Voting Blogs: Florida Secretary of State Faces Uprising by County Election Officials After Absentee Ballot Directive | BradBlog

At this point, the slogan for Republican Secretaries of State around the country seems to be: “If it ain’t broke, break it!” That’s certainly the case in Florida, where Sec. of State Ken Detzner — fresh off his and Governor Rick Scott’s embarrassing and failed 2012 purge of supposed “non-citizen voters” from the rolls (with another more recent attempt underway since then) — is at it again. And this time, Detzner seems to be facing a full-blown uprising from county Supervisors of Elections (SOE) refusing to carry out a new directive which would make it more difficult for absentee voters to cast their ballot. The elected SOEs are claiming that the new directive by Detzner, an appointee of Gov. Rick Scott (R), was neither asked for nor necessary under state law. They Supervisors have also denied Detzner’s initial claim that the directive was issued in response to requests by two SOEs. Last week, Detzner issued a directive [PDF] to county SOEs instructing them that they may no longer allow voters to use secured remote absentee ballot drop-off stations created at locations like public libraries and tax-collectors offices. Suddenly, according to Detzner’s new rules, all absentee ballots must either be mailed in, or dropped off at county election offices.

National: The downside of clear election laws | Washington Post

State lawmakers have introduced at least 2,328 bills this year that would change the way elections are run at the local level. Some passed, some stalled. Some are mundane tweaks, others are controversial overhauls. But if election reformers want to prevent their laws from being held up by lawsuits, they would be wise to pay attention to how they’re written, says Ned Foley, an Ohio State University professor and election law expert. “Put clarity at the top of the list of things to achieve, maybe before fairness or integrity or access or whatever, because litigators can’t fight over things that are clear,” he said, speaking on an election law panel during a multi-day conference hosted by the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures in Washington, D.C. “It’s amazing how much ambiguity kind of seeps into laws that is unintended.” But while clear regulations are important, too much can backfire, said Alysoun McLaughlin, deputy director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections in Maryland.

National: Democratic state lawmakers push for ballot access | USAToday

States are gearing up for another battle over ballot access, and Florida, a key swing state, could again find itself in the middle. Florida’s next legislative session could be marked by fights over absentee ballots, online registration and early voting sites. Earlier this year, state lawmakers eased some voting restrictions enacted in 2011. Those restrictions, including a reduction in early voting days, had helped snuff out voter registration drives and contributed to lines as long as seven hours on Election Day in 2012. Now, a key Democrat in Florida’s House of Representatives wants the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature to go further by making it easier for residents to register and vote.

National: Group plans voting rights push | Politico

A group of state lawmakers on Wednesday met to develop policy proposals they say will promote voting rights as part of a 50-state effort aimed at enacting laws that expand voting and push back against laws the say restrict access to the polls. The Washington meeting of the left group American Values First’s Voting Rights Project was the first gathering of the task force that launched this summer. On Wednesday, the group identified areas it says states can improve on voting rights and that it will advocate for, including allowing registration on Election Day, online and pre-registering students, expanding early voting, distributing locations of polling places, including on college campuses, and reducing long lines at them, offering voting by mail and expanding absentee voting. The idea, the group says, is to create strategies that can be deployed in each state.

Florida: U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson charges Gov. Rick Scott’s administration with voter suppression | Sun Sentinel

Even as Gov. Rick Scott’s top elections official suddenly backed away from a plan to restrict the way voters can return completed absentee ballots, Florida’s top Democrat accused the Scott administration of attempting to suppress voter turnout. “It’s patently obvious. It’s an attempt to suppress the vote by people who otherwise might have difficulty getting to the polls on Election Day,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., at a news conference Wednesday at the Palm Beach County Elections Office headquarters. Americans’ right to vote is “precious” and guaranteed by the Constitution, Nelson said. “When you start making it more difficult to cast that ballot, that is interfering with that constitutional right.”

Minnesota: Ritchie seeks dismissal of legal challenge to new online voter sign-up system | Star Tribune

A lawsuit contesting a new, Internet-based system for voter registration should be dismissed because plaintiffs lack standing to sue, attorneys for Secretary of State Mark Ritchie argued Wednesday. New documents filed in the case say those behind the lawsuit are seeking an extraordinary remedy and can’t show they’ve been injured. Four Minnesota Republican legislators and two advocacy groups filed the lawsuit last month. They argued that Ritchie, a Democrat, exceeded his power by creating the registration tool without explicit legislative consent. The formal response on behalf of Ritchie was filed ahead of a hearing next week in Ramsey County District Court.

Mississippi: Voter ID Preparations Underway in Mississippi | WTOK

The Mississippi Secretary of State’s office is set to roll out its new Voter ID initiative next week. More than 90 percent of Mississippians already have the proper identification needed for Mississippi’s new Voter ID law that goes into effect next year. That’s according to Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, who visited Lauderdale County on Wednesday. “They have got a driver’s license, a passport, or a student ID,” Hosemann explains. “All the things that you would need to vote with. So, the first thing is to look at what’s required and necessary.”

Virginia: Attorney general vote recount, some by hand, to get started Dec. 16 | Washington Times

A recount of the votes in the Virginia attorney general’s race will begin Dec. 16, but a number of jurisdictions, including Alexandria, are facing hand recounts thanks to voting machines considered outdated by the state’s electoral board. Only 165 votes of more than 2.2 million cast separate Democrat Mark R. Herring and Republican Mark D. Obenshain — a 0.007 percent difference that amounts to the closest finish to a race in Virginia history. A three-judge recount court in Richmond on Wednesday announced the process would begin Dec. 17 and 18 for a majority of the state’s voting districts, though Fairfax County, the state’s largest district, was given the go-ahead to begin its recount a day earlier, on Dec. 16. Donald Palmer, secretary of the Virginia State Board of Elections, said officials would prefer the ballots be tabulated by optical scanners. In some cases, though, jurisdictions use machines that can’t isolate just one of the races that appeared on the ballot — in this case, the attorney general’s race.

Virginia: Mark Herring, Mark Obenshain recount to start Dec. 16 | Associated Press

Democrat Mark Herring’s 165-vote win over Republican Mark Obenshain in the close race for attorney general is headed to a recount Dec. 17 and 18, with Fairfax County getting a one-day head start. Richmond Circuit Judge Beverly W. Snukals scheduled the recount at a hearing Wednesday in which attorneys for both candidates debated the ground rules for what is expected to be the state’s most extensive recount ever in the closest statewide race in modern Virginia political history. Snukals also scheduled a tentative Dec. 19 date for a recount court to rule on disputed votes in the recount. Snukals agreed to allow Fairfax County to begin its recount Dec. 16, with the remaining localities joining in the following two days. Fairfax County is the state’s most populous and uses a variety of voting machines that could extend its recount beyond two days. Donald Palmer, secretary of the State Board of Elections, attended the nearly four-hour hearing to assist Snukals and attorneys for Obenshain and Herring navigate election law and various schedules to ensure local elections officials can conduct the recount. Asked outside court whether he was confident in an accurate recount, Palmer said, “Absolutely.”

Honduras: The Perils of Democracy: Honduran Election Aftermath | PanAm Post

One week after the general elections in Honduras, an environment of disagreement and uncertainty prevails in the Central American country — one of the poorest, most insecure, and corrupt in the region. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal of this country has already proclaimed a victor: Juan Orlando Hernández of Partido Nacional, who was elected with 36.8 percent of the popular vote. However, in second place, just a mere 250,000 votes away, we have the new socialist party, LIBRE, with Xiomara Castro de Zelaya as the candidate. She is not accepting the results, and LIBRE has denounced electoral fraud and already carried out several peaceful protests. The truly remarkable result of this election, though, is the end of two-party dominance in a country where it prevailed for more than 30 years. This came after the fragmentation of one of the traditional parties, the Partido Liberal de Honduras. With the newly created LIBRE party offshoot in second place, the ideological spectrum of options available to the electorate amplified, and political forces reconfigured. Never in the history of this country has a presidential election been so close or competitive with the results, in both percentage-points and votes counted. As a consequence, the incumbent party’s control of Congress will not be as high as it has been in the past. Instead, the newly elected president, facing almost 65 percent opposition, will have to manage a divided parliament, and most likely a president of the Unicameral Congress that does not belong to Partido Nacional.

Italy: Top court rules electoral law breaches constitution | Rueters

Italy’s electoral law is unconstitutional, its top court ruled on Wednesday, piling pressure on political parties to reform a system blamed for creating parliamentary deadlock. Most politicians agree, at least in public, that the electoral rules which helped produce a hung parliament after February’s national vote must change to give Italy a chance of forming a stable government. But despite repeated exhortations from business leaders, union chiefs and President Giorgio Napolitano, progress on voting reform has long been blocked by parties worried that a new system could damage their electoral chances. “Now there is no more room for excuses from anyone, we have to move, quickly, to change the law,” said Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, whose breakaway group from Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right is a key part of the fragile ruling coalition. The ruling is not retro-active and therefore does not affect the status or validity of the current parliament, a source close to the constitutional court told Reuters.

Solomon Islands: Biometric voter registry system launched | Solomon Star

A new and improved voter registration system has been launched yesterday. Called the Biometric Voter Registration, the system is expected to solve problems normally faced during voting such as double voting and or voting on other people’s names. The Solomon Islands Electoral Commission held the launching at the National Museum to mark the start of the Biometric Voters Registration Campaign. The ceremony was attended by the chairman of the SIEC, Sir Allen Kemakeza, Opposition leader Dr, Dereck Sikua, Permanent Secretary of Home affairs, Mr. Fred Fakarii and Representatives. Chief Electoral Officer Polycarp Haununu said the Electoral Commission will undertake a nationwide registration of eligible electors using the new system, starting from January to March 2014. “This is part of strengthening of the Electoral Cycle in Solomon Islands,” Mr Haununu said. He said the commission has taken the “bold decision” to replace the current voters list with a list to be compiled using the Biometric technology, in the face of advancing ICT and emerging challenges in voter registration in the Solomon Islands. “In the past years, registrations of voters were captured manually which sometimes not accurate and takes up a lot of time. With the use of this system, it will be simple fast and reliable.”

Sri Lanka: Opposition calls for independent electoral commission | Khabar South Asia

The Sri Lankan government is facing calls from both home and abroad to establish an independent electoral commission. In the wake of a Commonwealth report on elections in northern Sri Lanka, leading opposition parties joined a call by Commonwealth election observers for the island-nation to create such an impartial body. Opposition leaders say the government should re-instate the Sri Lankan constitution’s 17th Amendment, which provides for an independent electoral commission. Under the current 18th Amendment, President Mahinda Rajapaksa can appoint a commissioner of his choice, as well as to other positions such as chief justice. “Our party has repeatedly supported the 17th Amendment to the constitution, which makes way for the setting up of a number of independent commissions for elections, police, human rights, judicial services and bribery and corruption,” said R. Sampanthan, leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) party, whose candidate, C. V. Wigneswaran, swept the northern provincial council elections.

Tanzania: Opposition MPs oppose use of Isles voter register | Daily News

The Opposition from Zanzibar and the Mainland closed ranks and demanded that the permanent voter register (PVR) in the isles should not be used to qualify voters to take part in a referendum to decide on the new constitution, after the constitutional parliament endorses it. Opposition Chief Whip (Chadema) who is also Shadow Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Mr Tundu Lisu (Singida East-Chadema) said ‘shehas’ (sheriffs) have been denying eligible Zanzibaris the right to register as voters in the permanent register because of directives from some senior executive officials. “Shehas have been denying people registration because of lack of residency identity cards required for one to register as a voter, which if not properly checked, can mean that these people will also not take part in a planned referendum,” Mr Lissu argued while debating the 2013 Referendum Bill.