National: Federal panel urged to reform election rules | Philadelphia Inquirer

Ellen Kaplan delivered a blunt message Wednesday to members of a presidential blue-ribbon panel on election reform. The 2012 vote in Philadelphia was a “national embarrassment” spoiled by massive confusion, partisanship, and mismanagement, said Kaplan, policy director of the watchdog group Committee of Seventy. She pointed to numbers such as the 26,986 provisional ballots cast, more than 12,000 of them by registered voters who should have been allowed to use voting machines, and almost 100 Republican poll inspectors who “were not permitted to sit” by their Democratic counterparts and had to get court orders. “Perhaps,” she added, in what could be a touch of overstatement, “the worst-run election in the city’s history.”

National: Recall elections becoming routine around nation | Walla Walla Union-Bulletin

There was a time, not so long ago, when the phrase “permanent campaign” described a state of mind. Now, as the number of state legislators who find themselves facing recall efforts mounts, the permanent campaign is taking on a much more literal meaning. The recall election, once reserved for forcing out elected officials accused of crimes, ethics violations or gross misconduct, has become an overtly political tool — there’s even an app for recalls now. Since 2011, voters in four states have successfully mounted petition drives to recall state legislators over new laws curbing the influence of public unions or expanding the reach of background checks on gun purchasers. The number of recalls has spiked dramatically in recent years. Of the 32 successful recalls in the United States since 1911, one third — 11 — have taken place since 2011.

National: Federal Election Commission could allow Bitcoin campaign donations | Politico

Coming soon to a political campaign near you: Bitcoin donations? The Federal Election Commission is poised to determine rules governing donations made in Bitcoins and how they apply to political campaigns. Attorneys for Conservative Action Fund PAC asked the agency decide if political candidates and outside groups are allowed to accept the digital currency, in addition to U.S. dollars. “As increasing numbers of individuals trade in Bitcoin, political parties and candidates also wish to accept and spend this new currency,” Dan Backer of DB Capitol Strategies wrote in the request. The request lays out 24 technical questions for the FEC regarding the use of Bitcoin as political contributions. Backer told POLITICO that he expects that by 2014, many federal candidates will be interested in accepting the currency — and that many donors will demand it. “We see a real future for this, especially among libertarian-minded supporters,” Backer said.

Editorials: The Voting Rights Act decision as a clear example of judicial activism | Constitution Daily

Last week, Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice would sue Texas over its new voting ID law and redistricting plan. Vowing that the U.S. wouldn’t allow the recent Supreme Court decision gutting Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act to invite states to suppress minority voting rights, Holder promised that the Obama administration would sue under a different provision of the Voting Rights Act—Section 2—which the Court didn’t address in the case. As Molly Redden has reported, the lawsuits face an uphill battle because courts have interpreted Section 2 of the voting rights act to ban only voting practices that are intentionally discriminatory and have established a high burden of proof for intentional discrimination. There is, however, another, deeper reason that the Section 2 suits are unlikely to succeed: several of the conservative justices on the Supreme Court have expressed deep skepticism about the constitutionality of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act itself.

Editorials: The Stranglehold on Our Politics | Elizabeth Drew/The New York Review of Books

Most of the electorate can’t be bothered with midterm elections, and this has had large consequences—none of them good—for our political system and our country. Voting for a president might be exciting or dutiful, worth troubling ourselves for. But the midterms, in which a varying number of governorships are up for election, as well as the entire House of Representatives and one third of the Senate, just don’t seem worth as much effort. Such inaction is a political act in itself, with major effects. In the past ten elections, voter turnout for presidential contests—which requires a tremendous and expensive effort by the campaigns—has ranged from 51.7 to 61.6 percent, while for the midterms it’s been in the high thirties. Turnout was highest for the two midterms in which the Republicans made their greatest gains: in 1994, when Clinton was president, it was 41.1 percent and in 2010 it was 41.6 percent. In 2006, when Bush was president, the Democrats took over the House and Senate and won most of the governorships, turnout was the next highest, 40.4 percent. The quality of the candidates, the economy, and many unexpected issues of course determine the atmosphere of an election; but in the end turnout is almost always decisive.

Alabama: Dollars And Votes: Breaking Down The Cost Of The September 10th Special Election | WHNT

We’re just a week away from Madison County’s special election to decide on combining the tax collector and tax assessor offices into a revenue commissioner position.Proponents say it will save money, but the price tag for the special election alone is pretty steep. Madison County Probate Judge Tommy Ragland says this special election should cost around $300,000. Getting all those voting machines out there costs money.  For one, Ragland notes the county doesn’t own them.  The machines have to be rented from a private company, the ballots purchased from them as well.

Florida: Miami-Dade elections department plans software update to catch phony absentee-ballot requests | Miami Herald

Despite uncovering thousands of fraudulent absentee-ballot requests submitted online last year, Miami-Dade County will not follow recommendations made by a grand jury to make the elections website more secure by requiring user logins and passwords. Instead, the elections department has worked with its software vendor to try to beef up the system on the back end, making it easier for elections staff to review ballot requests to flag suspect submissions. The change, which will take effect next year, will not cost the county any more money. Requiring user logins and passwords would have required an initial investment of about $843,000, with a potential recurring cost of about $743,000 in every major election, Elections Supervisor Penelope Townsley said. Legitimate voters might have been dissuaded to request ballots if the online system was made more cumbersome, she added. “It would have also deterred voters,” she told the Miami Herald on Wednesday.

Iowa: ACLU seeks to permanently block rule on voter registration | Des Moines Register

The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa has asked a Polk County judge to permanently block a state rule guiding the removal of ineligible voters from the rolls. The request for summary judgment in the lawsuit against Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schulz is the latest turn in a case that has gone on for nearly a year. If granted, the rule that Schultz’s office enacted earlier this year outlining a process for identifying and removing noncitizens from the state voter rolls would be invalidated. The ACLU argues Schultz does not have the power as secretary of state to write rules on such voting matters.

Editorials: Block Texas voter ID in time for fall election | San Antonio Express-News

Equal access to the polls is a concept all Texans can hold dear. Which is why all Texans should welcome a Justice Department lawsuit seeking to block voter ID, which a previous panel of judges already found adversely affected minority voters. Our only complaint with the Justice Department complaint is that it does not seek injunctive relief, though this might come later. At the moment, voter ID is still in effect for the Nov. 5 election, early voting for which begins Oct. 21. The Justice Department might reason that federal judges in San Antonio will rule quickly on a separate case involving Texas’ 2011 redistricting maps. But, these judges are being asked to rule on a seldom-used portion of the Voting Rights Act — Section 3(c). A decision might not come quickly enough. Such a ruling would mean that Texas would have to get its voter ID law precleared by a panel of federal judges or the Justice Department. The state would surely appeal.

Washington: Washington state upgrades voter registration program | Bothell Reporter

The Office of the Secretary of State and Washington’s 39 County Auditors are breaking new ground in the coming days as they begin updating over 53,000 voter registration records and mail voter registration information to more than 140,000 potentially eligible, but unregistered residents. Updating such a large number of records and conducting focused registration education recently has become possible, thanks to the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC). ERIC is a non-profit organization that assists states with improving the accuracy of America’s voter rolls and increasing access to voter registration for all eligible citizens. It is governed and managed by states that choose to join, and was formed by seven states in 2012 with assistance from The Pew Charitable Trusts. The seven participating states include Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, Utah, Virginia and Washington. More states are expected to join. “ERIC provides states with a powerful new set of tools that improve the accuracy of voter rolls and expand access to voter registration, achieving both goals more efficiently,” Secretary of State Kim Wyman said.

Wisconsin: Proposed election law changes raise concerns about partisanship | Journal Sentinel

Republicans in the state Senate are looking to overhaul numerous election laws this fall, including one measure that would allow poll workers to serve in communities other than where they live. Critics contended at a public hearing Wednesday that the change could lead to out-of-town partisans replacing poll workers who have long worked on election day in the community where they live. Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin), the author of the bills, said she does not intend to replace local poll workers with people from other communities and would consider changes to her proposals. Lazich is the chairwoman of the Senate Elections and Urban Affairs Committee, and she presided over a hearing on her bills Wednesday. Other bills she drafted would give governors more leeway in whom they appoint to the state’s elections and ethics board; require poll workers to record what type of document voters show to prove residency; and change how ballot containers are sealed. Under current law, poll workers generally must come from the municipality in which they work, and often must live in the voting ward.

Australia: Postal vote details raises privacy fears | 9News

Some Australians are refusing to use the Australian Electoral Commission’s postal voting forms because they require personal details to be printed on the back of the returning envelope. Voters must provide their name, address and signature, together with the signature of a witness on the envelope which contains their completed ballot papers. If the person has changed their name or address since they last voted, those details must also be added to the form together with a phone number and the town or city in which they were born. One Sydney voter, who asked for his name to be withheld, told ninemsn he was shocked such details would be visible and feared the system made it too easy to facilitate identity theft. He believes the practice goes against the widely held belief that your personal details should be guarded closely to avoid them being used for other purposes.

Maldives: After ‘coup’ violence, Maldives faces democracy test on Saturday | Hindustan Times

The Indian Ocean archipelago of the Maldives goes to the polls on Saturday for a presidential election that will test its young democracy 18 months after a violent change in leadership. The outcome and conduct of the election also has regional repercussions, with the sea-faring nation becoming a new area of competition between India and China. Recently, a high-level team of Indian observers left for Maldives to monitor the poll process and meet representatives of political parties. The team, which includes former chief election commissioners JM Lyngdoh, BB Tandon and N Gopalaswami and former Indian High Commissioner to Maldives SM Gavai, will visit polling stations spread across different islands. “India is committed to strengthening the institutions of democracy in the Maldives. In this context, the Election Commission of India is working closely with the Elections Commission of Maldives to further strengthen its capacity,” said a statement from the Indian High Commission here. “India is also arranging for the training of Maldivian Judges in India and working closely with the Majlis (parliament),” it said.

New Zealand: Online voting to be trialled in 2016 local elections | NZ Herald News

Online voting is set to be trialled at the 2016 local elections in a bid to boost turnouts. Porirua and Manawatu are likely to be the first areas where people can cast votes electronically, Local Government Minister Chris Tremain said today. The trial would be made possible by the passing of the Electoral Amendment Bill, introduced last week. That would allow voters to enrol online using the government’s RealMe online identity verification service. … Mr Tremain said robust regulations needed to be in place so voters had trust and confidence in the system.

Zimbabwe: Opposition Party Rejects SADC’s Final Election Report | Bernama

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) party has rejected the final report of Southern African Development Community (SADC)’s Election Observer Mission (SEOM) validating Zimbabwe’s July 31 polls as free, fair and credible. SEOM leader Tanzanian Foreign Minister Bernard Membe on Monday delivered the final report which stated the Zimbabwean election had been held in a credible manner, Zimnbabwean news agency New Ziana reported. But former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s party said the mission had failed to take note of various irregularities which it deemed were too many for the election to be given credence.

New Zealand: Online system can’t win any votes | Brian Rudman/NZ Herald News

Talk about admitting defeat before the race is over. Instead of trying to inspire voters to get out and do their democratic duty in a few weeks, Local Government Minister Chris Tremain has as good as conceded turn-out is going to be poor. This week, he’s announced a trial of online voting in the 2016 local authority elections as a way “to encourage people to become involved in the democratic process.” Voting via the internet, he says, “will be more convenient and appeal to young voters. It will also make it easier for people with disabilities to vote”. Local Government New Zealand president Lawrence Yule echoed these wishful hopes. But overseas trials don’t appear to back their optimism. In a 2009 poll for the Honolulu Neighbourhood Board, for example, there was an 83 per cent drop in voter participation when Oahu voters had to vote by telephone or internet, rather than cast a paper ballot. But even if internet voting was served up as another option, alongside postal and polling booth voting, and did prove to be a hit with the young, there’s no evidence to suggest your e-vote will be safe and secure as it wings its way from your laptop to Election Central, or that when it arrives, it won’t be prey to malware, or direct external interference.