Canada: Tories’ bill strips Elections Canada of power to promote voter turnout | The Globe and Mail

The Conservative government is stripping Elections Canada of its authority to encourage Canadians to vote in federal ballots under changes to the agency’s mandate. Legislation tabled this week sets out restrictions on what information the chief electoral officer can provide the public, limiting it to five matter-of-fact topics related to how to vote or become a limit. The Conservative bill will remove parts of Section 18 of the Elections Act that give the chief electoral officer the authority to provide the public with information on “the democratic right to vote” and to “make the electoral process better known to the public, particularly to those persons and groups most likely to experience difficulties in exercising their democratic rights.” Voter turnout in the 2011 federal election – slightly more than 61 per cent of eligible voters – was among the lowest in this country’s history.

Thailand: After The Thai Elections: Protests And Uncertainty Linger | Forbes

Despite the efforts of the anti-government, anti-election protesters calling themselves the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), at least in English, parliamentary elections did proceed in Thailand this past Sunday. Not always smoothly, voting was carried out in almost 90% of voting districts. The bad news is that 516 polling stations did not open, usually because protesters blocked the delivery of ballots. And last month, some Southern candidates were prevented from even registering to run. As a result, there will soon be formal legal challenges  regarding the election’s validity A February 23 election  is already scheduled for the 440,000 voters that were blocked by protesters from early voting January 26. Meanwhile,  government paralysis and motley protests continue and unpaid rice farmers are creating their own protest movement.

National: GOP defends tricky campaign contribution websites | NBC

Republicans are defending a series of websites they established that appear to support Democratic candidates for Congress, but instead direct contributions to the GOP. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) said its websites were not confusing, and accused Democrats of crying foul because their candidates were struggling. The sites, like this one for Arizona Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, feature a “Kyrsten Sinema for Congress” banner, and a picture of the first-term congresswoman from a competitive Maricopa County district. The sites also display a clear, but smaller secondary banner, urging contributions to “help defeat” (in this case) Sinema. At the bottom of the page, it features an NRCC disclaimer.

National: Kansas, Arizona rekindle voter citizenship lawsuit | Associated Press

Kansas and Arizona have rekindled a lawsuit seeking to force the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to require residents to show proof-of-citizenship when registering to vote, arguing that a recent agency decision to deny the requests was unlawful. In a filing late Friday in a case with broad implications for voting rights, the two states asked U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren to order federal officials to include state-specific requirements in federal voter registration forms. Kansas and Arizona require voters to provide a birth certificate, passport or other proof of U.S. citizenship when registering to vote. People who register using the federal form sign only a statement under oath that they are U.S. citizens. The latest legal move was not unexpected. Melgren had previously scheduled a Feb. 11 hearing in the wake of a decision last month by the election commission that rejected the states’ requests, finding that stricter proof-of-citizenship rules hinder eligible citizens from voting in federal elections.

Editorials: The Voting Rights Playbook: Why Courts Matter Post-Shelby County v. Holder | Center for American Progress

Voting is more than simply deciding which candidate to support; it is an experience. Depending on where you live, the laws of your state, your ease of access to transportation, and the ways your county administers elections, this experience—from registration to actually casting a ballot—differs greatly between counties and is largely dependent on the actions and laws passed by local officials. Unsurprisingly, those in power seek to maintain the status quo because that is what put them into power in the first place. Lawmakers can use their power to create laws crafted to their self-preserving advantage and make it harder for new populations—who are often viewed as threats to the status quo—to participate in the democratic process. Often termed “the tyranny of the majority,” our nation’s founders grappled with this problem of protecting the status quo, which could be used to limit the power that new demographic populations have to participate in our democracy. Our nation is currently experiencing a demographic sea change.  Starting in 2012 through 2016, the number of Hispanic citizens eligible to vote is projected to rise nationwide by 17 percent—or by more than 4 million new voters. From 1996 to 2008, the number of Asian American citizens eligible to vote increased by 128 percent; Asian Americans were 3 percent of the electorate in 2012. While Asian Americans and Hispanics make up an increasingly larger proportion of the electorate, the proportion of eligible white voters has decreased.  The increasingly diverse pool of eligible voters is overturning the status quo and traditional voting blocs in our nation.

Colorado: GOP wants to nix same-day voter registration | Associated Press

Colorado Republicans on Monday launched their bid to undo a new elections law that allows same-day registration, saying they’re still not convinced the change isn’t a recipe for possible voting fraud. Democrats insist the new law is sound and won’t be going anywhere. The Republican proposal includes a two-year “time out” on the new law, which added same-day registration and a requirement that ballots go by mail to all registered voters. Republicans want to undo that law, at least temporarily, while a bipartisan panel reviews the measure. Republicans say the law is riddled with problems, such as conflicting residency deadlines between state and local races. Their main gripe, though, is same-day voting registration, which makes voting more convenient for people who forget to register but could also make it more difficult to determine who’s eligible to vote in an election.

Florida: Campaign site misleads man into donating money against Sink | Tampa Bay Times

Ray Bellamy said he wanted to make a political contribution to Alex Sink a Google search landed him at “” “It looked legitimate and had a smiling face of Sink and all the trappings of a legitimate site,” Bellamy, a doctor from Tallahassee who follows Florida politics, wrote in an email to the Buzz. (Here’s Sink’s actual site, which uses a similar color scheme.) What Bellamy overlooked was that the site is designed to raise money against Sink. “I failed to notice the smaller print: Under “Alex Sink Congress” was the sentence ‘Make a contribution today to help defeat Alex Sink and candidates like her,’ ” he said.

Iowa: Secretary of State, Senators clash over voter registration error | Radio Iowa

References to “being in the hot seat” and “crossing swords” with legislators popped up during Republican Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s appearance before a senate committee this afternoon. Democrats who’ve criticized Schultz for investigating voter fraud focused on the plight of three eligible voters who had their 2012 ballots tossed out because they were mistakenly on a list of ineligible voters. Schultz told legislators it was his fraud investigation that resolved things. “These three people would not have their voting rights today restored and in the system fixed for them were it not for these DCI investigations,” Schultz said.

Iowa: Schultz fights criticism over 2012 rejected votes | Quad City Times

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz defended his office Monday against what he says is unfair criticism after it was revealed that three northern Iowa voters had their ballots tossed out in the 2012 presidential election because they were wrongly classified as felons ineligible to vote. The three voters were required to cast provisional ballots when their names appeared in the database of felons. One man, Matthew Pace, appeared on a list of felons reported to the Secretary of State’s office by the Cerro Gordo County clerk of court in 2007. When he showed up to vote Nov. 6, 2012, his name was flagged and he was told he had to cast a provisional ballot. Cerro Gordo County election officials contacted the Secretary of State’s office to check the status of the voters with provisional ballots, and Schultz’s office confirmed the three individuals were on the felons list. Schultz, a Republican, frequently has faced criticism from Democrats and civil rights groups for his aggressive pursuit of voter fraud. His critics say his investigations intimidate immigrant and minority groups and scare many away from voting. Schultz has hired an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agent to investigate the issue for two years at a cost of $280,000 in federal funds.

Montana: AG agrees: Campaign mailer law unconstitutional | KPAX

The Montana Attorney General says a law on campaign materials passed by the Legislature last year is unconstitutionally vague, setting the stage for a federal judge to throw it out. Matthew Monforton, a Republican running for House District 69 in Bozeman, filed suit to strike down the law, which would have required candidates who publish campaign materials about their opponents’ records to include every vote taken on the issues over the previous six years. Monforton’s lawsuit against the state says the law chills free speech and is unconstitutionally vague.

Texas: Election officials expect Voter ID problems in Texas | Fort Worth Star Telegram

As the March primary election approaches, election officials throughout the state are gearing up for potential problems. This March 4 primary will be the biggest election since the state’s Voter ID law, which requires voters to show government issued photo identification at the polls, went into effect last year. Dallas election officials have sent out hundreds of thousands of notes to voters informing them of potential problems with the way their names are listed on photo ID cards versus the way they are listed in the voter registration database. Tarrant County officials chose not to sent out notes, saying any name problem can be handled at the polls. “We are taking a different approach and we will let voters handle it at the polling place,” said Steve Raborn, Tarrant County’s election administrator. “You could send these postcards out and ask people if they want to match their names beforehand. “My greater concern is that it might cause voter confusion and could even make someone not vote.”

Texas: Fallout from voter ID law continues in Dallas County | Dallas Morning News

Dallas County officials are looking at doubling down on voter outreach, days after launching perhaps the state’s most extensive attempt to alert voters to potential identification problems resulting from Texas’ new voter ID law. County commissioners will examine on Tuesday a proposal to spend up to an additional $165,000 on efforts to resolve voters’ complications with improper photo ID and name discrepancies between required forms of identification. The infusion — which won’t be voted on for at least another week — would come on top of $145,000 that commissioners approved in October to spend on mailings aimed at clearing up lingering conflicts and confusion ahead of the March primary. That first allocation resulted in the mailing on Jan. 24 of notices to 195,000 voters about the ID law’s provision that a voter’s name on a valid photo ID must exactly match the name listed in the voter registration database. It remains to be seen specifically how the extra funds would be used, as officials offered on Friday varying descriptions of possible outreach efforts. But given the voter ID law’s hot-button status, Tuesday’s commissioners court meeting figures to be a heated affair.

Canada: Court urged to reconsider law around stripping voting rights from some expats | CTV News

An Ontario judge was urged Monday to consider whether the historical reasoning for a law which strips some expatriates of their voting rights makes sense in today’s world. The request came from a lawyer for two Canadians who are challenging the rule which affects citizens living abroad for more than five years. “The most critical thing is to look at whether these provisions are constitutional now, considering the current context of globalization and the way people travel around the world and are able to stay connected,” said Shaun O’Brien. “Lots of things existed in voting legislation that we no longer accept…The fact that historically the nature of our system requires residence doesn’t meant that residence is required now.” At the heart of the case being heard in Ontario Superior Court this week are the experiences of Gillian Frank and Jamie Duong. Both men moved to the U.S. for higher education and stayed on as their studies led to jobs, but both plan to move back home as soon as they find appropriate employment in their fields.

Costa Rica: Preparations begin for runoff after surprising election result | Fox News

For only the second time in its history, Costa Rica on Monday began preparing for a presidential runoff after dark horse center-left hopeful Luis Guillermo Solis picked up the most votes in the initial balloting. With 89 percent of the ballots counted, Solis has 30.95 percent of the vote, the candidate of the governing centrist PLN, Johnny Araya, stands at 29.56 percent. The runoff is set for April 6. Visibly tired after a long election day on Sunday, Solis held a press conference at which he announced that he will open a dialogue with different sectors with an eye toward the second round. “We want to establish a dialogue with the whole country. We are obligated to establish in the next two months dialogues of different kinds with movements, organizations, personalities and political parties,” he said.

Thailand: Limbo looms for Thailand after protest-hit polls | AFP

Thailand’s protest-plagued elections herald a political stalemate that risks unleashing deepening turmoil and potential judicial intervention in the polarised kingdom, experts say. Voting went ahead largely peacefully despite fears of fresh violence following pre-poll bloodshed sparked by opposition rallies aimed at preventing the re-election of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. But millions were denied the opportunity to cast ballots, with protest blockades causing the closure of some 10 percent of polling stations in an election boycotted by the main opposition party. Facing possible vote reruns in nearly a fifth of constituencies, election officials have dampened expectations of a quick result. That has raised the spectre of weeks of uncertainty in a country where military coups and court interventions have a history of reshaping the political landscape.

Thailand: Turnout in Thai election less than 50%: election commission sources | GlobalPost

Less than 50 percent of Thailand’s 45 million eligible voters turned out to vote in Sunday’s controversial general election, Election Commission sources said Monday. The low turnout was partly blamed on antigovernment protesters who urged people not cast their ballots, blocked distribution of ballot boxes and papers, and occupied district offices, preventing many polling stations from opening. Another likely reason was that the election was boycotted by the main opposition Democrat Party. Nine of 77 provinces across the country, especially the south, decided to cancel the voting due to the lack of ballot boxes and papers, depriving millions of their right to vote in the election. In total, voting in 69 of 375 constituencies around the country could not take place due to interference by protesters, according to the Election Commission.

Ukraine: Yanukovich said to rule out force, eye early elections | Reuters

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich will not use force to clear the streets and may challenge his opponents to early elections if they fail to compromise, according to reported comments by a political ally. Emerging on the day the president returned from sick leave and as parliament convenes for a new term on Tuesday, it may be an attempt to break a deadlock that has gripped central Kiev – and Ukraine’s ailing economy – since November, when Yanukovich spurned an EU trade deal and sought aid instead from Russia. At least six people have been killed in the past two weeks and fierce clashes between riot police and increasingly militant squads of hardline protesters have prompted concern that the big former Soviet state of 45 million people, which separates Russia from the European Union, might descend into civil war. However, Yanukovich, possibly comforted by an opinion survey last week showing both he and his party topping polls with about 20 percent support in Ukraine’s fragmented political system, may be ready to call the bluff of opponents who want him to quit.