Editorials: Voting Rights Act: What’s lost if the Supreme Court kills it? | Richard Hasen/Slate Magazine

Odds are, the Supreme Court will strike down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act after hearing a case from Alabama that will be argued next month. If the part of the law called Section 5 does indeed go down, minority voters in Southern states and elsewhere will lose a key bargaining chip. Section 5 has enabled them to beat back some attempts to make it harder for them to vote, and helped insure that the gains they’ve made in representation and redistricting are not rolled back. As another recent fight over South Carolina’s voter ID law shows, Section 5 still serves a vital role in an era in which partisan legislatures may manipulate election laws for political gain. Like many other states with Republican majority legislatures acting over the last few years, South Carolina adopted a tough photo identification law before the 2012 election. The state’s Republican legislature likely acted out of the belief that such laws would marginally depress Democratic turnout and help Republicans at the polls. Controversy over voter ID laws also motivates the Republican base to turn out to vote. (What voter ID laws don’t do is prevent a lot of real voter fraud, though that’s the rationale their supporters cite.)

National: Sandy storm exposes need for voting contingency plans | USAToday

Holding a presidential election one week after a major storm has destroyed homes and knocked out power to much of your state may seem like a worst-case scenario, but the problems New Jersey experienced after Superstorm Sandy could have been much worse, a state elections official said Wednesday. “If the storm was a week later, we would not have been able to have a presidential election in New Jersey and parts of New York,” Robert Giles, director of New Jersey’s Division of Elections, said at a hearing before the Election Assistance Commission. “There’s nothing in place to address that. It’s always been, ‘Well, we’ll deal with it if it happens.’ Well, it almost did.”

Editorials: Technology in our electoral process | Leland Yee/Daily Journal

In September, as a result of a law I authored in 2011, California launched online voter registration. Consequently, California set a new record with 18,245,970 registered voters. More than 1 million people used the new registration system in less than a month, with moe than 780,000 citizens added to the voter file. Nearly 62 percent of those who registered online were under age 35 and four out of five registered to vote for the first time. Proudly, these individuals also voted in much higher numbers than those eligible via paper registration from previous elections. … I share this frustration but I have a fundamental optimism that the barriers to online voting can be lifted if enough research and development is devoted to solving the problem. Unfortunately, Internet voting systems are not yet ready for deployment. The National Institutes for Standards and Technology and cyber security experts at the Department of Homeland Security have reviewed the currently commercially available Internet voting systems and found that fundamental security problems have not been resolved and thus should not be used yet in our public elections.

Voting Blogs: Konopasek’s New ElectionGuru Asks: What’s a “Good” Election? | Election Academy

Former election official and current Utah doctoral candidate Scott Konopasek recently launched a new blog entitled, and focused on, Election Administration Theories and Praxis. Fortunately, we don’t have to use (or shorten) that title because he helpfully gave the blog a URL that includes ElectionGuru so it shall henceforth be known here as just that. After his introductory post, Scott dives into a question that’s very timely in the current environment: what’s a “good” election? The answer, he says, depends on who you ask.

Alaska: Redistricting board wants high court to reconsider | ADN.com

The Alaska Redistricting Board wants the state’s highest court to reconsider its decision that requires Alaska’s political boundaries to be redrawn. Attorneys for the board said in a petition filed this week that the court misconstrued or overlooked important facts in the case. They say the court – whose review of the plan is limited, they say, to ensuring the plan is not unreasonable and is constitutional – ignored its duty in failing to answer whether the plan adopted by the board was constitutional.

Colorado: Gessler: Colorado not yet ready for Internet vote | Fort Morgan Times

Fort Morgan played host on Monday to the Colorado Secretary of State, Scott Gessler, who wanted to hear what Morgan County folks had to say about last November’s General Election. At the Fort Morgan stop on Gessler’s statewide listening tour, the small group of area residents, elected officials and county elections shared what they learned from the election, what worked and what could have gone better. Gessler had said that he was in favor of creating a statewide voting system that all Colorado counties would use for elections. … Morgan County Commissioner Laura Teague asked Gessler about the possibility of people voting through the Internet. “There is talk, but we’re not there yet,” Gessler said. “Frankly, I don’t know if we’ll ever be.” He said the problems with Internet-based voting included no guarantee of anonymity for the voter and that the system theoretically could be hacked, potentially compromising the election’s security.

Delaware: Plan to Expand Voting Rights for Convicts in Delaware Moving Forward | WBOC

Delaware is moving closer to expanding voting rights for convicted felons. A proposed amendment would eliminate a five-year waiting period for eligible felons and allow them to vote once they’ve completed their sentences.  The amendment would not cover all felons. Those convicted of the most serious crimes, like murder, would not be eligible. The amendment’s sponsor, Rep. Helene Keeley, D-Wilmington, says the ball is at the fifty. They want it in the end zone

Florida: Florida’s ballot problem | Herald Tribune

When Gov. Rick Scott recently listed ways he thinks Florida could reduce voting difficulties and long polling lines, he drew the most attention for a change of course in suggesting that more early voting might help. But another idea Scott raised may have more far-reaching implications for public policy in Florida, and might even be more difficult to accomplish than the politically volatile suggestion about early voting. The 2012 ballot was several pages in many places, most notably in Miami where voters had to wade through 12 pages because of a number of local issues. It was lengthened by legislators, who put 11 constitutional amendment questions on it, some of them written out in full. “In Miami-Dade County, the ballot read like the book of Leviticus – though not as interesting,” said Senate President Don Gaetz. In short, “it was just too long,” Scott said late last year on CNN.

Iowa: Schultz plans to proceed with voter registration rule changes | Quad City Times

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz said Wednesday he expects to move forward in March with new rules intended to protect voting rights and prevent unauthorized people from casting election ballots. “I feel pretty confident where we stand. We really have been very measured in the way we’ve approached this issue,” said Schultz, who noted that rule changes he has proposed to take effect as early as March 13 have the backing of Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller.

Florida: Lawmakers file bills to reinstate early voting Sunday before Election Day | Bradenton Herald

In response to the long lines that plagued South Florida polls, two Miami lawmakers have filed legislation to reinstate early voting the Sunday before Election Day. The proposals by Republican Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Democratic Sen. Gwen Margolis follow a recommendation from a Miami-Dade advisory group examining what went wrong in the November presidential election. The group made additional suggestions Monday, including allowing voters to return absentee ballots in person at their polling places on Election Day, and setting a goal for how long the average voter should wait in line at the polls.

Iowa: Senator says Schultz lacks authority to implement voter registration rules | Radio Iowa

The incoming president of the Iowa Senate suggests Iowa’s top election official does not have the authority to implement rules that set up a system for removing non-citizens from voter registration rolls. Senator Pam Jochum, a Democrat from Dubuque, questions the effort from Republican Secretary of State Matt Schultz. “Regardless of our opinion on the proposed rules, whether we’re for it or against it…I believe that this rule has exceeded the authority of the secretary of state’s office,” Jochum says. “I believe these are issues that are for the legislative branch of government.”

New York: Cuomo wants early voting in New York | Capital New York

Governor Andrew Cuomo is proposing early voting in New York State that “is at least one week long, and includes the weekend before a scheduled Election Day,” according to an outine of the governor’s State of the State speech distributed by his office today. The day before the legislative races last year, Cuomo announced a loosening of rules govering emergency ballots to help address needs facing residents displaced immediately after Hurricane Sandy.

Iowa: Funding of Iowa’s voting probe is under scrutiny | Omaha.com

State and federal auditors said Thursday that they’re reviewing whether it is appropriate for Iowa elections officials to use federal money meant to improve elections to fund a two-year criminal investigation into potential voter fraud. The inspector general of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and Iowa’s state auditor said they’re gathering information from Secretary of State Matt Schultz about his agreement to hire an agent to investigate and prosecute illegal voters such as felons and noncitizens.

Editorials: Downshift on North Carolina Voter I.D. | NewsObserver.com

What’s this? Republicans backing away a bit from an issue they used to politically club former Gov. Beverly Perdue? It seems so, and if it is so, good. During a visit to the General Assembly on Wednesday, Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican with super majorities of his party in both houses of the legislature, indicated he might be willing to compromise on the GOP’s push to require North Carolinians to produce photo identification when voting. Republicans passed the bill last session. Perdue rightly vetoed it.

Ohio: Husted reports high number of provisional and absentee ballots cast in the presidential election | cleveland.com

Ohioans cast a record number of absentee ballots in last year’s presidential election, according to a new report that also found more provisional ballots were cast in November compared to four years ago. More than 1.86 million absentee ballots and 208,087 provisional ballots were cast in Ohio in the Nov. 6 election, according to the secretary of state’s report released today. About 17 percent, or 34,322, of the provisional ballots cast were rejected. Nearly 60 percent of the rejected ballots were ineligible because the voter was not registered in Ohio, the report said

Virginia: McDonnell calls for automatic restoration of voting rights for felons | dailypress.com

Gov. Bob McDonnell used his annual State of the Commonwealth Wednesday to tout his transportation funding package, unveil additional education reform proposals, and call for the automatic restoration of voting rights for nonviolent felons. McDonnell said he supports proposed legislation for a constitutional amendment that would automatically restore civil rights, such as voting rights, to felons convicted of nonviolent offenses who have served their time. Currently applications for rights restoration must be made directly to the governor who then decides whether to restore rights on an individual basis.

South Carolina: Could 2013 be the Year for Early Voting in South Carolina? | Free Times

South Carolina is one of 18 states where voters are not allowed to cast an early ballot in person without an excuse. Many Palmetto State voters, however, do so anyway by voting absentee. And while the thousands of residents voting early without a real excuse might technically be breaking the law, state elections officials have largely looked the other way because so many are doing it. Attempts to allow early voting in the state have been fought here for years — and failed with Republican opposition. But recent county elections failures have seared images of long, snaking lines at the polls and anecdotes from friends and neighbors of Election Day horror stories into the minds of large chunks of the electorate.

Virginia: Gov. McDonnell pushes to restore felon voting rights | MSNBC

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has decided to take on the restoration of felon voting rights in his final year in office, pushing lawmakers in Richmond to take on the issue in Wednesday’s State of the Commonwealth address. “As a nation that believes in redemption and second chances, we must provide a clear path for willing individuals to be productive members of society once they have served their sentences and paid their fines and restitution,” he said. “It is time for Virginia to join most of the other states and make the restoration of civil rights an automatic process for non-violent offenders.”

Australia: Many challenges ahead of Australia’s eVote | SC Magazine

Electronic voting isn’t likely to replace voting at the ballot box anytime soon, according to identity and security experts, despite progress in NSW and Victoria and renewed interest in Queensland. A discussion paper [pdf] on electoral reform released last week by the Queensland Government asked whether electronically assisted voting (conducted online or by phone) should be introduced for all voters in the state. While Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said the government must review rules and processes governing the electoral system to ensure they are “right for modern times”, experts say there is a lot standing in the way of electronic voting.

Editorials: Mr. McDonnell moves to restore voting rights | The Washington Post

By throwing his support behind a measure to automatically restore voting rights to nonviolent felons, Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) is doing more than helping to end his state’s archaic practice of systematically disenfranchising thousands of people each year. He is also addressing what has become a patently racist distortion in Virginia’s democracy. At a rough estimate, 350,000 Virginians — almost 6 percent of the overall voting-age population — are felons who have completed their sentences and paid their debt to society but remain forbidden to vote. That’s one of the highest rates in the nation, thanks to a regime that permanently and indiscriminately disenfranchises them — shoplifters and murderers; bad-check writers and burglars — unless the governor himself, acting on an individual’s petition, restores his or her rights. Just three other states (Florida, Kentucky and Iowa) enforce such a rule. The burden is heavily skewed by race. One in five African Americans of voting age in Virginia, and a third or more of black men, cannot cast a ballot. That’s a profoundly undemocratic disgrace.

Iran: Elections in Iran … just don’t mention the ‘f’ word | guardian.co.uk

Six months ahead of a vote that will end to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s contentious presidency, talk of elections has already prompted top-level controversies in Tehran. This week, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, asked officials not to make statements insinuating that previous elections were not free. The 73-year-old was speaking to a group of devout crowds from the holy city of Qom. In his speech, Khamenei criticised senior politicians who have indirectly cast doubt on the fairness of Iran’s electoral record.

Nepal: Election Commission builds biometric voter database ahead of election | BiometricUpdate.com

The Election Commission in Nepal has been working on a biometric voters’ registry database and has accumulated 10.9 million eligible voters thus far, Republica reports. So far, registration takes place at the Commission and consists of a fingerprint and a photograph for identity verification. The Commission has been making internal preparations for the next constituent assembly election in the country, including developing a 120-day integrated action plan to ensure all human resource, materials and budget have been accounted for.

Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai meets Electoral Commission | Zimdiaspora

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday met officials from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the Registrar-General’s Office but failed to set up a new date for the commencement of mobile voter registration with no indication of when Treasury would release money for the exercise. At least US$21 million is required to conduct the exercise that was expected to begin last Thursday but failed to take off due to lack of funds. Addressing journalists after the meeting at the Prime Minister’s Charter House Office, ZEC acting chairperson Mrs Joyce Kazembe said her organisation was ready to start the registration any time if funds were made available.