National: RNC tightens 2016 primary calendar, rules | The Hill

A series of changes aimed at tightening the GOP presidential primary calendar sailed through a vote at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting, giving the party new tools to control its nomination process. The new 2016 rules will make it much harder for states to cut in line in the nomination process and will help Republicans avoid a repeat of a drawn out, bloody primary many believe damaged Mitt Romney’s chances in 2012 of defeating President Obama. After a contentious Thursday hearing on some rules changes, few members joined Virginia Committeeman Morton Blackwell in objecting to the final package — the landslide vote was 153 in favor, with 9 opposing. “I’m really proud of you for this debate,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said following the vote, to a standing ovation from the committee. “This is a historic day for our party, and I thank you all for what you’ve done. … We will all have a much better process in 2016.”

Editorials: Don’t Blame the Maps | Jowei Chen and Jonathan Rodden/New York Times

Do the Republicans owe their current congressional majority to gerrymandering? At first glance, it seems self-evident that they do. In the 2012 election, the Democrats won the popular votes for the presidency, the Senate and the House of Representatives. But somehow in the House — for whose seats Republicans controlled the redistricting process in many crucial states — the Republicans managed to end up with a 16-seat majority despite losing the popular vote. The presumption among many reformers is that the Democrats would control Congress today if the 2012 election had been contested in districts drawn by nonpartisan commissioners rather than politicians. But is this true? Another possibility is that Democrats receive more votes than seats because so many of their voters reside in dense cities that Democratic candidates win with overwhelming majorities, while Republican voters are more evenly distributed across exurbs and the rural periphery. Perhaps even a nonpartisan redistricting process would still have delivered the House to the Republicans.

Arkansas: Rushed laws lead to election glitches | Arkansas News

This year’s elections have run into a couple of snags because legislators forgot to dot some i’s and cross some t’s. In one case, the state’s new law requiring voters to present a photo ID at the ballot box or include some form of identification when voting absentee caused a problem in the Jonesboro state Senate race. The voter ID law was passed in 2013 amidst a political brouhaha, with Republicans saying it is needed to prevent fraud, and Democrats saying its real purpose is to make it harder for poor people to vote for Democrats. The law allows voters at the polls that don’t have an ID to vote provisionally and then present one by noon on the Monday after the election, but it is silent on what to do about absentee voters who don’t provide an ID.

Florida: Fights continue over voting rules in Florida | Orlando Sentinel

Florida elections officials predict that a new round of reforms should make voting in November a breeze compared with 2012, when tens of thousands of residents were forced to wait seven hours or longer to cast a ballot. But the changes, which include more days of early voting, don’t signal a truce in the fight over Florida elections. From Congress to the courts, activists of all stripes continue to battle over voting rules. The outcome of those fights could affect how — and which — Floridians go to the polls in 2014 and beyond. One flash point is voting rights for ex-convicts. Florida is one of just a few states that prohibit felons from voting once their sentences are complete. Instead, they must wait at least five years before they can apply to a state clemency board to have their rights restored.

Illinois: New law will let some 17-year-olds vote in primary | Quincy Herald-Whig

For the first time ever, 17-year-old residents of Illinois will be able vote in a primary election this year — provided they will turn 18 in time for the Nov. 4 general election. This comes as welcome news for politically minded students like Julian Engels, a junior at Quincy High School. Engels will turn 18 in July. That not only makes him eligible right now to register to vote, but it also means he’ll be able to cast a ballot in the March 18 primary election — something he plans to do. Engels has already printed out an Illinois voter-registration form that he downloaded from the Internet. “I filled out the form and I’m ready to mail it in,” he said. But he’s not going to stop there. Engels is also planning to encourage other eligible QHS students to register to vote and take part in the election process this year.

Editorials: Michigan legislature should act on online registration, no-reason absentee voting | Barb Byrum/

Voting is one of the greatest privileges of being an American. The right and the ability to cast our ballots on Election Day is what help us shape our community, our nation and our future together. As our Constitution assures us, as Americans, voting is how we build a more perfect union. Unfortunately, a presidential Commission on Election Administration recently found that voting remains more difficult and time consuming than necessary. After six months of research, the bipartisan panel also found that Americans from all backgrounds – Republicans, Democrats and independents – want election reforms and a “modern, efficient and responsive” voting experience. Other states have been paying attention. They’re taking steps to help more Americans vote. Michigan, on the other hands, lags far behind and it’s time for policymakers and elected leaders in the Legislature to take action.

Verified Voting Blog: Post Election Audits for New Hampshire

No voting system is perfect. Nearly all elections in New Hampshire, as in most of the nation, are counted using electronic vote counting systems. Such systems have produced result-changing errors through problems with hardware, software and procedures. Error can also occur when compiling results. Even serious error can go undetected if results are not audited effectively.

In a municipal election in Palm Beach County, Florida in 2012 a “synchronization” problem with the election management software allotted votes to both the wrong candidate and the wrong contest; this was uncovered during a post-election audit. The results were officially changed after a public hand count of the votes. Particularly noteworthy about that example is the fact that Florida has one of the nation’s weakest audit provisions; even so, it enabled the discovery of this critical error. In another state, a software malfunction caused thousands of votes to be added to the total. A manual audit revealed the mistake and officials were able to correct the results and avoid a costly run-off election. In a Republican primary in Iowa, a manual check of the physical ballots revealed a programming error that was attributing votes to the wrong candidates. Thanks to the manual audit, the correct person was seated in office.

North Carolina: Justices will not delay 2014 elections | Associated Press

The 2014 elections will go on as planned after North Carolina’s highest court refused to delay them while the justices consider the legality of the most recent version of election districts. The state Supreme Court announced Friday its denial of a motion by election and civil rights advocacy groups and Democratic voters challenging the boundaries for General Assembly seats and North Carolina’s congressional delegation. They wanted to halt the start of the election schedule that begins Feb. 10 with candidate filing, as well as the May 6 primary, until the court ruled whether the boundaries are legal. The state’s highest court heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of the maps earlier this month.

North Carolina: Lawmakers try to quash subpoenas that seek details about voter ID law | Charlotte Observer

North Carolina legislative leaders who led the crafting of the state’s new voter ID law have been very open about their support of the measure and other elections changes. But voters and organizations challenging the wide-ranging amendments contend that those same lawmakers are being far too private about email and other correspondence they exchanged while transforming the state’s voting process. Critics of the voting-law changes say that its Republican sponsors had information that the legislation would have a negative impact on African-Americans and other minorities. In federal court filings this month, the NAACP, the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, the American Civil Liberties Union, the U.S. Justice Department and others who are suing the governor, state legislators and North Carolina election board members sought a court order for email and other correspondence. Thirteen legislators, all Republicans, asked the court to quash subpoenas requiring them to produce any documents they created or received concerning the “rationale, purpose and implementation” of House Bill 589.

Washington: Democrats push forward minority voting bill; measure likely to die in Senate | Associated Press

In another move to differentiate themselves from the Republican-controlled Senate, House Democrats are pushing forward a measure that aims to enhance minority voting rights. The House is expected to vote next week on the measure called the Washington Voting Rights Act, which opens the possibility of court challenges to cities, counties and school districts to push them to switch from at-large to district elections in areas where large minority groups are present. The measure, like others in this short session, is expected to die in the Senate, a chamber controlled by a Republican-dominated coalition. This short legislative session is shaping into a bipartisan stall, where measures from opposite chambers aren’t going anywhere.

Egypt: Early presidential election to be held | Al Jazeera

Egypt’s interim president, Adly Mansour has announced that Egypt will hold a presidential election before parliamentary polls, changing a political “road map” laid down after the army overthrew Mohamed Morsi last summer. The long-expected change could pave the way for the swift election of General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the popular defence minister who many expect will run for the presidency. The “road map” had called for parliamentary elections first, but many of Egypt’s political parties said they would not be ready for a legislative vote this spring. “Most of the political forces demanded presidential elections first,” Mansour said in a televised address, “and I have amended the road map to meet their demands.”

Voting Blogs: Presidential elections: key step in Egypt’s roadmap | openDemocracy

With the announcement of the results of Egypt’s 2014 constitutional referendum, the curtains were brought down on the first stage of the July 3 roadmap. According to the consensus on the roadmap, Egyptians should now be readying for parliamentary elections. However, all indicators point to a change in the agreed upon sequence of events, in which presidential elections will most likely come next. As a matter of principle, I have many concerns regarding amendments or changes to the roadmap. This is not due to personal convictions regarding staging parliamentary elections before electing a president, and neither is it due to inflexibility or persistence. Ultimately, the roadmap, which is the result of human decisions, is not immune to changes or amendments. Rather, there is the concern that if the door for change is opened once, it can’t be closed again.

Malta: Government exploring new technology to safeguard blind voters’ privacy | Malta Today

Representatives of the visual impaired in Malta have renewed their appeal to the government to amend electoral laws, and allow blind voters to have a person they trust assisting them while casting their vote. Currently, representatives from the Electoral Commission and the political parties assist the blind voters. “But we feel uncomfortable to vote by showing our voting preferences to four unknown persons that we have never met in our life. We deserve our privacy,” Frans Tirchett said on behalf of the visually impaired. He told Sunday newspaper Illum how they have been lobbying for legal amendments for years, but so far, its efforts, most recently a failed 2007 court case, were all in vain.

Serbia: Early Vote To Be Held in March | Associated Press

Serbia’s ruling center-right populist party said Saturday it wants to hold early parliamentary elections to push for economic reforms and cement its grip on power in the economically-troubled Balkan country. The leader of the Serbian Progressive Party and deputy prime minister, Aleksandar Vucic, told the party gathering he wants to “test the will of the people” in the polls that are likely to be held in March. The former pro-Russian ultranationalists turned pro-European Union reformers are by far the most popular party in Serbia. Vucic hopes the early vote will give him a mandate to become the prime minister and rule without the support of the Socialists, whose leader, Ivica Dacic, is the current premier.

Thailand: Protest leader killed as anti-government demonstrations disrupt advance voting in Thailand | Australia Network News

Thai anti-government protest leader has been shot dead in Bangkok. The protest movement’s spokesman, Akanat Promphan, says Suthin Tharathin was giving a speech from a pick-up truck in the Thai capital when he was shot and killed. “The government has failed to provide any safety and security for anybody today despite the emergency decree,” he said, referring to a government order empowering police to control protests. Bangkok’s Erawan emergency centre confirmed one man had been killed and nine injured in the shooting in the city’s suburbs. Anti-government protesters forced the closure of 19 out of 50 polling stations in the Thai capital, Bangkok, on Sunday, disrupting advance voting for the disputed general election.