National: DOD Seeks to Modernize Mail Delivery of Election Materials |

A multiagency effort is underway to modernize the mail delivery system to improve delivery of election materials to military and overseas voters, the director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program said here today. Matt Boehmer testified before the Senate Rules and Administration Committee on how the Defense Department is improving ballot accessibility. “The Military Postal Service Agency is serving as the lead agency in an effort with the Department of State and the United States Postal Service to lead an effort to modernize military mail delivery,” he said. Boehmer said the department recognized the time required to redirect mail once it has arrived overseas hinders the ability to cast an absentee ballot. “The system will redirect election material to military and diplomatic addresses similar to how the civilian change-of-address system works,” he said, noting it should be available in October. Boehmer noted Congress and the judicial system repeatedly have affirmed that voting is a citizen’s most fundamental right. “The Federal Voting Assistance Program is committed to two voting assistance tenets: promoting the awareness of the right to vote, and eliminating barrier for those who choose to exercise that right,” he said.

Editorials: The Case Against Early Voting | Eugene Kontorovich and John McGinnis/POLITICO

To the delight of anyone who’s ever waited in line to cast a vote, a bipartisan election commission convened by President Barack Obama concluded last week that states across the country should increase their use of early voting. As the Presidential Commission on Election Administration notes in its new report, “no excuse” early voting — meaning it is open even to those who don’t qualify for an absentee ballot — has grown rapidly in recent decades in what the commission called a “quiet revolution.” In the 2012 election, almost one-third of ballots were cast early — more than double those cast in 2000 — and 32 states now permit the practice, allowing citizens to vote an average of 19 days before Election Day. The commission rightly notes that early voting has its advantages for individual voters — not just avoiding long lines, but in many cases also getting to vote on weekends without having to miss work or school. But early voting run amok is bad for democracy. The costs to collective self-governance — which the report refers to only in passing, in a single sentence — substantially outweigh the benefits. Instead of expanding the practice, we should use this moment as an opportunity to establish clear limits on it before it becomes the norm.

Arkansas: Panel suggests voter ID changes | Gannett

Election commissioners in Craighead County have suggested a change in Arkansas’ voter ID law, saying they received conflicting advice on how to treat absentee ballots submitted during a recent special election. The local panel said the State Board of Election Commissioners told them voters were required to present a valid form of identification when turning in ballots during a special state Senate election this month, and that any that came in without a proper ID should be rejected. The secretary of state told the Craighead County Election Commission to give voters a period of time to show a proper ID after submitting an absentee ballot. Craighead County Election Commission Chairman Scott McDaniel said the panel chose to wait and give voters extra time. In a letter to Gov. Mike Beebe, Secretary of State Mark Martin, the Election Commissioners Board and numerous state senators and representatives, the Craighead County panel said it was concerned that, in the future, different counties would follow different procedures involving the same race.

Iowa: Mistakes wrongly barred 3 Iowans from voting, GOP official says | The Des Moines Register

A Republican official says errors by the state election office wrongly prevented three Iowans from voting in the presidential election last fall. And this evening, state lawmakers are calling for an investigation. Ken Kline, the Cerro Gordo County auditor, reports that three ex-felons or non-felons were mistakenly included on a list of felons who are ineligible to vote in Iowa but the problem wasn’t caught until after it was too late to include their ballots in the official tally. In a letter on Tuesday to Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, a Republican, Kline expressed dismay and suggested that something be done to ensure that other names werent incorrectly included on the list of 46,000 felons. “I enjoy my job, and take pride in serving as county auditor in Iowa, where we have a strong history of fair and impartial elections,” Kline wrote in the letter. “One thing I dislike intensely is when I have to send a letter to a voter, notifying the voter his or her ballot was rejected. To have rejected a ballot based on an error or incorrect information is troubling, to say the least.”

Nebraska: Filibuster likely to sink Nebraska’s electoral votes winner-take-all bill | Omaha World Herald

There have been at least 10 unsuccessful attempts at overturning Nebraska’s unique system of awarding its Electoral College votes for president by congressional district. And, as a legislative filibuster against the latest attempt to return Nebraska to a winner-take-all system droned on Wednesday morning, it appeared more and more likely that 2014 would be the latest failed effort. “It’s ‘good night Irene’ for this bill. There will not be a vote on it,” said State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha. Chambers, a registered independent, has pledged an all-out filibuster against Legislative Bill 382, which has sparked a partisan political debate about how best to gain presidential campaign attention for a small state like Nebraska. The bill would have the state join the 48 states that award all electoral votes to the presidential candidate who gains the most votes statewide. Right now, Nebraska and Maine are the only states that award their electoral votes to the top vote-getter in each congressional district.

New York: Albany County minority election districts case can proceed | Times Union

A lawsuit that alleges Albany County didn’t do enough in 2011 to create a new election district made up mostly of minority voters can go forward, a judge ruled. In a decision issued Tuesday, Judge Lawrence E. Kahn ruled there are enough black residents in a compact geographic area in the county to create a fifth minority district, allowing the case to proceed to trial. The plaintiffs — who include local NAACP leader Anne Pope and former County Legislator Wanda Willingham — brought the action seeking to invalidate the 2011 redistricting map by arguing the 2010 census showed a growth in the minority population, and therefore, minority representation should have been increased to five legislators out of 39 from the current of four. The suit says the county violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

South Dakota: State, Indian group agree on satellite polling stations | The Argus Leader

After months of acrimony, including legal battles and harsh words, Secretary of State Jason Gant and a group advocating for Native American voting rights have reached a tentative agreement. In a meeting Wednesday in Pierre, Gant, representatives of the nonprofit Four Directions, and a collection of county auditors and other stakeholders agreed on a framework to spend state money to open early voting places in Native American population centers. The plan could “if not double, even triple” voter participation in several Native-dominated communities, said O.J. Semans, Four Directions’ executive director. At issue are Buffalo, Dewey and Jackson counties, where Indian reservations are dozens of miles from the county courthouses, where early voting takes place. That means taking advantage of South Dakota’s weeks of early voting requires long car rides for many residents of the poorest communities in the state.

Texas: 200,000 Dallas County voters warned of possible problems under new ID law | Dallas Morning News

Nearly 200,000 Dallas County voters have been told of possible problems with their identification, as county elections officials work to resolve complications arising from Texas’ new voter ID law before the March primary. The county elections department mailed out letters on Friday to alert voters to potential conflicts resulting from one part of the contentious law: the requirement that a voter’s name on a valid photo ID must exactly match the name listed in the voter registration database. That requirement could be particularly nettlesome for women, who are more likely to have changed their names after getting married or for other reasons, such as adopting their maiden names as middle names. The issue surfaced in the November election, when some voters complained about having to deal at the polls with name discrepancies. Those hiccups didn’t prevent anyone from voting. Elections officials created a relatively simple way to resolve the problem on the spot, but that added time to the act of voting. The letters — sent at a cost of $79,000 — represent a push by the county to allow voters to square things away before the March 4 primary. There’s a short form to fill out to reconcile differences between how names are listed on photo IDs and in the county’s voter database. The mailing offers the best glimpse yet of the scope and nature of ID problems among Dallas County’s 1.2 million registered voters.

Wisconsin: Secret Court Ruling Could Undermine Wisconsin Campaign Finance Law | PR Watch

A secret court ruling in the “John Doe” probe into campaign finance violations during Wisconsin’s 2011 and 2012 recall elections could have implications well beyond the investigation — if news reports from anonymous sources are accurate. Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal editorial board reported that Wisconsin Judge Gregory Peterson had quashed subpoenas issued to Wisconsin Club for Growth and Citizens for a Strong America in the closed-door John Doe criminal investigation (which operates like a grand jury except in front of a judge), on grounds that it was not illegal for these supposedly independent groups to coordinate with the Walker campaign — since their ads supporting Walker’s reelection did not expressly tell viewers to “vote for” Walker or “vote against” his opponent. Wisconsin Club for Growth spent at least $9.1 million on these “issue ads” supporting Walker and legislative Republicans during the 2011 and 2012 recall elections, and in turn shuffled millions more to Citizens for a Strong America, which funnelled the money to other groups that spent on election “issue ads.”

Australia: Court to rule on Western Australia Senate election | Perth Now

The voters of Western Australia will on Monday learn if they are to return to the polls for a second Senate election. Justice Kenneth Hayne is deliberating on submissions from candidates with the highest number of votes in the first count of WA’s Senate ballot, the senators elected in the recount and the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC). Each is vying for a different outcome. The AEC is calling for the entire Senate election to be declared void and held again. One of its arguments is that 1370 voters whose ballots were lost in between the initial scrutiny and a recount – that was requested, rejected, then granted upon appeal – have been denied the chance to vote. Andrew Bell, acting for the AEC – which itself lost the ballots – said on Thursday the availability of the ballot papers was “essential” in a recount. “The 1370 were prevented from voting because their votes were not counted or capable of being counted in the count that mattered,” Mr Bell told the Court of Disputed Returns during the two-day hearing.

Bulgaria: President seeks referendum to boost voter turnout | EurActiv

Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev proposed yesterday (29 January) a national referendum on how election rules might be changed and boost low trust in the political institutions in the wake of massive protests in the Balkan country last year. If agreed, the referendum will take place together with the European elections on 25 May. Plevneliev proposed a national referendum in which Bulgarians will have their say on whether they want to elect some lawmakers directly rather than from party lists, voting made obligatory and electronic voting allowed. At present, Bulgarians can choose 240 parliament members only from party lists. The plebiscite, which is pending parliament approval, should be held along with the European elections on 25 May, Plevneliev said in an address to the nation late on Wednesday. “I appeal to the parliament to take a decision to hold a referendum … I believe will help to stabilise the institutions and increase public trust,” he said.

Japan: Twitter Star Seeks Tokyo Votes | Wall Street Journal

Kazuma Ieiri’s campaign trail began with a tweet. “I will run for the Tokyo governor election if this tweet gets retweeted 1,000 times,” the 35-year-old star entrepreneur posted on his Twitter account in December. It took only 30 minutes for him to gather enough support. Many celebrities, including famous entrepreneur Takafumi Horie, joined in. Mr. Ieiri, one of the youngest Tokyo governor candidates ever, hadn’t been involved in politics before his December tweet, but he’s drawn a following online over the years, especially after he became the youngest manager to list his company on JASDAQ when he was 29. While running several internet-service companies and restaurants, Mr. Ieiri has also been active on Twitter, occasionally asking his followers to donate money to various causes. Most recently, he helped a mother to raise the cost of a delivery through twitter — “cloud birthing funding,” he called it.

Thailand: Elections in Thailand: The show must go on | The Economist

In front of the Royal Thai Army Club the thuggish rump of a failed people’s revolution gathered to collect their reward. They were to hear the announcement of a temporary interruption of Thai democracy, so that an appointed council of “good men”, as dreamed up by their leader Suthep Thaugsuban, could save the country. Mr Suthep, a former deputy prime minister with the opposition Democrat party, was to be disappointed. There was already a stink of testosterone and aggression in the air. Young men, new veterans of a three-month-long protest against the government, were perched on lorries. They threatened by megaphone to storm the club and rid Thailand of the influence of the “Thaksin regime”, meaning Yingluck Shinawatra, the prime minister (pictured above); as well as her brother, the former prime minister, Thaksin, whom they see as pulling the strings from his refuge in Dubai; and everyone close to them. The protesters are calling their own movement “The People’s Committee for Absolute Democracy with the King as Head of State”. Here at the army club, miles away from the shopping malls and offices in the heart of Bangkok, Mr Suthep’s insurrection has to make do without the benefit of its more well-heeled supporters, the ones who post their revolutionary slogans on the walls of Facebook.

Thailand: Election to go ahead despite fear of clashes, political limbo | Reuters

Thailand’s embattled government is pushing ahead with a general election on Sunday despite warnings it could end in violence and the country left without a functioning administration for six months. The decision to go ahead with the polls came at a meeting between Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Election Commission officials and cast further doubt over any quick resolution to months of protests aimed at ousting the government. The demonstrations are the latest eruption in a political conflict that has gripped Thailand for eight years, broadly pitting Bangkok’s middle class and royalist establishment against the mainly poor, rural supporters of Yingluck and her brother, ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. The protesters reject the election that Yingluck’s party will almost certainly win. They want to suspend what they say is a fragile democracy commandeered by former telecoms tycoon Thaksin, whom they accuse of corruption, and eradicate the political influence of his family by altering electoral arrangements.