National: Voting-Rights Bill’s Backers Say There’s No Doubt It Will Pass | National Journal

Civil-rights advocates are selling a bill amending the Voting Rights Act as a wholly bipartisan fix and saying it will pass this year, despite the partisan divide over voter-ID laws and other voting-rights issues. “It will pass this Congress,” said Scott Simpson, spokesman for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which has advocated for an update to the law. “If anything can pass this Congress, it’s this.” The bill would revive a portion of the Voting Rights Act that gives the Justice Department final say on all changes to elections—from voter-ID laws to polling place relocations—in states with a history of discrimination. The provision, known as the “preclearance” requirement, was included in the Voting Rights Act in 1965, but the Supreme Court in June 2013 struck down its outdated method of choosing which states would be placed under that requirement. Rather than choosing states based on discrimination in the 1960s, the new formula would be based on voting-rights restrictions in the last 15 years, and would be updated after every election.

National: New bill aims to make sure no one waits over half an hour to vote | MSNBC

President Obama said last month that no one should have to wait more than half an hour to vote. Now two Democratic senators are introducing a bill aimed at making that pledge a reality. The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Bill Nelson of Florida, is the first effort to act on the recommendations of a bipartisan presidential commission, unveiled last month. “In a democracy, you’re supposed to make it easier and less of hardship for people to vote, and that’s what we’re trying to do here,” said Nelson in a statement sent out Wednesday evening.

National: Judge To Decide If State Proof-Of-Citizenship Laws Trump Voter Registration Forms | Fox News Latino

A decision on whether states have a constitutional right to require proof-of-citizenship documentation for their residents who register to vote using a national form is now in the hands of a federal judge in a case with broad implications for voting rights. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren listened to arguments from attorneys Tuesday, but did not immediately rule. He did not say when he would issue his written decision. The lawsuit filed by Kansas and Arizona seeks to force the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to include the heightened requirements only for their residents. However, the Justice Department has argued that changing the requirements on the federal form for those two states would in essence affect nationwide policy, because it might encourage other states to seek increased proof of citizenship to register to vote in federal elections.

National: Proposed Voting Rights Fix May Leave Latinos Vulnerable at Polls – NBC

Until recently, the federal government monitored states like Arizona — which has the country’s fifth-largest Hispanic eligible voter population — that had a demonstrated history of racial discrimination at the polls. Arizona was one of nine states, along with other jurisdictions, required by Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, to get federal approval before making changes to its voting laws. But in 2013, the Supreme Court invalidated key parts of the Voting Rights Act, ruling in Shelby County v. Holder that they were based on outdated data. In response, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced legislation that would strengthen the Voting Rights Act. Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., John Conyers, Jr., D-Mich. and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., have introduced the Voting Rights Amendment of 2014. But under their plan, only four states – Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi – would initially be subject to federal supervision.

Voting Blogs: Senate Rules Committee Hearing Followup | Election Academy

Just a quick review of yesterday’s Senate Rules Committee hearing to hear testimony from the co-chairs of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration and conduct a business hearing on two nominations to the Election Assistance Commission:

• The EAC portion of the hearing did not occur – at least not in the hearing room; Chairman Charles Schumer (D-NY) said that the business meeting to consider those nominations would take place “off the floor” later in the day, but there appears to be no evidence in yesterday’s Congressional Record that the meeting took place;
+ The hearing itself was attended by only four Senators – Schumer, ranking member Pat Roberts (R-KS), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Angus King (I-ME);

• Overall, the hearing was cordial and co-chairs Robert Bauer and Ben Ginsberg had the opportunity to discuss the PCEA report and answer Senators’ questions about its impact on election policy going forward;

Arizona: House approves bill to repeal election-law changes | The Republic

Lawmakers are rushing to undo a controversial package of elections-law changes they approved last year in a move that has implications for this fall’s election. On a party-line vote Thursday, the House of Representatives approved House Bill 2196. If it is signed into law, the legislationwould derail a citizen referendum on the November ballot because the repeal would do away with the objectionable law. Republicans, who supported the bill, said they are heeding the will of the voters who pushed the initiative to repeal last session’s changes. But referendum backers want the matter on the ballot, where they believe voters will reject the changes. They don’t trust the Legislature to leave the matter alone and fear GOP lawmakers will introduce pieces of last year’s package, doing an end-run around their objections to the changes. “We have significant trust issues when it comes to this bill,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego, the assistant House minority leader.

Editorials: Expand voting opportunities for Florida college students | Miami Herald

Not too long ago, any effort to change election law that seemed to restrict voting rights would have been tantamount to political suicide regardless of which party was attempting the change. But now there appears to be no shame or fear. For many years there was an emphasis on increasing voter turnout. As Florida grew so did the number of polling places and the expansion of voting methods. Absentee ballots were open to everyone, not only to those who could demonstrate they were unable to vote on Election Day. My party, the Republican Party, was quick to embrace absentee voting and expertly adapted to campaigning to absentee voters. Early-voting days were added as a convenience to those who found it difficult to make it to the polls on Election Day. This appealed to those working long or irregular shifts and became popular among the working class, younger voters and minorities.

Nebraska: State senator pushing for electing president by popular vote | Lincoln Journal Star

A state senator wants Nebraska to join a movement to elect the president of the United States by popular vote instead of using the current system of tallying electoral votes. Sen. John Murante of Gretna introduced the idea (LB1058) Wednesday to the Legislature’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. Murante and the group National Popular Vote point out that in the 2012 presidential race, the candidates spent their time in states with large numbers of electoral votes to offer. President Barack Obama campaigned in just eight states after securing the Democratic nomination. Republican Gov. Mitt Romney did so in only 10 states. “I think there is one thing that most of us could agree upon: the system by which we as a nation choose our president is broken, not just for us but for the entire country,” Murante said. “Far too much attention is placed upon the so-called ‘Battleground States,’ allowing those few states to wield substantial political power. This in turn has significant policy implications, as both political parties seek to curry favor with the narrow interests of Battleground State voters while the interests of Nebraskans and voters in other non-Battleground States are too often ignored.”

Ohio: Attorney General Mike DeWine rejects petition for Voter’s Bill of Rights referendum |

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Thursday rejected a Democratic-backed petition for a statewide referendum on a Voters Bill of Rights, saying proponents’ summary language was misleading. Proponents of the proposed constitutional amendment, which include the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, say they plan to move quickly to submit new summary language along with another 1,000 signatures as a first step toward putting the measure on the November ballot. In a release, DeWine said the summary language, which would describe the proposed amendment to voters, ran afoul of federal law in two places.

Oregon: Frustrations mount as secretary of state databases remain offline after website breach | OregonLive

Frustrations are mounting more than a week after a breach of the Oregon secretary of state’s website caused elections and business databases to go offline. State officials say they’re still investigating how the intrusion from a foreign entity occurred and don’t know when the databases will return. The attack “appears to be an orchestrated intrusion from a foreign entity and not the result of any employee activities,” the agency reported on its website this week. The department’s Central Business Registry and ORESTAR, the state’s online campaign finance reporting system, were temporarily taken offline as a precaution after officials detected “an intrusion” around Feb. 4. Since then, business attorneys haven’t been able to look up existing business names, and campaign finance officials have not been able to report transactions.

Texas: Voter ID Trial Remains On Track Despite Federal Attempt To Postpone | Texas Public Radio

Plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Texas voter ID law applauded a Corpus Christi federal judge’s vigilance to retain a September trial date — the U.S. Department of Justice is now hoping to postpone the case because of logistics issues. This week, Federal District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos in Corpus Christi wanted to know if everyone was still on track for the Sept. 2 trial. Attorneys with the DOJ asked again to have the trial postponed until January 2015 because they say the state of Texas has not begun to exchange information needed for the case. Jose Garza, an attorney with the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, said Gonzales-Ramos is sticking to the pre-general election trial date.

Texas: Voter ID trial likely to happen before election | MSNBC

Opponents of Texas’ strict voter ID law are likely to get their day in court this September—meaning the controversial measure could be struck down before the November election. Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos indicated in a hearing Wednesday that she was reluctant to delay the trial until 2015, according to Jose Garza, a lawyer for the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus (MALC), which is among the plaintiffs challenging the law, known as S.B. 14. “The judge is fairly adamant that because of the impending election, it’s important to have a trial on S.B. 14 as early as possible,” Garza told reporters Wednesday afternoon, after attending the hearing. “And in her mind, that appears to be Sept. 2.” Garza said it’s “likely” that the judge will officially set Sept. 2 as the trial date at a hearing this Friday.

Wyoming: House drops bill to restore felons’ voting rights | Associated Press

The Wyoming House defeated a bill that would have allowed nonviolent felons to get their civil rights restored immediately after serving their sentences or finishing parole or probation. The House on Thursday failed to give the bill the two-thirds vote required for introduction. Sponsor Dan Zwonitzer, a Cheyenne Republican, said Wyoming is among the most restrictive states in regard to restoring rights as voting and gun ownership to felons.

Canada: Hold off on Internet voting: B.C.’s chief electoral officer | the Province

Provincial and municipal governments should not implement Internet voting until a technical committee can study potential online systems and test security concerns, a panel formed by B.C.’s chief electoral officer recommended. The recommendations were submitted to the legislature by the Independent Panel on Internet Voting, which stated in its report that the current risks of implementing Internet voting in the province outweigh the benefits. “The panel recommends to go slow on Internet voting in British Columbia,” Keith Archer, the chief electoral officer, said in a news release. “British Columbians must have confidence that their voting system is fair and trustworthy.”

Fiji: Voters raise concern | Fiji Times

The office of the Electoral Commission will conduct a voter education drive to get people up to par with the elections process. Attorney-General and Minister Responsible for Elections Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum confirmed this after hearing concerns from villagers on Kadavu of their confusion on the voting process. The government delegation was made aware of these concerns during a tour by Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama to the island this week.

Libya: Islamist party calls for early election in Libya | Turkish Press

The Justice and Construction Party, Libya’s second largest party, has called for early election in the crisis-stricken country. In a Friday statement, the Islamist party called on the General National Congress (GNC) to call early election “to widen the scope of national consensus and maintain social peace”. The party underlined the need to protect “the democratic path, peaceful power rotation and freedom of expression”.

Thailand: Post-election crisis could prolong political uncertainty in Thailand | Global Times

The post-election crisis in Thailand could spawn a political uncertainty that could last for weeks, if not months, with everyone guessing when a new government could come into being. Under normal circumstances, a prime minister can be named and a government formed within weeks after a nationwide parliamentary election. But given the polarization in the country’s political spectrum with Yingluck Shinawatra’s caretaker government on one side and the anti-government protesters on the other side, it is almost predictable that the political impasse could stretch to a much longer time, according to political analysts here. Both sides are not willing to compromise on their respective positions and a protracted legal battle looms, a situation that has baffled, it not exasperated, the cross-section of the Thai society.

National: Eric Holder makes case for felons to get voting rights back | The Washington Post

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Tuesday called on states to repeal laws that prohibit felons from voting after their release from prison, urging changes that could allow millions more across the country to cast ballots. In a speech at Georgetown University Law Center, Holder said, “It is time to fundamentally reconsider laws that permanently disenfranchise people who are no longer under federal or state supervision.” Holder said that current laws forbidding felons from voting make it harder for them to reintegrate into society. He pointed to a recent study that showed that felons in Florida who were granted the right to vote again had a lower recidivism rate.

National: A Valuable Resource for Election Recounts | Verified Voting Blog

Last week Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota released Recount Principles and Best Practicesa document providing recommendations on key recount matters such as counting methods, transparency, voter intent and challengers. The document is especially welcome as it was produced through the cooperation of election officials and citizen activists and it is the first comprehensive set of best practices for recounts. It compliments CEIMN’s earlier documents on audits and their searchable database of state audit and recount laws.

In addition to the four authors, the report benefitted from review by a blue-ribbon panel of advisors, including election officials, election integrity advocates, journalists, and academics.  “Accurate and verifiable elections are essential for our democracy,” said Minnesota Secretary of State Ritchie, one of the reports authors. “This document and its recommendations will improve the way state and local election officials conduct recounts.”

National: NASS Elections report: Prepare for the worst | POLITICO

Are states prepared to deal with natural disasters during elections? A new report out Wednesday says while progress has been made, there’s room for improvement. With much of the East Coast facing the threat of another serious winter storm, the National Association of Secretaries of State is unveiling a report that looks at the current state of emergency preparedness of the nation’s elections rules, and makes recommendations for states to better prepare for the unexpected. Spurred by the landfall of Hurricane Sandy days before the November 2012 election, NASS formed a task force of secretaries of state and elections officials from 24 states last January to assess what could be done in such cases. The task force will present their findings Thursday to elections officials from around the country. The group found that only 12 of the 37 states that responded to its survey have laws dealing with postponing an election, and only 11 require contingency planning by law. Nevertheless, a majority of states have proactively developed such plans, they found.

Editorials: Online balloting: good intent, bad law | Justin Moore/ Richmond Times-Dispatch

This week the General Assembly has been considering an important election-reform bill that could greatly affect the security of the ballots of our troops and the integrity of elections in Virginia. HB 759 would allow military voters to send marked ballots back over the Internet via email. The bill is intended to address the very real challenges facing military voters, but allowing ballots to be returned over the Internet creates extraordinary risks both to the votes of our men and women in uniform and to the electoral infrastructure of our state. The Internet provides great opportunities, but also tremendous risks. The skill and stealth of hackers continues to outpace our ability to secure Internet-based services. Target, Adobe, Sony, Google, Apple, Facebook, Citigroup and others have all been victims, as have the Department of Defense and the State of South Carolina. Government security experts are raising increasingly urgent warnings regarding computer attacks. The rise of organized, well-funded, state-sponsored hackers has made the cyber world less secure now than ever before. Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the National Security Agency and the Department of Defense’s U.S. Cyber Command, stated that between 2009 between 2011 there was a 1,700 percent increase in computer attacks against American infrastructure initiated by criminal gangs, hackers and other nations. At the direction of Congress, scientists at the federal National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have been conducting research into the use of online systems for military voters. NIST has stated that with the security tools currently available, secure online ballot return is not feasible and that more research is needed.

Verified Voting Blog: A Valuable Resource for Election Recounts

Last week Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota released Recount Principles and Best Practices, a document providing recommendations on key recount matters such as counting methods, transparency, voter intent and challengers. The document is especially welcome as it was produced through the cooperation of election officials and citizen activists and it is the first comprehensive set of best practices for recounts. It compliments CEIMN’s earlier documents on audits and their database of state audit and recount laws.

In addition to the four authors, the report benefitted from review by a blue-ribbon panel of advisors, including election officials, election integrity advocates, journalists, and academics.  “Accurate and verifiable elections are essential for our democracy,” said Minnesota Secretary of State Ritchie, one of the reports authors. “This document and its recommendations will improve the way state and local election officials conduct recounts.”