Voting Blogs: After Long Lines of 2012, States Push to Expand Voting Access | Brennan Center for Justice

After long lines marred the 2012 election, Republicans and Democrats are supporting bills in the states to increase registration opportunities, expand early voting, and modernize election systems, a new Brennan Center analysis found. Nearly 200 bills to expand voting access were introduced in 45 states in 2013 (click map for larger view). Of those, 41 bills in 21 states are currently active, meaning there has been some form of activity, such as a hearing or vote. Three states, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Virginia, have already passed expansive laws. Many of these new bills are drawing bipartisan support. The GOP introduced an online registration bill in Pennsylvania and passed it in Virginia. New Mexico’s new law streamlining registration at state DMVs received broad bipartisan support and was signed by a Republican governor. And in Colorado, Democrats in the legislature worked with the mostly-Republican Colorado County Clerks Association to draft a modernization bill, which passed the House Friday.

Editorials: Unexpected consequences of ending federal voting oversight | Jim Ellis/Washington Times

The United States Supreme Court will soon begin conference deliberations on the Shelby County Voting Rights Act case, which could change the face of American politics.

The Alabama county is challenging the constitutionality of Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act, specifically the “triggering mechanism” for federal intervention, which is based on the population of eligible voters in the 1964, ‘68 and ‘72 general elections. When Congress reauthorized Section 5 in 2006, the triggering mechanism was not updated.

It is apparent from the U.S. Supreme Court justices’ questions during oral arguments that the Shelby County plaintiffs have a reasonable chance for victory in their efforts to end federal oversight. Devastating consequences, however, for minority officeholders and Republicans will result.

Section 5 requires jurisdictions covered by the Voting Rights Act to obtain Justice Department “pre-clearance” for all election code changes, but this does not invalidate any state laws. Instead, the affected laws become unenforceable. Section 5 essentially acts as a statutory injunction. If Shelby County succeeds, the injunction will be lifted and the laws previously stayed will become enforceable.

Let’s use the state of Florida’s congressional plan as an example of what could happen in Voting Rights Act jurisdictions over the next decade without Section 5.

Florida’s political maps are being litigated over a 2010 voter-passed redistricting initiative. Should the plaintiffs in the case win a strong likelihood if the Supreme Court sides with Shelby County all of the Sunshine State maps probably will be redrawn before the 2014 elections.

Included in the Florida ballot proposition is a provision that maintains whole counties unless the principle of one person, one vote or the Voting Rights Act requires otherwise. The state has seven big counties, such as Miami-Dade, that exceed the population requirement for a congressional district. If Shelby County wins, 10 seats would be fully contained within the counties. Today, only two complete districts reside within those particular confines. If the state criteria are enforced without the tempering effect of the Voting Rights Act, then two of Florida’s three protected black districts likely will disappear.

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California: Online voting registration’s influence set to expand in California | California Forward

As more and more data is analyzed from last November’s election, the impact of the recently-enacted Online Voter Registration (OVR) in California continues to crystallize. Paul Mitchell of Political Data, Inc. (PDI) is one of the most respected number crunchers in the state. He’s a bit like our own Nate Silver, except he specializes in reading the tea leaves after the fact instead of making predictions beforehand. In a recent blog post tied to the annual convening of California Democrats last weekend, Mitchell breaks down the OVR data that likely helped secure Dems their current supermajority.

Colorado: Elections bill gets personal as fliers link Republican clerks to Obama | Denver Post

Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Sheila Reiner, a Republican, was called out for the Colorado County Clerks Association’s support of an elections bill that has divided the Colorado General Assembly the past week. So far, the bill has passed two House committees and a floor vote entirely along party lins — Democrats for, Republicans against. The mailer suggests she’s in cahoots with President Obama and state Democrats. “I never thought that my name would be associated with the president,” Reiner told Charles.

Florida: Voting rights groups criticize Senate’s elections bill | Tampa Bay Times

Local and national voting rights groups voiced opposition Monday to an elections bill that’s awaiting a final vote in the Senate on Wednesday. The groups zeroed in on a provision in the bill (HB 7013) that changes the law for voters who need assistance at the polls. Under the change, sponsored by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, a person seeking to assist a voter at the polls must already know the person, and no one may assist more than 10 voters in an election. “These restrictions on assistors will make it harder to vote, particularly for rmany of Florida’s Latino and Hispanic residents,” the groups said in advance of a conference call with Florida reporters.

Massachusetts: State to investigate election irregularities – recounts to be held next week | South Coast Today

The state Elections Division is investigating “irregularities” in the town election April 1 and the way the ballots were handled in the days afterward. “As you are aware, serious problems have been reported in connection with the town election,” wrote Michelle K. Tassinari, director and legal counsel, in a letter to Town Clerk Eileen Lowney April 10. Ms. Tassinari said “certain matters concerning standards, practices and procedures of election officials during the administration of the Town Election may be contrary to election laws.”

Montana: Legislators refer big changes in elections to Montana voters | Great Falls Tribune

Come 2014, it’s up to voters to decide the fate of Montana’s primary election system and late voter registration date. The Montana House and Senate cleared two referendums last week that could change the state’s voting laws. The measures passed largely along party lines, with Republicans voting in favor. Senate bills 408 and 405 are the same proposals that led Senate Democrats to pound on their desks and shout at the Republican Senate president earlier this month as they sought to halt legislation’s passage. The first of those measures, SB 408, would establish a “top-two” primary in Montana elections. Under such a system, voters would not have to choose which party’s primary ballot to fill out; rather, they would receive a single ballot and could vote for candidates from any party. The two people receiving the most votes — regardless of party affiliation — would advance to the general election. … If enacted, Montana would become the second state behind Washington to hold top-two primaries.

North Carolina: Democrats file ‘voter empowerment act’ to counter GOP’s voter ID push | Port City Daily

House and Senate Democrats recently filed a bill in response to the GOP leadership’s push for voter ID in North Carolina. The Ella Baker Voter Empowerment Act is named after Baker, a black civil rights leader who graduated from Shaw University in Raleigh and was a contemporary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The House version (HB 689) and Senate version (SB 708) both seek to extend early voting, including Sunday voting. The bills also seek to increase poll hours during early voting, create an online voter registration and increase one-stop polling locations, according to The Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Pennsylvania: Online voter registration OK’d by Senate, authorization goes to House | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

You can already shop, take care of your banking or chat with your friends online. Is registering to vote next? A bill that passed the state Senate last week proposes just that. “I think it is a common-sense change that encourages people to participate in the process. It’s hard to argue against that,” said Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, the legislation’s main sponsor. The bill passed the Senate unanimously; it now moves to the House. Currently, eligible Pennsylvania voters can go online and print out a registration form that they must fill out and mail, but Senate Bill 37 would make the registration process completely available online. It also would allow current voters to switch their address or party affiliation online.

Iraq: Iraqis see some irregularities in provincial vote | Alarabiya

Iraqi election monitors on Sunday reported multiple irregularities in the country’s first provincial vote since U.S. troops left but were unclear as to whether results would be affected. In an initial report, two non-governmental organizations, Shams and Tamoz, said over 300 irregularities had been recorded by the seven thousand monitors they had sent across Iraq to cover Saturday’s polls. The vote was a key test of Iraq’s short experience with democratic elections because it was the first one run since the U.S. withdrawal in December 2011. Allegations of vote fixing are not uncommon following elections in the country.

Japan: Diet OKs Internet election campaigns | The Japan Times

A bill to permit the use of the Internet during election campaigns was passed into law by the Upper House on Friday, clearing the way for more robust online interaction between candidates and voters, beginning with July’s House of Councilors poll. The revision to the Public Offices Election Law will allow political parties and candidates to electioneer online by updating their home pages or blogs and using social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter to post comments, among other things.

Russia: Top court rules citizens can contest election results | RT

Russian Constitutional Court has confirmed that ordinary citizens can contest election results, but specified that this only concerns the particular constituencies in which they cast their votes. The top Russian court on Monday announced the decision of a major check into the Procedural Code and the federal laws concerning the elections and the guarantees of the voters’ rights. The move was prompted by an address from the plenipotentiary for Human Rights Vladimir Lukin of the Voronezh city branch of the opposition party Fair Russia, and also a group of citizens from the Voronezh Region and St. Petersburg city.

Venezuela: Election Officials Agree to Full Recount | Latin American Herald Tribune

Amid persistent political tension in Venezuela, the CNE election authority accepted opposition candidate Henrique Capriles’s request for a review of 100 percent of the ballots cast in last weekend’s special presidential election. CNE chair Tibisay Lucena said in a televised statement late Thursday that authorities would proceed to audit the 46 percent of ballot boxes that were not subject to a recount on election day. The Venezuelan electoral system relies on electronic voting backed up by paper ballots and the CNE automatically reviews a random sample of 54 percent of the votes to detect discrepancies between the electronic tabulation and the paper records.

Venezuela: Maduro threatens oil trade in row with US over disputed presidential election | AFP

Venezuela stepped up attacks on the United States, threatening retaliatory measures affecting trade and energy if Washington resorts to sanctions in a row over the country’s disputed presidential election. Vowing not to go back on the late Hugo Chavez’s revolution, President Nicolas Maduro said at a swearing-in ceremony for his new cabinet, “There will be no pact here of any kind with the bourgeoisie. Make no mistake.” He accused the United States of threatening Venezuela, and spoke with approval of the warning to Washington leveled earlier in the day by Foreign Minister Elias Jaua in Guayaquil, Ecuador. “If the United States takes recourse to economic sanctions, or sanctions of any other kind, we will take measures of a commercial, energy, economic and political order that we consider necessary,” Jaua said in a television interview.

Venezuela: New Venezuela President Sworn In, but Vote to Be Audited |

In the carnival-mirror world of Venezuelan politics, Nicolás Maduro was sworn in as president on Friday, just hours after election officials agreed to carry out a partial recount of the vote result, which opponents hoped could lead to its being overturned. Women with fake mustaches showed support for Mr. Maduro during the swearing-in ceremonies. His win is being contested. Mr. Maduro was elected Sunday by a narrow margin less than six weeks after the death of his mentor, Hugo Chávez, the charismatic socialist. He beat Henrique Capriles Radonski, who refused to recognize the results and called for a recount, claiming that he was the true winner. Tensions ran high afterward, with protests, scattered violence and both sides blaming the other for several deaths. The inauguration was delayed for hours because Mr. Maduro had been in Lima, Peru, until well past midnight at a special meeting of the Union of South American Nations, which had been called to discuss the situation in Venezuela.