National: Recount Principles and Best Practices | Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota

As the United States enters the critical mid-year election season with close outcomes all but guaranteed, Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota (CEIMN) announces a new and concise resource, Recount Principles and Best Practices. This document addresses a wide range of recount topics, including initiating mechanisms, funding, transparency, impartiality, counting methods, targeted recounts, and rules for determining voter intent. CEIMN convened four nationally recognized, bipartisan authors and a blue-ribbon panel of advisors to distill their extensive recount experience into key principles and best practices. Download the Document Here

National: IRS tea party hearing veers into voting rights debate |

A conservative group claiming it was targeted by the Internal Revenue Service stole the show at a congressional hearing on Thursday when it veered off topic and accused top panel Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings of harassment. Catherine Engelbrecht, president of True the Vote, complained that Cummings, ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee “sent letters to True the Vote, demanding much of the same information the IRS had requested” after she filed for nonprofit status and then “would appear on cable news and publicly defame me and my organization.” Democrats called it outrageous that Republicans gave the group a platform to attack a member, and even some Republicans tried to change the subject back to the IRS controversy itself.

California: Same-Day Voter Registration Law Delayed Until 2016 | PublicCEO

Californians can expect to wait at least two more years for the state’s same-day voter registration law to take effect. Secretary of State Debra Bowen, the state’s chief elections officer, says that the state won’t meet the legal requirements to implement the law until 2016 or later. It’s been frequently ignored, but a late amendment to Assembly Bill 1436 required officials to conduct a statewide voter review before California’s same-day voter registration law can be implemented. According to the Legislative Counsel’s digest for the bill, it becomes operative “on January 1 of the year following the year in which the Secretary of State certifies that the state has a statewide voter registration database that complies with the requirements of the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002.”

California: Prison Realignment Complicates Voting Rights For Felons | KPBS

California’s prison realignment effort has drawn up a complicated matrix of detention options for felons, and with it a lot of confusion about which ones can vote. It’s the subject of a lawsuit alleging the state has unconstitutionally stripped nearly 60,000 Californians of their right to vote. The American Civil Liberties Union of California and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area filed the petition in Alameda County Superior Court on Tuesday. The suit is on behalf of the League of Women Voters of California and three individuals who cannot vote under new rules enacted in response to realignment. The state constitution prohibits from voting people who are “imprisoned or on parole for conviction of a felony.” The language was clear when offenders fell under two categories: the state’s responsibility or a California county’s responsibility. But realignment has created a hybrid system, putting low-level felons who would have otherwise gone to prison under county supervision, through jail or probation.

Iowa: Democratic-backed bill restoring voting rights for ex-convicts clears Iowa Senate panel | The Des Moines Register

A divided Iowa Senate subcommittee approved a bill Thursday to make it easier for ex-convicts to regain their right to vote. Senate File 127 requires that upon discharge from certain criminal sentences, citizenship rights related to voting and holding public office must be restored. Under a policy enacted in 2005 by then-Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack, former offenders automatically regained their voting rights once they were discharged from prison or parole. But when Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican returned to office in 2011 he signed an executive order that has made it much more difficult for ex-felons to vote. Branstad’s policy requires that all court-ordered restitution be paid to victims in full before they apply for a restoration of voting rights.The governor used his power of executive clemency to restore the right to vote and hold public office to 21 offenders who applied in 2013, which was a tiny fraction of the thousands of ex-offenders who have been freed from Iowa’s prisons in recent years.

Montana: Same Day voter registration measure can stay on ballot, with some changes | KBZK

The Montana Supreme Court says a referendum that might make it harder for some people to vote can stay on the November ballot — with revisions to the language that will appear with it. LR-126 would end same-day voter registration in Montana. A group of unions and voting-rights groups challenged the referendum, saying its title is inaccurate and misleading. They said the title of the bill wrongly suggests that ending same-day registration is required under federal law.

New Jersey: Voting machines shouldn’t be political |

Last week a long-simmering battle between Passaic County’s superintendent of elections, Sherine El-Abd — a Republican appointed by the state — and the locally elected all-Democratic freeholder board was renewed when El-Abd decided to cut ties with Election Graphics, a private contractor that had been hired in 2009 to maintain the county’s 650 electronic voting machines. El-Abd has characterized the decision not to renew Election Graphics’ contract as a cost-cutting strategy that will save the county about $280,000 annually. El-Abd said the termination of the contract would also help limit some of the financial damage done when her predecessor, Laura Freytes, tried to fire four county union workers responsible for the machines at about the same time the county elected to enter into contract with Election Graphics. Those workers challenged the firings as union-busting, and after a protracted legal battle, they were ordered reinstated last August. Any scenario where county taxpayers might see a $280,000 savings would seem an obvious win-win, but some on the freeholder board aren’t so sure.

Australia: Auditor says Electoral Commission was warned of problems | SBS News

The commonwealth auditor-general says the Australian Electoral Commission was warned at least four years ago about problems with its vote counting system. A Senate committee is sitting in Canberra on Thursday to take evidence in relation to the AEC’s botched running of the West Australian Senate election in 2013. The commission is seeking a court-ordered fresh election after the mysterious loss of 1370 ballot papers, for which it has apologised.

Canada: MPs need more time to study major overhaul to elections laws, NDP says | The Globe and Mail

The Conservative government is facing a battle from the NDP Thursday over its efforts to end the first round of debate on legislation that would dramatically rewrite federal election law. Government House Leader Peter Van Loan has signalled he will table a motion to force an end to initial debate over C-23, the Fair Elections Act. The next stage of deliberation would see the legislation head to a committee for scrutiny. Thomas Mulcair’s New Democrats are trying to delay this, saying MPs deserve more time to speak on the legislation.

Costa Rica: Elections tribunal blames the Super Bowl for low voter turnout abroad | The Tico Times

Last Sunday’s presidential election marked the first time that Costa Ricans could vote from abroad. But not many of them did — and part of the problem might’ve been the major event occurring that same day in the United States, the Super Bowl. Out of 12,654 registered voters living outside of Costa Rica, only 2,771 cast a ballot. Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) President Luis Antonio Sobrado said a significant portion of those potential voters lived in the northeast of the United States. He suggested to La Nación that the cold there, along with complications created by the Super Bowl, likely kept many Ticos inside.

Thailand: Election Commission consults experts over second poll | Bangkok Post

The Election Commission will invite legal experts and key representatives of the government to discuss how to improve the turnout for the rescheduled polls, EC member Somchai Srisuthiyakorn says. He was responding to caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Phongthep Thepkanchana’s comment that the EC should put more effort into managing the new round of elections. Ninety-five percent of the total 500 MP seats must be filled so the House of Representatives can be convened and a new prime minister selected, as required by the constitution. “I will invite Mr Pongthep and legal experts, and ask for their advice on how to set up the next round of elections. I can say that we might not have the full number of representatives in the next two months or even 180 days [as stipulated by the charter],” he said. Mr Somchai said the EC will today decide whether the new round of polls could be held on Feb 23 as planned.

National: Digital voting machines are aging out of use | USAToday

Lori Edwards needs a new voting system for Polk County, Fla., where she is the supervisor of elections for 360,000 registered voters. She has just two problems: There is no money in the budget, and there is nothing she wants to buy. Edwards faces what a bipartisan federal commission has identified as an “impending crisis” in American elections. After a decade of use, a generation of electronic voting equipment is about to wear out and will cost tens of millions to replace. Though voters can pay for coffee with an iPhone, technology for casting their ballots is stuck in the pre-smartphone era — because of a breakdown in federal standard-setting. Polk County exemplifies the problem. The county’s 180 Accu-Vote optical scanner voting machines are 13 years old. Each weighs about as much as a microwave oven, Edwards says, and they occasionally get dropped. Sometimes, when poll workers are setting up for an election at 6 a.m., one of the machines won’t turn on — so Edwards has a backup machine for every 10 voting locations. She has been buying additional machines — used ones are $6,000 each — to have more backups available. Presidential candidates have yet to declare themselves for the 2016 election, but Edwards is already thinking about how to make sure Polk County’s balloting goes smoothly. “I worry about ’16. I worry about 2014. It’s something I’m kind of facing every day,” she says. “The equipment is going to start breaking down. I feel like I’m driving around in a 10-year-old Ford Taurus and it’s fine and it’s getting the job done, but one of these days it’s not going to wake up.”

National: Federal judge limits extent of court’s review in voter citizenship case | Associated Press

A judge has agreed to limit what material the court can consider in a lawsuit filed by Kansas and Arizona seeking to force federal election officials to modify voter registration forms to require proof-of-citizenship from residents in those states. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren on Wednesday sided with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission in limiting his review to the existing administrative record, rather than hold an evidentiary hearing in the case.

Iowa: Secretary of state to seek more funds for voter fraud investigation | The Gazette

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz will ask the Legislature for $140,000 to pursue voter fraud for another year despite openly hostile criticism from Senate majority Democrats Tuesday for his two-year investigation. Schultz, a first-term Republican, has come under fire for using $240,000 in funds from the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to pay for a Division of Criminal Investigation agent to look into voter fraud. HAVA was established after the disputed 2000 presidential election to fund voter education and voter participation efforts. After nearly two years of investigation, 26 people have been charged and five have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors. “That’s enough for me to see that we have a problem,” Schultz said. “Twenty-six people cancelling the vote of other Iowans is a big enough problem to keep this going forward.”

Maryland: Experts remain concerned about Maryland election fraud threat | Baltimore Sun

By now, just about everyone connected to the Internet is familiar with this process: Required to fill out and sign a form of some kind, you ask for and receive a hyperlink via email. You open the link, find the form you need (perhaps a pdf), download it, print it, fill it out and mail it off. That’s a common practice, though increasingly old-school by today’s online standards. There doesn’t seem to be anything particularly risky about the transaction; few would think twice about conducting business that way. But while integrity is important in all transactional realms, it rises to precious when we’re talking about voting. And that’s why a similar process, new this year and slated to be part of Maryland’s primary election in June, has some civic-minded computer security experts sounding alarms about the potential for fraud. … The three experts who wrote to the board about this in 2012 were David Jefferson, a computer scientist based at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California; J. Alex Halderman, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan; and Barbara Simons, a retired IBM computer scientist and an expert on electronic voting. They are part of network of vigilant computer security experts who independently assess state elections systems and report their concerns.

Texas: Party Predictions Differ in Texas on Impact of New Voter ID Law | New York Times

Texas is preparing for the first major test of its hotly debated new voter ID law as Democrats and Republicans offer sharply differing assessments of its impact on the state’s March 4 primary. Citing the hundreds of thousands of people whose names on voter registration rolls do not match their government-issued IDs, Democrats say the law is already resulting in widespread confusion that could lead to delays at voting booths. Republicans say fears of disruptions are being overstated. Gov. Rick Perry signed the voter identification bill into law in 2011, but it did not take effect until last year, after the Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Voting Rights Act and allowed Texas and other states to change their election laws without federal approval. The confusion over names has hit some groups particularly hard, like women who changed their names after getting married or divorced. Voters are not turned away from the polls over minor name differences, but must initial an affidavit when they arrive at the polling place to cast a regular ballot.