National: Republican Party Weighs a 2016 Shakeup With ‘Midwestern Primary’ | The Daily Beast

The national Republican Party is considering a number of major changes to its presidential nominating process to avoid a repeat of the debacles of 2012, according to several party officials. Most significantly, the party is considering holding a “Midwestern primary” featuring Great Lakes states such as Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin that would come immediately after the votes in the traditional early primary states. Also being weighed and thought likely to be approved when the Republican National Committee meets in early 2014 is a plan to shorten the primary season considerably by holding the party’s convention in July, almost as soon as the last primary ballots are cast. The move toward a “Midwestern Super Tuesday” after the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida appears aimed in part at wresting control of the nominating process from social conservatives in the South in an effort to produce a nominee more likely to carry the election in November. Nearly all the “Rust Belt” states have fallen into Democratic hands in recent elections, and GOP officials believe that showering them with more resources throughout the primary process—and ensuring that an eventual nominee is broadly popular there—could flip the Midwest into the Republican column in November.

National: Democrats tread carefully on voting rights bill | The Hill

Democrats in both chambers are working behind the scenes to draft legislation to re-install the Voting Rights Act protections shot down by the Supreme Court over the summer. But in a sign of the delicate nature of the topic, Senate Democrats are taking care not to rush ahead of the House, for fear of sinking the bill’s chances in the GOP-controlled lower chamber. Instead, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is working with House Democrats and a small contingent of House Republicans – notably former Judiciary Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (Wis.), who championed the 2006 VRA reauthorization – in an effort to defuse the partisan politics surrounding the thorny issue and forge a bill that has the best chance of becoming law. “We’ve had hearings and now we’re just trying to quietly get some support, because I don’t want to bring up something that doesn’t go anywhere,” Leahy said Thursday.

Editorials: Digital election reforms will encourage participation in our democratic process | The Buffalo News

Another Election Day has come and gone, giving us a chance to consider an unresolved issue. That is, how to improve the American voting system. We are still operating under some obsolete rules and procedures. Those need to change if we ever hope to reverse the woeful turnouts of recent elections and ensure that all eligible citizens are able to register and vote without undue barriers. The proposed Voter Empowerment Act of 2013 has a component called Voter Registration Modernization that is intended to bring the American voting system into the 21st century. It is based on proposals from the Brennan Center for Justice, a legal advocacy group in New York. It requires the government to take responsibility for making sure that every eligible voter can become registered and remain that way. Modernizing voter registration, securely, might involve electronic, online and same-day registration. The bill has other aspects that would need more discussion, but the part dealing with technology seems clear-cut.

Florida: Detzner claims one of “main functions” of SAVE is to check voter registration. But that’s not what DHS data shows. | Miami Herald

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner has been on a public relations mission to defend his plan to use federal Homeland Security data to search for noncitizens on the voting rolls. The key to the revamped process is using a federal resource of data, called the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or SAVE. Detzner defended the use of SAVE for voter registration purposes during a Nov. 4 hearing before the Senate committee on ethics and elections. He said using SAVE to check voter registration is one of its primary uses.

Iowa: Polk County judge suspends voter fraud rules | The Des Moines Register

Controversial rules governing voter fraud investigations will remain suspended until the conclusion of a lawsuit challenging their legality. A Polk County judge on Wednesday issued a temporary injunction against implementation of the rules. The move is a positive development for the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa, which brought the suit against Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz. At issue are rules written by Schultz’s office guiding the process by which the state may verify a voter’s eligibility and strip the voting rights of those found to be ineligible.

Ohio: Debate Heating Up Again Over Voter ID in Ohio | Northeast Ohio Public Radio

Republican State Rep. John Becker says voter fraud is a problem in Ohio. “You know the issue is there has been some documented issues of fraud going on,” Becker said. “There’s a perception that having voter ID would go a long way to eliminate some of the current fraud that we know of, and what might be more concerning is the fraud that we don’t know of, you know what’s slipping through the cracks.” Becker’s photo ID bill, which was introduced earlier this year, would require Ohio voters to show a valid driver’s license or state-issued identification card before casting a ballot. He says his bill makes sure low-income Ohioans who do not have those types of identification could get them free of charge. “It does provide for a free photo ID for anybody who can’t afford it and they are at or below the federal poverty level,” Becker said. Becker’s plan has the support of Chris Long, the president of the Ohio Christian Alliance. And Long said recent polling shows it has the support of most Ohioans too.

Ohio: Jon Husted makes pitch for overhaul of Ohio’s redistricting process with emphasis on compact, competitive districts |

Secretary of State Jon Husted said Thursday that the process for drawing legislative district boundaries encourages excess partisanship and shuts out voices from those in the political minority. Husted, addressing the state’s Constitutional Modernization Commission, told the panel he thinks the process needs to be changed, and changed quickly. The goal, he said, should be to have an issue on the ballot in 2014. “I believe that redistricting reform, if done correctly, can be the most important reform to the Constitution in generations, because it has the potential to fix a broken democracy,” Husted said. Overhauling the process is something Husted has sought dating back to his days in the General Assembly, including his tenure as House speaker. Presently the Republicans, Husted’s own party, have a stronghold on key state offices and large majorities in both chambers in the Legislature. What he’s proposing could reduce that dominance.

Virginia: Attorney General race could end up in General Assembly | Washington Times

A razor-thin margin in the Virginia attorney general’s race could ultimately put the decision about a winner before the General Assembly — but the rarely used strategy of contesting an election comes with its own political consequences, analysts say. With Democrat Mark R. Herring leading Republican Mark D. Obenshain by 0.007 percent of the total statewide votes, whichever candidate is trailing when the state certifies the election results Nov. 25 is all but certain to call for a recount. And depending on the results, the candidates could conceivably contest the election. Virginia law gives the General Assembly wide latitude to act after hearing a candidate’s case. Lawmakers have the authority to reject the appeal, to order a new election or even to declare a winner — whether it is the candidate who held the lead or the candidate who contested the election. But the bar for success is extremely high. The law states that a candidate must detail “objections to the conduct or results of the election accompanied by specific allegations which, if proven true, would have a probable impact on the outcome of the election.”

Wisconsin: Assembly approves changes to voting hours, ID law | Journal Sentinel

In a late-night session Thursday, Republicans in the state Assembly approved measures to reinstate Wisconsin’s voter ID law, tighten early voting hours, limit the ability to recall elected officials and restrict access to the site of a proposed iron mine in the North Woods. They also took a first step toward amending the state constitution to require members of the state Supreme Court to choose the chief justice, rather than having that post automatically go to the most senior justice. Legislators from the two parties had been working together to move through a jam-packed agenda by midnight, but bitter disputes developed late Thursday that threatened to send the session into the early morning hours. Tensions flared after Democrats attempted to take up a bill honoring the children killed last year at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Republicans rejected taking that up and then advanced a bill creating an anti-abortion license plate.

Wisconsin: Assembly Republicans push through recall, photo ID, absentee voting measures | Associated Press

Assembly Republicans used the final regular session day of the year Thursday to push their proposals that would make it more difficult to remove public officials from office, require photo identification at the polls and limit hours of in-person absentee voting. Democrats, who opposed all the measures but didn’t have the votes to stop them, argued against the changes as an infringement on voter rights and attempt to quash Democratic supporters. Republican leaders defended the proposals, saying they would protect the integrity of the election process by allowing recalls only when those targeted have committed a serious crime, combat fraud by requiring photo identification and install a more uniform system for in-person absentee voting hours statewide. The Assembly isn’t the last stop for any of the hot-button elections issues. All would also have to pass the Republican-controlled Senate, and the change to the recall law for statewide officials would be put to a statewide vote. The soonest that could happen is 2015. The recall measure passed 53-39 with all Democrats opposed.

Editorials: Chilean elections show a new political dynamism | Simon Escoffier/Al Jazeera

Chile’s presidential elections are due to be held on November 17 in a  special political setting. Since the return to democracy in 1988, Chile’s institutional politics have always been divided into two powerful party coalitions: the Concertacion (centre and left-wing parties), and the Chilean Alliance (right-wing parties). Since 2006, and especially during the last few years (during Sebastian Pinera’s current presidency), new arrangements of citizenship brought into question this entrenched political order. By citizenship, I mean a group’s access to expressing their political rights through institutional political representation. Therefore, citizenship expresses how much people feel represented by political institutions. How Chileans relate to the state and other institutions has changed in the past years, and this election expresses those shifts. This election is historically unique because it brought to the fore new parties and novel independent candidates. Topics never before discussed by presidential candidates have been addressed. These new socio-political developments are particularly visible on the left.

Nepal: Elections in Nepal overshadowed by protests | Deutsche Welle

In an attempt to disrupt the upcoming national poll, an alliance of 33 opposition parties in Nepal recently called for a transport blockade, demanding that the current interim administration be disbanded and a new multi-party government be formed to oversee elections at a later date. The group believes the November 19 vote will not be fair if it is overseen by the Chief Justice heading the current caretaker government. But the blockade – set to last until election day – hasn’t gone quite as planned. After thousands of drivers across the country defied the strike, opposition activists resorted to violence, torching cars, forcing businesses to close and bringing much of the South Asian nation to a standstill. The incident is just the latest in a string of political upheavals, exposing the increased level of polarization in one of the world’s youngest democracies. “The bandhs, or strikes, are a typical tool used in Nepal to compel other political parties into granting concessions by paralyzing economic activity,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy program of the US-based Brookings Institution. “Every time the moment of taking big decisions arrives, Nepalese politicians pull out the bandh ploy,” she told DW, adding that this pattern had been repeated over the past years, but especially in the run-up to May 2012, when the fourth deadline to pass a new constitution was to expire.

Voting Blogs: Tech, Training, and Tricks: Why We Should Expect a Good Deal More than “Nothing” from the President’s Commission | Heather Gerken/Election Law Blog

Jonathan Bernstein has insisted that we should “expect nothing” from the president’s electoral administration commission, headed by Bob Bauer and Ben Ginsberg.  It’s not a bad prediction for any pundit, because “nothing” is pretty much what we’ve been getting out of Washington for a good long while.  Moreover, I wasn’t sure that anyone was more cynical than I am about the possibility of election reform, so it’s nice to have company.  As I’ve written elsewhere, getting “from here to there” with election reform is incredibly difficult in the current political climate.  Nonetheless, I think that Bernstein is wrong and that it’s worth saying why.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I have occasionally been asked by the commission to provide technical expertise and, like most of the people in my field, know and respect both Bauer and Ginsberg). Your view of the commission will depend on what you think it’s realistic to expect on the reform front.  Bernstein, much to his credit, candidly admits that he wasn’t sure what President Obama should have done in the wake of the 2012 election.  He suggests that Obama should have pushed for legislation in the hope of slipping it into an omnibus bill, although he ruefully admits it “probably would have died.”  (On that prediction, I’d just omit the “probably.”) Or perhaps, says Bernstein, Obama should have pushed to draft “model legislation” for the states.  (This doesn’t strike me as any more likely to succeed; it’s hard to see why state legislators will pass meaningful reform given that they are no less self-interested than members of Congress.)  Bernstein nonetheless thinks that a dead bill that squeaked through the Senate or model legislation for the states will do more to reform our system than the president’s commission will.