Editorials: Why ‘gerrymandering’ doesn’t polarise Congress the way we’re told | Harry J Enten/guardian.co.uk

You ever hear a point of view that is so infuriating that you want stick your head out the window and yell? I go bananas when I hear an opinion that goes against well-established political science literature. That happened this past weekend when respected television journalist Tom Brokaw said the House of Representatives is becoming increasingly polarized because of gerrymandering. Don’t get me wrong, I love Brokaw. It just so happens that he is wrong, and posts about the effect of gerrymandering on redistricting have been written over and over again in past months. It could be that Brokaw doesn’t quite understand what gerrymandering is. For those who don’t, gerrymandering is the manipulation in the drawing of House districts to ensure a desired result. Brokaw’s assumption is that politics is becoming more polarized as the result of gerrymandering in districts in which Democrats and Republicans are increasingly safe from worrying about a competitive challenger from the other party. While it is true that House districts are increasingly “safe”, this is the case even when controlling for redistricting. Last week, Nate Silver noted that there was an 8% increase in polarization independent of any effects of redistricting in 2012.

Arizona: March Supreme Court hearing for voter-registration case | Arizona Republic

The U.S. Supreme Court on March 18 will hear arguments surrounding Arizona’s 2004 voter-approved requirement that residents show proof of citizenship when they register to vote. In the case surrounding Proposition 200, state attorneys will ask the high court to overturn a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that said the state cannot require Arizona voters to provide documents when registering with the federal form, but it can require voters registering with the state form to do so. Among its provisions, the National Voter Registration Act creates a standard federal registration form that all states must accept. It requires applicants to sign a statement that they are citizens, but it does not require them to show any proof.

Arizona: Attorney General to pitch Supreme Court on voter proof of citizenship | East Valley Tribune

Attorney General Tom Horne will argue to the nation’s high court on March 18 that Arizona should be allowed to enforce a 2004 voter-approved law requiring people to provide proof of citizenship to register to vote. The justices are reviewing a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that said Arizona cannot refuse to register voters who do not provide proof of citizenship if they instead fill out a special registration form prepared by the federal Election Assistance Commission. That form requires only that the person avows, under oath and penalty of perjury, that he or she is eligible to vote. A 2004 voter-approved measure requires both proof of citizenship to register and identification to cast a ballot at the polls. Foes challenged both. The courts sided with the state on the ID at polling places requirement. While that remains a legal issue in some states, opponents of the Arizona law never appealed that decision and it will not be an issue when the U.S. Supreme Court looks at the law in March. But the appellate court had a different view on the citizenship-proof requirement.

Florida: A Growing Stack Of Early Voting Bills | WLRN

Republican  State Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla of Miami was an early and enthusiastic supporter of cutting back Florida’s early voting period from 14 to 8 days in 2011. He called it a “voter friendly” bill that would save money. “Generally, early voting in Miami-Dade County has not been very efficient, ” Diaz de la Portilla said at the time. “What you see more often than not is that there is a trickle of two or three people a day at a very high cost to keep those public libraries and polls open. … We felt it was an efficiency measure.” But now that Floridians have made it painfully clear they prefer the inefficient trickle to the lengthy waits in long lines they endured on election day, de la Portilla has filed a bill to restore some of the early voting time that he voted to take away two years ago.

Florida: St. Lucie County Election Supervisor Responds To Report | WPTV

After a chaotic election experience that led to cries of incompetence, St. Lucie County’s longtime elections supervisor talked about what went wrong in November, and what she plans to do to make things right in the future.  Gertrude Walker says this past election was full of new experiences. “We never had a multi-ballot election, that was another twist,” Walker said Monday. But it was old equipment Walker claimed was at the heart of many of the problems her office faced on Election Day.

Kansas: Voting rights takes center stage at legislative forum | Wichita Eagle

The state’s voter identification law came under fire Tuesday night at a legislative forum where ordinary citizens got a chance to tell lawmakers what they want from the session that begins next week. The open-mike session drew a crowd of about 100, about 40 of whom chose to speak on a variety of issues ranging from abortion to fluoridated water to police brutality. But the 25 lawmakers who attended the forum heard the most about dissatisfaction with the voting law they passed in 2011 at the request of Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Kobach contends that photo ID and proof of citizenship are necessary to prevent voter fraud by immigrants legal and illegal. But resident Bryan Mann told the lawmakers that the real purpose of the voter ID law is to suppress Democratic-leaning voter groups – especially minorities and the elderly – to cement Republican domination of state government.

Nevada: Secretary of State Miller pitches state voter ID bill to Reno Republicans | Reno Gazette-Journal

Secretary of State Ross Miller presented his case for a Nevada voter ID bill at Reno’s Republican Men’s Club and got a warm reception. Washoe County District Attorney Dick Gammick was cheered loudly when he stood up and said “It’s about time Nevada has a voter ID bill.” Miller, a Democrat, was complimented by many in the audience for what he called “stepping into the lion’s den,” and presenting his plan to a group of Republicans. Yet Miller could get a better reception from the GOP than from his own party, noted State Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, who spoke earlier in the day and questioned the $10 million possible price tag for the bill.

New York: Early voting in New York easier said than done | Post Star

Democrats in the state Assembly are pushing to institute early voting in New York, but local elections officials say it would be costly and difficult to implement. “Our democracy thrives when we have as many citizens as possible participating in the electoral process,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, in a December press release. Silver has introduced legislation to establish early voting in New York, legislation he said will be a priority in the legislative session that opens Wednesday. Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Westchester County, has introduced companion legislation in the state Senate.

North Carolina: Voter ID law could hinder more than 600,000 voters | WECT

More than 600,000 registered voters in North Carolina could be left out of the voting booth if a voter ID bill becomes law. Former Governor Bev Perdue vetoed the last bill, but current Governor Pat McCrory will have the final say this time around. Before state lawmakers start a new session at the end of January, the State Board of Elections compared voter registration records with information from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Editorials: North Carolina Voter ID may be bigger project than expected | FayObserver.com

The argument in favor of voters showing photo ID before they can cast a ballot is appealing, on first hearing. After all, who’s in favor of voter fraud? Granted, there’s little record of fraud committed at polling places, despite all those jokes about cemeteries emptying out on Election Day. If there’s a real problem, it’s with absentee ballots, which are much easier to cast illegally. But still, as technology advances and there’s far greater incidence of identity theft, the possibility of fraud is out there and pre-emptive measures may be wise.

South Carolina: Lawmakers: State fails on voter ID promises | Times and Democrat

Orangeburg County lawmakers say the state is failing to tell voters they don’t need photo identification to cast a ballot under South Carolina’s new voter ID law. Tuesday’s special election in Branchville will be the first one in the state under the new law. But Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter says officials aren’t telling residents they only need a valid voter registration card to cast a ballot and photo identification is not required. The Orangeburg Democrat said she will bring up the matter in the General Assembly, which opens its new session Tuesday. But “that’s after the fact. The town is having the election” Tuesday, she lamented. “The question is who doesn’t vote because they don’t know” they don’t need a photo ID, said Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg.

Czech Republic: Czechs to vote in first direct presidential election | Channel NewsAsia

Czechs vote Friday and Saturday in their country’s first direct presidential election, with recession, austerity and graft weighing heavily on the nation as it turns the page on a decade under ardent eurosceptic Vaclav Klaus. Two ex-prime ministers, both former Communists, are tipped to finish atop a list of nine first-round candidates — including one with a fully tattooed face — and enter a second round slated for January 25-26. Although polls suggest outspoken leftist Milos Zeman is the strongest candidate to take the presidency of the European Union state of 10.5 million people, he is unlikely to score the simple majority needed to clinch a first-round victory, and will likely face mild-mannered centre-rightist Jan Fischer in the second round.

Iran: Khamenei tells Iranians: criticising election will help enemies | Reuters

Iran’s most powerful leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned the Iranian public on Tuesday against helping Tehran’s enemies by criticising the forthcoming presidential election. Iranians go to the polls in June to elect a successor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Iran’s leadership is keen to avoid a repeat of the widespread protests that followed the last presidential vote in 2009. Khamenei’s comments appear to be a response to a debate inside Iran about whether reformist candidates – those with a more moderate stance on issues such as social policy and greater political freedoms – should be allowed to run.

Israel: As election nears, Israeli candidates vie for the American vote | Haaretz

The debate moderator asked the candidates what their parties would do to prevent a third intifada, an increasingly common concern in the Israeli election campaign. In his answer, Jeremy Gimpel drew from his upbringing – in Atlanta, Ga. “I’m from America,” Gimpel said in English. “We don’t talk to terrorists. In America, we eliminate terrorists.” Soon after Gimpel had finished, New Jersey native Alon Tal shot back. “There are graves in the Wild West that say, ‘Here lies John Smith, who exercised all his rights,’” Tal said, also in English. “Do we want to find a pragmatic solution or do we want to be self-righteous?”