Arizona: Bennett seeks legal relief on proof of citizenship on voter registration forms | The Verde Independent

Not willing to maintain a dual registration system, Secretary of State Ken Bennett wants a court to order the federal Election Assistance Commission to modify its voter registration forms to demand proof of citizenship. In legal filings Wednesday, Bennett said he needs an immediate order to ensure that Arizona — and Kansas, which is seeking the same relief — are not denied “their sovereign and constitutional right to establish and enforce voter qualifications.’ Without the order, Bennett said the state will forced to register unqualified voters. The U.S. Supreme Court in June ruled that Arizona is required to accept the federally designed form even though it does not require the proof of citizenship that voters mandated in 2004. The justices, in a 7-2 ruling, said Congress was legally entitled to impose that mandate when it comes to federal elections. But Bennett concluded earlier this month there is a legal work-around: a dual voter registration system, one for those who can prove citizenship and can vote on all races, and a second for those without such proof who could vote only in federal contests. And he ordered counties to put that into place just weeks ago.

Editorials: Florida voter purge do-over remains a bad idea | Paula Dockery/Tallahassee Democrat

Here we go again. As we gear up for another election, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner has announced another attempt at purging the state’s voter rolls of non-U.S. citizens. Hark back to last year’s voter purge debacle, in which the state’s list of targeted non-U.S. citizens began at 182,000, shrank to 2,600, and was further reduced to 198. The county supervisors of election stopped the effort shortly before voting started for the presidential election. A mere 85 of Florida’s 12 million registered voters were removed from the rolls — hardly a matter requiring drastic action or worth risking disenfranchisement. Furthermore, it is unclear whether any of those individuals had actually voted. The 2012 voter purge was marred by faulty lists, heavy-handedness from Tallahassee, a disregard for the county election supervisors and a plethora of lawsuits and costly legal actions. Many supervisors were embarrassed to be part of the state’s sloppy and ill-timed efforts.

Kentucky: Republican State Senator Hits Breaks on Kentucky Felon Voting Rights | WFPL

A Republican leader in the Kentucky Senate says GOP members are not warming to the restoration of felon voting rights despite U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s support of the issue. The response comes days after Paul staffers said they had been in contact with state lawmakers about the voting rights of ex-convicts. Democratic Senator Gerald Neal of Louisville told WFPL he was beginning to see opposition to his proposal wane earlier this week. Neal’s bill would automatically restore the civil rights of certain convicted felons unless they committed an intentional killing, treason, bribery or a sex crime. Paul spokesman Dan Bayens said no specific bill has been discussed. However, GOP state senators appeared to be “more open to the conversation” than in years past he said. But Senate Republican Floor Leader Damon Thayer of Georgetown made it clear it’s too early to make predictions and that other issues remain a priority. “It’s way too early for pundits to start handicapping the chances of legislation that may or may not pass sometime between January and April when we adjourn the session,” he says. The GOP holds a 23-seat majority in the 38-member state Senate. The one independent caucuses with the Republicans.

New York: Court Lifts Limit on Contributing to Pro-Lhota PAC | New York Times

It looks as though the “super PAC” era is coming to New York. A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled that a conservative group supporting Joseph J. Lhota, the Republican nominee for mayor of New York City, can immediately begin accepting contributions of any size because New York State’s limit on donations to independent political committees is probably unconstitutional. The ruling, 12 days before the mayoral election, is not likely to change the dynamics of the race, given the wide lead of the Democratic candidate, Bill de Blasio, and a presumed reluctance by many potential big donors to donate to an underdog candidate this late in the game. But an end to limits on contributions to independent political groups could have a much bigger impact next year, when voters will decide whether to re-elect Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, and will determine which party controls the State Senate — a long-running battle in which independent spending could make a significant difference. “This could usher in an era where super PACs call the shots in campaigns all over the state, not just in the city,” said David Donnelly, the executive director of the Public Campaign Action Fund, which advocates public financing of elections.

North Carolina: Attorney General Takes Shots at the Laws He’s Obliged to Enforce | New York Times

The criticism could not have been much harsher: North Carolina’s Republican-led legislature had set out to undo 50 years of progress with a Tea Party-inspired “playground of extremist fantasies” that include tax giveaways to its richest residents and election law changes that make it harder for residents to register and vote. Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, has been very critical of several actions by the legislature. But the author of that scathing assessment in The Huffington Post last week was the North Carolina attorney general, Roy Cooper, a Democrat and the man whose job it is to enforce those laws, including the voting changes that have already become the subject of a federal lawsuit. His remarks brought a sharp rebuke from Gov. Pat McCrory and accusations from Republicans that Mr. Cooper is letting his ambition — he is widely expected to run against Mr. McCrory, a Republican, in 2016 — get in the way of his duties as attorney general. And the dispute between the two is a reminder of how deep and bitter the divide remains in a state still making sense of the fiercely conservative, boldly activist legislative session that ended in July. In a state long seen as a relatively moderate outlier in the South, the session was the first with a Republican governor and legislature since Reconstruction.

Tennessee: Supreme Court: Library Photo ID Can’t Be Used for Voting | Library Journal

A recent defeat in Tennessee Supreme Court ended any chance that photo identification cards issued by the Memphis Public Library can be used as voter ID—at least for now. But Memphis City Attorney Herman Morris says the yearlong legal battle produced at least one significant victory, and hinted at future challenges to the state law. Meanwhile, Memphis will continue to distribute library cards bearing photo IDs, an innovation that remains popular with patrons some 16 months after they first became available to residents. About 7,300 have been issued to date, Director of Libraries Keenon McCloy told LJ this week, and demand for them remains steady. The cards were created in in July 2012, shortly after Tennessee began requiring photo ID to vote. And while the cards were not expressly created to serve as voter ID, Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton was convinced they could and should serve that function, as well as others. “It’s a good idea, period,” Morris said of the cards, which debuted in August 2012. “It in fact was a need.”

Texas: What Impact the Texas Voter Identification Law Has on Women Voters | TIME

In Texas, where early voting for the Nov. 5 elections started on Monday, the state’s controversial photo ID law is being enforced for the first time as citizens cast their ballots. In 2012, the Department of Justice found that the law discriminated against minorities and low-income voters in the state — now there’s  growing concern that it places an unnecessary burden on women. Name changes that may have come as a result of marriage or divorce, reports say, may cause problems at the polls. On Tuesday, a local television station ran a story about a judge who faced an issue at the voting booth. “What I have used for voter registration and for identification for the last 52 years was not sufficient yesterday when I went to vote,” 117th District Court Judge Sandra Watts told Kiii News of South Texas. She had to sign an affidavit affirming her identity in order to vote because the last name on her voter registration card, her maiden name, didn’t match the last name on her license. “This is the first time I have ever had a problem voting,” she said. State officials say the issue, however, may not cause as many problems as the reports suggest. “We want to be very careful not to cause false alarm,” Alicia Pierce, a spokesperson for the Texas Secretary of State’s office, told TIME. “We’ve worked very closely with poll workers to create the right forms and the right training to make sure this isn’t an issue at the polls.”

Afghanistan: Only Woman Running for Afghan President Gets Disqualified | TIME

Khadija Ghaznawi says she knows exactly how to end the long-simmering conflict in Afghanistan: build more factories. A logistics company owner by profession and peace activist on the side, Ghaznawi says that if the government had been diligent about creating more jobs for Afghans, militants would have laid down their arms already. “The Afghan Taliban are also sick of fighting,” she says. “They haven’t gotten any of the opportunities from aid money that came into this country. If we provide work and education for their kids, they’ll stop.” That was one of the causes Ghaznawi was planning to champion as the only woman running for president in Afghanistan’s upcoming national elections — that is, until she was disqualified a few days ago. In 162 days, Afghan voters will choose their next president, in an election that stands to shape the future of this troubled nation in the year the U.S. completes its withdrawal after more than a decade-long occupation. But Ghaznawi will most likely not be on the ballot. On Oct. 22, Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced that over half the candidates who had put their names forward for the job did not qualify to run. Ghaznawi says she has no idea why she was booted off the list. “The elections commission didn’t tell me why,” she said. “I haven’t received one phone call… I’m very angry with the decision.”

Canada: B.C. isn’t ready for Internet voting: report | Vancouver Sun

Internet voting requires more fine tuning – especially when it comes to eliminating security risks – before it can be widely used in provincial and municipal elections, says an independent report released Wednesday by British Columbia’s elections agency. The report, produced by a panel appointed by Elections BC, also warns that online voting may not necessarily lead to higher voter turnout and cheaper elections. The 100-page report concludes it is still too early to move to Internet voting in B.C., including for next year’s municipal elections, with security remaining the top barrier. “At the current time, we’re not there yet for universal Internet voting,” B.C.’s chief electoral officer, Keith Archer, told a news conference in Victoria. “The overall conclusion that people will likely draw from this report is it’s cautionary. It suggests that there are still lots of challenges to be worked out in the application of Internet voting in a public election in B.C.”

Editorials: Vote offline for the ballot | The Globe and Mail

Should voting be as easy as point and click? No, says a report from British Columbia published this week, which makes a compelling case against Internet voting – at least any time soon. Voter turnout has been declining for decades. There’s a widespread worry that citizens in Western democracies are starting to exercise their electoral franchise later in life, and many never acquire the habit at all. Such disengagement is unsettling. Some blame an outdated voting system. Where’s my “Vote Now” app? But a panel headed by B.C.’s Chief Electoral Officer, Keith Archer, found no correlation between voter participation and online voting, in jurisdictions where that option is available. More and easier ways to vote do not necessarily equal more votes. And, surprisingly, older people are more likely than the young to use the Internet to vote.

Editorials: Internet voting is not the magic bullet | Les Leyne/Times Colonist

Elections B.C. will kick the idea around for a bit longer and is open to hearing more, but it looks as if Internet voting isn’t going anywhere. Security isn’t foolproof, as it needs to be. Cost savings are debatable, and it would likely actually wind up costing more. And most critically, there is no conclusive proof it would help increase the turnout rate in elections. That was one of the background motivations for considering the idea in the first place. The participation rate has been declining for a generation now. It ticked upward a couple of points in last May’s election, compared to the 2009 vote. But it is still scarcely more than half, which is abysmal. The idea that Internet voting could fix that is founded on a faulty premise. Experts have been trying to figure out the slumping turnout rate for years. Various authorities have delved deeply into it by all means possible, including polling non-voters on the reasons they opted out.

Czech Republic: Party System At Risk Of Unravelling In This Week’s Elections | Social Europe Journal

Czech voters go to the polls in early parliamentary elections on 25-26 October. The elections follow the collapse, amid personal and political scandal, of the centre-right government of Petr Nečas in June, and the subsequent failure of President Zeman’s handpicked caretaker administration to win a vote of confidence. At one level the election seems set to deliver a simple and straightforward verdict,: established opposition parties on the left will win, while governing right-wing parties will be heavily rejected by an electorate frustrated with austerity, stagnating living standards and sleaze. The main opposition Czech Social Democrats (ČSSD), most polls have suggested, will emerge as the clear winners with around 25-30 per cent of the vote, although the final polls published before voting have suggested that the party’s support was starting to slide. Meanwhile the hardline Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM) is likely to pull in 15-20 per cent.

Georgia (Sakartvelo): Uncertainty over Prime Minister’s role after Georgian election |

After this weekend’s election, when Georgia’s eccentric billionaire prime minister looks out from his futuristic residence high above the capital, he is all but certain to be the undisputed leader of this U.S.-allied country. And then, once his chosen candidate is installed as president, Bidzina Ivanishvili insists it will be time to step down. Ivanishvili, 57, is a lean man who exudes the confidence that comes from a self-made fortune and the belief that he has saved his country from the perceived sins of the outgoing president, Mikhail Saakashvili. In an interview Thursday with The Associated Press, Ivanishvili insisted that he will not try to run the government of this former Soviet republic from behind the scenes. But as Georgia’s richest man, he will retain enormous influence, and how he intends to use it remains one of the biggest questions in the country today. “Of course I will have influence on politics and the government, as every citizen will, but my influence will be bigger,” he told the AP. “But this will be healthy influence, and in no way will it happen from behind the curtains.”

Madagascar: Vote seeks to end crisis | IOL News

Madagascar will hold elections on Friday in an effort to end political tensions that erupted in a 2009 coup and lift the aid-dependent country out of poverty. The island nation, off Africa’s east coast in the Indian Ocean, plunged into turmoil after Andry Rajoelina, a former disc jockey and mayor of the capital Antananarivo, seized power with the help of the military. Ousted President Marc Ravalomanana went into exile in South Africa. The coup resulted in the suspension of much-needed foreign aid. Madagascar was suspended from the African Union and the 15-nation Southern African Development Community, or SADC, until a constitutionally elected government was restored. With 33 candidates running in the election, it could prove difficult for a clear winner to emerge in the first round. If none of the candidates garners more than 50 percent of the votes, the two top candidates will compete in a runoff scheduled for Dec. 20. Nine candidates, including three key politicians, were barred from taking part in the polls as part of a plan to resolve the political crisis. Former presidents Rajoelina and Didier Ratsiraka and former president Ravalomanana’s wife, Lalao, were excluded for failing to comply with the country’s electoral laws.