National: Federal judge sends voter citizenship lawsuit filed by Kansas, Arizona, back to EAC | Associated Press

A federal judge sent back to federal elections officials Friday a request by Kansas and Arizona to force modifications in a national voter registration form so the states can fully enforce proof-of-citizenship requirements for their residents. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren gave the U.S. Election Assistance Commission until Jan. 17 to make a final agency decision on the requests by the two states, but kept control of the lawsuit in anticipation of further court proceedings. The commission has told the states it has deferred acting on the request until it has a quorum of commissioners. The panel has been without a quorum since about 2010 and has been without any commissioners since 2011, the judge noted in his order. Melgren found there has been no final agency decision, essentially making a jurisdictional ruling in the case. But he noted that the Justice Department has argued that even without commissioners the agency can act upon the states’ requests.

Colorado: Proposals underway to change how Coloradans elect candidates, vote | The Denver Post

A powerful chief executive who championed election reform in California and a politically disillusioned private eye are looking to upend the way elections are conducted in Colorado. The changes could create unfamiliar scenarios: Republicans and Democrats voting in each other’s primaries or unaffiliated voters automatically participating in the primaries without changing their registration. Or even replacing the primary with a preliminary election where the top two vote- getters among a pool of candidates advance to the general election, even if that means both candidates are from the same party. At least two people are leading discussions about changing Colorado’s elections. Kent Thiry of Cherry Hills Village is chief executive of DaVita, a Denver-based kidney dialysis company. Private investigator Ryan Ross of Denver is director of the Coalition for a New Colorado Election System. Both believe the current system is controlled by “partisan purists.”

Massachusetts: A push for election reforms | Stoneham Sun

State Rep. Jason Lewis joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives recently in passing important legislation that aims to increase voter participation in elections. Enacted with strong bipartisan support, the bill establishes early voting for presidential elections and online voter registration. These significant reforms will make it more convenient for people to vote and shorten lines on busy election days. The bill also provides additional training for election workers.

Montana: Native Americans seek equal access to early voting precincts | Inter Press Service

In a lawsuit that could have nationwide implications for balot-box access for tribes across the United States, Native Americans from Montana are pushing for early voting precincts to be placed closer to the locations of three tribal reservations – the Crow, Northern Cheyenne, and Fort Belknap reservations. “I live in the most isolated area of the reservation. There are no services at all. This is the smallest community of the reservation. We have to drive 21 miles just to go to post office, go to store, go to clinic, gas station, stuff like that,” Mark Wandering Medicine, 66, of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, and the lead plaintiff in the suit, told IPS. He and others filed on Oct. 10, 2012, with the hope of obtaining emergency relief in time for the November 2012 election, as well as permanent relief going forward. The case recently headed back to the U.S. District Court of Montana, after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit voided an earlier ruling by the district court.

North Carolina: Judicial Watch wants to join fray over voter ID law | News Observer

Judicial Watch, a conservative-leaning organization that uses litigation to make its political points, wants in on the legal fray over North Carolina’s elections law changes. The Washington-based organization filed a motion on Friday to intervene on behalf of North Carolina officials defending the new rules. “We think it’s a case of national importance,” said Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch president. In the court documents seeking status in the four-month-old lawsuit, Judicial Watch highlights an unsuccessful 2012 candidate for Buncombe County commissioner as the basis for the organization’s interest. Christina Kelley Gallegos-Merrill, a Republican who lost her bid for county office by 13 votes, contends that same-day registration during the early-voting period could have played a role in her loss.

Ohio: Ohio partisans battle over voting laws | The Columbus Dispatch

Outside the Statehouse, Ohio’s election system is designed to run as a bipartisan machine in which the two parties watch over the process, and each other, to ensure that no one gains an unfair advantage. Inside the Statehouse is very different. “Elections are the only game in town where the players get to make their own rules,” said Aaron Ockerman, executive director of the Ohio Association of Elections Officials. Few issues have led to more-heated partisan rhetoric than election-law changes. Nearly every significant proposal is greeted with cries of voter suppression, disenfranchisement and racism from Democrats whose only real chance of stopping the bills are ballot referendums or lawsuits. “Unfortunately, the GOP agenda on changing election laws is not to solve the problems … and to create burdens on voters,” said Rep. Kathleen Clyde, D-Kent. “We’re all for common-sense solutions, but that’s not what we’re seeing.” This year, bills altering early voting, provisional balloting, absentee applications and minor-party recognition have ignited fights.

Virginia: Attorney General race recount starts Monday | Associated Press

The most extensive recount in modern Virginia political history will involve tens of thousands of people statewide to determine the state’s next attorney general. The recount begins Monday in Fairfax County and the cities of Alexandria and Chesapeake before moving to every jurisdiction in the state on Tuesday and Wednesday. Those three localities get a head start because of the extensive hand counting of ballots entailed in their recount or simply the sheer number of ballots and machines to be checked, which is the case in Fairfax County. A three-judge recount court will convene on Thursday in Richmond to rule on challenged ballots that emerge from the re-tabulation. Democrat Mark Herring should know by Friday if his 165-vote edge holds or if Republican Mark Obenshain has picked up enough votes to surpass his fellow state senator —or closed it sufficiently to take it one step further. Obenshain’s camp has signaled the recount might not be the candidate’s last gasp. They could play a rare, little-used card, taking the race to the General Assembly as a contested election and letting the Republican-majority body decide the race or call for a new election.

Editorials: Fairfax shows transparency done right in Virginia Attorney General recount | Open Virginia Law

Earlier this year, Fairfax County Circuit Court Clerk John Frey began making court opinions freely available on his office’s website, for which the Virginia Coalition for Open Government awarded Frey an open government award at its annual conference.  This week, the Fairfax County Electoral Board again has made Fairfax a model for transparency and open government. If you’re at all interested in Virginia state government lately, you know that the race to be the next Virginia Attorney General is not yet over.  Democrat Mark Herring was certified as the winner by a mere 165 votes out of the 2.2 million cast, but lawyers for Republican Mark Obenshain are vigorously prosecuting a recount in Richmond Circuit Court.  The actual recount is set to occur across the state next week. Fairfax, owing to its large portion of Virginia’s population and its critical support for Herring, has been a central focus on election night and since.  Notwithstanding the fact that two out of the three Fairfax Electoral Board members are Republican, including Twitter sensation Brian W. Schoeneman, unfounded conspiracy theories swirled online as Fairfax officials conducted the post-election canvass, identifying votes that helped Herring over the top.  (Vote corrections in Richmond, another locale where two out of three Board members are Republicans, actually gave Herring the lead, but Fairfax closed the gap significantly, was indispensable to Herring overall, and has been the focus of Republican election lawyers.)

Wisconsin: Road to restore Voting Rights Act runs through Wisconsin | Duluth News Tribune

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, most notably the requirement that states with a history of voter suppression obtain federal permission to change their voting laws. Those states are in the South. The road to restore that act runs through Wisconsin. “I am committed to restoring the Voting Rights Act,” U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said in August, surprising attendees at a GOP luncheon commemorating the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. Though they didn’t lose their lunch, party members — whose colleagues in some states had already moved to enact strict voter restrictions — weren’t expecting that announcement. An RNC spokesman told me then that Sensenbrenner wasn’t speaking for the party. Members of the other party didn’t all jump on the bandwagon, either. A spokesman for Democratic Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan said then that Nolan would support the idea — adding an asterisk: “assuming it’s straightforward.”

Chile: Michelle Bachelet easily regains Chile presidency | Associated Press

Chile’s once and future leader Michelle Bachelet easily won Sunday’s presidential runoff, returning center-left parties to power by promising profound social changes in response to years of street protests. Bachelet won 62 percent of the vote, the most decisive victory in eight decades of Chilean elections. Her conservative rival, Evelyn Matthei only got 37 percent of the vote and conceded defeat in the worst performance for the right in two decades. Bachelet needs the momentum of her resounding victory to strengthen her mandate and try to overcome congressional opposition to fulfill her promises.

India: Congressmen complain to PM about alleged tampering with Electronic Voting Machines | The Times of India

The issue of alleged tampering with Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in the state assembly elections is being raised by the Congress in a serious manner. After the party’s state unit made a written complaint to the Election Commission early this week, the Congress candidate from Sawai Madhopur constituency Danish Abrar has sent a complaint to the prime minister’s office. Abrar, who lost to BJP’s Diya Kumari, has asked for an examination of the EVMs used and an investigation into the alleged tampering with the machines. Abrar, along with his party colleague Prashant Bairwa, who lost from Tonk’s Niwai seat, addressed a press conference in this regard on Saturday.

Mali: Elections overshadowed by suicide bombing | AFP

Malians began voting on Sunday in the second round of parliamentary elections intended to cap the nation’s return to democracy, but overshadowed by the deaths of two UN peacekeepers in an Islamist attack. The polls mark the troubled west African nation’s first steps to recovery after it was upended by a military coup in March last year, finalising a process begun with the election of its first post-conflict president in August. Turnout looked low as polling stations opened in the capital Bamako, sparking fears that voters would be scared away by an upsurge in violence by Al Qaeda-linked rebels against African troops tasked with election security alongside the Malian army.

Turkmenistan: No threat to tight grip in Turkmenistan from multi-party vote | Reuters

Turkmenistan’s President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov says Sunday’s parliamentary election is a democratic milestone for his gas-rich nation, but critics say it merely slaps a veneer on what they call a repressive autocracy. The 56-year-old leader wields virtually unlimited power and is officially nicknamed Arkadag, or The Patron, in his mainly Muslim Central Asian state of 5.5 million which holds the world’s fourth largest reserves of natural gas. Keen to burnish his image abroad as he seeks new gas export routes to bypass former imperial master Russia, he stepped down as leader of the ruling Democratic Party in August and ordered the founding of a second political party, also loyal to him. “The December 15 election will herald a new stage of Turkmenistan’s democracy,” state television showed Berdymukhamedov telling a recent government meeting. He promised democratic reforms when he took office in 2007 after the death of his despotic predecessor Saparmurat Niyazov.

Ukraine: Vote buying a major problem at Dec. 15 by-elections | Kyiv Post

One vote at Ukraine’s by-election in five parliamentary single-mandate districts on Dec. 15 goes for Hr 400. Sometimes some food is thrown in. But the payment, cunningly, comes in two installments. The first half is paid when the person agrees to vote for the right candidate, and the other half is given after the voter presents photographic proof of the vote as they exit the polling station, Ukrainian observers have found. Ukraine is holding five by-elections to parliament today in those constituencies where fraud and manipulations were so high a year ago that the results could not be established. Those constituencies are located in Cherkasy, Kaniv, Pervomaisk, Obuhiv and in Kyiv. People in those voting districts are casting their votes in 649 polling stations. Political expert and pollster Iryna Bekeshkina says that vote buying cannot seriously influence the outcome of the election when there is a high turnout, but can effect the result in smaller towns and villages that get little attention. “And that’s exactly the case with today’s by-elections. People are concentrated on rallies and I expect no high turnout,” she said.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly December 9 – 15 2013

eac_260The Senate Rules and Administration Committee held hearings on two Democratic nominees for the Election Assistance Commission. Concerns about the security and privacy of internet voting will be on the agenda of the commission established by the UK Speaker of the House of Commons to study technology and democracy. The debate over voter ID has come to Arkansas, while legal challenges to North Carolina’s omnibus election legislation will go on trial after the 2014 midterms. The Ohio legislature has sent the Governor a bill that would require state agencies to share data with the secretary of state to help maintain Ohio’s voter records. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell noted that he has yet to see evidence that would call for resolving the Attorney General race in the State’s General Assembly in calling speculation about such a challenge “premature.” The Indian Election Commission’s aggressive campaign to enroll new voters, especially women and the youth, was reflected in higher voter turnout and Honduras’s new president enters office amid  a protest and demonstration fueled by allegations of vote buying and false IDs.