National: Presidential Voting Commission To Be Chaired By Obama, Romney Campaign Lawyers | Huffington Post

The two top lawyers for the presidential campaigns of President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will co-chair an independent presidential commission on election reform, the president announced during his 2013 State of the Union address. “We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home,” Obama said, according to his prepared remarks. “That includes our most fundamental right as citizens: the right to vote. When any Americans — no matter where they live or what their party — are denied that right simply because they can’t wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals. That’s why, tonight, I’m announcing a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America,” Obama continued. “And I’m asking two longtime experts in the field, who’ve recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney’s campaign, to lead it. We can fix this, and we will. The American people demand it. And so does our democracy.”

National: Fixing Long Lines At The Polls May Be Harder Than You Think | NPR

Minutes after he was re-elected in November, President Obama vowed to fix the long lines that many voters faced at the polls. He mentioned the problem again in his inaugural address. And now, the president is expected to raise it once more in the State of the Union address on Tuesday — this time with some possible solutions. When Obama made his initial vow after midnight on election night, some Miami polling places had just closed — after voters stood in line for six, seven, even eight hours to cast ballots. There were similar waits at other polling sites in Florida and elsewhere. “For me, who voted in the state of Maryland, I was in line for seven hours,” says Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of Advancement Project, a leading voting-rights group. Today, not all Americans have equal access to the polls, she says. “We have 13,000 election jurisdictions that run elections 13,000 different ways,” she says. “That is what we have to fix.”

Voting Blogs: Will the Bauer-Ginsberg Election Reform Commission Improve Our Dismal Election System? | Rick Hasen/Election Law Blog

During tonight’s State of the Union speech, the President made the following remarks:

But defending our freedom is not the job of our military alone.  We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home.  That includes our most fundamental right as citizens:  the right to vote.  When any Americans – no matter where they live or what their party – are denied that right simply because they can’t wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals.  That’s why, tonight, I’m announcing a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America.  And I’m asking two long-time experts in the field, who’ve recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney’s campaign, to lead it.  We can fix this, and we will.  The American people demand it.  And so does our democracy.

Here the President has followed up on his “we can fix that” statement about long lines from his victory speech on election night and his reiteration of the point in his inauguration speech. The issue is now officially on the agenda.

Editorials: Obama Says We Need to Fix Voting Lines. But How? | ProPublica

At tonight’s State of the Union address, Michelle Obama will be joined by 102-year-old Desiline Victor, who, like many in Florida and elsewhere, waited hours to vote on Election Day. “By the way,” Obama said in his election speech. “We have to fix that.” But how to fix it remains unclear. Though new research on states’ performance in the November election reveals long lines kept thousands from voting, there’s still much we don’t know about what would best speed up the process. Victor’s home state of Florida had the longest average wait timeof any state at 45 minutes. Victor waited for three hours. Other Floridians reported standing in line for up to 7 hours. Not every voter had Victor’s stamina: Professor Theodore Allen at Ohio State University estimated that long lines in Florida deterred at least 201,000 people, using a formula based on voter turnout data and poll closing time. The number only includes people discouraged by the wait at their specific polling site, and not those who stayed home due to “the general inconvenience of election day.” The real number, Allen says, is likely much higher. One study also showed that black and Hispanic voters nationwide waited longer on average than white voters.

Editorials: What of congressional power over voting? | Franita Tolson/The Great Debate (Reuters)

If the Supreme Court strikes down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, the focus will turn to Congress and the question of what legislation it should enact in place of Section 5. An equally compelling question is what will happen to the scope of congressional authority over elections. In City of Boerne v. Flores (1997), the court identified the Voting Rights Act as the ideal piece of remedial legislation, perfectly tailored to address the harm of voting discrimination and therefore an “appropriate” use of congressional authority. The court made this determination without discussing the combined authority of Congress under the 14th and 15th Amendments to regulate state and federal elections. The decision focused only on authority granted under the 14th Amendment.

Maine: Sponsors agree on one bill for ranked-choice voting in Maine | The Forecaster

Two legislators have joined forces to support a single bill to establish ranked-choice voting in Maine. The election-law bill submitted by Sen. Dick Woodbury, U-Yarmouth, is now co-sponsored by Rep. Janice Cooper, D-Yarmouth, who submitted similar draft legislation at the beginning of the year. Woodbury said the bill has generated notable public interest. “I think the fact that the next govorner’s race is shaping up to have Eliot Cutler as a prominent independent is increasing people’s interest in making sure there is some kind of narrowing down of the system, so that the ultimate winner of that race has the majority support of the people,” he said.

Missouri: House to Debate Voter ID Bill |

The Missouri House of Representatives will debate Wednesday about a bill that aims to require photo identification at all polling places in the state. 2013 is the seventh consecutive year the Missouri House has debated a voter identification bill, but Rep. Casey Guernsey (R-Bethany) said he expects the bill to pass this time. The House passed a similar bill in 2006, but the Missouri Supreme Court struck it down, calling the photo requirement “an unconstitutional infringement on the fundamental right to vote.” Guernsey said the requirement would help prevent voter fraud and increase confidence in Missouri elections.

New Jersey: Democrats’ Bill Would Have New Jersey Offer Early Voting Option |

An Assembly panel today advanced a Democrat-sponsored bill that would allow early voting  in primary and general elections. The bill (A-3553) aims to give residents more voting alternatives following the Election Day woes created by Hurricane Sandy. “People are busy, and many have long work days or responsibilities that prevent them from hitting the polls on Election Day,” said Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), one of the bill’s sponsors. “Then there are natural disasters that we simply can’t plan for. Sandy threw a wrench into the machinery of Election Day and created tremendous confusion. This is a matter of convenience and ensuring every resident who is registered and wants to vote will have the opportunity to do so.”

North Carolina: Voter ID legislation could hinder Duke voters | The Chronicle

As many as 613,000 North Carolina voters may be unable to cast ballots if a voter ID law moves through the state legislature. Republican lawmakers in the North Carolina legislature are discussing changes to the state’s voting laws, namely a new requirement for voters to show valid state-issued identification at the election polls. Although no specific bill has been proposed yet, experts say that Duke students, many of whom are from out of state, may experience significant changes to their voting rights. “A photo ID requirement might not seem like that big of a deal to most of us, but the fact of the matter is that democracy and our voter rights is not about most of us, it’s about everybody,” said Bryan Warner, director of communications for the North Carolina Center for Voter Education. “We need to… ensure that we’re not disenfranchising anyone.”

North Dakota: Voter ID amendment survives debate in North Dakota House | Grand Forks Herald

Despite arguments that a significant proposed change to the North Dakota voting process was not given enough attention by a House committee, the House on Tuesday passed an amendment that would require voters to show identification before casting a ballot. The amendment would require all voters to present a valid ID before they cast their ballot during a primary or general election. The ID does not need to include a photo. The amendment’s sponsor, Rep. Randy Boehning, R-Fargo, and other lawmakers are concerned about the current system that allows a voter to cast a ballot without proof of eligibility by signing an affidavit that says they are a North Dakota resident.

Virginia: Is voter ID contingency clause in jeopardy? |

Democrats in the Virginia Senate thought they’d won a modest victory last week when a bill to pare the list of acceptable identification voters can present at the polls was amended to delay the effect of that policy until July 2014, contingent on state funding to support it. Now, days later, some who support that amendment fear it may be in trouble. The legislation, SB 719 from Republican Sen. Dick Black of Loudoun County, is scheduled for a hearing Wednesday afternoon in a House of Delegates subcommittee whose docket also includesphoto ID legislation from Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg. Like Black’s bill, the Obenshain SB 1256 wouldn’t take effect until next year, and then only if the state appropriates funds to implement its provisions.

Virginia: Gov. McDonnell disappointed at death of restoration of rights legislation |

Gov. Bob McDonnell expressed his disappointment Monday after a Senate measure to restore voting rights to non-violent convicted felons met its end in a House of Delegates subcommittee. McDonnell announced his support for the legislation in his State of the Commonwealth Address Jan. 11. Under current law convicted felons who have served their full sentences must appeal to the governor to have their voting rights restored. McDonnell has restored the rights of more convicted felons using the process than any of his predecessors. “It is disappointing that the General Assembly was not able to enact this common sense reform to restore the fundamental rights to vote and serve on juries to these citizens who have atoned for their earlier mistakes,” McDonnell said in a press release. “

Armenia: Leader Poised to Win Vote Clouded by Shooting | Bloomberg

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan is poised for victory in elections next week after rivals withdrew from a campaign that’s been dominated by one candidate’s attempted assassination and another’s hunger strike. Sargsyan, 59, has 69 percent support before the Feb. 18 vote, compared with 11 percent for his nearest challenger, Raffi Hovhannisyan, a former foreign minister, according to a Gallup poll published Feb. 9. Paruyr Hayrikyan, a former dissident who was shot and wounded in a Jan. 31 incident, has 5 percent backing, while Andrias Ghukasyan, who hasn’t eaten in 26 days and calls the ballot “fake,” has 1 percent, the survey showed.

Armenia: New kind of identification ink hoped to avoid previous problems |

A new type of ink will be used in the February 18 presidential election, as announced Tuesday by the Central Election Commission — one that is hoped to perform better than the type that was used in last May’s parliamentary elections that resulted in charges of fraud, as the ink evaporated long before its intended duration. The ink, applied into passports of participating voters, is meant to prevent repeated voting. While it is hoped that the new ink will fulfill its aim, at least one member of the ICES monitoring mission has urged Armenia to abandon the practice in favor of more modern methodology.

Australia: Wikileaks founder Julian Assange now a step closer to a Senate run |

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is a step closer to contesting a Senate seat in the federal election, with an application made to put him on the electoral roll in Victoria. WikiLeaks Australian Citizens Alliance (WACA) spokeswoman Sam Castro said Assange’s application for electoral enrollment was made to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) in Melbourne today. “It was lodged on Julian’s behalf with his signature,” Ms Castro told AAP. Ms Castro also confirmed the address nominated in Assange’s application was his mother’s house in Mentone, in the federal electorate of Isaacs.

Cyprus: Economy, not North, dominates Cyprus vote | Global Post

Cypriots vote in a presidential election Sunday more worried about securing an international bailout for the crisis-hit economy than choosing a leader to bridge the island’s decades-old divide. The vote marks the first time since independence in 1960 that progress on reunification with the island’s Turkish-occupied northern third has been forced to take a back seat. “The economic crisis has dominated the debate and the Cyprus problem is second by a long distance,” political analyst Hubert Faustmann told AFP. “Whoever comes in as president will have to sign the bailout or face state bankruptcy. These are the only two options. There is no third option,” said Faustmann, associate professor of history and politics and Nicosia University.

Ecuador: Electoral law dulls reporting as Correa nears re-election | Committee to Protect Journalists

It’s by far the dullest space in the newspaper: Every day in El Universo, Ecuador’s leading daily, readers can find eight small photos and news blurbs summing up the activities of the eight presidential candidates. The articles are the same size and blocked together in a layout that resembles a tic-tac-toe game, minus the ninth square. This drab coverage is one result of reforms to the electoral law that took effect in February 2012, which prohibit biased reporting on electoral campaigns and allows candidates to sue reporters and news outlets who allegedly violate the law. To avoid lawsuits, El Universo’s editors have set aside an inside page of the newspaper devoting equal space to everyone from the frontrunner–President Rafael Correa, who is seeking a third term–to fringe candidates. That may sound like fair and balanced reporting, but it’s also shallow. Journalists and press analysts told CPJ that the electoral law has made it far more difficult to pursue aggressive, investigative reporting ahead of the February 17 presidential and legislative elections.

Ghana: Petitioners submit particulars as Electoral Commission provides number of voters abroad | Ghana Business News

The petitioners contesting the declaration of President Mahama as the winner of the December 2012 polls have submitted the names and codes of 4,709 polling stations where alleged irregularities took place. They have also filed the names and codes of the polling stations where voting took place without biometric verification. President John Dramani Mahama and the Electoral Commission (EC), who are the first and second respondents in the petition are expected to be served with the filed documents before the end of the week.

Iran: Iran Begins Its Election-Season Web Crackdown a Few Months Early | The Atlantic

Iran appears to be taking measures to tighten online censorship ahead of its presidential vote. In recent days, a long list of online activities has been designated as criminal, including calling for an election boycott, organizing sit-ins or protests, and insulting presidential candidates. Simultaneously, reports by Iran’s Fars and ISNA news agencies say that linking to Facebook, Twitter, and other websites that are blocked in Iran, or even promoting blocked websites, has also become a crime. Iran is already one of the world’s harshest online censors. The regime bans tens of thousands of websites it considers immoral or a threat to national security, including news websites and social-media sites. The new measures, if enforced, would put increased pressure on people who use the web or social media as platforms for online activism.