Malaysia’s prime minister dissolved Parliament on Wednesday to call for general elections that will be contested between a coalition that has ruled for nearly 57 years and a resurgent opposition whose pledge to form a cleaner government has resonated with millions of citizens. The polls are widely expected within a month after Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a nationally televised address that he had obtained royal consent from Malaysia’s constitutional monarch to dissolve Parliament immediately. Najib used his speech to urge more than 13 million eligible voters in Malaysia to give his National Front coalition a strong mandate and to reject opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s three-party alliance.
Weeks after his death, Venezuelan socialist leader Hugo Chavez still leads supporters in singing the national anthem. The late president’s recorded voice booms over rallies for his protégé, acting President Nicolas Maduro, who stands under billboards of Chavez’s face and waves to crowds carrying signs emblazoned with his name. Maduro, who is favored to win a snap election triggered by Chavez’s death last month, rarely misses a chance to lionize the man many Venezuelans know as “El Comandante.” “All of the prophecies of Hugo Chavez, the prophet of Christ on this earth, have come true,” intoned Maduro at a rally celebrating the anniversary of the former president’s release from jail for leading a failed 1992 coup. “In eternity, or wherever you are, you must be proud because you left our people the greatest inheritance of all: a free and independent nation on the path toward socialism,” he said of the man loved by supporters as a savior but excoriated by adversaries as a dictator.
In recent years, the issue of voting rights has exploded into a high-octane partisan battle, with Republicans backing laws restricting access to the ballot, Democrats loudly crying foul, and no resolution in sight. But a new presidential panel aimed at fixing problems in the U.S. voting system could offer a way around the stalemate. Following up on an Election Night pledge to fix the long lines that kept some voters waiting over seven hours to cast a ballot, President Obama last week formally created the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, and gave it a broad mandate to improve the voting experience. “When any Americans—no matter where they live or what their party—are denied that right [to vote] simply because they can’t wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals,” Obama said in his State of the Union address.
Arkansas legislators passed a law Monday requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls, overriding Governor Mike Beebe’s veto of the bill, which he called an expensive solution to a nonexistent problem. The Republican-led state House voted 52 to 45, largely along party lines, to complete an override that started in the GOP-controlled Senate on a 21-to-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 Represent 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.
An 86-year-old St. Peter woman’s criminal case of voter fraud was resolved without her having to appear in court Tuesday morning. Margaret Schneider will not have to pay a fine, spend time in jail or serve probation under an agreement approved in Nicollet County District Court. Instead the only requirement is that she obey voting laws. Schneider was charged with voter fraud, a felony, in March. She mistakenly voted with an absentee ballot on July 13 and again at her polling place Aug. 14. Schneider, who has Parkinson’s disease and suffers from dementia, said she forgot she had voted.
A new seven-page report issued by Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander labels two voter ID bills as some of the strictest in the nation if they pass. Only Indiana would compare to Missouri’s voter IDlaw if the GOP-led General Assembly passes and approves the bill. The Huffington Post interviewed Kander Friday. The Democrat said even though he objects to law, he would follow its guidelines. House Bills 48 and 216 would limit the types of identification shown at polling places to just five types, all of which require a photograph to identify the person. A non-expired Missouri driver’s license, non-driver’s identification, U.S. passport, military ID or an official ID from Missouri or the federal government with a name, photo and expiration date would be allowed. The bills eschew all forms of non-photo ID currently allowed in Missouri. There are a dozen forms of identification allowed to be brought to the polls now, including a student ID, voter ID card and utility bills.
The legislature is moving to make it easier for Missourians overseas to vote in state elections. The sponsoring senator is his own example. Senator Will Kraus of Lee’s Summit defended our right to vote by flying Army helicopters in Iraq and 2003 and 2004. But when he wanted to vote, he had to start applying for his absentee ballot about nine weeks before the election. He says he downloaded the application off the internet but then had to use regular mail to send it in-a process that took two to three weeks. It took about that long to get the ballot and about that long to send it in in time to be counted.
State Senator Malcolm A. Smith, who rose to become the first black president of the State Senate, and City Councilman Daniel J. Halloran III were arrested early Tuesday on charges of trying to illicitly get Mr. Smith on the ballot for this year’s mayoral race in New York City, according to federal prosecutors. Mr. Smith, a Queens Democrat, and Mr. Halloran, a Queens Republican, were among a half-dozen people arrested by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in the corruption case. Others included Republican County leaders in Queens and the Bronx, the mayor of the Rockland County village of Spring Valley, Noramie F. Jasmin, and her deputy, Joseph A. Desmaret, according to a criminal complaint. Mr. Smith, 56, was taken from his home in handcuffs by F.B.I. agents before sunrise and Mr. Halloran, a lawyer, was arrested about the same time, law enforcement authorities said.
More liberal-learning groups are urging North Carolina’s Republican legislature to back off legislation that would reduce early voting and end same-day registration during the early voting period. Progress North Carolina led a news conference Monday at the Legislative Building to oppose bills last week to reduce 2½ weeks of in-person early voting by one week. One of the bills would bar Sunday voting. Progress North Carolina cited a poll to back its position and pointed to long voting lines in 2012 in Florida after that state cut back early voting, including the Sunday before Election Day when many churches mobilized to go vote.
A Virginia judge has dismissed eight felony counts against a Republican Party campaign worker who threw voter registration forms in a dumpster. Colin Small, 23, still faces misdemeanor charges related to the incident in October, according to his lawyer, John Holloran of Harrisonburg, Va. But the felonies were thrown out during a preliminary hearing Tuesday, Holloran said in an interview. “I think they charged it three days after the event and thought it was the tip of the iceberg and that there was this huge voter fraud conspiracy that was occurring,” Holloran said. But a grand jury investigation turned up no other evidence of fraud. The next hearing in the case is set for April 16.
After 22 months of investigation, Elections Canada has charged a former Conservative campaign staffer over misleading robocalls sent to voters in Guelph, Ont. in the 2011 election. A single charge was laid in Guelph against Michael Sona, who served as director of communications to losing Conservative candidate Marty Burke. Elections Canada confirmed that Sona was charged Tuesday under a section of the Elections Act that makes it illegal to “wilfully prevent or endeavour to prevent an elector from voting at an election.” The charge is the first to be laid in the politically charged robocalls affair that has hovered over the Conservative Party.
Thanks to the province’s refusal to allow online municipal election ballots, voting in Airdrie this fall will be as difficult as heading to the nearest poll station and marking Xs on paper. The city of 45,000 people immediately north of Calgary was slated to become Alberta’s first online voting community after council endorsed the idea earlier this year following extensive study and testing. But Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths has scotched the plan for the 2013 civic election, telling Airdrie Mayor Peter Brown in a letter last month he worried e-voting would erode “public confidence” in elections.
When Iceland decided it needed a new constitution, it took the novel approach of giving all of Iceland’s people a say. Alas, that constitution is now dead—or at the very least in a long, deep coma. The rise and fall of the world’s first crowd-sourced constitution begins in the wake Iceland’s 2008 bankruptcy, when its government decided that a new constitution was in order. (The old one is based on Denmark’s and the two countries share a somewhat tortured relationship.) And who would write it? The good people of Iceland, the government decided, as it faced widespread protests about the way the financial crisis was handled. This effort saw 950 Icelanders chosen by lottery to offer their thoughts on how the process should work. An elected constitutional council then solicited feedback from citizens through social media. The council published a draft based on this feedback.
The Malaysian prime minister, Najib Razak, announced he would dissolve Parliament on Wednesday, launching a critical election campaign for his multiethnic coalition, which has been in power since independence from Britain more than five decades ago. After years of what amounted to one-party rule in Malaysia, the country’s opposition parties have been ascendant, challenging a system that is based on ethnicity. Chinese voters, who make up about one quarter of the country’s population of nearly 30 million, have abandoned the ruling coalition in large numbers. And the country’s main Malay ethnic group, which has dominated politics in the country for five decades, is divided.
Sex, lies and scandal — not the usual ingredients of a parliamentary special election in Britain. But Thursday’s contest for the southern English constituency of Eastleigh has been overshadowed by the torrid trials of the centrist Liberal Democrats, including the criminal conviction of a former Cabinet minister and allegations of sexual harassment against a senior party official. The election was called to fill the seat vacated by ex-Energy Secretary Chris Huhne, who resigned earlier this month after admitting that, a decade ago, he had asked his wife to take a speeding ticket for him, even though he had been driving. He faces a possible jail term for perverting justice, and his high-flying political career is in ruins. The Liberal Democrats’ efforts to hang onto the seat have been hampered by accusations that former chief executive Chris Rennard inappropriately touched and propositioned several women in incidents dating back a decade.