National: Senator Boxer Introduces Bill on Day One of the 113th Congress to Fight Long Election Lines | IVN

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), on the first day of the 113th Congress, reintroduced her election reform bill – the LINE Act – which would help ensure that all American voters can cast a ballot in federal elections without enduring hours-long delays at their polling places. President Obama signaled his commitment to this important election reform yesterday in his Second Inaugural Address when he said, “Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.”

“Forcing American voters to stand in line for hours is tantamount to denying their fundamental right to vote,” Senator Boxer said. “President Obama is right to make election reform a priority, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that no voter has to face hours-long delays to cast a ballot.”

Editorials: On voting, listen to John Lewis | Reuters

President Barack Obama emphasized the need to modernize the U.S. election system in his Inaugural Address. One bill to do just that is set to be introduced Wednesday by the civil rights hero Representative John Lewis (D-Ga.) — who knows a thing or two about how to expand democracy. Under his reform plan, states would have to take responsibility to make sure that every eligible voter is on the rolls. How? By taking existing computerized voter rolls, and expanding them with names voluntarily collected when citizens deal with government — including the Department of Motor Vehicles for drivers’ licenses, the Social Security Administration or other agencies. Any voter could opt in with the click of a mouse. The proposed bill would bring our antiquated system into the 21st century. The  “Voter Empowerment Act,” introduced by Lewis with Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), could transform the way we choose our leaders.

Editorials: Election Law: Voting Done Right |

Whatever his motivations, Gov. Rick Scott deserves praise for his about-face on state election law. Scott said last week that local election supervisors should be allowed to offer as many as 14 days of early voting during the next election and increase the number of voting hours. He signed a bill last year that cut the number of days to eight from 14 and reduced the number of hours. The governor also reversed course by calling for early voting to be allowed to resume on the Sunday before Election Day. Black churches brought voters to the polls on that Sunday — an effort dubbed “souls to the polls” — before the bill signed by Scott ended that effort.

Delaware: Constitutional amendment would expand absentee voting |

Three Democrats – Rep. Earl Jaques, D-Glasgow, Rep. John Kowalko, D-Newark South, and Rep. Dennis E. Williams, D-Talleyville – introduced legislation designed to increase participation in elections Jan. 17. House Bill 20 would extend absentee voting to all eligible Delaware voters by removing requirements that limit who can vote absentee. Under current law, absentee voting is allowed only for residents who are physically unable to make it to their polling place on Election Day. HB 20 is the first leg of a constitutional amendment. If this bill passes the General Assembly during this two-year session, an identical version must pass the 148th General Assembly, which begins in 2015.

Pennsylvania: Trial in voter ID lawsuit set for July |

Remember the debate over Pennsylvania’s voter ID law? It’s back. Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson issued an order today scheduling trial for July 15 in the legal challenge that will decide the law’s ultimate fate. The order also promises to determine by March 21 whether Voter ID requirements should be enforced in the May primary. It was not enforced in the November election, but its long-term prospects remain in question.

Editorials: Virginia Republicans Move Forward with Mass Disenfranchisement | American Prospect

This morning, I wrote on an emerging Republican plan—in swing states won by President Obama—to rig presidential elections by awarding electoral votes to the winner of the most congressional districts. Because Democratic voters tend to cluster in highly-populated urban areas, and Republican voters tend to reside in more sparsely populated regions, this makes land the key variable in elections—to win the majority of a state’s electoral votes, your voters will have to occupy the most geographic space. In addition to disenfranchising voters in dense areas, this would end the principle of “one person, one vote.” If Ohio operated under this scheme, for example, Obama would have received just 22 percent of the electoral votes, despite winning 52 percent of the popular vote in the state. For this reason, I didn’t expect Republicans to go forward with the plan—the risk of blowback is just too high. My skepticism, however, was misplaced. In Virginia, a local news station reports that just this afternoon, a state Senate subcommittee recommended a bill end Virginia’s winner-take-all system and apportion its 13 electoral votes by congressional district.

Virginia: Republicans’ redistricting maneuver draws criticism | The Washington Post

The secret plan began unfolding about two weeks ago. Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. went to Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling with a way to redraw Senate districts and make them more favorable to Republicans. But Bolling rejected the idea, fearing that it would set a bad precedent, according to two people familiar with the meeting but not authorized to discuss it publicly. Bolling, who would be needed to break a tie vote in the evenly divided Senate, also thought the move would so inflame partisan passions that lawmakers would lose sight of such priorities as transportation and education. It presented itself on Inauguration Day, when Virginia Democrats basked in their second straight presidential win and one in particular traveled to Washington to witness President Obama’s swearing-in: Sen. Henry L. Marsh III (D-Richmond).

Virginia: House Speaker holds key to redistricting vote | The Washington Post

The fate of a surprise state Senate redistricting plan that has Democrats in an uproar and threatening to derail a transportation funding fix lies, for the moment, in the hands of one man: House Speaker William J. Howell. All 100 delegates technically have a say on the bill when it comes up for a vote on the House floor, perhaps as early as Thursday. Senate Republicans muscled the measure through without notice Monday. But in his role as speaker, Howell could very well decide the matter on his own through a procedural move. He has given little indication of how he views the bill, and most House Republicans were tight-lipped Wednesday about the way forward. And when the matter appeared on the House calendar for the first time on Wednesday, it was quickly scuttled for the day — leading some to conclude that House Republicans were stalling.

Voting Blogs: Governor McDonnell Should Veto Virginia’s GOP Redistricting Gambit | Brennan Center for Justice

The 20-20 divided Virginia Senate took extraordinary action to drastically rewrite the district lines for 45 percent of Virginia’s residents on Inauguration Day.  On January 21, 2013, State Senator Henry March—a Civil Rights Activist—left the state to attend the inauguration of President Barack Obama. The Virginia Senate quickly moved to take advantage of his absence and introduced, amended and passed an amendment to a House bill making technical changes to the 2011 redistricting lines. By the time the temporarily Republican-controlled Senate was done with the technical fixes presented by the House, it had fully rewritten a number of senate districts—displacing almost 2 million Virginia residents into new districts.  While the current Senate is evenly split with 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans, some estimates suggest that the newly-proposed lines might result in a far more lopsided chamber even though there has been no significant change in the makeup of VA’s electorate in the 19 months since the previous lines were approved. The proposal could put Republicans in position to win 27 seats in the Senate at the next election, which would give Republicans a veto-proof supermajority in the chamber. This bill, as amended, passed on a party-line vote, 20 to 19, with Sen. March absent.

Wisconsin: Milwaukee prosecutors investigating voter fraud | JSOnline

Milwaukee prosecutors are investigating at least two instances of suspected voter fraud from the presidential election in November, court records reveal. Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf confirmed Tuesday only that his office is looking at several referrals from area clerks after the November election, and not all of the reviews require subpoenas like those recently made public in the two cases. In one matter, investigators seek records that might prove Leonard K. Brown voted twice in the November election, once in Milwaukee and again in West Milwaukee. The other suggests a Mukwonago man voted there and in West Allis. That man, Chad Vander Hyden, was arrested on charges of double voting in December after he declined West Allis detectives’ invitation to come in and discuss what appeared to be his signature on poll records.

Ghana: Election challenge: Akufo-Addo opposes EC’s detailed request | Ghana Business News

The presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the December 2012 general election, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has opposed the  request by the Electoral Commission (EC) for further documents in the petition contesting the results of the presidential poll. He said the EC “ought not be permitted to employ an application for further and better particulars to compel the petitioners to disclose the nature of evidence petitioners intend to lead during the trial”. The EC filed a motion on January 15, 2013 praying the Supreme Court to direct the petitioners to furnish it with “further and better” particulars of polling stations the alleged irregularities took place. But Nana Akufo-Addo, who is one of the petitioners challenging the declaration of President Mahama as the winner of the polls, in an affidavit in opposition dated January 21, 2013, prayed the court to dismiss the EC’s request. Hearing of the EC’s motion for further particulars has been set for January 29, 2013.

Israel: Election ends in dramatic deadlock | The Independent

Israelis delivered the narrowest of election victories to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday, but did not endorse what most analysts had predicted would be a lurch to right, instead giving their backing to a broader, centrist coalition. With almost all the votes now counted, Israel’s two political blocs – the left and the right – were level on 60 seats in the 120-member Knesset, the closest Israeli election result in history. Bibi, as Mr Netanyahu is universally known in Israel, secured 31 seats, a huge disappointment for his Likud party, and its formal coalition partner Yisrael Beiteinu, which lost a quarter of the 42 seats they held in the last Knesset.

Jordan: Jordanians vote in parliamentary polls | Al Jazeera

Jordanians are voting in parliamentary elections boycotted by the Muslim Brotherhood, which says the electoral system is rigged in favour of rural tribal areas and against the urban poor. The Brotherhood and the National Reform Front of former prime minister and intelligence chief Ahmad Obeidat are staying away from the polls, which opened for 12 hours from 04:00 GMT on Wednesday. An estimated 2.3 million Jordanians are eligible to vote at 1,484 polling stations, choosing from 1,425 candidates, vying for a four-year term in the 150-seat lower house of parliament. “So far, 125,000 have cast their votes,” reported Al Jazeera’s Nisreen El-Shamayleh from Amman.

Pakistan: Election commission approves electoral reforms draft |

The Election Commission of Pakistan on Wednesday approved a draft of electoral reforms for effective legislation to curb rigging in the upcoming general elections and ensure transparency and credibility of the polls. The commission at its meeting approved to enhance monetary penalty for illegal and corrupt practices side by side enhancing the nomination fee for the candidates of National and Provincial Assemblies. “Draft reforms package will be sent to the Law division for proper legislation,” DG Elections Sher Afghan informed media representatives at a news conference. He said the commission also approved registration of 11 new political parties while elections symbols were allotted to 16 already registered parties including the party of renowned nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan.

Editorials: Jordan’s year-long vote for regime or revolt | openDemocracy

Jordan’s upcoming parliamentary elections cannot avoid marking the increasing disconnect between palace politics and public discontent. Having weathered two years of increased political unrest and protracted economic crisis, Abdullah continues to project confidence with new elections touted as his hallmark reform. Yet, instead of ushering in a period of openness, the elections will perpetuate the status quo: a closed political space dominated by an absolute monarch. In the short term and long term, this environment magnifies the kingdom’s vulnerabilities and poses an increasingly untenable situation. As tensions heighten and the economy sinks, the elections may tilt the vote towards popular revolt rather than regime reform.