursday, a surprise after a campaign that appeared to be marred by voter mistrust and disinterest. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika had billed the ballot as a piecemeal version of the rapid changes taking place in several regional neighbors, referring to it as an “Algerian Spring.” Election observers brought in by Bouteflika reported only minor negative incidents on voting day, while the government was able to announce greater voter interest than initially expected.

Dominican Republic: New York Could Decide the Dominican Republic’s Presidential Elections | Fox News

New York is shaping up to become a swing state in this year’s presidential election — not in the presidential election between Barack Obama and the all-but-confirmed Republican nominee Mitt Romney, but the one in the Dominican Republic. Thanks to a law passed in 1997, expatriate Dominicans no longer have to fly to the country’s capital of Santo Domingo to vote in presidential elections. Dominicans voted locally for the first time in 2004 and tens of thousands of Dominican expatriates registered to vote for the 2012 contest – making New York one of the island nation’s most important constituencies in the neck-and-neck election scheduled for May 20. “This quantity of voters is decisive,” said Víctor Sepúlveda, the international coordinator for the leftwing Partido Revolucionario Dominicano. “They can decide the elections.”

Egypt: Expats pleased to participate in elections | gulfnews

Fifteen months after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, Egyptians overseas will go to the polls for a week from Friday to vote in a new president, amidst confusion whether the presidential elections will be suspended or not. Around 60,000 out of more than 300,000 Egyptians living and working in the UAE are registered to cast absentee ballots in Egypt’s embassy in Abu Dhabi and consulate in Dubai in the first free elections since Mubarak was ousted in February last year. It is estimated that more than eight million Egyptians are working and living abroad, but nearly 600,000 are registered voters overseas. On Wednesday, an Egyptian administrative court issued an unexpected ruling to suspend the presidential elections due later this month.

Russia: Election committee confirms fraud |

Roughly 17 percent of the complaints registered with Russian election officials over the March presidential contest were confirmed, authorities said. Vladimir Putin secured a third non-consecutive term in office during March presidential elections. Sergei Danilenko, a Russian election official, said Friday 268 of the 1,564 complaints registered by the Central Election Commission “were confirmed,” reports Russia’s state-run news service RIA Novosti.