National: FEC chairwoman warns of super PAC corruption | The Center for Public Integrity

Do candidate-specific super PACs pose a greater threat of corruption to democracy than multi-candidate super PACs, Federal Election Commission Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub asked Friday at a Willamette Law School symposium on political money and influence. The answer, Weintraub said in response to her own question, “could be yes. I would probably define corruption a little more broadly than the Supreme Court does,” Weintraub added.  Ahead of last year’s elections, candidate-specific super PACs proliferated. President Barack Obama’s allies, for instance, created Priorities USA Action, while GOP operatives launched Restore Our Future to support the presidential ambitions of Republican Mitt Romney.

Voting Blogs: Pew’s Election Performance Index | Heather Gerken/Election Law Blog

A few years ago, I proposed creating a “Democracy Index” that would rank states and localities based on how well they run elections.  Since then, the Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonpartisan organization well known for promoting data-driven governance, has tried to put these ideas into action.  It created the nation’s first Elections Performance Index, which was released this week.  The EPI measures state performance based on seventeen indicators, which include the length of lines, the accuracy of voting technology, and the percentage of voters who experienced problems registering or casting an absentee ballot. The process for creating the Index was remarkable – as serious and professional an undertaking as I’ve witnessed.  Pew itself devoted significant funding and top-notch staffers to the project.  It also assembled an extraordinary group of advisors, which included some  of the top state and local election administrators in the country.  The legendary Charles Stewart, the former chair of MIT’s political science department, served as the data expert (though that seems a bit like calling a Ferrari a “car”).  The Pew staff and advisors — along with numerous outside experts Pew called in to poke and prod and test and challenge the validity of the indicators – narrowed down a list of almost fifty potential performance indicators to the seventeen you see on the website.  A huge amount of effort was put in to be sure the indicators were measuring something meaningful, and that the data gave us genuine signals rather than noise.  I am frankly amazed that Pew came up with so many good measures – it’s a testament to the creativity of the team, especially the political scientists who were involved.

California: Sticker shock: Siskiyou County clerk presents special election expenses | Siskiyou Daily News

Siskiyou County Clerk Colleen Setzer revealed at the Feb. 5 meeting of the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors that the Jan. 8 special election for District 4 State Senator cost the county over $100,000 – a very large expense for a rural county already struggling with severe cutbacks to its budget and a weak economy. Setzer appeared before the board primarily to present the certified election results for the board’s acceptance, but the election’s high price tag ultimately dominated the board’s discussion. Setzer told the board, “This was a special election, so six months of work was actually consolidated down into one month.” She said her office faced a long list of challenges in addition to the shortened time frame, including heavy snow, holiday scheduling conflicts and widespread staff illness. “We did it. We did it well. And I’m glad that it’s over,” she added.

Iowa: Voter registration form legality questioned | SFGate

The attorney for one of a handful of Iowa residents charged for allegedly registering to vote when they weren’t U.S. citizens is focusing on a small technicality. Something too small, he argues. David Richter said Thursday that under state law, Iowa’s voter registration form must have the same size and color of font throughout. But he argues that the text is smaller in the section of the form where residents are asked to sign their names to certify their U.S. citizenship. “I had a font expert measure it and certify that they violated that section of the Iowa code,” the lawyer explained. “I believe the judge will find the form on its face is illegal.” Richter is representing 51-year-old Albert Harte-Maxwell, who along with his wife, Linda, and another Pottawattamie County resident were charged in September with election misconduct and fraudulent practice.

Maine: Report: Voter fraud not an issue in Maine |

Every now and then, a commission report comes out that provides solid information and analysis, and helpful recommendations on what state government ought to do. That’s the case with the Elections Commission appointed by former Secretary of State Charlie Summers last year amid various voting controversies, and received by his successor, Matt Dunlap. Unaccountably, the report was leaked to the Huffington Post on Tuesday, with the regrettable effect of producing early news stories but no coverage of its actual presentation to the Legislature’s Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday. But the report is well worth reading, both for its conclusions and the fair-minded way it considers the evidence. If politicians take heed, it should help settle controversies over Voter ID, Election Day registration and absentee balloting well into the future.

Maryland: Proposed voter ID law again draws hot debate in Annapolis |

Republican legislators are back again, pushing controversial voter identification laws after failed attempts in prior years. Sponsored by Republican Dels. Nic Kipke, Kathy Afzali and 32 other Republicans, but no Democrats, the contentious bill sparked heated debate last week in the House Ways & Means Committee. “HB 137 is a very familiar subject to many of us in this room,” Kipke told the committee. “I think most of us have differing views, but I believe requiring proof of identity on election day is a good thing for our election integrity.” Kipke, Afzali and others supporting voter ID laws view the initiative as a solution to what they see as the widespread problem of voter fraud, which Democrats insist is rare.

New Mexico: Ugly showdown in Chaparral | El Paso Times

Gov. Susana Martinez received plaudits for delivering pizza and encouragement to voters who stood in long lines on Election Night in Rio Rancho. But in the border town of Chaparral, nonpartisan volunteers who offered stranded voters water, food and chairs were threatened with arrest. Eight uniformed officers of the Otero County Sheriff’s Office put up yellow crime-scene tape around the Chaparral polling place. Then they intimidated volunteers whose only mission was to make sure voters could stick it out long enough to exercise their right to cast a ballot, said Mariaelena Johnson of the community group New Mexico Café. Johnson turned into the star witness Saturday during a legislative hearing on Election Night problems in Sandoval and Otero counties. Almost nobody from Sandoval, home of the growing city of Rio Rancho, showed up. But Johnson and a dozen more people from southern New Mexico told of a horror show in Chaparral.

Editorials: More applicants, diversity needed for Austin redistricting panel |

Not enough Austinites — in particular, not enough minority and female Austinites — have applied to serve on a commission that will transform city politics, city officials say. The 14-member commission will draw the boundaries of 10 City Council districts, to carry out a plan voters approved last fall to shift the City Council from seven citywide members to 10 district representatives and a citywide mayor. The first election of council members under the new system will be in November 2014. The city since late January has been urging residents to apply for the map-drawing commission. So far, it has received only 98 applications, all but a handful from white men. Only five applicants are Hispanic, two are black and one is Asian. And the application deadline ends in just two weeks.

Virginia: Democrats Accuse GOP of Restricting Voting Rights | Potomac Local News

Democratic lawmakers blasted Republicans’ recent actions to redraw Senate districts and require voters to show more identification during a roundtable meeting with the League of Women Voters of Virginia this past week. Several of the league’s guest speakers accused the GOP of gerrymandering political districts and trying to restrict voters’ rights. The General Assembly should be making it easier, not harder, to vote, Democratic legislators told about 30 league members Wednesday. Sen. Ralph Northam, D-Painter, said the turnout for the 2012 presidential election was excellent: About 72 percent of Virginia voters cast ballots in November. But some people across the state were discouraged from voting because they had to wait in line for hours at the polls, Northam said. “Good democracy occurs when everybody has a voice,” he said. Northam said that’s why legislators this year filed bills such as “no-excuse early voting” legislation.

Washington: Voting Rights Act draws contentious testimony | Sequim Gazette

A group of House Democrats re-introduced a bill this session that would affect how local governments run their elections in certain political subdivisions. Known as the Washington Voting Rights Act, House Bill 1413 is intended to address underrepresentation of minority groups in local government. The bill prohibits unfair elections in which members of a protected class (members of a racial, ethnic or language minority) are unable to influence an election and/or receive adequate representation in local political subdivisions. To affect how elections are operated in local government districts, persons of a minority group must provide evidence that polarized voting has occurred and that members of a protected class, while maybe a smaller percentage of the total electorate, do not have an equal opportunity to influence election results. Polarized voting may be observed when there is a disparity between the candidate chosen by voters of a protected class or by those of the remainder of the electorate.

Armenia: Wounded Armenian candidate wants to delay election | Reuters

An Armenian presidential candidate who was shot has appealed for this month’s election to be delayed to allow him more time to campaign, raising concerns over instability in the former Soviet republic. Paruyr Hayrikyan, who was shown on television looking pale and bedridden with his arm in a cast, had initially said he would not seek a postponement. He changed his mind just few hours before a deadline to apply to the Constitutional Court to delay the February 18 vote after doctors advised him to remain in hospital. “We’ve applied the Constitutional Court with a request to postpone the election for two weeks due to Paruyr Hayrikyan’s health problems and the fact that he can’t campaign,” Vrezh Zatikyan, the candidate’s aide, told Reuters.

Barbados: 67 candidates to contest Barbados general election | Caribbean360

Sixty-seven candidates, including seven independents, have been nominated to contest the February 21 general election, according to electoral officials. Both the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) and the main opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) have nominated candidates to contest all 30 seats in the Barbados parliament. In a festive atmosphere and surrounded by party supporters, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart filed his papers at the Graydon Sealy Secondary School where he was warmly greeted by students. After completing the process, Stuart, the parliamentary representative for the St. Michael South constituency, warned that the DLP’s campaign would now move into high gear as it seeks another five year term in office.

Editorials: Ecuador’s election: The man with the mighty microphone | The Economist

New highways and motorways snake across Ecuador, lined with billboards reminding drivers how bad the Andean country’s potholed road network was until Rafael Correa was first elected as president six years ago. The towns and villages boast new schools and health clinics. The minimum wage has risen well above inflation, and some 2m poorer people (in a population of 14.5m) get monthly cash transfers. Free school uniforms and subsidised mortgages all help to give ordinary Ecuadoreans the sense that “most things are being done right,” says Pili Troya, a civil servant, who plans to vote to give Mr Correa another four-year term in the country’s general election on February 17th. In his campaign advertisements Mr Correa, a good-looking, smooth-tongued 49-year-old economist, presents himself as the man who turned his country round, after several years of political instability and economic humiliation, which included the collapse of the currency and its replacement by the American dollar in 2000. He rails against the IMF, bankers and privatisations. “Ecuador is no longer for sale,” he cries. “The country of despair has become one of hope”.

Canada: Door to online voting opens ever so slightly in Calgary | Metro

Calgarians won’t cast ballots online in October’s municipal election – and probably not in the 2017 election either – but the idea is receiving growing attention at city hall. “It is now potentially worth looking at, and I wouldn’t have said that two years ago,” said returning officer Barb Clifford, who has been paying close attention to the controversial idea. … Perhaps in 10 years, Ald. Richard Pootmans said he could see online voting in Calgary, but not as things currently stand. “I’m not sure the state of the technology is there right now,” he said.

Cyprus: A new beginning or more of the same? | Cyprus Mail

In a week or two, Cyprus will have a new president and a new government. The million-dollar question or rather the 17-billion-euro question is: Will this mark a new beginning for Cyprus or will we get more of the same, wrapped in a different colour. This is arguably the most important election for Cyprus since 1974 and possibly since the founding of the Republic in 1960. It is also the first time that the outcome of a Cyprus election is attracting pan-European, and possibly global, interest and significance. Normally, presidential elections in countries with a population under a million, even troubled-countries like Cyprus, would be relegated to the inside pages of world press and go unnoticed. Not so this time.

Iran: Political bickering heats up as election approaches |

Iran will stage its annual show of solidarity and defiance Sunday, a festive day of scripted rallies and fiery oratory marking the 34th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution and denouncing “satanic” Washington and its allies. But with a pivotal presidential election approaching in June, the veneer of unity among Iran’s diverse political blocs has been wearing thin as average Iranians struggle to cope with a withering, sanctions-driven economic crisis. Even before official candidates have emerged, a nasty spate of preelection infighting has erupted, unveiling an unedifying display of name-calling and mudslinging. Last week, Iranians witnessed the stunning public spectacle of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad going before the parliament to play an apparently secretly taped video clip that, he alleged, exposed corrupt dealings by the powerful family of parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani — the president’s bitter rival and a possible candidate to succeed him.