National: Republicans moving to overhaul 2016 primary process | CNN

A handful of Republican Party officials is quietly advancing a new batch of rules aimed at streamlining a chaotic presidential nominating process that many party insiders viewed as damaging to the their campaign for the White House in 2012, multiple GOP sources told CNN. In a series of closed-door meetings since August, handpicked members of the Republican National Committee have been meeting with party Chairman Reince Priebus in Washington to hash out details of a sweeping plan to condense the nominating calendar, severely punish primary and caucus states that upend the agreed-upon voting order and potentially move the party’s national convention to earlier in the summer, with late June emerging as the ideal target date. No party convention has been held that early since the steamy summer of 1948, when Republicans nominated Thomas Dewey as their standard bearer in Philadelphia.

Delaware: Panel continues review of Delaware election laws | Associated Press

Members of a task force charged with reviewing Delaware’s election laws seemed to agree Wednesday that there’s no need for a law requiring political candidates to undergo criminal background checks. Background checks for candidates are among several issues that have been explored by the task force, formed by lawmakers earlier this year to conduct a comprehensive review of Delaware’s elections and make recommendations on how to improve them. The panel is to submit its report in March. The issue of background checks came up after New Castle County elections officials ruled last year that Derrick Johnson, pastor of Joshua Harvest Church in Wilmington, was ineligible to run for mayor of Wilmington because he had served prison time for manslaughter — an “infamous crime” that officials determined prevented him from holding office, despite a later pardon. “The only reason we knew about it was because he was so open about it,” said state elections commissioner, the chair of the task force.

Editorials: Florida elections supervisors need to battle to retain voting sites | Miami Herald

Yet another flap between state officials and Florida’s county election supervisors is in the news, raising new questions about the motives of Republican Gov. Rick Scott and his appointee, Secretary of State Ken Detzner. Are they committed to making it easier for all eligible Floridians to vote or is their real goal to make it more difficult? So wondered U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, before meeting with Tampa Bay area elections supervisors. “I just don’t understand why the state keeps making it harder for people to vote,” he said. Good question. First, the governor signed a bill in 2011 that restricted the hours for early voting, raising the ire of county supervisors. They warned of lengthy delays for voters during the 2012 presidential election. They were so right that some voters in South Florida stood in line for eight hours just to exercise their constitutional right. That’s unconscionable. Then-Monroe County Elections Supervisor Harry Sawyer famously fought Scott on the early-voting issue (losing when the federal government sided with the governor), becoming somewhat of a folk hero nationwide for those who believe in more opportunity to vote, not less.

Iowa: Voting crackdown finally yields arrests | Quad City Times

Iowa’s highly touted crackdown on improper voting finally has resulted in some arrests that appear to justify Secretary of State Matt Schultz’ concerns. We’ll leave it to voters to decide if Schultz’ concerns merit the breadth of his two-year, $280,000 investigation. Schultz drew headlines – and some catcalls – when he cross referenced federal immigration records with Iowa voting records. Then he paid an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agent to follow leads. Schultz, speaking Oct. 23 at a Scott County Republican Party fundraiser in Davenport, reported 20 active cases and five convictions. He said he expects “a lot” more. The investigation yielded two arrests in Muscatine County. Both are documented immigrants charged for misrepresenting their citizenship status in an attempt to vote. Syliva Rada, 49, is alleged to have done it on an absentee ballot she filled out in 2012. Prosecutors say Mayra Lopez-Morales, 21, didn’t divulge her immigrant status on a voter registration form in 2012. Both face Class D felonies.

Massachusetts: Voter rights activists pin hopes on Senate | Bay State Banner

Voter rights activists are hoping the Massachusetts Senate will pass electoral reforms next year after the House approved online registration and early voting measures. The legislation approved by the House now goes to the Senate when it comes back in session in January. The bill calls for voters to be able to vote up to 11 days ahead of the traditional Tuesday Election Day in presidential elections and allows for online registration in addition to the traditional paper methods of registration. Early voting is viewed as a major win by voter advocates, who say it can increase voter participation — the holy grail of voting reform.

Ohio: Voter data-sharing proposal heads to Ohio governor | Associated Press

The state’s top election official sees a bill aimed at keeping Ohio’s voter registration database up-to-date as a missed opportunity to also let residents register to vote online, his spokesman said. The measure passed the Republican-led House on a 60-33 vote Wednesday. It now goes to the governor, who is likely to sign it. The bill would require state agencies to share data with the secretary of state to help maintain Ohio’s voter records. For instance, the state’s health director would have to file monthly reports concerning voters who have died so the deceased could be removed promptly from the voter rolls in the perennial battleground state. It also reduces the minimum number of electronic voting machines a county must have by changing the formula used to calculate it. Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, already has the authority to do what’s included in the bill, said his spokesman, Matt McClellan. “What it should do is authorize online voter registration, which would make it easier to vote, harder to cheat and save the taxpayers millions of dollars,” McClellan said in an email. “It does no harm, but it is a missed opportunity.”

South Carolina: Survey notes accessibility problems for Richland Co. voters with disabilities | The State

When Richland County voter Dori Tempio went to cast her ballot in November’s library referendum, a poll worker held the voting machine on her lap. She asked for privacy. He turned his head. “The person could see what I was voting,” said Tempio, 43, who uses a wheelchair. “Other people walking by could see what I was voting. … That makes you somewhat uncomfortable.” Tempio said she considers voting to be a sacred right; she has voted in every election since she turned 18. But a survey of Richland County precincts by Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc., found many residents with disabilities faced barriers when trying to exercise their right to vote Nov. 5. The survey identified a lack of accessible ballots as the top issue, affecting 63 percent of Richland County precincts.

Virginia: Republican campaign for attorney general raises new questions about Fairfax ballots | The Washington Post

Republican Mark D. Obenshain’s campaign for attorney general raised new questions Wednesday about how Fairfax County ballots were handled while also dismissing the idea that he has already decided to ask the General Assembly to step into the race. Earlier this week, Obenshain’s attorney raised the possibility that after next week’s recount, the closest statewide election in Virginia history might wind up before the legislature, which has the power to decide elections or call a new one under a little-known law. Va. Republicans raise new questions about Fairfax ballots Contesting the election through the General Assembly would be an extraordinary step, one that political observers said has never been taken in a statewide race, at least not in modern Virginia history.

Virginia: Machines for 11th District vote to cost Roanoke $36,000 | Roanoke Times

Roanoke voter precincts will have electronic voting machines for the Jan. 7 special House of Delegates election – but at an unexpected cost of $36,000. The impending recount in the Virginia Attorney General election required all voting machines to be locked down, including those in Roanoke. Though the recount will take place next week, the machines must remain in lock down for a period in case the one of the candidates chooses to contest the integrity of the results after the election. That means the city won’t have its own machines available for the special election for the 11th District House of Delegates seat vacated by Democrat Onzlee Ware, who resigned citing concerns about his mother’s health. Voter Registrar Andrew Cochran had to go in search of 95 machines to borrow or rent for the day, and eventually found them at a North Carolina vendor called Printelect, with which the city has done business before. “They moved at lightning speed, and I appreciate that,” Cochran said.

Virginia: Registrars prepare for recount in attorney general’s race | News & Advance

The Lynchburg region cast just over 3 percent of the votes that will be counted — again — next week to determine who will be Virginia’s next attorney general. Each of the localities gave Republican Mark Obenshain a healthy majority over Democrat Mark Herring, ranging from 53 percent of votes cast in Lynchburg to 75 percent in Bedford and Campbell counties. Obenshain, who lost by 165 votes out of 2.2 million cast in the Nov. 5 election, asked for a recount. It will be conducted Monday and Tuesday in each city and county, at local-government expense. Voter registrars said the recount will take roughly half a day in the four counties surrounding Lynchburg, because they use touch-screen voting machines that recorded vote totals on printed tapes. Those tapes can be tabulated again in just a few hours, according to the registrars in Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford and Campbell counties. But in the Hill City, where two-thirds of the voters chose to use paper ballots, election officials are preparing for an all-day job requiring them to run 13,000 paper ballots through a scanning machine again. A few hundred ballots, mostly absentee ballots sent by mail, will be counted by hand.

Editorials: Honey, I Shrunk the Vote!: the implications of a reduction in the voting age | University Times

It has been decided that by the end of 2015 there will be a referendum in Ireland regarding lowering the voting age from 18 years of age to 16. The National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) is in support of the proposed reduction in voting age. There are several reasons for the proposed reduction of voting age. The most persuasive of which I believe is that it will put youth issues on the political agenda. The NYCI suggests that “the involvement of more young people in Irish politics would … ensure issues affecting young people specifically would gain more prominence in the political arena because the people affected by those issues would be able to exercise their franchise to influence the policymaking process”. If the population between 16 and 18 years of age were added to the electorate, this youth block alone would account for 3.1% of the voting electorate (based on the population figures from the Census taken in 2011). This is a proportionately large amount of the electorate considering it only involves an age range of two years.

Australia: Challenge to Western Australia Senate result on hold until January | The Australian

Australia’s new Senate could sit before legal challenges to the election result in Western Australia are determined, a High Court justice says. The High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, is hearing three separate petitions about the result of the fifth and sixth Senate places in Western Australia. But Senate contenders will be left to sweat through summer after Justice Kenneth Hayne today flagged the challenge to the upper house result in WA would not be heard until late January. And the matter may not be settled before the new Senate commences sitting in July. “I cannot dismiss the possibility that … after the first of July the Senate may not be properly constituted,” he said. “That possibility is best avoided.” The result in WA has already been the subject of a recount and an investigation by former Australian Federal Police chief Mick Keelty, after 1370 votes went missing.

Honduras: Election Authorities Confirm Hernandez is President-Elect | Latin American Herald Tribune

The High Electoral Court (TSE) of Honduras reconfirmed Wednesday that Juan Orlando Hernandez of the governing National Party won the Nov. 24 presidential election and is president-elect despite a complaint filed by the opposition Freedom and Refounding (Libre) party. The TSE “declares … Juan Orlando Hernandez to be elected as constitutional president of the Republic of Honduras for a period of four years starting Jan. 27, 2014,” according to the ruling read Wednesday by the president of the body, David Matamoros. In addition, it declared Ricardo Alvarez, Roxana Guevara and Lorena Herrera to be the country’s three vice presidents-elect.

Liberia: Liberia’s Elections Commission Launches 2014 Voter Roll |

Liberia’s National election Commission Tuesday launched the National Voter Roll updated in preparations for the 2014 special Senatorial election. The voter roll update according to the NEC is the process of listing all those registered to vote in a Particular areas. The list will be compiled and kept by the NEC. The process is also expected to provide uniform and legitimate voter identification cards to all eligible (18 yrs) citizens of Liberia. Speaking at the official launch, NEC Chairman Cllr. Jerome Kokoya said, the process will capture Liberians who have or will be turning 18 years before the date of the Special Senatorial Election and also those who have lost their voter cards or change location. Said Kokoya: “Eligible voters who for one reason or the other could not register during last voter’s registration exercise in 2011, and those who have changed locations within the country, please visit the nearest voter roll update so that you could be included on the voter roll in order to participate in the 2014 special senatorial election.”

Texas: Voter identification: Mischief at the polls – How Texas’s new voter-identity law works in practice | The Economist

When Texas passed its new voter-identification law, in 2011, the Republicans who dominate state politics rejoiced. This, they said, would help guarantee “the integrity of state elections”. Nonsense, said Democrats, who accuse Republicans of using voter-ID laws to make it harder for poor people and minorities to vote. Republicans retort that electoral fraud is real. In 2012 Texas’s attorney-general, Greg Abbott, boasted that his office had caught more than 50 cheats between 2002 and 2012. That is not a big number, among the more than 13m registered voters in Texas. But it is not nothing. In November Texans (at least, those with a state-issued photo ID) had their first chance to vote since the law was implemented. The delay was caused by the usual legal wrangling round voter-ID laws. In 2012 a federal court blocked Texas’s law from taking effect. Similarly strict regulations were already in place elsewhere, but under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 Texas was subject to federal “preclearance” on any new voting rules. “Preclearance” is a sort of naughty step for states that, in the past, have hindered voting by minorities. The Texan law was therefore in limbo until June, when the Supreme Court addressed the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v Holder, a dispute between an Alabama county and the attorney-general of the United States, Eric Holder.

Virginia: McDonnell says talk of contest in AG race may be premature | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Gov. Bob McDonnell on Tuesday called speculation about a General Assembly contest in the attorney general race before the conclusion of the pending recount “premature,” adding that he has yet to see evidence that would call for resolving the race in the legislature. “To get to that level where you essentially have the legislature make a decision as to who the winner is, there would have to be evidence that the credibility of the election was called into question in some way that created a lack of confidence among the citizens,” McDonnell said in a radio interview with WNIS Norfolk. “I think we are a long way away from that.” Republican Mark D. Obenshain initiated the recount in what is considered the closest race in modern Virginia history after a final statewide tally had him trailing Democrat Mark R. Herring by just 165 votes — a margin of 0.007 percent of 2.2 million votes cast. Obenshain has not said whether he is considering contesting the election in the General Assembly if the recount does not sway the result in his favor, but his legal team has dropped several hints. And on Monday, Obenshain’s attorney William H. Hurd for the first time openly raised this issue before the recount court in Richmond.