Hawaii: Judge to determine if Hawaii primary election system is ‘severe burden’ to free association | Associated Press

A federal judge said at a hearing that he will likely rule in favor of a lawsuit challenging Hawaii’s open primary election if he finds there’s a “severe burden” on the First Amendment right to free association. Judge J. Michael Seabright said at Monday’s hearing that the case could ultimately end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. The Democratic Party of Hawaii’s lawsuit claims the primary system allowing every registered voter to participate in the party’s nomination process is tantamount to forced political association and is unconstitutional. The party wants to ensure Democrats are selected at the primary stage by those willing to identify as Democrats. “What the party does not want is anonymous persons deciding its candidates,” Tony Gill, an attorney representing the party, told the judge.

Editorials: McCutcheon and the two-pronged attack on voting rights | Facing South

Rev. William J. Barber, the most visible civil rights leader in North Carolina today, stood in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. this week as the court heard arguments on whether campaign contribution limits are constitutional. The president of the North Carolina conference of the NAACP and architect of the Moral Monday movement was speaking at a rally organized by a coalition of groups asking the court to maintain the limits as a way of protecting democracy from corruption. While he was there to discuss McCutcheon v. FEC, Barber also referenced another case. “A few months ago, this court, on a day that shall live in infamy, gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the crown jewel of the Second Reconstruction movement my parents and grandparents fought for,” said Barber. An “extremist anti-democracy faction” in North Carolina’s state legislature, he said, “celebrated the infamous Shelby decision by rolling out the worst voter suppression bill in the country, and they are just waiting to see what the court will do here.”

Editorials: Don’t split the baby, Chief Justice Roberts | Michael McGough/Los Angeles Times

Going into Tuesday’s Supreme Court oral argument, supporters of limits on campaign contributions were afraid, very afraid, that a majority of the court would signal that it was ready to declare them unconstitutional. Based on questions and comments from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., widely viewed as the swing vote in the case, their trepidation seems at least partly justified. The issue before the court is whether it violates the 1st Amendment to limit donors to an “aggregate” limit on what they can donate to all candidates and party committees combined; the current ceiling is $123,200. Shaun McCutcheon, a Republican donor from Alabama, has challenged the aggregate limit, though not the “base” limit on what a donor can give an individual candidate ($2,600 in the current election cycle).

Editorials: An upside-down campaign finance system | Jennifer Rubin/Washington Post

The Supreme Court argument in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission on aggregate limits on campaign donations was odd, to say the least. Justices who were inclined to uphold the limit seemed to agree that the limits on what an individual can give to all candidates and the national and state parties collectively is there to prevent a few billionaires from controlling elections. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for example, asked, “Is there any information on what percentage of all contributors are able to contribute over the aggregate?” Justice Elena Kagan later echoed this concern: “Now, having written a check for $3.5 million to a single party’s candidates, are you suggesting that that party and the members of that party are not going to owe me anything, that I won’t get any special treatment?” The solicitor general asserted the same: “Aggregate limits combat corruption both by blocking circumvention of individual contribution limits and, equally fundamentally, by serving as a bulwark against a campaign finance system dominated by massive individual contributions in which the dangers of quid pro quo corruption would be obvious and inherent and the corrosive appearance of corruption would be overwhelming.”

Voting Blogs: Mr. McCutcheon—and the Parties—Before the Court | More Soft Money Hard Law

The Justices yesterday pondered and puzzled over various hypotheticals about how large donations can flood into the political system. All advocates were highly able and performed well, but the discussion never came to a clear agreement about what the law would allow, or when its proper enforcement would require the Federal Election Commission to challenge underhanded activity. There was uncertainty about contribution limits and the various uses of the terms “transfers” and “contributions”; disagreement about how far the earmarking rules reached; distinctions blurred between “hard” and “soft” money; and differences over which schemes for evading the limits could be considered “realistic” predictions of political behavior. Justice Breyer offered one hypothetical and a view of the legal implications, then conceded he or his law clerk might have it wrong and would have to review the rules again. Justice Breyer also had views of how easily circumvention could be accomplished and how open to public view it was. It was “pretty easy,” he said, “to have not one person control … 4,000 PACs,” and “if you want to say, is this a reality? Turn on your television set or internet. Because we found instances, without naming names, where it certainly is a reality.” Transcript of Oral Argument at 8, McCutcheon v. FEC, No. 12-536 (Oct. 8, 2013).

Arizona: Counties: At least 1,400 affected by AG ruling on voting/citizenship proof | Cronkite News

At least 1,400 Arizonans would be allowed to vote only in federal elections under a rule announced this week by Attorney General Tom Horne, according to a survey of county election officials. The rule requires counties to maintain one list for voters who used state registration forms or provided proof of citizenship and one for those who used a federal form and didn’t provide evidence of citizenship. Horne issued the opinion at the request of Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who asked how to comply with both a state law requiring proof of citizenship to vote and a U.S. Supreme Court decision that said the state cannot require people who use the federal form to provide additional proof of citizenship. Horne’s office said Arizona has filed suit to change the federal form to allow the state to require proof of citizenship. In Maricopa County, Recorder Helen Purcell said around 900 people used the federal form but didn’t include additional proof of citizenship, such as a driver’s license number.

Arkansas: Voter ID Law Rules Approved, ACLU Promises Challenge | Arkansas Matters

The American Civil Liberties Union renewed its stated intention Wednesday to challenge a new law in Arkansas requiring voters to present a photo ID when appearing at the polls. Staff attorney for ACLU of Arkansas, Holly Dickson, told reporters a challenge in state court is coming but declined to provide a specific timeline.  The new law takes effect January 1. “We firmly believe that this voter ID law is not consistent with the Arkansas constitution,” Dickson says. “The Arkansas constitution has greater protections for voters than almost any other state in the nation and we take that seriously.”

California: Study finds downsides for off-year local elections | Los Angeles Times

Off-year municipal elections like those held this year in Los Angeles reduce overall voter turnout and appear to draw disproportionately small numbers of voters from minority groups, according to a study by the Greenlining Institute to be released Monday. “Our analysis strongly suggests that holding local elections in odd years … almost certainly skews the makeup of the electorate,” said Michelle Romero, director of the group’s Claiming our Democracy program. In addition, holding local elections separately from state and federal elections raises per-voter costs, the study found.

Florida: State Defends New Effort to Clean Up Voter Rolls | New York Times

Paving the way for a new attempt to remove noncitizens from voter rolls, Florida’s election chief tried to stoke confidence on Wednesday in the revamped plan before a largely skeptical crowd in immigrant-heavy South Florida. Maria Matthews of Florida’s Division of Elections and Ken Detzner, the secretary of state, met with election supervisors. For Ken Detzner — Florida’s secretary of state and the man in charge of elections — the meeting’s combative tone was the latest measure of the distrust engendered by the state’s move last year to try to weed out noncitizens from registration lists months before the polls opened. The Republican-driven decision to review the rolls took on political overtones because Hispanics in Florida vote largely for Democrats. Mr. Detzner, capping a five-city tour, defended his decision — if not the breakdown in the process last year — saying it is his obligation to ensure the integrity of the state’s voter rolls. Only American citizens are permitted to vote in elections.

Massachusetts: Lawmakers start push for early voting | Lowell Sun Online

The Legislature on Wednesday advanced a constitutional amendment aimed at facilitating early voting and more widespread use of absentee voting in Massachusetts, but Senate President Therese Murray said the lengthy amendment process is just one option available to reform supporters. “I would like to see it happen. I would like to see it come through as legislation so it could be done sooner. A lot of people are disenfranchised, particularly people who live in my communities who travel to work sometimes north of Boston, leave before the polls open and get home when the polls are closed,” Murray told the News Service after she gaveled her proposal forward and then closed down the convention until next March. Lawmakers meeting in a brief Constitutional Convention Wednesday advanced the constitutional amendment (S 12) that would allow registered voters in Massachusetts to cast their ballots at polling places during the 10 days leading up to a scheduled election. The amendment would also allow any voter to request an absentee ballot, regardless of the circumstance.

Minnesota: State gets ready for electronic voting roster test run as officials examine costs, benefits | Star Tribune

Voters who show up at some Minnesota polling places next month will encounter sign-in stations equipped with iPads or bar code scanners as part of an experiment designed to test whether more technology would cut wait times, save money and inspire more confidence in the election process. The electronic roster, or e-poll book, pilot project will take place in fewer than 10 cities and counties, but the results are being closely monitored by election officials across the state because lawmakers could broaden the technology’s use — if the price is right. On that score, a task force of lawmakers, elections administrators and others watching over the project met Wednesday to discuss programming challenges, hardware costs and data security. “We’re not rushing into this,” said Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, the state’s chief elections official. The rosters are an alternative to paper sign-in sheets at precincts. They contain the same type of information: registration data, an indication if someone already voted or has had a challenged registration status.

Kansas: Kris Kobach laying groundwork for two-tier voting system in Kansas | Wichita Eagle

With court action over the state’s proof-of-citizenship voting law looming, Secretary of State Kris Kobach is laying groundwork for a system that would allow some voters to vote in all elections while others could only vote for Congress and presidential tickets. Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, an opponent of the proof-of-citizenship law, said he received confirmation from the Department of Legislative Research this week that Kobach is moving forward with the plan to limit voters who follow federal registration rules to voting only in federal elections. Separately, a memo to all the state’s county election officials outlines procedures for identifying and tracking voters who use the federal form and creating a separate category for them in voting databases. “Many counties probably have had very few federal forms submitted over the years,” said the memo from state Election Director Brad Bryant, dated July 31. “Regardless of the number, beginning now you must track which voter registration applicants in your county have applied using the federal form since January 1, 2013.

Virginia: Purging voter rolls is tricky business | HamptonRoads.com

State elections officials have told local registrars to remove names from their voter rolls based on data from an information-sharing program used by 26 states. According to the program, some 57,000 voters have registered to cast ballots in Virginia and other states. If all of those voters were, indeed, ineligible to vote in Virginia, they should be kicked off the roll. But all of them are not. And that’s why the Democratic Party of Virginia has turned to the courts to block the effort. The party contends the lists include names of people who shouldn’t be removed and that state officials haven’t provided sufficient guidance, or established a consistent process, to assist local registrars in properly removing names. Lawrence C. Haake III, general registrar in Republican-heavy Chesterfield County, has offered support for Democrats’ case in a sworn statement submitted to the federal court. “The list sent to us from the (State Board of Elections) is clearly inaccurate and unreliable,” Haake said, describing the information-sharing program as new and saying that “its accuracy is not proven.”

Australia: Senate recount ordered in Western Australia | The Australian

The Australian Electoral Commission has ordered a recount in the desperately tight Senate race in Western Australia. The recount of more than a million votes follows an appeal by Greens senator Scott Ludlam, who lost his Senate seat in the initial count, and the Australian Sports Party’s Wayne Dropulich. An earlier request for a partial recount was refused. WA Electoral Commissioner Ed Killesteyn said he had now decided to agree to a recount of WA Senate ballot papers where electors had marked their ballots above the line. This would involve over 96 per cent of votes, or approximately 1.25 million of the 1.3 million formal votes. The recount will also re-examine informal votes. Mr Killesteyn said the closeness of the count was not in itself the basis for a recount.

Azerbaijan: Oops: election results released before voting had even started | Washington Post

Azerbaijan’s big presidential election, held on Wednesday, was anticipated to be neither free nor fair. President Ilham Aliyev, who took over from his father 10 years ago, has stepped up intimidation of activists and journalists. Rights groups are complaining about free speech restrictions and one-sided state media coverage. The BBC’s headline for its story on the election reads “The Pre-Determined President.” So expectations were pretty low. Even still, one expects a certain ritual in these sorts of authoritarian elections, a fealty to at least the appearance of democracy, if not democracy itself. So it was a bit awkward when Azerbaijan’s election authorities released vote results – a full day before voting had even started.

Guinea: Poll observers report voting irregularities | BBC

International election observers in Guinea have voiced concern over “irregularities” during the first parliamentary poll since the 2008 coup. A joint statement said “breaches” were observed in eight out of 38 constituencies. The opposition coalition has already called for the 28 September vote to be annulled over “fraud”. Some provisional results have yet to be released by the electoral commission 11 days since the vote. Most of the 38 directly elected seats in the 114-member parliament have been announced, but not the 76 chosen by proportional representation.

Editorials: Supreme Court of India – Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails Must Be Used | James Tyre/EFF

Three years ago, I wrote of the controversy surrounding the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in India. A study by 2010 EFF Pioneer Award winner Hari Prasad and others showed that the EVMs could be hacked. For his troubles, Prasad was charged criminally for alleged theft of the EVM that was studied. The charges against Prasad have long since been dropped, but the controversy surrounding India’s electronic voting machines continues. Some have advocated that the EVMs be abandoned completely, and that India should go back to using old fashioned paper ballots. Others have claimed that the EVMs can be made more secure, but only if a Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) is added. For a significant time, the Election Commission of India continued to maintain that the EVMs were tamper proof. However, a number of different lawsuits were brought challenging the use of EVMs without VVPATs. The most significant was a public interest litigation action brought byDr. Subramanian Swamy. Yesterday, the Supreme Court of India ruled in favor of Dr. Swamy, reversing an earlier ruling by the High Court of Delhi.

Maldives: Court’s argument for annulling election “materially baseless” | Minivan News

The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and the Maldives Democracy Network (MDN) have issued a joint statement expressing concern over the Supreme Court’s 4:3 decision to annul the first round of the 2013 presidential election. “The unjustifiable delay and judicially forceful suspension of the second round of the election, due on 28 September, indicates an encroachment of the judiciary over the powers of the Elections Commission, an independent constitutional body answerable to the Parliament of the Maldives,” read the statement. The statement described the court’s verdict as being founded on “materially baseless arguments”, after the first round was “applauded as a success by the international community.”

Pakistan: Election fraud: The curious case of magnetic ink | The Express Tribune

The Election Commission of Pakistan has decided to take action against those who defied clear instructions to use approved magnetic ink for thumb impressions of voters on counterfoil of ballot papers, The Express Tribune has learnt. The decision was taken after the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) apprised the commission that instead of the specified magnetic ink required for biometric verification, regular ink was used during polling in two National Assembly constituencies of Karachi, NA-256 and NA-258. While post-election tribunals are hearing complaints of rigging, the tribunal dealing with Karachi region sent a record of the cast votes at some polling stations to Nadra for verification. In NA-256, 57,000 ballot papers could not be verified because the thumb impressions on these ballots were marked with regular ink. Of those that could be verified, there were 5,893 duplicate or multiple votes cast. Over 11,000 used counterfoils had invalid CNIC numbers written.

Virginia: Democrats say thousands purged from voter rolls | Washington Post

A federal lawsuit filed by the Virginia Democratic Party claims that tens of thousands of voters in the state may be kept from casting a ballot in November after their names were wrongly placed on a list meant to weed out fraud. The court action names Gov. Robert McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II as defendants and alleges that there were political motivations behind a “purge list” of about 57,000 voters whose names were also found on voter rolls in other states. The lawsuit, which comes as the contentious governor’s race enters its last month, contends that the list is inaccurate and that many of those voters are eligible to vote Nov. 5 in Virginia. Filed Oct. 1 in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., the complaint seeks to stop state and local election officials from striking those names from voter rolls. The names were discovered as part of a data-sharing program with 25 other states, which the lawsuit contends is “deeply flawed.”