National: Spending mushrooms in new ‘political ecosystem’ | Associated Press

Operating with few rules and limited oversight, outside groups spent a record $1 billion to influence last year’s election. Politicians of all persuasions griped about the meddling. But few are working to change laws that ushered in an unprecedented flood of money made possible by a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that erased years of campaign finance law. Instead, political leaders and donors from both parties are preparing for the flow of outside money to intensify. New groups have formed and others are shaping plans to come back bigger and smarter ahead of the 2014 congressional elections and the 2016 presidential race. What laws do remain could become even looser as the Supreme Court considers another high-profile decision.

California: Los Angeles County developing a voting system for the digital age | SCPR

Los Angeles County is re-inventing the nation’s largest electoral system, which serves nearly 4 million registered voters. The goal is a more flexible, user-friendly system that county officials hope will increase turnout. To design the system from scratch, county officials started in 2010 by surveying voters and stakeholder groups. They added observations from poll workers. The county registrar of voters also co-sponsored a design challenge on a crowdsourcing website that drew responses from all over. Cansu Akarsu, a designer from Turkey, suggested a computer tablet that helps poll workers interact with disabled people to select the right voting method. A person could use the system to select polling place accommodations days in advance. Tina Lee, a U.S.-based designer, suggests a tablet app that lets the voter decide the pace of the ballot display or the order in which contests would appear. Some other suggestions included a van that travels to voters, voting kiosks at grocery stores, and a two-week voting period.

Colorado: Gessler slams election bills; blasts Democrats | Colorado Statesman

A more than 100-page sweeping election reform bill is likely to be introduced by Democrats in the Senate next week, covering everything from moving voter registration deadlines to mailing ballots to inactive voters. Even before the bill has reached its final draft, Secretary of State Scott Gessler and fellow Republicans have pounced on the proposal, concerned that the bill would create same-day voter registration. The GOP is also critical of what they consider to be a “secretive” drafting process. Gessler said he hasn’t yet seen a draft of the bill. Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, said she would carry the late bill when it is introduced by the end of next week. Assistant Majority Leader Dan Pabon, D-Denver, and Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder, would be the House sponsors.

Maryland: General Assembly close to passing bill expanding early voting, allowing same-day registration | Capital Gazette

The General Assembly is close to passing Gov. Martin O’Malley’s bill to expand early voting and allow for same-day registration. The House of Delegates voted 103-35 to pass Senate Bill 279, Election Law — Improving Access to Voting. The Senate passed a similar bill in March. If the Senate concurs with the bill, it will head to O’Malley’s desk. If a conference committee is needed to work out the differences in the House and Senate versions of the bill, both chambers must agree on the same bill by April 8, the scheduled last day of the General Assembly’s 90-day session.
The measure will give Marylanders two more early voting days. It will also allow people to register to vote and immediately cast ballots at early voting centers, and give them the opportunity to obtain absentee ballots online.

Montana: Voting referendums pass Senate | Great Falls Tribune

The Montana Senate on Thursday passed a pair of proposed ballot referendums aimed at changing voting in Montana. The first measure, Senate Bill 405, would ask voters to eliminate same-day voter registration. The second bill, SB 408 would put a referendum on the ballot that would create a “top two primary” system in which only the top two vote-getters would qualify for the November general election ballot. Sen. Alan Olson, R-Roundup, sponsored both bills, which passed on mostly partly-line votes with Republicans supporting the measures and Democrats opposing them.

Nebraska: Lawmakers take step to shorten in-person early voting | Journal Star

Nebraska took a first step Thursday toward reducing the number of days for in-person early voting in order to prevent situations like the one in which a blind Lincoln woman couldn’t cast an early ballot because the machine to help disabled voters was not ready. Lawmakers gave 31-0 first-round approval to a bill (LB271) by Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha that would cut the number of early-voting days from 35 to 30. The bill originally would have reduced the number of days to 25, but the 30-day period was reached in a compromise with opponents, who worried about restricting voter access. Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have early voting, according to the National Association of Secretaries of State. The average time for in-person early voting is 22 days, compared to Nebraska’s 35, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Nebraska: Measure trimming number of days for early voting advances |

Nebraskans would have five fewer days to walk into an election office and cast early ballots under a bill advanced Thursday by the Legislature. But Legislative Bill 271 aims to make it possible for everyone, both visually impaired and not, to vote at that time. State Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha, who introduced the bill, said it should bring Nebraska into compliance with a federal law about voting access for disabled people. “This is not meant to keep anyone from voting,” he said. “This is meant to address a complaint of alleged discrimination.”

Nevada: Bill would allow same day voter registration in Nevada | Reno Gazette-Journal

A bill to allow same day voter registration in Nevada is being met with familiar arguments for and against the issue. AB440 presented by Democratic Assemblyman James Ohrenschall of Las Vegas and Secretary of State Ross Miller would extend registration in the 2014 election cycle through the early voting period, which ends the Friday before Election Day. Same-day registration would begin in 2016. Currently, registration closes three weeks before an election.

North Carolina: Legislation Filed In NC Senate Targets College Voters | The Watauga Democrat

Bills filed in the N.C. Senate Tuesday and co-sponsored by Sen. Dan Soucek of Boone could impact college students who choose to vote where they attend school. Senate Bills 666 and 667 include measures that would bar parents from listing their children as dependents on state tax forms if the children register to vote at a different address. The state generally grants tax deductions ranging from $2,000 to $2,500 per child dependent. “If the voter is a dependent of the voter’s parent or legal guardian, is 18 years of age or older, and the voter has registered at an address other than that of the parent or legal guardian, the parent or legal guardian will not be allowed to claim the voter as a dependent for state income tax purposes,” according to Senate Bill 667, short-titled “Equalize Voter Rights.” The legislation could have a significant impact in areas such as Watauga County, where the number of students enrolled at Appalachian State University represents more than a third of the county’s total population.

North Carolina: House Passes Voter ID Bill | WFAE

Republican leaders in the North Carolina House unveiled details of their long-awaited Voter ID bill Thursday. The measure would require most North Carolinians to bring photo identification with them to the polls, beginning in 2016. It would allow residents to use a number of different kinds of IDs in order to vote. Republican Speaker of the House Thom Tillis told a news conference that weeks of discussions have gone into creating this bill. Back in 2011, state lawmakers passed a Voter ID measure that would’ve required residents to present one of eight forms of photo identification in order to vote. Governor Bev Perdue vetoed it. But Tillis says, “I think you will see that it’s very different from the bill that was passed last year. It’s trying to take into account a number of the concerns that were raised. I think it’s technically a better bill and a bill that will withstand any challenge that comes to us in the way of the courts.”

Pennsylvania: State considers online registration | Pocono Record

It’s possible in these days of instant connectivity to monitor nearly every financial, physical and social transaction using the Internet — from banking to travel, and from dieting to dinner reservations. So should you also be able to declare yourself a legal voter in the state of Pennsylvania online as well? State Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, sponsor of a bill to create online voter registration in Pennsylvania, thinks so. “The idea is to give additional options and provide greater convenience, and hopefully increase participation in voting,” Smucker said. Residents would be able to register online up to 30 days before an election. They also would be able to change their party affiliation, address or name on the online form. A similar bill passed last session in the Senate, but the House did not follow up.

Tennessee: College IDs cut from voter identification bill | The Tennessean

Students at public universities still won’t be able to use their school-issued ID to vote after the state Senate on Thursday voted to remove a provision allowing their use from a new voter identification bill. By agreeing 23-7 with an identical version of the bill passed in the state House, senators sent the legislation, which now allows faculty and graduate assistants to use their college-issued ID to cast a ballot and bans voters from using state-issued library cards, to Gov. Bill Haslam for approval

Canada: Citing budget cuts, Elections Canada delays pilot project on Internet voting | Vancouver Sun

Budget cuts at Elections Canada have pushed a pilot project on Internet voting off the agenda indefinitely. The body that runs Canada’s federal voting had hoped to introduce online voting for byelections held in 2013, in an effort to see whether making voting more convenient would help boost participation. But according to figures in the agency’s recently tabled report on planning and priorities, spending will fall from $84 million in 2012-13 to a forecasted $74 million in 2013-14. “As part of the fiscal reductions taking place across government, we took an eight-per-cent decrease in our budget,” said Diane Benson, an Elections Canada spokesperson. “So a lot of it is focusing on core priorities we have to deliver for the next election.”

Montenegro: Both sides claim victory in Montenegro president vote | Reuters

Both sides claimed victory in a presidential election in Montenegro on Sunday, raising the prospect of a dispute over the largely ceremonial post in the tiny Adriatic country as it bids to join the European Union. With no independent exit poll or official word from the state electoral commission, both incumbent Filip Vujanovic and opposition challenger Miodrag Lekic took to the airwaves to announce they had won. Lekic compared his rival’s claim to a “coup d’etat”. The president is largely a figurehead for Montenegro’s 680,000 people, with real power vested in the prime minister. But a Lekic victory would set up an awkward cohabitation and deal a significant blow to the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) after more than two decades in power.

Venezuela: Candidate Maduro puts curse on rival voters | BBC

The acting president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, has put a curse on citizens who do not vote for him in next week’s election. He likened his main rival candidate, Henrique Capriles, to Spanish conquerors fighting indigenous people in the 16th Century. A centuries-old curse, he said, would fall on those who did not vote for him. Mr Capriles responded by saying the only curse for Venezuelans would be if Mr Maduro won the election. The country goes to the polls next Sunday to elect a successor to Hugo Chavez, the long-time leftist leader who died of cancer last month. Opinion polls suggest Mr Maduro, who was Chavez’s deputy, has a lead of at least 10 points over his rival.