Florida: Congressman Joe Garcia’s chief of staff implicated in phantom absentee-ballot requests scheme | Miami Herald

Congressman Joe Garcia’s chief of staff abruptly resigned Friday after being implicated in a sophisticated scheme to manipulate last year’s primary elections by submitting hundreds of fraudulent absentee-ballot requests. Friday afternoon, Garcia said he had asked Jeffrey Garcia, no relation, for his resignation after the chief of staff — also the congressman’s top political strategist — took responsibility for the plot. Hours earlier, law enforcement investigators raided the homes of another of Joe Garcia’s employees and a former campaign aide in connection with an ongoing criminal investigation into the matter. “I’m shocked and disappointed about this,” Garcia, who said he was unaware of the scheme, told The Miami Herald. “This is something that hit me from left field. Until today, I had no earthly idea this was going on.”

National: With help of former aide, Miller seeks voter registration fix | The Macomb Daily

With the help of Michigan Elections Director Chris Thomas, U.S. Rep. Candice Miller on Tuesday made the case on Capitol Hill that Congress must act to end millions of duplicate voter registrations nationwide from state to state. In testimony, Thomas told the Committee on House Administration, chaired by Miller, that federal legislation is needed to clear up the confusion caused when voters maintain an old driver license in one state but declare their voter registration in another state. A pending bill co-sponsored by Miller, former Michigan Secretary of State, and Rep. Todd Rokita, former Indiana Secretary of State, would require new state residents applying for a driver license to notify the state if they intend to use their new residency for the purpose of voting. If so, the legislation would mandate that the new state to notify the applicant’s previous state of residence so its chief election official can update voter lists accordingly.

Editorials: Texas Redistricting Fight Shows Why Voting Rights Act Still Needed | Ari Berman/The Nation

The last time Texas redrew its political maps in the middle of the decade, Texas Democrats fled to Oklahoma to protest Tom DeLay’s unprecedented power grab in 2003. Now Texas Republicans are at it again, with Governor Rick Perry calling a special session of the legislature to certify redistricting maps that were deemed intentionally discriminatory by a federal court in Washington and modified, with modest improvements, by a district court in San Antonio last year. Republicans want to quickly ratify the interim maps drawn for 2012 by the court in San Antonio before the court has a chance to improve them for 2014 and future elections. “Republicans figured out that if the courts rule on these maps, they’re going to make them better for Latinos and African-Americans,” says Matt Angle, director of the Texas Democratic Trust. The maps originally passed by the Texas legislature in 2011 personified how Republicans were responding to demographic change by trying to limit the power of an increasingly diverse electorate.

Florida: Electronic poll book could help with voting problems | News4

It’s no secret elections Florida have been coming under fire, with long lines, questionable ballots and the time it takes to check if someone is eligible to vote. Now a machine called an electronic poll book could help solve some of that. It’s already used in early voting to verify a voter. Duval County Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland said he would like to see them in every county precinct on Election Day. He said it will benefit voters in many ways. “Plus, it takes away one of the possibilities that voters can vote twice, which currently today with paper registers they can go from one precinct to the next and vote twice and get away with it Election Day,” Holland said. “The electronic poll book negates that because they are interconnected.”

Editorials: Joe Garcia’s ballot scandal | MiamiHerald.com

U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia says he’s angry — and was clueless — that his chief of staff was involved in a cockamamie absentee-ballot scheme during last year’s Democratic Party primary in Congressional District 26, which stretches from the Florida Keys north to Kendall. His chief of staff, Jeffrey Garcia (no relation to the congressman) has resigned, and a Miami-Dade state attorney’s office investigation continues. Prosecutors should pursue the truth purposefully and with due diligence. No dilly-dallying. Voters whose choice in 2012 was between two political enemies — Mr. Garcia, the former head of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, and former U.S. Rep. David Rivera, a Republican who has his own troubles with campaign and tax laws — deserve to know exactly what went down in this race and to hold their elected representative accountable if it is found he played a role in this scheme.

Illinois: No funding for online voter registration | The Southern

State lawmakers last week approved legislation giving Illinoisans the ability to register to vote online. But, in the annual rush to adjourn for the summer, members of the House and Senate left town without allocating any money to pay for the proposal. “It’s something that we’re going to have to figure out,” said Rupert Borgsmiller, director of the Illinois State Board of Elections. “We’ll have to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” Under legislation now awaiting Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature, the state would establish a system for applicants to register to vote through the state Board of Elections website, using a driver’s license and the last four digits of a Social Security number.

New Hampshire: House, Senate don’t agree on voting bills | NEWS06

The House Wednesday killed legislation that would change requirements for registering to vote, but agreed to negotiate with the state Senate on a conflicting versions of a separate bill addressing forms of identification required when someone steps into the polling place to cast a ballot. The House could not agree with Senate changes to the voter registration bill and agreed with Rep. Gary Richardson that “there is no ability to breach that divide” in a conference committee. It voted, 238-104, to “non-concur” with the Senate. On the voter ID bill, the House voted 286-52 to “non-concur” but also to ask the Senate for a committee of conference to negotiate differences.

New Jersey: Why New Jersey is holding a Wednesday election | Washington Post

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Tuesday set an Oct. 16 special election to fill the vacancy created by the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg. Oct. 16 is a Wednesday. Elections are usually held on a Tuesday. What gives? The election is happening on a Wednesday because it’s the soonest possible date it could be held under the writ Christie issued. State law holds that the primary be held 70-76 days after the writ Christie issued Tuesday, with a general election to follow 64-70 days after that.

New Jersey: Several mull run for U.S. Senate special election while Democrats consider challenging it | NorthJersey.com

Potential U.S. Senate candidates scrambled to muster support as Democrats considered a legal challenge to the special election Governor Christie set for October and questions grew about the $24 million price tag, with one lawmaker pushing to move up the November election. With the primary over and the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s funeral behind him, Christie will soon decide on his appointment for the vacant seat, sources close to the governor said Wednesday. During his Tuesday news conference announcing the special election, Christie indicated he wanted to have a replacement in Washington, D.C. next week when Congress debates immigration reform. A spokesman for Newark Mayor Cory Booker said volunteers were out collecting signatures Wednesday, but would not say whether the Democrat would announce a run. Only one person has formally declared his candidacy for the August primary – former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, a conservative Republican. And some potential candidates have already taken themselves out of the running, Republican Sen. Tom Kean Jr. and Sen. Kevin O’Toole both said they are focused on winning reelection to their state offices. Democrats, meanwhile, are still exploring going to court to block the special election.

New Jersey: The cost of Christie’s decision | Asbury Park Press

Using New Jersey Office of Legislative Services estimates, Assembly Democrats say that a special primary election and a special general election, as ordered by Gov. Chris Christie, will cost a total of $23.8 million. Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver said Christie could have saved $11.9 million in taxpayer money by having the special election on the same date as the Nov. 5 general election. The cost estimate is based on two main components: the expenses of the counties and municipalities in administering the election and the salaries of poll workers conducting the election. According to the Division of Elections in the Department of State, the costs for items such as ballot printing and postage, processing, legal advertising, polling place rental and voting machine delivery for a special election would be approximately $6.5 million.

New Jersey: Chris Christie’s Catch-22 — and why he made the right (political) decision | Washington Post

To hear the political media tell it, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) made a stinker of a decision Tuesday by setting the state’s special Senate election for Oct. 16 rather than on the same day as the general election either this year or in 2014. But the decision was probably the best of three bad options for Christie. The Star-Ledger editorial board blasted Christie for a “self-serving stunt“, and it was joined in that criticism by several politicians — most of them Democrats. But as is often the case with Senate vacancies — this one created by the death of Democratic Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg — the controversy was probably unavoidable. Giving a governor carte blanche to interpret the law and make an interim appointment these days often ends poorly (see: Blagojevich, Rod; Paterson; David; and Abercrombie, Neil). In addition, New Jersey special election law put Christie in an especially unenviable position because it is highly contradictory and totally open to interpretation.

New York: Lever Bill Requires Board of Elections to Declare Incompetence | WNYC

new bill to bring back the old mechanical lever voting machines would require the New York City Board of Elections to declare that it’s incapable of running a timely election on the current optical scanners. The bill introduced to the Assembly on Wednesday would only affect the primary and run-off elections. Voters would still use the scanners in the general election. “This is a one-time shot at using the lever machines,” said the bill’s sponsor Assemblyman Michael Cusick.

South Carolina: Election law paperwork compromise advances | The State

Candidates for public office would not be disqualified for improperly filing paperwork, according to a compromise approved by a legislative committee Tuesday. The proposal, S.2, comes after a state Supreme Court decision last year that led to the removal of more than 200 candidates from ballots statewide because they did not file a hard copy of their statements of economic interest, as the law requires. The fiasco ended up costing the state and political parties thousands of dollars in lawsuits. Because the court decision did not impact incumbents, it aborted tough re-election contests that had been expected for some moderate Republicans. The decision also sowed seeds of distrust among voters, prompting some candidates to run on a platform of reforming the state’s ethics laws.

South Dakota: Secretary of State Gant: E-Poll Books Prevent Voter Fraud | Keloland.com

An investigation is underway in Mitchell after Tuesday’s school board election. Craig Guymon, 54, has been arrested, charged and released on bond on a felony charge of voter fraud. Guymon ran for school board in Mitchell as recently as last year, he even filed a lawsuit contesting the election results after he lost. Now he’s accused of double voting but Secretary of State Jason Gant says an investigation into that case could have been avoided with the new electronic poll books he is working to roll out across the state. All it takes is a scan of a driver’s license to confirm a voter’s registration and if that person has already cast a ballot. “That’s why vote centers and electronic poll books are definitely the way to go, not only break down the barriers and allow more people to vote, but also to ensure no one can vote twice,” Gant said.

Texas: How Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act blocked a GOP power grab in Texas | MSNBC

In 2008, Wendy Davis, a city councilmember in Fort Worth, Texas, narrowly defeated a 20-term incumbent to win a state Senate seat. Davis, a Democrat, enjoyed strong support from her district’s black and Hispanic voters, who had largely been ignored by her Republican predecessor, and once in office she set about fighting for those who she felt lacked a voice. She worked to kick-start economic growth in poor neighborhoods, pushed for increased public-school funding, and cracked down on predatory lending practices targeting the poor. When Fort Worth kids were forced to crawl under idling trains to get to school, Davis won funding to fix the problem. But Texas Republicans were eager to win back Davis’ seat and increase their Senate majority. And in 2011, they used their control of the redistricting process to improve their chances.

Virginia: State Faces Hurdles After Restoring Voting Rights to Felons | New America Media

Darrell Gooden wanted to vote in the historic 2008 election, but he couldn’t because he was released from prison the year before and needed to wait two years before applying to reinstate his voting rights, under Virginia law. Last week, the state’s Republican Governor Robert McDonnell announced a policy to automatically restore voting rights for nonviolent felons who have served their time. “All of a sudden, I feel like I’m a U.S. citizen again,” said Gooden, 40, who was convicted of marijuana and cocaine possession in 2002 and served nearly five years in prison. “I can’t believe this is really happening.” Virginia had been one of four states, including Iowa, Florida and Kentucky, where voting rights were not automatically restored once a felon completed his or her prison time, parole or probation.

Albania: Old habits die hard as Albania election draws near | Business New Europe

Albania’s general election on June 23 will be heavily scrutinised to determine if it’s free and fair. So far, the signs aren’t good. The latest hint that the EU is becoming increasingly worried came from the European watchdog charged with monitoring the election, no less. Ahead of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) setting up its mission in Albania on May 15, its chief Lamberto Zannier said his team were watching with concern the harsh rhetoric of the political debate. “We are expecting a very competitive electoral process in a challenging climate,” Zannier told reporters on May 2. Zannier cited in particular the growing spectre of extreme nationalism, the rise of which could have repercussions for the stability of the entire region. “We hope that there will not be excessive nationalism that could create elements of instability in the region,” he said. “The OSCE has invested so much in Albania”. Albanian nationalism is a new wildcard to the country’s elections, which previously were marred by the more typical unsavoury aspects such as intimidation, violence, vote-rigging and electoral fraud.

Iran: Funeral descends into anti-regime protest ahead of election | Telegraph

Iran has witnessed a rare show of political dissent in the run-up to next week’s presidential election after mourners chanted anti-regime slogans at the mass funeral of a dissident cleric, according to amateur video footage. Chants of “death to the dictator” and “dictator, dictator, may your sleep be disturbed” were heard on videos of the funeral procession in Isfahan, Iran’s second city, following the death of Ayatollah Jalaluddin Taheri, who died on Sunday, aged 87. The footage – whose authenticity cannot be verified – also contained chants in support of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, presidential candidates in the country’s fraud-tainted 2009 election, who have been under house arrest for more than two years. Marchers were heard on one video chanting: “Mousavi and Karroubi must be released.”

Russia: Moscow mayor calls snap elections in test for Kremlin | NDTV

The Kremlin-backed mayor of Moscow Sergei Sobyanin Wednesday put his job on the line by calling snap elections two years before his mandate expires, in an apparent bid to outmanoeuvre the opposition after protests rocked the Russian capital. Sobyanin told President Vladimir Putin he was resigning but would himself stand in the elections which would be expected to take place on September 8 when other local polls are held nationwide. The election could set up an intriguing clash between Sobyanin, a technocratic stalwart of the ruling United Russia party, and virulently anti-Kremlin figures like the protest leader and anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny.

New Jersey: Christie Criticized for Cost and Timing of Senate Election | New York Times

Gov. Chris Christie announced on Tuesday a highly unusual special election that was immediately criticized for costing the state $24 million and setting up a schedule that was likely to confuse the voting public. Voters will go to the polls on a Wednesday in October to cast ballots for a new senator, then return just three weeks later for the regularly scheduled general election, in which Mr. Christie will stand for a second term. For Mr. Christie, a Republican who has cultivated an image as a tough-talking independent, the rapidly made choice represented a calculated risk — to endure short-term criticism from both Republicans and Democrats in order to protect his longer-term goals of winning re-election and positioning himself for a presidential run in 2016.