National: In a First, Black Voter Turnout Rate Passes Whites | New York Times

America’s blacks voted at a higher rate than other minority groups in 2012 and by most measures surpassed the white turnout for the first time, reflecting a deeply polarized presidential election in which blacks strongly supported Barack Obama while many whites stayed home. Had people voted last November at the same rates they did in 2004, when black turnout was below its current historic levels, Republican Mitt Romney would have won narrowly, according to an analysis conducted for The Associated Press. Census data and exit polling show that whites and blacks will remain the two largest racial groups of eligible voters for the next decade. Last year’s heavy black turnout came despite concerns about the effect of new voter-identification laws on minority voting, outweighed by the desire to re-elect the first black president.

Editorials: Scalia’s understanding of the Voting Rights Act is shortsighted | Gary May/The Washington Post

In the debate over the future of the Voting Rights Act , it sometimes becomes apparent that certain members of the Supreme Court are either oblivious to our nation’s recent history or willfully ignore it. Justice Antonin Scalia made this abundantly clear in his comments during the Feb. 27 oral argument in Shelby County v. Holder , statements that he repeated in a speech on April 15. To Scalia, the Voting Rights Act — especially Section 5, which requires covered states to submit any changes in voting practices to the Justice Department or a Washington court for approval — is a “racial entitlement” and a violation of state sovereignty. In his view, it unfairly and unnecessarily treats seven Southern states, plus Alaska, Arizona and parts of six others, differently from states not covered by the act. This month, according to the Wall Street Journal, he called the act a form of “racial preferment” that affected only African Americans while ignoring the white population.

Voting Blogs: Customer Service for Elections | The Canvass

Voters have a right to expect good customer service when they go to vote. And that means full service—not just fast service. Therefore, speed isn’t the number one goal for election administrators. First and foremost, elections need to meet legal obligations, says Merle King, executive director of the Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State University, in Georgia. Boiled down, these obligations include running accurate elections in which all eligible voters can vote.  Where does that leave customer service values such as convenience and speed? These are still important, judging by recent activity. For instance, President Obama has established a bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration, with a goal of improvinig voters’ experiences, and several pieces of federal legislation have been introduced, although none appear to be moving. In addition, reports and recommendations on election management are pouring forth.

California: ‘Super PACs’ negate spending limits in L.A. mayor’s race | Los Angeles Times

Strict limits on campaign contributions imposed by voters nearly three decades ago are crumbling in the Los Angeles mayor’s race, with big donors using loosely regulated “super PACs” to help candidates like never before in a citywide election, a Times analysis has found. Of the $17.5 million collected so far to support mayoral hopefuls Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti, roughly one-third — a record $6.1 million — has gone into independent political action committees that can accept contributions of any size. The rise of the parallel campaign finance system, awash in five- and six-figure donations that dwarf the limits approved by voters, has watchdogs of political influence sounding alarms.

Florida: House passes bill to exclude voter emails from public records | WUFT

In a bipartisan vote of 114-1, the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday which would exclude voter email addresses from state public records. Some say it’s to prevent people from being scammed, and all but one representative agreed. Lawmakers said they are concerned with protecting voters from being inundated by candidates and political committees that have access to their email addresses, according to the Miami Herald.

Kentucky: Special election first test of military voting law |

A special legislative election in central Kentucky could be the first test of the state’ new military voting law passed earlier this year to help ensure soldiers deployed to foreign countries get to cast ballots back home. Gov. Steve Beshear set the election for June 25 to replace former state Rep. Carl Rollins, who resigned earlier this week to become executive director of the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority. The election date, some two months off as required now, will allow more time for county clerks to send absentee ballots to military personnel and others serving overseas.

Nebraska: Governor signs bill reducing in-person early voting in Nebraska | Nebraska City News-Press – Nebraska City, NE

Governor Dave Heineman has signed legislation that will reduce the period of in-person early voting in Nebraska from 35 days to 30 days, a bill that will help assure that Nebraska complies with the Help America Vote Act. State lawmakers passed an amended version of LB271, which reduced the voting period to 30 days. The bill does not impact the start date for absentee ballot requests.

North Carolina: Legislators reactions mixed to voter ID bill | Fay Observer

Like so much other legislation this year, a contentious bill that would require voters to provide photo identification passed the state House last week along party lines. Republicans, who control both chambers of the General Assembly, argue that the voter ID bill will reduce fraud. Democrats counter that their real motivation is to restrict voter access to racial minorities and to the poor. Republican state Rep. David Lewis of Dunn, chairman of the state House Elections Committee, shepherded the bill through the House.

North Carolina: Governor McCrory replaces State Board of Elections | Winston-Salem Journal

Gov. Pat McCrory announced late Friday that he was replacing all members of the State Board of Elections as of Wednesday, just as an investigation into political contributions made to McCrory and other top Republicans’ officeholders’ campaigns is getting underway. Three Republicans, including Winston-Salem lawyer Paul Foley, and two Democrats will replace the current three-Democrat, two-Republican board. The board’s majority represents the governor’s party. The move puts the progress of the board’s investigation into campaign contributions from an indicted sweepstakes software company owner in question. Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, last week asked the board to investigate more than 60 campaign contributions totaling more than $230,000. Some of the contributions went to McCrory, House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger.

South Carolina: Early-voting bill advances in House despite Democratic opposition | Anderson Independent Mail

The GOP-controlled South Carolina House of Representatives on Thursday approved an early-voting bill that Democrats say would give people less time to cast their ballots before an election. The measure, sponsored by Republican Rep. Alan Clemmons of Myrtle Beach, calls for opening early-voting centers in each South Carolina county during a nine-day window before elections. Democrats complained that the legislation would eliminate the existing one-month period before elections when voters can complete absentee ballots in person. “We should not do anything to deny free and ready access to the vote,” said Rep. Joe Neal, a Democrat from Hopkins. “Let me be clear: This is designed to suppress the vote in South Carolina.”

Texas: House erupts in showdown on voter’s rights | San Antonio Express-News

The Texas House erupted Thursday into a partisan showdown over voting rights when the chamber’s Republicans muscled through a measure they argue will help crack down on mail-in voter fraud. Tensions flared on House floor for more than three hours as Democrats fought Republicans over a measure to criminalize “ballot harvesting” of mail-in votes, a process in which a group or an individual collects and mails completed ballots for other people. House Bill 148 by Rep. Cindy Burkett, R-Sunnyvale, takes aim at the practice by capping the number of ballots an individual can mail in any election to 10. Republicans argued that the mail-in voting system is rampant with fraud in part because of ballot harvesters.

Iceland: Pirate Party wins seats in Icelandic election | The Register

Not content with serving as a catalyst for the global financial crisis, Iceland has elected three members of the Pirate Party to its national Parliament. Iceland’s Alþingi (“Althing” in English) is a single-chambered parliament that has met since the tenth century and says it is the world’s oldest such legislature. The nation is divided into six constituencies, each of which elects nine representatives. Constituencies with larger populations also have one or two “levelling seats” to ensure the value of a vote remains constant across the nation. Proportional representation is used to elect candidates.

Iran: Power struggle in Iran: Conservatives v conservatives | The Economist

Four years ago the re-election of Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which millions considered fraudulent and led to months of violent protest, marked the elimination of the country’s reformists at the hands of their hard-line rivals. Now a new and equally bitter struggle is in full cry—between two different types of hardliner, fighting over an Islamic Republic that has been sapped by international sanctions. Less than two months before the presidential poll, the contest resembles nothing so much as a game of chicken. In the middle of the road stand Mr Ahmadinejad, the outgoing president, with his presumed dauphin: the suave, ambitious Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei. The two men are almost family; the president’s son is married to Mr Mashaei’s daughter. They also share apparently limitless reserves of self-confidence, disdain for the revolutionary old guard of crusty clerics, and a yen for millenarian Shiism (see article) that traditionalists see as almost heretical.

Indonesia: E-voting and Indonesia’s elections | The Jakarta Post

A local election was recently (April 17) held in Bantaeng regency, South Sulawesi. The election was important and interesting as in some parts of the regency an electronic voting (e-voting) system was implemented as part of a pilot project. A simulation of e-voting was put on trial at 42 of a total 361 polling stations. The simulation has apparently received positive responses from various quarters. Idrus Paturusi, rector of Hasanuddin University, said the implementation of e-voting was proven to be more effective and efficient if compared with the manual system, with a greater level of accuracy. Idrus, who is also chairman of the Rectors Forum, said he would put forward the results of the simulation to the House of Representatives’ Commission II as a reference for the 2014 election system. Chairman of the Election Supervisory Committee (Bawaslu), Muhammad Alhamid, shared Idrus’ opinion, saying that e-voting would reduce the budget spent on the organization of local elections and eliminate potential violations during ballot counting. The question now is whether e-voting will be equally effective, efficient and reliable if implemented nationwide and whether Indonesia is ready for the system.

Malaysia: Arson, Intimidation Cases Mount as Polls Draws Near | Businessweek

More than 2,000 cases of arson, fighting and other election-related crimes have been recorded by police since Malaysia’s parliament was dissolved for polls that will determine whether Najib Razak’s government can extend its five-decade grip on power. “The violence is much more than previous elections,” Irene Fernandez, co-chairwoman of the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections’ code of conduct committee, said by phone. “The increased tension is being driven by the fear of racial riots” and broader implementation of Islamic law that’s being created by the media among non-Muslims, she said. Campaign booths and motorbikes were burned and flags and billboards torn down as police received reports of 315 incidents yesterday alone, Ramli Mohamed Yoosuf, assistant commissioner of police, told reporters in Kuala Lumpur today. In southern Johor state, bordering Singapore, one political supporter was allegedly choked by five men, he said.

Venezuela: Opposition leader rejects election audit plan |

Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles has rejected official plans for an audit of the presidential vote that he narrowly lost to Nicolás Maduro this month. Capriles is calling for a fresh ballot, but this is certain to be refused by senior ruling party officials, who have threatened to have Capriles arrested for allegedly colluding with the US to foment unrest. The government detained 270 protesters during clashes that followed the disputed vote on 14 April. On Thursday it held an American film-maker who was accused of working for US intelligence to sow discord among students.

Venezuela: Opposition asks election audit to include fingerprint verification |

Wednesday, Henrique Capriles went on television to demand the CNE offer his data as part of the [election] audit. The government of Nicolás Maduro quickly insisted that all television stations go to cadena, [where all channels must broadcast the same message from the government] in order to broadcast a prerecorded infomercial accusing Mr. Capriles of instigating violence. This had the added effect of blocking the Capriles press conference from the few stations that were broadcasting it. Miguel has the specifics of Capriles campaign’s audit request from Venezuela’s CNE. Capriles wants the audit to look at who voted and how the fingerprint scanners that are supposed to prevent double voting functioned. For years, the opposition criticized the fingerprint scanners as an unnecessary intimidation while the government insisted the scanners are necessary to prevent voter fraud. So there is a bit of irony in that the Capriles campaign now wants the fingerprint data to be audited to look for voter fraud while the government is fighting against that effort as somehow unnecessary. Going through the voter records and fingerprint data is a completely legitimate request in the audit and within Capriles’s rights as a candidate.