National: State of the Union guest Desiline Victor, 102, will be the face of voting delays at address | The Washington Post

When she set out to her local library in North Miami, Fla., to cast her vote in the presidential election last year, Desiline Victor had no way of knowing the journey would lead all the way to the White House. On Tuesday night, Victor, a 102-year-old Haitian immigrant, will sit in the ornate House chamber as a guest of first lady Michelle Obama to listen to President Obama’s State of the Union address. Victor voted for the president, but it was not easy. On her first visit to the polls on the morning of Oct. 28, the first day of early voting, she waited in line for three hours. Poll workers eventually advised her to come back later, and she did. She finally cast her vote that evening. Her story spread around the polling place and inspired some would-be voters to stay in line, too, instead of being deterred by the delays.

Editorials: Voting Rights 2.0: How the Supreme Court could make the VRA better instead of striking it down | Emily Bazelon/Slate Magazine

Congressional District 23 cuts across a rural swath of southwestern Texas, from the state’s border with New Mexico, hundreds of miles south along the Rio Grande, stretching east to San Antonio. It’s among the least densely populated terrain in the country—and the most electorally disputed. The district was created in 1967, two years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act. The voters of District 23 sent a Democrat to Congress every term until the 1992 election. At that point, following the 1990 census, which gave Texas three additional seats, District 23 was redrawn to include a Republican-leaning part of San Antonio. Republican Henry Bonilla won the 1992 election. And in 2003, the district was redrawn again to keep him there, by moving 100,000 Latinos out. Bonilla was still in office in 2006, when the Supreme Court ruled that District 23 violated the Voting Rights Act. The act bars states and cities from discriminating against minority voters with crude tools like poll taxes and literacy tests (and in our time, some voter ID requirements); it also aims to ensure that when district lines are redrawn, they can’t be gerrymandered in a way that dilutes the electoral power of minorities. District 23 was supposed to be a Hispanic opportunity district—one in which Latinos could potentially elect their preferred candidate despite the racially polarized voting patterns of Anglos in the area. From ’92 on, Latinos were voting against Bonilla in greater numbers each time, nearly ousting him in 2002. But the 2003 map, the Supreme Court said, in essence “took away the Latinos’ opportunity because Latinos were about to exercise it.”

Editorials: Shelby County v. Holder: Reasons to believe | Michael J. Pitts/SCOTUSblog

With the Shelby County case, the Supreme Court has provided itself with a “clean” litigation vehicle to strike down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.  In academic circles, the conventional wisdom seems to be that the seminal preclearance provision of the Act is a goner.  Indeed, academics are already conducting online forums speculating about what comes next after the Court dismantles Section 5. But are there any reasons to think that Section 5 might survive?  Although Section 5’s position seems precarious, let’s consider three reasons why Shelby County might turn out differently than the conventional, academic wisdom holds. Why the wait? A little less than four years ago, the Supreme Court had Section 5 teed up to be declared unconstitutional.  In Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder (NAMUDNO), a majority of the Court easily could have sunk the preclearance provision if they so desired.  Instead, the Court opted to engage in a less than credible interpretation of the statute that allowed the Court to duck the constitutional question.  If the Court now is hellbent on using Shelby County to declare Section 5 unconstitutional, why the wait?

Editorials: Shelby County v. Holder: Why Section 2 now renders Section 5 unconstitutional | Hashim Mooppan/SCOTUSblog

The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments proscribe intentional racial discrimination in voting, and Section 2 of the VRA already vigorously “enforces” those constitutional proscriptions by imposing a prophylactic nationwide ban on voting practices that are judicially determined to cause discriminatory “results.”  Accordingly, Section 5 of the VRA – which additionally imposes an extraordinary preclearance regime on all voting changes in selectively covered jurisdictions – can be justified as an appropriate “enforcement” measure only insofar as it targets potentially unconstitutional voting practices that are somehow beyond the effective reach even of Section 2’s ordinary anti-discrimination litigation. This is common sense, but it is much more than that.  The Supreme Court consistently has relied upon this limited remedial justification for Section 5 when upholding and construing prior versions of the statute.  Indeed, the Court has strongly suggested that exceeding this narrow supplemental function would impose excessive burdens on covered jurisdictions and could require excessive consideration of race in electoral decision making, thereby drawing Section 5 into conflict with the very constitutional provisions that it purports to “enforce.”

Alabama: Lawmaker suggests changes to runoffs –

A north Alabama lawmaker is kicking an idea around Montgomery that could dramatically change the state’s election process. Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, said he’s researching and gathering opinions about discontinuing most party primary runoffs. He said he wants to file a bill to do so by the end of March. “We go to the polls an awful lot in Alabama,” Ball said last week. Ball said because of runoffs, which are six weeks after the primaries, almost an entire legislative session can go by without a district seat being filled. Case in point: Former Rep. Jeremy Oden’s seat representing a portion of Morgan, Cullman and Blount counties. Oden resigned late last year when he was appointed to the state Public Service Commission. If no primary runoff is required in the special election to replace Oden, a new representative will be elected March 26. But if a primary runoff were required, the special general election won’t occur until May 7. The legislative session will end somewhere around May 20.

Arizona: Lawmaker seeks pilot program to test online voting in Arizona | Cronkite News

The future of voting is online, and moving Arizona’s elections to the Internet would save money, deter voter fraud and increase efficiency, a state lawmaker says. “We will vote online some day,” said Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa. “So why not start to figure it out and get ahead of the curve and have Arizona lead the way on this?” Worsley introduced SB 1387 to create an online voting pilot program before the 2014 primary election. It would require at least one county and one city, town or other local jurisdiction to be involved and allow for votes to be cast via the Internet. … Bruce Schneier, the author of five books on cryptography, computer and network security and overall security, said he likes the idea of online voting but doesn’t think it can be done securely. “We have not, in the history of mankind, created a computer system without a security vulnerability,” he said. Worsley, founder of retail catalog giant SkyMall, insists the system he proposes can be reliable. “My business did over a million transactions a year,” he said. “I know that this can be done securely.” Worsley compared Internet voting to the millions of online banking or stock transactions that happen every day, but Schneier said there’s a fundamental difference. “The important difference is that voting, by definition, is anonymous,” he said. “If there’s electronic banking fraud, we look at what happens, we can roll it back and make everybody whole. We can’t do that with a voting system.”

Illinois: Lawmakers consider online voter registration; some fear fraud | Herald-Review

You can do your banking on your smartphone or buy a refrigerator on the Internet, but you can’t register to vote in Illinois without putting pen to paper. On Wednesday, Gov. Pat Quinn announced he wants to change all that by setting up a system that would allow Illinoisans to register to vote online. “In our Illinois, we embrace the voices, and the votes, of all people. Our democracy is strongest when more voters raise their voices at the ballot box,” the Chicago Democrat said during his annual State of the State speech. “We must move our election process into the 21st century.” Quinn aides say the move could boost turnout and eventually save taxpayer dollars by eliminating the need for personnel and paper to process applications.

Indiana: Students could lose right to cast vote | WLFI

Students who pay out-of-state tuition in Indiana might not have the chance to vote come election time. State lawmakers are considering a bill that might cost some Purdue students a little more than some extra cash for their education. In fact, if passed the bill could end up costing some students their vote. “The thing that has raised so much attention, not just in Indiana but across the nation, has been the effort to tie eligibility for voter registration to the university’s billing process,” West Lafayette City Councilman Eddie VanBogaert said. VanBogaert, a Purdue graduate originally from Illinois, said under House Bill 1311, students who pay out-of-state tuition would no longer be able to vote in Indiana. VanBogaert said this is something he doesn’t agree with. “I’ve seen first hand how this billing process isn’t an appropriate stand-point for being able to determine someone’s eligibility to exercise a really fundamental right,” VanBogaert said.

Kentucky: Even-year voting bill would shift elections |

A Northern Kentucky senator believes state and local governments in the commonwealth could save money if voters agree to move the election of the governor and other constitutional officers to coincide with presidential elections. State Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, introduced a proposed constitutional amendment that would move the next election of the state’s constitutional officers from 2015 to 2016 and set the cycle for every four years after that. It would extend the current term of the governor and other statewide officeholders by one year. The Kentucky Constitution set the election of governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, agriculture commissioner and auditor every four years beginning in 1895. With U.S. Senate, House and presidential races in even years, that means Kentucky has statewide elections every three out of four years.

Minnesota: Ritchie suggests election system improvements |

Minnesota’s election system is one of the best in the country but could be improved, especially with a complete online registration system, said Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie during his visit Thursday in Rochester. Ritchie referred to the Elections Performance Index report released Thursday by the Pew Charitable Trusts. The report uses data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia and ranks their election systems according to 17 criteria. Minnesota ranked No. 1 in election administration, but was “dinged” slightly, Ritchie said, because it still doesn’t allow people to update voter registration information online. The system allows people to check their registration, but doesn’t allow changes.

New Hampshire: Early voting? Not if Secretary of State Gardner can prevent it | Union Leader

Secretary of State William Gardner takes a dim view of congressional efforts to address with federal legislation the long lines some states saw at polling places during the November election. In his experience, he said, “One-size-fits-all usually fits very few.” The White House and some in Congress are pushing for changes to federal election laws, such as those involving early voting and online voter registration. But if such measures were to pass, Gardner said, “we would first work to get out of it like we did with the National Voter Registration Act.” New Hampshire got an exemption from that 1993 “motor-voter” law by passing same-day voter registration and making it retroactive to the date of the federal legislation. Gardner stressed that different states have very different cultures. “We are who we are because of our history,” he said. And, he said, “the federal government hasn’t had the best of track records when it comes to changing election laws for states. And I would prefer that the federal government stay out of this.”

New Mexico: Joint panel hears about Election Day challenges | The Santa Fe New Mexican

It may be an American’s right to vote on Election Day, but that right was hampered in last November’s elections by excessively long waits, a limited number of voting machines, a lack of Spanish-speaking translators and — in one case — an “intimidating” police presence at the polls. Those were just a few of the stories that people told legislative members of both the House Voter and Election Committee and the Senate Rules Committee on Saturday morning. The special session was dedicated to hearing testimony on unexpected and unpleasant challenges facing New Mexico voters in last November’s general election. “There’s no such thing as a perfect election, but it’s always troubling to hear of issues on Election Day,” said Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who has served as county clerk for Bernalillo County since 2007. She was one of about 20 people offering first-hand testimony — and also the only county clerk to show up for the event.

North Dakota: Bill would require voters to show photo ID | The Jamestown Sun

North Dakota could go from taking people at their word on Election Day to requiring them to show a photo ID in order to vote, under a bill passed by a House committee Friday. The House Government and Veterans Affair Committee gave a do-pass recommendation to House Bill 1332 after the bill sponsor, Rep. Randy Boehning, R-Fargo, vice-chair of the committee, “hoghoused” his original bill, stripping it of its old language and adding new language to include the identification requirement. It also has a provision that the state would provide an ID card at no cost to an eligible voter without a driver’s license. The bill was passed out of committee with the amendment quickly, which concerned committee member Rep. Marie Strinden, D-Grand Forks. Strinden said the new language of the bill doesn’t address identification issues concerning college students, elderly or homeless individuals.

Wisconsin: Groups speak against legislation ‘rigging the vote’ | Journal Times

Flanked by supporters with signs reading, “We need more people working, not less people voting,” local and state leaders spoke Thursday against several legislative proposals that they said would “rig the vote” for future elections. With around 30 in attendance at the George Bray Neighborhood Center, 924 Center St., speakers focused on potential legislative issues including eliminating same-day voter registration, reintroducing state voter identification laws and changing how electoral votes are counted in Wisconsin. “Every citizen should have the right to vote,” said state Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine. “It just seems like such a basic statement that I can’t believe that we’re actually going to debate about it this year” in the Legislature.

Wyoming: Secretary of State Beats Term Limit | Courthouse News Service

Term limits for Wyoming elected officials would improperly keep the secretary of state from seeking a third term, the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled. Facing the end of his second four-year term in January 2015, Secretary of State Max Maxfield filed a complaint for declaratory judgment against Wyoming. Maxfield challenged a rule, Section 22-5-103, that limited him to eight years in office in a 16-year span, which voters approved by initiative in 1992. The state argued that Maxfield did not present a justiciable controversy because he did not state in his complaint that he intended to run for a third term. At the request of both parties, a Laramie County certified two questions to the state Supreme Court. It answered them in Maxfield’s favor last week.

Armenia: Wounded Armenian candidate will not delay presidential election | Reuters

An Armenian presidential candidate who was shot last month cancelled an application to postpone next week’s election, a Constitutional Court spokesman said on Monday, paving the way for the vote to be held as scheduled. Paruyr Hayrikyan, an outsider in the race which is widely expected to see current President Serzh Sarksyan win a new five-year term, was shot in the shoulder on January 31 near his home in the capital Yerevan. Hayrikyan, who had initially said he would not delay the vote, asked the Constitutional Court for a two-week postponement of the February 18 poll, raising concerns over instability in the former Soviet republic of 3.2 million.

Palestine: Election commission starts updating voter registers, paving way for elections | Fox News

The Palestinian election commission has started to update voter registers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to pave the way for new elections — and reconciliation between the rival Fatah and Hamas factions. Monday’s registration drive is taking place both in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip and the West Bank, which is governed by the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. The election commission says voter registration will continue until Feb. 18.