National: Obama Forms Presidential Commission To Study Voting Problems | NPR

President Obama has established a new bipartisan commission on election administration, something he promised to do in his Feb. 12 State of the Union address. He signed an executive order Thursday making it official. The Presidential Commission on Election Administration is being headed by two longtime Washington attorneys, Bob Bauer and Ben Ginsberg. Bauer was general counsel to the president’s re-election campaign and is also Obama’s former White House counsel. Ginsberg was national counsel to Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and also to the Bush-Cheney presidential campaigns.

Editorials: Voting Rights Act is still necessary | Philadelphia Inquirer

If you want to stare into the ugly face of racial resentment, take a look at Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. His stunningly injudicious remarks about a key portion of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) laid bare the bitterness that so many conservatives harbor toward black progress. During recent oral arguments about a challenge to the law, Scalia dismissed a critical part as a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.” Given that the VRA was passed to ensure that black Americans had the right to vote – after white segregationists showed they were willing to beat, jail, and kill activists to block the black ballot – it was a chilling remark. I’m so glad Scalia said exactly what was on his mind. It saves me the trouble of having to persuade you that many critics of the VRA are mossbacks who still resent the political transformation unleashed by the power of the black vote.

Alabama: Selma offers resolution keeping Section 5 part of Voting Rights Act | The Selma Times‑Journal

The Selma City Council became one of the first municipalities to publicly show their support for the continued installation of Section 5 in the Voting Rights Act when the council approved a resolution in support of the voting preclearance Tuesday. Though the resolution has no legal weight as to whether or not the city of Selma has to gain preclearance through officials in Washington D.C. when changing voting lines, polling locations or other electoral matters, the resolution shows Selma’s support of Section 5 in an official manner. “The city of Selma recognizes the fight for change and equality and understands the significance of the Voting Rights Movement and the need and support for the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” the resolution reads.

Arizona: Election changes divisive | AZ Daily Sun

Should early voters be allowed to give their ballots to someone else to be delivered to the elections office? Coconino County Recorder Patty Hansen doesn’t think so, noting there’s nothing to prevent someone from chucking the ballots into a trash receptacle. “That’s really dangerous,” Hansen said during a discussion last week by the county Board of Supervisors on proposed election law changes before the Legislature. But Supervisor Mandy Metzer, who represents parts of the Navajo Nation where roads are poor and public transportation scarce, had a different take. “It casts a shadow on the efficiency of the permanent early voter system,” she said. She and other county supervisors are somewhat split on a couple of proposed changes to state election law that Hansen supports.

Arizona: Federal judges hear GOP challenge to AZ redistricting map | Arizona Capitol Times

Federal judges hearing a civil suit brought by Republican voters who claim the state’s new legislative maps were illegally drawn to benefit Democrats questioned lawyers Friday about whether some members of the commission that made the maps were free of political influence. That’s the heart of the case brought against the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission by 11 Republican voters, including the wife of Arizona Senate President Andy Biggs. They allege the two Democrats and one independent on the commission improperly shifted Republican voters from some districts to make them more likely to elect Democrats to the state Legislature on the premise of complying with the federal Voting Rights Act.

Arkansas: GOP-led Legislature passes voter ID law | Associated Press

Arkansas legislators passed a law Monday requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls, overriding Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto of the bill, which he called an expensive solution to a non-existent problem. The Republican-led state House voted 52-45, largely along party lines, to complete an override that started in the GOP-controlled Senate on a 21-12 vote last week. Only a simple majority was needed in each chamber. “We are trying to protect the integrity of one of the most fundamental rights we have here in America,” said state Rep. Stephen Meeks, a Republican from Greenbrier and the bill’s House sponsor. House Speaker Davy Carter, a Cabot Republican who did not vote for the bill when it passed the House last month, supported the override.

Verified Voting Blog: Helping LA County Build a Voting System

This past week I was at the kick-off meeting of the LA County Voting System Assessment Project’s (VSAP) Technical Advisory Committee. The VSAP is Registrar/ClerkDean Logan’s intense and groundbreaking effort to design, develop, procure and implement a publicly owned voting system. I am honored to be asked to serve on such an important body.

LA County is the largest election jurisdiction in the US, with 5 million registered voters, 10 languages, 5,000 precincts and a very large physical area. The county currently uses the InkaVote Plus voting system (with Audio Ballot Booth for accessibility), which is essentially an overhaul of former punchcard equipment to use inked styluses for marking and to provide in-precint checks for the voter in case they make mistakes.

Nevada: Secretary of State Miller battles perceptions in pushing bill for photos in voter rosters | Reno Gazette-Journal |

Ross Miller’s goal in his final legislative session as Nevada’s secretary of state is to give Nevada voters, “undeniably the best election system in the country,” he said. And in a state that sees itself at the bottom of key national rankings, Miller adds, “And what’s the matter with Nevada being first?” Miller, however, faces a steep challenge in getting his “Election Modernization” bill through the Legislature. Problems to passage include money, necessity and perhaps the most difficult issue — perception. People easily form a misunderstanding of Miller’s Senate Bill 63. It would replace Nevada’s paper voters rosters with electronic ones. One of the keys of the laptop-friendly system would be the use of driver’s license photos from the Department of Motor Vehicles — as well as the current system of personal signatures — to identify voters. When people hear the word, “photo,” they jump to wrong conclusions, said Miller, a Democrat. Some fear the law means a voter must carry a government photo identification to vote. It doesn’t.

Nevada: State Senate bill would allow betting on federal elections | Atlantic City Press

In Europe, it’s known as novelty betting. Bookmakers from Paddy Power to William Hill post odds and take bets on a variety of activities, from who looks good to win the Nobel Prizes this year to whether Prince Harry’s next girlfriend will be a blonde or a brunette and who might host the Oscars in 2014. Paddy Power’s favorite to host the Oscar’s next year is Justin Timberlake at 2-to-1 . The odds are 8-to-11 that Harry’s next girlfriend will be a blonde. But what produces increased publicity if only modest handle for British bookmakers is betting on U.S. politics. And oddsmakers and gambling industry analysts in Las Vegas said that if successful, a Nevada state senator’s efforts to legalize betting on politics will produce more notoriety than revenue. The state Senate Finance Committee on Monday introduced Senate Bill 418, which would allow betting on federal elections in Nevada casinos. Chairman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said Nevada is missing out on millions of dollars by not allowing betting on presidential and federal elections. He also said he sees nothing wrong about adding the Academy Awards to the list of events for betting.

North Carolina: NAACP, other groups oppose limits on early voting in North Carolina | Fay Observer

North Carolina civil rights advocates and clergy said Friday that Republican legislative leaders are intent on denying voting rights to the poor and minorities through legislation to scale back early voting and other efforts to require photo identification to cast ballots. Speakers representing several groups – led by the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People – attended a news conference to condemn bills filed this week by GOP legislators to limit early voting. The bills would reduce 2 1/2week early voting periods before primary and general elections by one week and halt same-day voter registration during those periods. The House bill also would eliminate Sunday voting, end straight-party balloting and make all judicial races partisan.

Texas: Greg Abbott Wants To Make Texas’ Interim (And Still Probably Unconstitutional) Redistricting Plan Permanent | Dallas Observer

As you may recall, Texas’ 2011 plan to redraw political boundaries was so brazenly partisan, so undeniably bent on reducing minority influence, and the evidence was so mountainous and convincing that a federal court didn’t even bother cataloging it all in its ruling against the state. “The parties have provided more evidence of discriminatory intent than we have space, or need, to address here.” You could practically hear emanating from between the lines a judge chortling, “Can you believe the cojones on these guys?” Texas is, of course, one of a handful of southern states with a history of racial bias that must get pre-clearance from the Feds before enacting redistricting plans.

Kenya: Peace restored in stronghold of Kenya’s election loser Odinga | Reuters

Calm returned to the western Kenyan stronghold of defeated presidential candidate Raila Odinga on Monday after two days of running battles with police following the Supreme Court’s confirmation of his rival Uhuru Kenyatta as president-elect. Two people were shot dead in the unrest, but the violence was on a much smaller scale than the nationwide bloodshed that followed the 2007 election when the western city of Kisumu was one of the places worst affected places by deadly riots. This year there was little sign of any violence beyond Kisumu, which strongly backs Odinga, reflecting a desire by Kenyans to avoid a repeat of the bloodshed that badly damaged their economy, east Africa’s biggest, five years ago. A busy bus station that had been deserted since the rioting began on Saturday was once again bustling as passengers scrambled to board minibuses as they disgorged dozens returning from rural areas where they had fled for fear of violence. “Business is booming today. The demand has gone up and fares doubled since many are returning from home and others leaving for various places,” said Bonny Otieno, 32, transporter. “Politics is over and we’ve embarked on nation building.”

Pakistan: Nadra develops $1.5m software for voters abroad |

In compliance with an order of the Supreme Court, the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) has devised a software to help 4.5 million overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes in the coming general elections. The $1.5 million software will help overseas Pakistanis in 15 countries, including the US, UK, Canada, Saudi Arabia, UAE, France and Australia, to vote at 150 polling stations. However, approval of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be required to prepare required legislation. Nadra chairman Tariq Malik said at a news conference that a detailed briefing would be given to ECP on the software on Monday and if the ECP approved it, a briefing would be arranged for the Supreme Court.

Venezuela: Capriles cries foul ahead of election | AFP

Venezuelan opposition candidate Henrique Capriles accused acting president Nicolas Maduro of unfairly using state media and money in his campaign to succeed the late Hugo Chavez. The accusations come two weeks before voters choose a new president following the death of Chavez, the flamboyant leader who governed oil-rich Venezuela for 14 years and launched a self-styled leftist “revolution.” “The state media have become a propaganda wing of a political party,” Capriles alleged, referring to the socialist party of Maduro, Chavez’s handpicked successor. In free and fair balloting, candidates are supposed to have the same access and the same rights, Capriles told a press conference. But Maduro, a former bus driver and union leader, is relying on “all of the state’s resources … and all of the state’s power structure” to run his campaign, Capriles charged.