International: Election Year: More Than 44 Percent Of The World’s Population Will Have The Chance To Vote In 2014 | International Business News

The first democratically held election of this year, in Bangladesh, didn’t go so well. Only 22 percent of the voting-age population cast a vote, a steep decline from the last election’s voter turnout of 87 percent. Animosity between Bangladesh’s two primary political parties reached a peak, and one of the them, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, boycotted the vote as their demand for a nonpartisan government overseer was not met. Voting is under way in the second election of the year — a referendum in Egypt that will approve (or not) a revised constitution proposed by military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, as part of his bid for the presidency.

Egypt: Egypt’s 97.7 Per Cent: If Everyone Votes Yes, Is It Democracy? | The New Yorker

“Egypt is the gift of the Nile for Egyptians and the gift of Egyptians to humanity.” Thus begins the new Egyptian constitution, which, according to preliminary results, was approved by 97.7 per cent of voters this week. The percentage of voters who didn’t read the full document probably also ranges well above ninety—in conversations with many Cairenes, I met only one person who said he had read the whole thing. It’s hard to blame the others. The constitution opens with a strange, rambling preamble that in translation stretches for more than thirteen hundred words, mentioning, in the following order, Allah, Moses, the Virgin Mary, Jesus, the Prophet Muhammad, Muhammad Ali Pasha, Refaa the Azharian, Ahmed Orabi, Mostafa Kamel, Mohamed Farid, Saad Zaghloul, Mostafa el-Nahhas, Talaat Harb, and Gamal Abdel Nasser. The Nile inundates three of the first six sentences. It’s a preamble to everything—not just the constitution but human civilization itself: “In the outset of history, the dawn of human consciousness arose and shone forth in the hearts of our great ancestors, whose goodwill banded together to found the first central State that regulated and organized the life of Egyptians on the banks of the Nile.”

National: Former Connecticut Secretary of the State Miles Rapoport to lead Common Cause | New Haven Register

Former Connecticut Secretary of the State Miles Rapoport will be the next president and chief executive officer of Common Cause, a national non-profit government watchdog agency. The agency announced Rapoport’s appointment in a news release Tuesday. Rapoport, a Democrat who served as Secretary of the State from 1995-99 and as a state representative from 1985-95, has been president of Demos, another non-profit watchdog agency, since 2001. He will succeed former congressman Bob Edgar, who died suddenly last April after leading the organization for six years. Rapoport starts his new job March 10.

Indiana: Charlie White stays free pending appeal | The Indiana Lawyer

Convicted former Secretary of State Charlie White’s sentence of one year of home detention will not be executed pending his post-conviction relief appeal, a judge ruled last week. White’s attorney Andrea Ciobanu said a motion to stay execution of the sentence was granted Jan. 8 by Hamilton Superior Judge Daniel Pfleging. White filed a notice of appeal on Dec. 30, after the court rejected his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.

Iowa: Iowa governor restores more felons voting rights | Associated Press

Gov. Terry Branstad restored voting rights to more convicted felons in 2013 than in the prior two years combined, but they represent a tiny fraction of the thousands of former offenders who can’t vote because of a 2011 policy change the governor ordered, according to a review by The Associated Press. Branstad used his power of executive clemency to restore the right to vote and hold public office to 21 offenders who applied in 2013, compared to 17 in 2012 and two in 2011, according to data released by the governor’s officer under the public records law. Those receiving clemency included people convicted of theft, burglary, drugs, firearms and harassment charges, records show. The increase comes after the governor’s office made the application process easier in December 2012 in response to criticism from voting rights groups, who argued it was too onerous and perhaps the toughest in the nation. Acknowledging such criticism, Branstad removed requirements that applicants submit a credit history check and that all court-ordered restitution be paid to victims in full before they apply.

Kentucky: Felon Voting Rights Bill Passes House Committee | WKMS

A bill that would restore voting rights for non-violent felons has passed a Kentucky House committee. The measure is Rep. Jesse Crenshaw’s latest attempt to put approximately 130,000 felons back on the voting rolls. Similar efforts have repeatedly stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate. But Crenshaw says he hopes that his bill will fare better this year due to support from U.S. Sen. Rand Paul.

Massachusetts: Senate bill would allow 10-day early voting period | Worcester Telegram & Gazette

Massachusetts voters would have the convenience of casting ballots during a 10-day period before Election Day in state and federal elections, , starting with the 2016 presidential election, under a bill scheduled for a vote in the Senate Thursday. The legislation also would set up a new online voter registration system. The bill, put out by the Senate Elections Committee this week, would allow early voting at least at one site in every city or town for 10 business days before Election Day. The bill calls for the online voter registration system to be in place by August 2015.

Michigan: Snyder: State of State won’t repeat pledge for easier absentee, voter registration | The Detroit News

Gov. Rick Snyder will set the tone for his re-election campaign and preview upcoming budget battles in tonight’s State of the State address. He is expected to talk about education, discuss what to do with a projected $1 billion surplus, renew the quest for more permanent road repair money and dwell on his accomplishments. What won’t be included is a repeat of his pledge from last year to join Secretary of State Ruth Johnson in seeking no-reason absentee voting and online voter registration — initiatives that are not popular among the Republican legislative majority. “I don’t think that’s something I’m going to emphasize because there was some effort to do that last year that didn’t work,” Snyder said in an interview Tuesday at the North American International Auto Show. “There’s a limited opportunity window, and given that it’s an election year, I think there are other things that will be priorities.”

Missouri: Online Voter Registration in Missouri | Northwest Missourian

As the midterm elections loom closer and closer, voter registration becomes increasingly important. Online voter registration is a recent concept in Missouri after going into effect December 20th. It was successfully pushed by Secretary of State Jason Kander in an effort to boost turnout rates, but there are some that feel it can cause issues. Beth Walker, the Nodaway County clerk and election authority, feels the idea may skew the numbers of voter turnout. “So many people register… but they are not wanting to go to the polls,” Walker said. “People are going to have to believe that their vote matters.” Another question that has been brought up is if online registration will lead to online voting. “There is a high possibility that we could see electronic voting in the near future,” Walker said. “This is in part because we have created a society to make everything easy.”

New Hampshire: Secretary of State opposes move to open ballots to public view | New Hampshire Union Leader

The state office that oversees elections is opposing a bill that would open individual ballots to public view after an election. Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan told the House Election Law Committee Tuesday that House Bill 1357, if passed, could open elections to corruption. “Hopefully,” Scanlan said, “you trust your local moderator” and other election officials “to make sure they are running the election in your town in a fair and impartial way.”

North Carolina: Civil rights group wants McCrory to speed up special election schedule for 12th District | Associated Press

A civil rights organization pressed North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory on Tuesday not to wait until November to let voters elect a successor to former U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, saying that will deny representation to 12th Congressional District residents for too long. Holding a Nov. 4 election to fill Watt’s unexpired term means more than 700,000 citizens will be without someone in Congress to speak for them on critical legislation like the budget, immigration and possibly the Voting Rights Act for most of 2014, said the Rev. William Barber, president of the state conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “Citizens of North Carolina will be forced to go more than 300 days – almost one year – without their constitutionally guaranteed right to representation,” Barber told reporters. “This is taxation without representation.”

North Carolina: McCrory defends choice to delay special congressional election | The Voter Update

Republican Gov. Pat McCrory on Tuesday responded to a letter from Democratic Congressmen David Price and G.K. Butterfield that criticized his choice to delay a special election filling a vacancy in North Carolina’s 12th congressional district. Last week, Democratic Rep. Mel Watt formally resigned his seat in the district after being confirmed as head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. On the same day, McCrory announced that the special election to complete the remainder of Watt’s term will follow the same schedule as this year’s regular elections, leaving the seat open until after a Nov. 4 vote. That decision would mean the 700,000 residents in the Democratic-leaning district, which winds narrowly up I-85 from Charlotte to Winston-Salem and Greensboro, would be without a representative in Congress for most of 2014. Price and Butterfield called the 300-day vacancy “indefensible” in their joint letter to McCrory.

Ohio: Elections chief sets early voting hours, days | Associated Press

Ohio’s election chief has set the hours and days that residents can vote early for the May primary election, saying it was necessary because the Legislature has failed to put uniform times into law. Voters can cast an absentee ballot early by mail or in person without giving any reason. The 2012 presidential election cycle in Ohio was marked by several disputes over early voting rules, including a lawsuit brought by President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. Secretary of State Jon Husted said Wednesday that he’s repeatedly asked the General Assembly to write the hours into law, but members have not acted.

Editorials: Puerto Ricans, others still denied full voting rights | Miami Herald

This month we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his commitment and accomplishments for equality — including voting rights — during the civil-rights movement. Even though great voting rights accomplishments have been achieved over the decades, injustices still exist. U.S. citizens residing in American territories such as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and Samoa are denied the right to vote for president. The premise is that these territories are not states of the union, and therefore, U.S. citizens residing in these territories must be denied the right to vote. But a U.S. citizen, for example, residing in, say, North Korea, under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, will still maintain his or her right to vote. This is the same for any other country that the citizen moves to as long as they resided in a state of the union prior to moving. However, a U.S. citizen who was born in a territory will never have the right to vote as long as they are a resident of that or another U.S. territory.

Virginia: Coleman to file for recount this week in Senate race | Virginia Pilot

Republican Wayne Coleman will ask for a recount by Thursday in the close election to represent Virginia’s 6th Senate District. “We will file a petition on or before Thursday,” Coleman’s campaign manager, Austin Chambers, said today. Democrat Lynwood Lewis, a longtime Eastern Shore state delegate, was certified the winner Friday after a Jan. 7 special election. He beat Coleman, a Norfolk businessman, by nine votes out of roughly 20,400 cast. Even before Lewis’ win was made official, Coleman’s campaign had said it planned to seek a recount, but it hadn’t said when. Asked if the candidate is taking his time in filing with control of the split Virginia Senate at stake, Chambers said Coleman’s petition will be submitted “when we feel comfortable that we have everything we need to file.”

Egypt: Regime Claims Legitimacy on Vote | Wall Street Journal

The military-backed government portrayed a two-day referendum to amend the constitution that ended on Wednesday as an endorsement of its legitimacy. The draft constitution is expected to be approved following a well-financed “yes” campaign promoted by the government, businessmen and liberal political parties. Ehab Badawy, the spokesman for the interim president, Adly Mansour, wrote in an email Wednesday that millions had voted to demonstrate their “belief in democracy.” The referendum was boycotted by the Muslim Brotherhood, whose leaders were arrested after the July ouster of their leader, Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

Russia: ‘None of the Above’ on Its Way Back to the Ballot | The Moscow Times

The State Duma’s Legislation Committee on Monday approved a bill reintroducing the “none of the above” option in all elections except for those choosing a president. The ballot option was introduced in Russia in 1991 but was removed in 2006. Its planned reintroduction has been widely interpreted as an attempt by United Russia to take votes away from opposition candidates. Legislation Committee chairman Vladimir Pligin, of United Russia, said that the option would be reasonable for municipal elections but that its relevance for State Duma and regional elections was open to discussion. The bill was submitted last October by Valentina Matviyenko, speaker of the Federation Council, and other members of the parliament’s upper house. They argued that the option would help determine whether a particular vote was a protest vote against the ruling party or a genuine preference for a specific candidate.

Spain: Catalonia holds key vote in Spain secession drive | Associated Press

A European season of separatist fervor kicks off Thursday with Catalan lawmakers voting on whether to seek the right to hold a referendum on independence from Spain. The EU will be watching closely as Belgium’s Dutch speakers gear up to push for greater autonomy in May elections, and Scotland prepares to hold its own referendum on breaking away from Britain in the fall. Thursday’s vote is a milestone in years of mass protests by Catalans, who are fiercely proud of their distinct culture and language, demanding the right to decide whether they want to secede. But it is also largely a symbolic one.

Thailand: Caretaker government considers postponing election | CNTV

Thai caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has also called for a meeting with all sides to discuss an Electoral Commission proposal to postpone the February 2nd snap election. The move comes amid fierce anti-government protests that have paralysed parts of Bangkok since Monday. But her proposal has already been rejected by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee. Pressure is mounting on caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra as protests tighten. In hopes of placating her opponents, Yingluck has decided to comprise, calling for negotiations with the opposition about postponing next month’s election.

Tunisia: Election commission members sworn in | World Bulletin

The elected members of Tunisia’s High Election Commission were sworn in on Wednesday at the presidential Palace in Carthage. The ceremony was attended by President Moncef Marzouki, caretaker Prime Minister Ali Larayedh and new premier Mehdi Jomaa. “Several things must be present so that the commission can do its work properly, including a free media that can convince citizens to go to polling stations during elections,” said Marzouki. The Tunisian leader called for holding parliamentary and presidential elections as early as possible to bring about a much-needed security to his country. “I hope we can hold the elections before the summer,” he said. Meanwhile, election commission chief Shafiq Sersar said he and his colleagues would work hard to hold successful, transparent and democratic elections. Sersar was elected head of the commission last Thursday.