Voting Blogs: Maybe It’s Time to Ditch the “Election Official’s Prayer” | Alysoun McLaughlin/Election Academy

Election after election, it’s the same story, different county. Somewhere, a high-profile election is too close to call. The outcome seems to hang on the tiniest of margins. With absentee and provisional ballots yet to be counted, disappointed television viewers go to bed at night not knowing who “won”. Discrepancies in the election night numbers come to light that election administrators are accustomed to addressing as part of the canvass process, but voters don’t typically see. Reporters struggle to come up with a sensible narrative to explain what’s going on, and start speculating on air about ballots that have been ‘lost’ or ‘found’. The election administrator tries to explain that the process is working as intended, but eventually throws in the towel and issues a statement pledging to do better next time. In a close election, there has to be a win scenario where the people counting the ballots don’t inevitably look like morons. We’ve all heard the dubious Election Officials’ Prayer: “Lord, I don’t care who wins, but please let it be a landslide.” If we are going to get past the pervasive sense, as a profession, that we are all just one too-close-to-call election away from a career-ending media frenzy, we need to quit doing the same thing and expecting a different result. We need to package our process more understandably.

Editorials: With eye on 2014, GOP ramps up war on voting | MSNBC

Working ballot by ballot, county by county, the Republican Party is attempting to alter voting laws in the biggest and most important swing states in the country in hopes of carving out a sweeping electoral advantage for years to come. Changes already on the books or in bills before state legislatures would make voting harder, create longer lines, and threaten to disenfranchise millions of voters from Ohio to Florida, Pennsylvania to Wisconsin, Georgia to Arizona and Texas. Efforts underway include moving election days, ending early voting and forcing strict new voter ID laws. The results could significantly cut voter turnout in states where, historically, low participation has benefited Republicans. In the 10 months since President Obama created a bipartisan panel to address voting difficulties, 90 restrictive voting bills have been introduced in 33 states. So far, nine have become law, according to a recent comprehensive roundup by the Brennan Center for Justice – but others are moving quickly through statehouses. “We are continuing to see laws that appear to be aimed at making it more difficult to vote—for no good reason,” Daniel Tokaji, an election law expert at Ohio State University, said in an interview.

Editorials: Vacant seats? Let the governor fill em | Los Angeles Times

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg says he has seen enough. He wants to rid California of incessant special elections to fill vacancies in the Legislature. The elections interrupt the legislative process, he asserts, and they bleed local taxpayers — roughly $1 million each time some lawmaker jumps ship, which has been increasingly often. Let the governor fill vacant seats and be done with it, the Sacramento Democrat contends. If it were possible, I’d order lawmakers to stop the music, grab a seat and stay put. This musical chairs game is too expensive for the adults, the taxpayers. No more switching offices in midterm. But forbidding politicians to run for another office is probably unconstitutional. So if they do bail in midterm, just let the governor choose their replacement.

Georgia: GOP dusts off Jim Crow tactic: Changing election date | MSNBC

For years, Augusta, Georgia, has held its local elections in November, when turnout is high. But last year, state Republicans changed the election date to July, when far fewer blacks make it to the polls. The effort was blocked under the Voting Rights Act (VRA) by the federal government, which cited the harm that the change would do to minorities. But now that the Supreme Court has badly weakened the landmark civil rights law, the move looks to be back on. The city’s African-Americans say they know what’s behind it. “It’s a maneuver to suppress our voting participation,” Dr. Charles Smith, the president of Augusta’s NACCP branch, told msnbc. The dispute is flaring at a time when Georgia, long deep-red, is becoming increasingly politically competitive, and Democrats have nominated two candidates with famous names for high-profile statewide races next year. Voting rights experts say the events in Augusta may be a sign of what’s to come—or even of what’s already happening. In June, the Supreme Court invalidated Section 5 of the VRA, which had required certain jurisdictions, mostly in the south, to submit election changes to the federal government to ensure they didn’t harm minority voters. Since then, harsh voting restrictions put in place by several southern states have generated national news coverage—Texas’ voter ID law and North Carolina’s sweeping voting bill most prominent among them. But most of the changes stopped by Section 5 weren’t statewide laws. Instead, they were measures adopted at the local or county level.

Indiana: Indiana robocall ban not preempted by federal law | Reuters

An Indiana state law banning a variety of automated telephone calls was given new life as a federal appeals court concluded that the law was not preempted by federal law. In a decision released late on Thursday, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago said a lower court judge erred in concluding that the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act supplanted Indiana’s law regulating the calls. It directed the lower court to consider whether the Indiana law violates callers’ free speech rights under the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Automated calling often prompts complaints because they are considered annoying or raise privacy concerns. According to the 7th Circuit, the Federal Trade Commission fields more than 200,000 complaints a month about automated marketing, or “autodialer,” calls.

Massachusetts: Lawrence mayor refuses to concede after recount | Boston Herald

A defiant Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua refused to admit defeat yesterday after a recount confirmed City Council Vice President Daniel Rivera is the city’s new chief executive, but one expert said it will be an uphill battle if Lantigua chooses to challenge the results in court. “I am not conceding,” Lantigua said after the results were announced. Rivera won by 81 votes — a wider margin than on Election Day — after the city’s Board of Registrars certified the results in which he tallied 7,628 votes to Lantigua’s 7,547. Rivera’s supporters erupted in loud cheers at the South Lawrence East Middle School after the votes were announced, but Lantigua, whose administration has been dogged by scandals, said he’s considering a legal challenge. “There were … from what I hear … more than 100 of what is called spoiled ballots,” Lantigua said. “It is perhaps a coincidence that most of those that were reviewed, they were all cast for Lantigua.”

Ohio: Lawmakers debate voting bills | WKSU

Republicans and Democrats in the Statehouse are battling fiercely over bills that could change laws that determine when and how people can vote. As Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler reports, this has a lot to do with next year’s big statewide election. Hear more from Kasler on a recap of the voting proposals in Statehouse. All five statewide executive offices are on the ballot next year – governor, attorney general, auditor, secretary of state and treasurer, along with the entire Ohio House and half the Ohio Senate. Plus there could be several important ballot issues, so naturally proposed legislation is coming forward on voting. Republican Sen. Bill Coley of Cincinnati has pushed a bill that would allow absentee ballot applications to be sent out to all voters so they can vote early in presidential and gubernatorial contests. But it would allow only the Secretary of State to do that, not individual boards of elections.

Pennsylvania: Lawmakers won’t stop tinkering with election rules | CNHI

Conflicts caused by the state’s last attempt to improve the integrity of elections was the biggest source of complaints logged by a watchdog group during the 2012 presidential race. But that isn’t stopping lawmakers from trying to tinker even more with the state’s election rules, again in the name of improving voting integrity. The Legislature’s state government committee held a hearing last week on a package of bills that includes tougher penalties for voter intimidation and a ban on promotional materials inside polling places. The bills come up as the state’s controversial voter identification law remains in legal limbo, blocked from taking effect by a state appeals court judge’s order. The law passed in March 2012 has never been enforced, but it has resulted in confusion and anger among poll workers told they had to ask for ID and voters told they didn’t need to show it. Like the voter ID law, a proposed ban on promotions in polling places could create conflict between voters and those who are supposed to be assisting them, advocates worry. Barry Kauffman, executive director of the Pennsylvania chapter of Common Cause, said a ban on posters would be acceptable. But it would cause problems, he said, “if that is interpreted to mean you can’t walk in wearing a pin with the name of your preferred candidate.” Poll workers shouldn’t be judging what voters are wearing, Kauffman said.

Pennsylvania: Name left off ballot, candidate seeks special election | Meadville Tribune

Crawford County Court of Common Pleas is being asked to order a special election in the race for a six-year term on the Wayne Township Board of Supervisors. Bruce M. Peterson, a Wayne resident who was the Democratic Party nominee for the supervisor’s post, is petitioning the court because his name was left off the township’s ballot in the Nov. 5 general election. Peterson won the Democratic Party nomination for the supervisor’s post in the May 21 primary while Lee Singleton, another Wayne resident, won the Republican Party nomination for the same position in May 21 primary. Both names were to appear on the township ballot for the Nov. 5 election, but only Singleton’s did, according to the petition filed with county court.

Texas: Comal County Recount Results Released – No Change to CISD Bond Election | KGNB

The recounted results of the Nov. 5th election were released late Friday by Comal County Clerk Joy Streater after a 2-day long recount process. The recount became necessary after it was discovered that more than 23-hundred votes had not been counted on election night after polls had closed. An improperly authorized audit of the votes the following day complicated matters, and so Comal County went to the Texas Secretary of State’s Office and asked for help in correcting the situation. They laid out a path that included petitioning a Comal County District Court Judge for a court-ordered recount, which was granted on Tuesday of this week. The recount then began Thursday morning, with County Clerk Joy Streater as the appointed Recount Supervisor.

Utah: Democrats plan to sue for a special election | FOX13

Utah will have a new Attorney General by next month. Gov. Gary Herbert said he has the power to hand pick John Swallow’s successor, but the minority party in the state says not so fast. Senator Jim Dabakis, D- District 2, is the chair of the State Democratic Party, and he said Democrats plan on suing. They want last year’s election to be invalidated and think a state judge will ultimately side with them. “We will be going to court,” Dabakis said. He is taking the fight to the top, a judge. He believes the Lt. Governor’s report proves the election is invalid.

Virginia: Attorney General certification today; candidates bracing for recount | Richmond Times-Dispatch

The two candidates for attorney general are gearing up for a recount in the closest statewide contest in modern Virginia history, pending today’s meeting in which the State Board of Elections will certify the results. State Sen. Mark R. Herring, the Democratic candidate, maintains a 165-vote lead over his Republican opponent, state Sen. Mark D. Obenshain — that’s about 0.007 percent of more than 2.2 million votes cast statewide — following extensive canvassing in several localities. If a candidate is within one-half of a percentage point, the state will pay for a recount. If the margin is between one-half of a percentage point and 1 percentage point, a candidate can urge a recount at his own expense. Charles E. Judd, chairman of the elections board, expects a recount. “We’re probably looking at the middle of December. It will be a long day for some localities,” Judd said Friday. At 9 a.m. today, the board will review the election results provided by the local electoral boards. “The localities forwarded the data, the local boards went through that in great detail and sent it to us,” Judd said. “Our staff has been checking the data for accuracy and they are currently in the process of preparing the documents that we will review,” he said.

Washington: Voting rights legislation is pushed to benefit minority groups | Seattle Times

Racial and ethnic minority groups are continually elbowed out of policy discussions at the local level due to an unfair elections system, at least according to supporters of a bill intended to change that. Introduced in 2012, the Washington Voting Rights Act (WVRA) aims to address the allegedly unfair system by providing legal remedy to citizens who feel that the community they live in is underrepresented in local government. Technically, the bill targets “polarized voting,” where there is a disparity between the losing candidate that minority groups voted for and the winning candidate voted for by the rest of the electorate. A citizen who feels that their community is underrepresented by their current representative submits a grievance to their local government and if polarized voting is found to be present, then the district must make changes to their district make-up for future elections. The remedy for at-large districts would be to switch to district-based voting, which would create smaller voting blocs gerrymandered around smaller communities. If that change is not made within 45 days of the complaint, then the plaintiff may sue.

Honduras: Competing presidential claim victory | The Washington Post

After a day of relatively trouble-free voting in a tight race, Honduras appeared headed for a new political showdown late Sunday, as competing presidential candidates began claiming victory with less than half of the ballots counted. Leftist Xiomara Castro de ­­Ze­laya, the wife of deposed former president Manuel “Mel” Zelaya, declared herself the “new president of Honduras” even as preliminary tallies showed her conservative rival, Juan Orlando Hernán­dez, with a lead of at least five percentage points over Castro, followed by six other candidates. Hernán­dez told his supporters that he was the country’s new leader and that he was already receiving calls from several Latin American heads of state to congratulate him. The vote count was expected to stretch late into the night, with many here anxious that a close, contested election could toss the troubled country askew once more.

Mali: Legislative vote held amid security fears | The Washington Post

Malians voted Sunday in legislative elections amid heavy security, highlighting fears that a vote seen as the last step in restoring constitutional rule in the battle-scarred country could be sabotaged by rebel attacks. While overall Sunday’s vote appeared to be mostly peaceful, sporadic acts of violence served as a reminder of Mali’s continued instability. There were also reports of fresh clashes between members of the Tuareg and Peul ethnic groups that left more than a dozen dead, officials said. In the confusion following Mali’s March 2012 military coup, rebel groups, including Tuareg separatists and Islamic extremists linked to al-Qaida, took control of northern Mali, prompting France to launch a military intervention in January that largely ousted the militants. But the region has seen an increase in violence in recent weeks, underscoring the persistent challenges in cementing security gains.

Mauritania: Results trickle in after Mauritania election | Al Arabiya

Results from polling stations across Mauritania began to trickle in Sunday but the electoral commission said it wasn’t in a position to give an early picture of nationwide trends. The commission said counting had been delayed in many regions where people were allowed to cast their ballots after the official deadline, adding that definitive results from Saturday’s election would be made available “perhaps in the middle of the week.” State television has put the turnout at around 60 percent, a figure that, if confirmed, would severely undermine a campaign by a large swathe of opposition parties calling for a boycott of the polls.

Nepal: Maoists Are Routed in Nepalese Election | New York Times

Nepal’s dominant Communist party was routed, the country’s politics swung sharply to the right, and India’s influence in Nepal is likely to soar after the first set of results from last week’s election were finalized Monday. The Nepali Congress, the country’s oldest political party and one that favors close ties with India, won 105 of the 240 directly elected seats. The Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) came in second with 91 seats. Despite their party’s name, the Marxist-Leninists are considered centrists in Nepal. The majority of seats in the Constituent Assembly will be determined by proportional votes, and in those preliminary returns the Nepali Congress is again first followed by the Marxist-Leninists, according to the Election Commission of Nepal. Together, the two parties will likely dominate the new Constituent Assembly. Since a two-thirds majority in the Constituent Assembly is required for a constitution to be adopted, however, the Maoists may still play a critical albeit reduced role. The Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) secured only 26 seats in the direct election, a small fraction of the total it earned in the 2008 elections.

Switzerland: Voters reject wage caps in referendum | Financial Times

Swiss voters have decisively rejected a radical proposal that would have made it illegal for companies to pay any of their staff more than 12 times the wage of their lowest earner. Executive pay has been a hotly debated topic in Switzerland in recent months, with the country voting in March to ban golden hellos and golden goodbyes, amid popular and political outrage over revelations that Novartis planned to pay its outgoing chairman, Daniel Vasella, SFr72m ($79.4m) as part of a non-compete agreement. In the aftermath of that March vote, some polls had suggested that the traditionally business-friendly country, which is home to five of Europe’s 20 best-paid chief executives, might also back the more radical 1:12 initiative. However, in a referendum on Sunday, 65.3 per cent of voters rejected the idea.