Editorials: Toothless election oversight | The Washington Post

It is to identify a federal agency in Washington more dysfunctional than the Federal Election Commission. Terms have expired for five of the six commissioners, and by next spring, the entire commission will be a lame duck if nothing is done. The number of enforcement actions — at the core of the FEC’s mission — has fallen to an all-time low. Created in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, the commission now behaves as an immobilized observer while campaigns are swamped with a tidal wave of hidden cash. At the heart of the trouble is the way the commission was structured when it was established in 1974, with three members from each party. To approve any action requires four votes. Political deadlock has paralyzed the commission in the past few years, leading to split votes, three-to-three, that result in no action on enforcement, auditing or advisory matters. The commission’s three Republicans have repeatedly used this tactic to undermine election laws that they oppose on ideological grounds. According to a Dec. 12 letter sent to President Obama by nine groups advocating campaign finance reform, official actions by the FEC in 2012 amount to only one-tenth the number pursued annually before 2008.

National: Academy Members Sound Off On Oscar Voting Issues Analysis | Hollywood Reporter

As Academy members select the nominees for the 85th Oscars — phase one voting began Dec. 17 and will close Jan. 4 — they are feeling the impact of two major changes to the voting process that were implemented by the board of governors: Nomination ballots can be cast online, but the deadline to submit them has been moved up nine days. (That number was 10 days, but the Academy extended the voting deadline by 24 hours on Dec. 31.) These might not sound like earth-shattering developments, but they have significantly altered the balloting experience of the Academy’s roughly 5,700 voting members and also might impact the sorts of nominees those members select. The Hollywood Reporter first reported on this situationDec. 27 after reaching out to a considerable number of voters and spoke a whole new crop for this follow-up story — virtually none of whom had discussed e-voting publicly.

Alaska: New District Maps Fail to Pass Muster | Courthouse News Service

For a third time, the Alaska Supreme Court emphasized deference to state law while nixing the latest congressional district lines. Alaska’s redistricting board began redrawing congressional districts in 2011 after receiving data from the 2010 U.S. Census. A federal voting rights expert urged the board to draw district boundaries with a focus on creating “effective” Native districts that give Natives the ability to elect candidates of their own choosing. But when this map led to a slew of lawsuits, a Fairbanks superior court judge threw it out and found that four of the proposed House districts unnecessarily deviated from state constitutional requirements.

Arizona: Ken Bennett’s Explanation of Provisional Ballot Issues Disputed by Organizer | Phoenix New Times

The cause of the provisional-ballot uproar has not been solved. At least, there doesn’t appear to be an agreement over the cause. Although Secretary of State Ken Bennett said one of the people involved in an effort to register 34,000 new Latino voters admitted that they were checking the permanent early-voting list box on registration forms without the voters’ knowledge, the details of that meeting are in dispute. Bennett’s spokesman Matt Roberts told New Times that this information — which Bennett presented to a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee a few weeks ago — came from a meeting with a few people who were concerned about the provisional-ballot issue.

Iowa: Criticisms of proposed voter fraud rules aired at hearing | The Des Moines Register

Rules proposed by Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz to guide a new process for verifying voter eligibility weathered nearly two hours of near-universal criticism during a public hearing on Thursday. More than 40 people weighed in, variously accusing Schultz, the state-level elections administrator, of overreaching his authority, wasting state dollars pursuing non-existent voter fraud and intimidating immigrants who have a legal right to vote. The rules concern a months-long effort by Schultz, a Republican, to gain access to a federal immigration database to check the citizenship status of thousands of registered voters in Iowa that his office has tagged as potentially ineligible to vote.

Editorials: Mississippi Republicans playing voter ID games | The Clarion-Ledger

Deciding whether to believe the Brennan Center study which “estimated 48,000 low-income Mississippians could have trouble obtaining government-issued photo identification” or an afterthought-study (no federal observers, eligible voter percentages) which suggests only 21,855 Mississippians total would need one? Mind you, the afterthought was prepared by proponents who requested $395,000 for poll-tax (driver’s licenses aren’t free and Mississippi’s unexpired license requirement is tantamount to a recurring voting fee) ID litigation and requested none for related education and outreach.

New Hampshire: Conservative group trying to block voting lawsuit | Fosters

Does the U.S. Department of Justice have ulterior motives for allowing New Hampshire to be released from a portion of the Voting Rights Act? That’s the theory being advanced by some conservative groups, including The Center for Individual Rights (CIR). Headquartered in Washington, D.C., CIR is questioning the motives behind a decision by Attorney General Eric Holder to release New Hampshire from Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. A key piece of civil rights legislation, the Voting Rights Act of 1964 guarantees that voters aren’t disenfranchised on account of race or color. It also contains several special provisions that impose stringent federal oversight in certain areas of the country, known as “covered jurisdictions.”

South Carolina: Lillian McBride resigns from Richland County Election Commission | wistv.com

Embattled Richland County Election Commission executive director Lillian McBride has submitted her resignation to the commission. In a letter dated on Jan. 3 from her attorney to the commission, McBride relinquished control of the commission and took the blame for what happened on Election Day. McBride and other members of the county elections commission were criticized after voters were forced to wait as long as seven hours to vote. “In taking this action, I accept fully the responsibility for what occurred during the election on November 6, 2012,” said McBride in the letter.

South Carolina: Bill to opt out of complying with South Carolina voter ID law spurs debate | TheState.com

Republican state senators want to make it easier for people to opt out of the state’s new voter ID law – just not too easy.
Republicans tried Thursday to advance a bill that would allow voters to opt out of showing a photo ID at the polls if they signed a document saying why they had a “reasonable impediment” to getting one. State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, tried to amend the bill further to say that state and county officials may not “review the reasonableness of the voter’s explanation” as to why they could not get a photo ID.

US Virgin Islands: Judge will not stop swearing-in of V.I. officials | Virgin Islands Daily News

Chief District Judge Curtis Gomez has blocked an attempt by five Virgin Islands candidates to prevent the swearing-in of the territory’s newly elected officials. The candidates, who lost their races in the November General Election, are preparing to file a motion today to recuse Gomez from hearing the case. In an amended complaint filed Dec. 21, senatorial candidate Lawrence Olive, Senate At-large candidate Wilma Marsh-Monsanto, Delegate to Congress candidate Norma Pickard-Samuel and Board of Elections candidates Harriet Mercer and Diane Magras asked the court for a temporary restraining order to prevent the Jan. 14 swearing-in ceremony. Each party is acting “pro se” and representing himself or herself.

Cuba: Preparations for Next February 3rd Elections | Escambray

The 612 deputies to Cuban Parliament, and the 1 269 delegates to the provincial assemblies of the People’s Power will be elected next February 3rd.
Cuban authorities work in the preparations for the election next February to choose the 612 deputies to Parliament, said the president of the National Electoral Commission (CEN), Alina Balseiro. In statements to Prensa Latina, the civil employee emphasized that 89 electoral districts were created, organizations destined to obtain fairness in the number of voters, being considered the difference of inhabitants between the 168 municipalities in the country. The districts can arise in municipalities where the population exceeds the 100,000 residents, said Balseiro regarding to the election in the ballot boxes, from which the 1,269 delegates will come in addition to the provincial assemblies to the Popular Power.

Cyprus: Presidential elections proclaimed for February 17 | Famagusta Gazette

Presidential elections in the Republic of Cyprus were officially proclaimed today by the Minister of Interior and will take place on February 17. An eventual second round is set for a week later, on February 24. The Minister also appointed today the Chief Returning Officer Andreas Assiotis and the rest of the Returning Officers in Cyprus’ election districts and abroad. According to an announcement by the Office of the Chief Returning Officer, Interior Minister Eleni Mavrou has set January 18th as the date for the submission of candidacies by the contestants for the Presidential Elections, according to a decree published today in the official gazette.

Czech Republic: Constitutional Court Confirms Presidential Election Date | Bloomberg

The Czech Constitutional Court ruled that the country’s first direct presidential elections may take place next week after reviewing a complaint filed by a candidate excluded from the vote. The court, based in Brno, the Czech Republic’s second- largest city, said today that the first round of elections may be held Jan. 11-12 as planned, spokeswoman Jana Pelcova said by phone today. The court earlier reviewed a complaint from Tomio Okamura, who was excluded from the vote.

Ireland: Oscars online voting mess reminds us of a certain electronic voting machine bought by the Irish government | joe.ie

When it comes to voting do any of us really trust machines? We’ve seen so many hacker incidents in the global media, not to mention our own email and Facebook pages, that we don’t really trust our votes not to be tampered with if made electronically. The 85th Annual Academy Awards tried to upgrade their voting system to e-voting this year but has met with nothing but problems. Usually voting for the awards is done via the post. This year, there was a choice of posting the vote traditionally, or voting online. Many users found that they had more trouble trying to get their votes cast online that they would trying to perform an online banking transfer.

Israel: Election Committee: Likud violated election laws | Ynetnews

Central Election Committee Chairman Justice Elyakim Rubinstein ruled Friday that a performance given by popular Israeli singer Sarit Hadad at the launch of the Likud-Beiteinu’s election campaign was in violation of campaign laws. Article 17 of the Israel Election Act states that political parties are barred from employing the services of artists as part of their campaign. Anyone found in breach of this article is subject to a fine of NIS 29,000 (roughly $7,800) – or six months in jail.