National: What voter turnout means for efforts to remedy income inequality | The Washington Post

The gap between rhetoric about income inequality and action to deal with it is sizable. There are many reasons for that, but one possible explanation, according to a provocative new book, is the contrasting views of Americans who vote and those who do not. The book is titled “Who Votes Now? Demographics, Issues, Inequality, and Turnout in the United States.” The authors are two political scientists, Jan E. Leighley of American University and Jonathan Nagler of New York University. “Who Votes Now?” is a thoroughgoing examination of voter turnout patterns from 1972 through 2008 and offers much to chew on. But its most important finding, the authors say, is that, on crucial questions about economic policy and redistribution, those who vote do not represent the views of those who do not vote. “Voters are significantly more conservative than nonvoters on redistributive issues and have been in every election since 1972,” they write.

National: New Law Brings Major Changes to the FEC’s Administrative Fine Program – and New Challenges for Independent Expenditures | In the Arena

On December 26, President Obama signed into law a bill to extend the Federal Election Commission’s administrative fine program.  The new law broadens the program significantly, in ways that will especially affect those who make independent expenditures. The administrative fine program allows the FEC to collect fines on a streamlined basis, and on fixed schedules, when political committees fail timely to file their regular periodic reports, or when candidate committees fail timely to file their last-minute contribution (or “48-hour”) reports.  While the program places strict limits on when a respondent can challenge a fine, it has generally been regarded as successful, and has largely avoided partisan or ideological controversy.

Voting Blogs: “Accuracy, Resilience and Denial” and Their Impact on Elections | Election Academy

One of my favorite non-election blogs is that of marketing guru Seth Godin, who has written numerous books on various aspects of how to succeed in marketing, business and life. I was especially taken with a recent post that discussed the different ways an individual or organization can deal with the need to succeed in the face of uncertainty. In it, he says that accuracy, resilience and denial are three ways to deal with the future. …  As I read the post, I couldn’t help but think about the different ways that election officials cope with the uncertainty of turnout and other factors that affect the conduct of elections.

Mississippi: State Senator Proposes Voter Registration Upgrade | WTOK

State Sen. David Blount is proposing an upgrade to the voter registration system in Mississippi. “We need to get away from mailing paper back and forth through the mail and we ought to do stuff online,” said Blount. “Because the fundamental principle is the more people who are involved in our democracy, the better our government will be.” There’s currently the option to go to the local circuit clerk’s office or print out a form on the secretary of state’s website. But you can’t submit it online. “It’s just not the way business is conducted in the 21st century,” Blount said. He says a few clicks could streamline the process.

North Carolina: Few in apply for free voter ID card | The Asheville Citizen-Times

Twenty-two people in North Carolina had applied for a free voter identification card as of midday Friday, the second day the card was offered in the state. Voters will need government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot in 2016 under a state law set last year by the Republican-controlled General Assembly. The law that requires the voter identification has other provisions that include ending same-day voter registration, trimming the period for early voting from 17 days to 10 and eliminating a program that encourages high school students to register to vote in advance of their 18th birthdays. The political parties said they would work with their members to make sure those who need the free IDs would get them in time.

North Carolina: The right to vote cannot be voted on | Technician Online

North Carolina’s state government functioned in a state of confusion last summer. Each Monday, Raleigh hosted hundreds of protestors, ranging from those who challenged the proposed, heavily restrictive anti-abortion laws and cuts to teacher salaries as waves of conservative influence exerted itself on the floor of the North Carolina House. While the aforementioned proposals drew attention from major news sources, the legislation that most propelled North Carolina into the national spotlight and the center of heavy media debate was its reintroduction of a new set of regulations relating to voting rights. Suddenly, North Carolina was facing the passage of a bill that, at its surface, seemed to be an attempt to bolster a strong image of voter security. In actuality, voter fraud rarely happens. A study by the U.S. Department of Justice found that between 2002 and 2005, only 40 voters were indicted for voter fraud. North Carolina’s voter ID bill represents the failings of a conservative state legislation in regards to not only the right to vote but also the interests of those in minority status.

Ohio: Republicans aren’t done changing voting laws yet | WKSU

After the 2012 election, questions arose about voter fraud, accessibility and accountability. So, as expected, in 2013, many bills that addressed those issues were introduced in the Ohio Legislature. But as Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports, few of them actually made it into law. To understand the genesis of many election bills introduced this year, you need to remember what happened in 2012. A contentious law that restricted times and ways Ohioans could vote was under the threat of repeal by voters. So the Republican-run Legislature took matters into its own hands and in an unusual way, repealed that law.

Wyoming: Conservative group battles Federal Election Commission over election law | Star-Tribune

A conservative Wyoming-based group hopes to battle the Federal Election Commission in the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to change federal election laws. The group, Free Speech, has been hammering at the agency in Wyoming’s federal district and federal appeals courts since the 2012 presidential election. Both courts dismissed the case, prompting Free Speech to petition the Supreme Court on Monday. Free Speech hopes a Supreme Court decision will limit an alleged burden on political speech while giving small-money, politically active groups a chance to compete with big-name, high-dollar political groups in Washington. The FEC claims it doesn’t impede the First Amendment or grassroots groups. “The members of Free Speech are three men from Wyoming who aspire to share their views about ranching, President Obama and other topics with the public on a shoestring budget,” Free Speech’s legal counsel wrote in the petition. “Federal election law made this task impossible by requiring compliance with regulatory standards that even the FEC could not articulate and, when applied, impose a regulatory regime far too burdensome for most citizens.”

Bangladesh: Violence mars poll in Bangladesh | The Hindu

The much-awaited Bangladeshi election was marred by violence as the eight hours-long voting closed at 4 p.m. with reports of low turnout because of panic among voters and widespread boycott by the opposition. Polling ended in all 147 parliamentary constituencies across the country amid attacks by the anti-poll activists which forced the Election Commission to suspend voting in at least 161 centres. A total of 390 candidates from the ruling Awami League-led alliance contested in the 147 constituencies where there was no formidable opposition. Interestingly, in many constituencies, the ruling party candidates faced formidable party rebels. The total number of polling centres was 18,208. The situation worsened from Friday night when opposition activists set on fire as many as 100 polling centres over 49 centres on Saturday and Sunday. They also beat a presiding officer to death in Thakurgaon .

India: Tie-up of Election Commission and Google sparks security fears | Hindustan Times

Indian software professionals have expressed their worry at the Election Commission of India’s (ECI) project to register fresh voters by using the services of software behemoth Google. Warning that data collected by Google has been frequently used by American spy agency, the NSA, this consortium of professionals has sent a letter to the chief election commissioner pointing out this “security breach. At a time when the world is concerned about the security of sensitive data, a Constitutional authority like the ECI is making it readily available to a foreign company,” Jiten Jain from the consortium. “The government has said that no sensitive data of Indians will ever be shared with foreign servers. But the ECI will hand over names, IP addresses, cell phone numbers, residential addresses and all other kinds of sensitive data to Google for this project. This should have been cleared by Indian security agencies first.”

India: Google-Election Commission tie-up talks alarm cyber group | Business Standard

Cyber security professionals have raised an alarm about the potential danger to national security, even before the Election Commission (EC) formally announces a tie-up with US technology giant Google. The poll panel has been in talks with the internet firm’s India office to allow voters to easily search for their details on electoral lists. The company had also proposed to build an application for voters to get road directions to polling stations through Google Maps. It was also reported last week that Google would help EC manage online voter registrations before the Lok Sabha elections this year. “This will lead to a goldmine of intelligence,” said Jiten Jain, a member of the Indian Infosec Consortium (IIC), an association of professionals working in the field of cyber security and are critics of the proposed relationship between EC and Google. He added that citizens will have to provide their email addresses and mobile numbers for new voter registrations. That, combined with Google’s other technology offerings like email, search, maps, etc could aid in building profiles of voters which could invade their privacy.

Nepal: Court gives voters right to reject candidates | Business Standard

In a landmark judgement, Nepal’s Supreme Court has given voters the right to cast negative votes during the parliamentary or local elections. The court in the verdict yesterday also directed the government and the Election Commission to introduce laws to this effect so the voters can reject candidates, weeks after India introduced “None of the above” option. A joint bench of justices Kalyan Shrestha and Prakash Wasti issued the order responding to a writ petition filed by two advocates. With this decision, the ballot papers in coming elections will now have a separate option “none of the above” to allow voters to cast negative votes. The court in its order has asked the Prime Minister’s Office, Election Commission and the Ministry of Law Justice, Constituent Assembly and Parliamentary Affairs (MoLJPA) to ensure negative voting provision in the electoral process.

Thailand: Thai February Polls to Go Ahead Despite Protests | VoA News

Thailand’s election commission says it will go ahead with nationwide elections on February 2, despite worries over security as anti-government protestors vow to shut-down Bangkok starting January 13. The commission held talks with key political parties, including the governing Pheu Thai Party and opposition Democrat Party, which is boycotting the vote, before it made its announcement. While anti-government protesters succeeded in largely blocking candidates registering in southern provinces, a stronghold of the opposition Democrat Party, elsewhere a total of 642 candidates applied to contest the poll. The election commission says the 123 candidates who were unable to register because they were blocked by protesters must petition the Supreme Court to be included on the ballots.

North Carolina: Groups challenging redistricting seek delay of 2014 primary elections | News Observer

Groups unhappy with the North Carolina legislative and congressional districts drawn three years ago by the General Assembly have asked the state Supreme Court to delay this year’s primary elections. In a request for a temporary injunction filed with the state’s highest court Thursday, attorneys for Democratic voters and civil rights groups argued that it would be disruptive to proceed with the established election cycle while constitutional questions linger about the 2011 maps. The filing period for candidates seeking seats in the state General Assembly and the U.S. House is set to open Feb. 10 and close on Feb. 28. Primary elections are set for May 6. “Sufficient time may not now exist for this Court to properly resolve the significant federal and state constitutional questions presented in this appeal,” the request for relief states.