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Estonia: Prime Minister Ansip: Election Fraud Suspect Identified | ERR

Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said a member of his party has admitted to manipulating e-votes in the Reform Party’s leadership election last week and in another election in 2011. “The party secretary has a specific individual’s explanation in written form in which the individual admits to having committed the acts at hand. And the individual has suggested that he or she did this at the request and knowing of someone else,” Ansip told ERR radio, without revealing any names as the investigation is still in progress. Read More

National: Behind IRS scrutiny: Nonprofits and “electoral exceptionalism” | Salon.com

As the report of the IRS Inspector General shows, the agency’s scrutiny of conservative groups applying for non-profit status was, more than anything, a clumsy response to a task the IRS is ill-equipped to carry out – monitoring an accidental corner of campaign finance law, a corner that was relatively quiet until about 2010. That corner is the 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization, belonging to what are sometimes called “social welfare” groups, which enjoy the triple privilege of tax exemption (though not for their donors), freedom to engage in some limited election activity, and, unlike other political committees (PACs, SuperPACs, parties, etc.), freedom from any requirement to disclose information about donors or spending. The use of (c)(4)s as campaign vehicles didn’t originate with the Citizens United decision in 2010 (Citizens United, the organization that brought the case, was already a (c)(4)), but the decision seems to have created a sense that the rules had changed, and even small groups – especially, apparently, local Tea Party organizations — rushed to create (c)(4)s. Read More

National: Online Voter Registration Gains Traction Nationwide | IVN

Online voter registration is a concept that has only recently been made available to U.S. citizens. At the moment, most states don’t have a system set up for it. However, that could change in the near future, if current trends are any indication. Unfortunately, there are a few issues that currently keep it from being used nationwide.For starters, when President Obama was first elected in 2008, only two states — Washington and Arizona — had online voter registration systems. In 2012, when he was reelected, 13 states had these systems. Now, a total of 23 states have or are about to have what is called “voter registration modernization.” Many believe that most states will enact online voter registration — sooner rather than later — now that word of the many advantages is spreading. Read More

National: Future of voting rights at stake before Supreme Court | NBC

Before the current U.S. Supreme Court term ends in late June, the justices will decide the fate of the most potent part of a law widely considered the most important piece of civil rights legislation ever passed by Congress ― the Voting Rights Act of 1965. If the court were to strike down part of the law, which it has signaled a willingness to do in the past, it would dramatically reduce the federal government’s role in overseeing voter discrimination in a wide swath of the nation. The U.S. Supreme Court prepares to enter June with the term’s biggest cases yet to be decided.  NBC’s Pete Williams looks at what’s left on the docket. Signed by President Lyndon Johnson and renewed by Congress four times since then, most recently in 2006, a key provision requires states with a history of discrimination at the polls to get federal permission before making adjustments to their election procedures. Read More

National: What the IRS did right | Salon.com

Outrage first, facts later. That’s often the way American political “scandals” unfold, and it seems to be the case with the news that the IRS targeted conservative political groups for extra scrutiny before granting them tax-exempt status as social-welfare organizations. We knew from the beginning of the IRS mess that the only group actually denied tax-exempt status was the Maine chapter of a Democratic women’s group, Emerge America. Now we’re learning about some of the right-wing organizations that came in for extra scrutiny, as reported by the New York Times Monday: a conservative veterans’ group that only backed one candidate, a Republican, for Congress; an Alabama Tea Party group that took part in a “defeat Barack Obama” voter-turnout drive, and the “Ohio Liberty Coalition” led by a Republican activist who sent his members information on Mitt Romney campaign events and recruited them to volunteer for the GOP nominee. Read More

Voting Blogs: Vote centers turn 10 – a decade later, jurisdictions slowly joining movement | electionlineWeekly

A decade ago, Larimer County, Colo. Clerk Scott Doyle was looking for a way to deal with many of the changes mandated by the Help America Vote Act. Working with the county’s elections department and practices already in place for early voting, Doyle and company created the concept of vote centers to use in all elections. Now, although Doyle has recently retired, his idea of consolidating voting precincts into a small number of come-one, come-all polling places is spreading to more and more counties across the country. “The success of vote centers is largely due to their attractiveness to voters who might not otherwise vote,” said Robert Stein, political science professor at Rice University who has studied vote centers. “They afford inexperienced votes many of the benefits in-person early voting offers, in those states that allow voters to ballot before Election Day. “ Counties making the move to vote centers cite a variety of reasons for making the switch, but the biggest factor of all seems to be cost savings. Read More

Alaska: Judge to Alaska Redistricting Board: Get back to work | Alaska Dispatch

As the Alaska Redistricting Board sits mostly idle despite a December 2012 state Supreme Court decision that ordered all 40 voting districts to be redrawn, a Fairbanks Superior Court judge Thursday offered up a verbal smackdown to the board, chastising the inaction and ordering public hearings related to the next redrawing process. “Alaskans are no closer to having constitutional voting districts today” than they were in December, said Superior Court judge Michael McConahy.  Every 10 years, Alaska’s voting lines are ordered to be redrawn according to the latest U.S. Census data. In Alaska, not only are there state requirements to be met, but any redistricting plan must also appease the federal Voting Rights Act. Alaska is among several states requiring Department of Justice confirmation that minority groups aren’t subject to discrimination by proposed voting changes. Read More

Illinois: Senate Approves Online Voter Registration Bill | Progress Illinois

At a time when 500,000 eligible Illinoisans aren’t registered to vote, and voter turnout is at staggeringly low levels, the Illinois Senate approved legislation Wednesday that would make online voter registration an option in the state. The bill, HB 2418, would make it possible by July 1, 2014 for residents to register to vote through the Illinois State Board of Elections’ website. After entering drivers’ license information and the last four digits of a Social Security number, potential voters would be mailed a voter registration card. The card would need to be presented at a polling place during voting. “We’re taking a bold step into the electronic world,” State Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), the bill’s primary sponsor in the Senate, said during the legislation’s debate. “This really is a key to getting young people involved in the process.” Read More

Editorials: Restoring voting rights to Virginia felons | The Washington Post

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) nudged Virginia into the 21st century Wednesday by decreeing a new system to restore voting rights automatically to nonviolent felons who have paid their debt to society. The governor’s move is courageous and consequential: In time — more time than many would like — it should enfranchise tens of thousands of ex-convicts, most of whom would otherwise be frozen out of elections indefinitely. Mr. McDonnell’s move does not solve the entire problem. It excludes those convicted of violent felonies, including some drug crimes. At least 40 percent of the estimated 300,000 to 400,000 felons, plus several thousand released from prison each year, will remain ineligible to vote unless they undergo a lengthy waiting period and submit a complex application. In practice, few do so. Read More

West Virginia: Funding an issue for Supreme Court candidate public financing; program to have $1.5M balance | Associated Press

Pleased that a public financing experiment for Supreme Court candidates is now a permanent program, West Virginia’s State Election Commission also noted Thursday that it will only have an estimated $1.5 million to offer when a court seat is next on the ballot in 2016. The commission voted to approve proposed revisions to the program’s rules, following passage of legislation expanding what had been a one-election pilot. But commission members were also mindful that the recently concluded session did not include additional funding or revenue sources for the program. Lawmakers instead took $1.5 million from the program’s balance, after Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin requested it for other budgetary needs. That leaves $1.1 million, while the state treasurer is scheduled to provide an additional $400,000 by July 2015, Timothy Leach, a lawyer for Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, said during Thursday’s meeting. Read More