Iran: Moderate in Iranian Election Takes Strong Lead in Early Returns | New York Times

Iranian officials spent Saturday tallying the votes the nation’s presidential election, with a surge of interest in the contest apparently swinging the tide in the favor of the most moderate candidate in the field. But with only a fraction of the vote counted, it was uncertain whether any single contestant would exceed the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff next week. With long lines at the polls Friday, voting hours were extended by five hours in parts of Tehran and four hours in the rest of the country. Turnout reached 75 percent, by official count, as disaffected members of the Green Movement, which was crushed in the uprising that followed the disputed 2009 presidential election, dropped a threatened boycott and appeared to coalesce behind a cleric, Hassan Rowhani, and the mayor of Tehran, Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf. Iran’s interior minister, Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, said Saturday morning on state television that preliminary results showed Mr. Rowhani with a strong lead, followed by Mr. Ghalibaf. Mr. Najjar did not say when the final result would be available. Iran has more than 50 million eligible voters and as of late Saturday morning nearly eight million votes had been counted.

Editorials: In Shelby County v. Holder, Supreme Court Will Decide Integrity Of Future Elections | Forbes

When the United States Supreme Court decides Shelby County v. Holder later this month, it will decide the constitutional limits of federal power over the states.  The Court will also determine the integrity of future elections. At issue in Shelby are the preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Every change regarding elections in fifteen states, even moving a polling place from school gym to a school library, must be approved in Washington D.C. by the federal government.  The mandate was enacted almost a half-century ago as “emergency” legislation in response to Jim Crow. If these “preclearance” provisions, commonly called “Section 5,” are struck down by the court this month, voter fraud will be harder to commit. If the Supreme Court ends Section 5, American elections will be more secure.

Alabama: State has yet to seek preclearance of photo voter ID law approved in 2011 |

Alabama’s new photo voter ID law will go into effect with the June 2014 primaries – now less than a year away — but the state has yet to submit the law for federal preclearance or to develop a free ID that is supposed to be available to voters. Alabama lawmakers in 2011 approved a law to require Alabamians – beginning with the party primaries in June of 2014 — to show photo identification in order to vote. The state has yet to submit the new law for preclearance with the U.S. Department of Justice so it can be used in next year’s elections.

Arizona: Senate passes election overhaul bill | Arizona Daily Star

The Arizona Senate revived an election omnibus bill Thursday that could limit early voting participation after Republican leaders pressured their caucus to pass the measure in the final hours of the 2013 legislative session. The legislation backed by state and local election officials seeks to trim the state’s permanent early voting list and limit who may return mail ballots for voters. Opponents portrayed the bill as a thinly-veiled effort to curb Democratic and Hispanic voter turnout. The 16-13 vote came after the Senate initially voted against the bill late Thursday. Republican Sen. Steve Pierce changed his vote and helped the measure pass when it was brought back for reconsideration. The House voted 33-26 earlier on Thursday to advance House Bill 2305. Republican Gov. Jan Brewer would not say on Thursday whether she would sign the measure into law.

Colorado: Secretary of State Scott Gessler wrong to use state funds for trip, ethics commission rules | The Denver Post

Secretary of State Scott Gessler “breached the public trust for private gain” when he used his office discretionary fund to pay for a trip to a Republican lawyers conference in Florida, the state ethics commission ruled Thursday. He also violated state ethics law when he kept $117.99 left in the fund last year, rather than submit receipts that he said accounted for hundreds of dollars more for unreimbursed mileage for state business. The commission penalized Gessler twice the amount in dispute, about $1,400, minus about $1,278 he chose to repay last month (to avoid any appearance of wrongdoing, his lawyer, David Lane, said). The precise amount will be published in the final order Tuesday. Gessler issued a written statement after Thursday’s ruling accusing the five-member bipartisan commission of being out to get him.

Florida: Police raid Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez’s mayoral campaign in absentee ballot fraud investigation | Miami Herald

Detectives raided a political worker’s home Thursday after he submitted other voters’ absentee-ballot request forms to help Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez’s mayoral campaign, which spun into damage-control mode and said no one intentionally broke the law. The Miami-Dade state attorney’s office targeted Juan Pablo Baggini after county elections workers flagged a series of 20 absentee-ballot requests made on May 29 that were linked to Baggini’s computer. “I can’t say anything, it’s an ongoing investigation,” Baggini, 37, said at his Coconut Grove office. He is listed as the “operations director’’ for Suarez’s campaign. The raid at Baggini’s Continental Park home was the second performed by police and prosecutors since May 31, when investigators searched three locations in a separate absentee-ballot fraud case involving the 2012 campaign of U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia.

Minnesota: Minneapolis voting: More poll workers, better voter education planned | MPRN

City elections officials want to make this fall’s election go more smoothly than in past years. Plans announced on Wednesday focus on shortening wait times at Minneapolis polling places, increasing voter education efforts and reducing the amount of time it will take to count the cast ballots. Last November, in a presidential election year, voters faced long lines at several city polling places. Some voters waited in line only to find out they were in the wrong place after some precinct boundaries were redrawn. More poll workers this fall will be assigned to each site, Assistant city clerk Grace Wachlarowicz said. She said the presence of additional staff will give judges more time to concentrate on their primary duties. “This will give them an opportunity to focus strictly on poll management, assist voters where they need to, answer questions, manage the lines. That will be their sole responsibility — is management,” Wachlarowicz said.

New Hampshire: House, Senate agree to meet to reconcile voter ID bills | NEWS06

The state Senate agreed Wednesday to negotiate with the House on new, but differing voter identification and voter registration requirements reflected in separate versions of bills that have been debated throughout the legislative session. The Senate agreed to House requests for committees of conference on House Bill 595, which sets out forms of identification required when one steps into the polling place to cast a ballot. A conference committee was also agreed to negotiate House Bill 664, a bill establishing a nonprofit state vaccine association, to which the House’s voter registration provisions were attached last week. Differences on the voter ID bills center on whether student IDs are an acceptable form of identification at the polls. The current voter ID law allowed for the 2012 election a list of seven forms of identification acceptable at a polling place, including a student ID, and absent any of those, verification of the person’s identity by a local election official. If a voter was challenged, the voter would fill out a “challenged voter affidavit.”

New Jersey: Court sides with Christie, rejects challenge to October special election |

A three-judge appellate panel has rejected a challenge to Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to call a special election to fill the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s seat in October, three weeks before the regularly scheduled November election. “Without question, the Governor was authorized to call a special election in this circumstance,” state Superior Court Judge Jane Grall wrote. Grall said the Legislature “has delegated broad authority to the State’s governor.” On June 4 – the day after Lautenberg died — Christie announced plans hold a special primary on Aug. 13 followed by a special general election on Oct. 16 – a Wednesday — to fill his seat. The nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services estimated that the special primary and general elections will cost $24 million combined. While Democrats did not dispute the need for the primary, they said Christie should have called the special election to take place at the same time as the regularly scheduled November election, when he’s on the ballot.

Editorials: How Art Pope killed clean elections for judges in North Carolina | Facing South

On the afternoon of Tuesday, June 11, as the North Carolina House jousted over details of the state budget, Rep. Jonathan Jordan, a Republican attorney from the state’s mountain region, decided to help the legislature reach a compromise on a thorny problem. At issue was the N.C. Public Campaign Fund, a popular program launched in 2003 to help free judges from relying on deep-pocketed — and potentially compromising — special interest donors to get elected. Eighty percent of eligible judges — conservatives and liberals — used the voluntery program, which awarded candidates a grant to help run their campaign if they raised at least 350 small donations and agreed to strict spending limits. Ideologues hated the public financing option, but judges and even many conservatives thought it boosted public confidence in the courts. In May, members of the state’s Court of Appeals took the unusual step of publicly calling on legislative leaders to keep the program. A dozen newspapers praised its success, and two Republican officials from West Virginia came to explain why their state had just adopted the North Carolina model.

Oregon: No License To Vote: A bill tying voter registration to driver’s licenses is stuck in neutral | Willamette Week

A bill that could register as many as 600,000 new Oregon voters is in danger of dying without a vote. The state’s top elections official, Secretary of State Kate Brown, wants anyone who gets a new driver’s license, or renews an existing one, to be automatically registered to vote. Brown argues that more registered voters promotes a stronger democracy: 2.8 million Oregonians are eligible to vote but only 2.2 million are registered, a registration rate Brown calls “mediocre.” Supporters say the bill should be zinging its way through the Legislature, appealing to citizens who want to limit their dealings with bureaucracy. “It’s a great concept,” says Paul Gronke, chairman of the political science department at Reed College. “Why would anybody want citizens to appear in government offices twice instead of just once?”

Editorials: Wyoming ballot access should be fair, but not easy | Star Tribune

The recent failed effort to repeal a new state law limiting the duties of the state superintendent of public instruction reiterated a long-held belief: Wyoming’s referendum laws are among the most stringent in the nation. State lawmakers should consider whether the laws are too stringent. At the same time, let’s not go too far. California’s proposition system is a prime example of direct democracy run amok, where, as a result of unintended consequences, public power has often rendered the state’s Legislature ineffective. Wyoming’s is a republican form of government in which we elect — and therefore trust — our citizen Legislature to make decisions for us. This isn’t a pure democracy where we get a say on every issue. Imagine how messy state government would become if every issue were put to a vote. Trouble is: Where do we begin to ease the restrictions? It appears to be the proverbial chicken-and-egg issue.

Guinea: Talks on Guinea Polls Inch Forward | VoA News

The U.N. special representative to West Africa, Said Djinnit, says talks between Guinea’s government and opposition about the upcoming legislative elections are making headway. The opposition says it will agree to the government’s choice of poll operator and call off its boycott if the government agrees to ten conditions. Political analysts are cautiously optimistic. Guinea’s government says it could be willing to meet certain opposition demands, such as allowing Guineans living abroad to vote in the upcoming legislative polls and resuming the revision of electoral registers. In return, the opposition says it will go along with the government’s choice of South African company Waymark to handle the technical side of voter registration and vote counting.

Iran: Election threatened by boycott | Toronto Star

In the end, Iran’s presidential election may be defined by who doesn’t vote. Arguments over whether to boycott Friday’s ballot still boiled over at coffee shops, kitchen tables and on social media among many liberal-leaning Iranians on the eve of the voting. The choice, once easy for many who turned their back in anger after years of crackdowns, has been suddenly complicated by an unexpected chance to perhaps wage a bit of payback against Iran’s rulers. The rising fortunes of the lone relative moderate left in the race, former nuclear negotiator Hasan Rowhani, has brought a dilemma for many Iranians who faced down security forces four years ago: Stay away from the polls in a silent protest or jump back into the mix in a system they claim has been disgraced by vote rigging. Which way the scales tip could set the direction of the election and the fate for Rowhani, a cleric who is many degrees of mildness removed from being an opposition leader. But he is still the only fallback option for moderates in an election that once seemed preordained for a pro-establishment loyalist.

Editorials: Venezuela’s election audit: Beside the point | The Economist

After Nicolás Maduro narrowly won Venezuela’s presidential election on April 14th, his chief opponent, Henrique Capriles, immediately disputed the result. Two months later, the government is still struggling to put the issue of its legitimacy to rest, both at home and abroad. The latest attempt came this week from the president of the National Electoral Council (CNE), Tibisay Lucena. She claimed that a laborious audit of the tallies produced by electronic voting machines against the paper receipts that correspond to each vote had confirmed that Mr Maduro had indeed won by 1.49 percentage points.