California: Turnout in Special Elections Has Declined by 1/3 Since Top-Two Rules Came into Force | Ballot Access News

Many large newspapers in California are bemoaning the very low turnout in special U.S. House and legislative elections recently. Some newspapers are editorializing in favor of eliminating special elections for the legislature, and advocating that the Constitution be changed to let the Governor appoint legislators to fill vacant seats. See this Los Angeles Times editorial, and this Santa Rosa Press Democrat editorial. The newspapers are correct that voter turnout in recent special elections has been low. Ever since the top-two rules were in force, starting in 2011, the median voter turnout in California special legislative and U.S. House elections has been 13.84%. The average has been 15.80%. There have been 19 special elections under top-two rules.

California: Assemblyman Roger Hernandez plans to introduce bill requiring district-based elections | Daily Bulletin

Calling it an effort to strengthen the California Voting Rights Act and address the problem that “it’s difficult for people of color to get elected,” Assemblyman Roger Hernandez says he plans to introduce legislation that would require cities with populations of 100,000 or more to hold district-based municipal elections. The bill, the Municipal Fair Representation Act, as currently written would apply only to general law cities, such as West Covina, El Monte, Fontana, Ontario, and Rancho Cucamonga. It would not apply to cities that are established under charters. “It’s important that we do our best as governmental leaders to have voting systems in place to give our diverse populations the best chance of having reflective representation,” Hernandez, D-West Covina, said in a telephone interview Friday. An aide said Hernandez plans to introduce the legislation in January.

Iowa: Voter fraud investigation possibly financed by misused funds |

Iowa’s Secretary of State has been warned by the State Auditor’s Office that funds used for a voter fraud investigation may need to be repaid. According to a report by the Des Moines Register, in July of 2012 Iowa’s Secretary of State Matt Schultz launched an investigation with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) to look into cases of alleged voter fraud. Schultz reportedly used Help America Vote Act funds for the investigation, which may have violated how the HAVA funds are supposed to be used. A letter dated Wednesday, December 18, 2013 from the Chief Auditor of State Warren Jenkins said that the HAVA Act doesn’t explain whether it’s permissible to use HAVA funds to investigate potential voter fraud.

Kansas: Kris Kobach draws unusual attention to sleepy Kansas office of secretary of state | Kansas City Star

When Bill Graves plunged into Kansas politics in 1986 to run for secretary of state, he needed more than just money and statewide support. “One of the hardest challenges on the campaign trail was to explain what the secretary of state did. I mean, why should it matter?” the former governor told historians. “How do you generate some energy?” Experts don’t expect that to be a problem for Kris Kobach, the current Republican secretary of state who has been a polarizing figure partly because of his efforts in Kansas and beyond to crack down on undocumented immigrants. Kobach is running for a second term. He has drawn Democratic opposition from Jean Schodorf, a former Republican state senator from Wichita defeated in the conservative sweep of 2012. Schodorf was part of the moderate Republican leadership team that controlled the state Senate until 2012. She grew up on a farm in southeast Kansas. Her brother is Bill Kurtis, the Kansas television personality who hosted the long-running A&E series “Investigative Reports.”

Kentucky: Rand Paul’s allies say State law can’t stop him from running for senator and president |

Rand Paul from seeking the presidency and his seat in Congress on the same Kentucky ballot in 2016 is unconstitutional, claim supporters who are girding for a fight over the law. Paul certainly wouldn’t be the first federal politician to run for the presidency and re-election to Congress at the same time. U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Vice President Joe Biden, D-Del., former U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman and many others have done it. In Kentucky, though, state law says a candidate can’t appear on the same ballot twice. That would presumably be a problem for Paul, who has said he plans to seek re-election in 2016 regardless of what he decides about running for president the same year. Paul’s allies in Frankfort and Washington contend that Kentucky’s law contradicts the U.S. Constitution. They cite a 1995 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that nullified an Arkansas law that set congressional term limits and prevented a candidate from being on the ballot if he or she exceeded those limits.

Montana: Groups ask Supreme Court to strike down referendums | Ravalli Republic

Some unions and other groups have asked the Montana Supreme Court to strike from the 2014 ballot two legislative referendums dealing with elections. They argue that Attorney General Tim Fox should have rejected both referendums because of legal problems with them. Fox’s staff and the bills’ sponsor, Sen. Alan Olson, R-Roundup, disagreed and said the measures approved by the 2013 Legislature should remain on the 2014 ballot. Legislative Referendum 126 would end voter registration on Election Day and move the registration deadline back to 5 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day, which is on Tuesday. The other measure, LR-127, would change Montana’s primary election to what’s known as the “top two” primary system.

North Carolina: Election official ousted for openly supporting Senate candidate | News Observer

The State Board of Elections on Friday ousted a member of the Beaufort County Board of Elections after ruling that he violated state law by openly supporting Republican U.S. Senate candidate Greg Brannon at a local tea party meeting in October. In doing so, the five-member, Republican-controlled state board made it clear that it wouldn’t take it lightly when county board members publicly practice partisan politics. Bob Hall, executive director of the election reform group Democracy North Carolina, lauded the decision, saying he believed the state board members were taking seriously their responsibility to monitor the political activities of local board members, who are charged with overseeing elections. “By their action, they’re sending a signal to the local board members that they need to obey the law, and the law is quite clear about not publicly endorsing or advocating for candidates,” Hall said.

Oregon: Voter info for sale in Oregon | Statesman Journal

The Oregon Secretary of State’s Office has made nearly $90,000 off fees during the past five years by selling voter information to political parties or campaigns and, sometimes, to private corporations who turn around and sell the data for a profit. The state charges $500 for the database, which includes full names, addresses, phone numbers, date of birth, party registration and voter history. It does not include how anyone voted. The people who buy the database are not supposed to use it for commercial purposes, said Tony Green, a spokesman for Secretary of State Kate Brown. In fact, they must sign a form agreeing not to do so. Records show that many for-profit companies have purchased the entire database during the past five years.

Bangladesh: U.S. Won’t Observe Bangladesh Vote as Political Violence Spreads | Businessweek

The U.S. expressed disappointment with Bangladesh’s political leaders and joined the European Union in declining to send observers for next month’s election amid growing violence in Asia’s fifth-most populous country. With more than half of the seats in the parliamentary election on Jan. 5 uncontested, Bangladesh’s main political parties should redouble efforts to find a peaceful way to settle their disputes, Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement yesterday. The move by the U.S. follows a decision by the European Union last week to refrain from sending observers until conditions allow for a transparent, inclusive and credible election. “The people of Bangladesh deserve the opportunity to elect their national representatives in a climate free of violence and intimidation,” Psaki said. “The nation’s political leadership -– and those who aspire to lead -– must ensure law and order.”

Egypt: Pro-Morsi coalition to boycott constitutional referendum | Ahram Online

Egypt’s National Alliance Supporting legitimacy (NASL), the group calling for the return of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, announced it will boycott the upcoming national referendum on the amended 2012 constitution. “Boycott the null and void referendum which will be carried out under a fascist military coup,” a spokesman for the alliance announced in a news conference Sunday evening. The group cited “political, legal and procedural” reasons to boycott the poll, scheduled by interim president Adly Mansour for 14 and 15 January 2014. “They have no answers to a scenario in their so-called roadmap based on a no vote in the referendum, which hints to an intent on rigging the poll results.”

Madagascar: Rivals both claim poll win, allege fraud | AFP

Madagascar’s presidential candidates both claimed victory Saturday in run-off polls, each accusing the other of rigging the vote as results started to trickle in. Mutual mud-slinging marked the long wait as counting continued after elections on Friday aimed at pulling the island from the doldrums following a coup four years ago. The tiff resembled disputed polls in 2001, when both candidates’ insistence on an outright first-round win led to deadly clashes. Former health minister Robinson Jean Louis, candidate of ousted president Marc Ravalomanana, told AFP he expected to win 56 per cent, while his opponent Hery Rajaonarimampianina claimed to have taken between 60 and 65 percent. “Up to now I’m the winner, and we had a little party last night at our headquarters because the voters who came showed we won, at least according to the results we’ve received,” Jean Louis, 61, told AFP in an interview Saturday. His camp will challenge vote-rigging in court, the freemason doctor said.

Namibia: Biometric machine for voter registration unveiled | Biometric Update

Namibia is planning to use a biometric voter registration system for its upcoming election and the country’s electoral commission has just launched the machine it will be using to enroll voters. According to a report in The Namibian, the machines were manufactured in South Africa, and consist of a laptop, fingerprint scanner, camera and signature and barcode scanner. Voter registration starts on January 15 and ends on March 2 next year. Altogether there are 904 machines as well as generators and back-up kits for emergencies.

Thailand: Despite Protesters’ Blockade, Thai Parties Register for Election | New York Times

Representatives of Thailand’s governing party slipped past a cordon of protesters Monday to register for the upcoming election, infuriating the party’s detractors, who have vowed to suspend democracy until “reforms” are carried out. In a signal that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will likely return as prime minister if the party wins another majority in the Feb. 2 elections, the governing party put her at the top of its electoral list. Ms. Yingluk has faced a month of debilitating street protests in Bangkok, and she and her brother, the billionaire tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra, are the main targets of the protesters’ ire. Her selection as the party’s leading candidate is likely to inflame antigovernment sentiment. The scene around the party registration site in Bangkok on Monday seemed a microcosm of the country’s political standoff. Ms. Yingluck’s party and other, smaller parties are eager to contest the election and put a monthlong political crisis behind them. But protesters and their allies in the Democrat Party, the main opposition party, say the country must undergo reforms, largely unspecified, before any elections are held.

Thailand: Government rejects call to delay election after clashes erupt | Reuters

Thailand’s government rejected a call from the Election Commission (EC) on Thursday to postpone a February vote after clashes between police and anti-government protesters in which a policeman was killed and nearly 100 people were hurt. The EC urged the government to delay the February 2 election until there was “mutual consent” from all sides. But such consent looks highly unlikely given the polarization of Thailand’s politics and the intensifying conflict. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s ruling Puea Thai party would likely win an election. The protesters are demanding that Yingluck steps down and political reforms be introduced before any vote, to try to neutralize the power of the billionaire Shinawatra family. The violence erupted on Thursday when protesters tried to storm a venue where a draw for election ballot numbers was being held and police fired teargas and rubber bullets to keep the rock-throwing crowd back. The policeman was killed and three were wounded by gunshots from an unknown attacker who was believed to have been overlooking the clashes from a building.