California: Top-two system blocks third parties from primary ballot | CalNewsroom

California’s top-two election system –by its very design– excludes third parties from the general election ballot. But, as the law makes its debut in statewide races, minor parties say it’s undermining their ability to even field candidates for the June primary ballot. “I had planned to run for Secretary of State, but I did not because I could not afford the filing fee,” said C. T. Weber, a member of the Peace and Freedom Party of California’s State Executive Committee. “As a result of Top Two and its implementing legislation, I could no longer get the signatures in lieu of filing fees.” This year, the Peace and Freedom Party only has the resources to get a few candidates on the ballot. They aren’t alone in their struggle. All of California’s “third parties” are battling new ballot qualification procedures established with the Top Two primary, and they say that it’s a fight for their very survival.

California: Top-two primary system is shaking up California elections | Los Angeles Times

When Rep. Gary Miller this week became the latest California congressman to throw in the towel, the Rancho Cucamonga Republican in effect delivered his district into Democrats’ hands. While Miller’s is the only one of the five open House seats in California that analysts say is likely to flip from one major party to the other in this year’s elections, the state’s relatively new “top two” primary system is helping to reshape all of them. Contests in districts dominated by one major party, once essentially settled in primaries, could now continue into the fall. With the candidate fields still taking shape, those might include the races to succeed Republicans Howard P. “Buck” McKeon in northeast Los Angeles County and John Campbell in Orange County, for example.

Iowa: Voter fraud probe becomes a numbers game | Sioux City Journal

One vote can determine an election, Republicans intent on fighting voter fraud say consistently. That thought drives a investigation ordered by Secretary of State Matt Schultz and carried out by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation to find fraudulent voting in Iowa. “We have evidence that people have gone to the polls and voted when they weren’t supposed to,” Schultz said. “There are several Senate seats that were decided by 20 votes or less.” The actual number from the 2012 and 2010 elections is two, an IowaWatch review of the state’s voting results shows.

Editorials: Repeal Iowa’s bar on voting rights of felons | The Des Moines Register

Last week Eric Holder Jr., the attorney general of the United States, called for the repeal of laws barring convicted felons from exercising their right to vote. He is right to make the call, and a bill in the hopper this session of the Iowa Legislature would do just that. Unfortunately, the Iowa bill is doomed to fail. Eliminating Iowa’s grievous denial of a fundamental constitutional right won’t happen that easily. The denial of felons’ right to vote is prescribed by the Iowa Constitution, not by state law. Only the governor has the authority to restore felons’ voting rights using the power granted by the constitution to restore rights of citizenship.

Missouri: Voters Would Have To Approve Photo IDs Before Details Are Worked Out | St. Louis Public Radio

Before Missouri legislators can enact any sort of photo ID requirement for voters, they first must get voter approval to change the state constitution. Until the General Assembly approves a separate resolution to place the amendment before voters, any debate over specifics doesn’t matter much. In fact, Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones predicts that the proposed constitutional amendment to allow photo-ID requirements for voters will likely be the only piece of photo ID legislation to pass this year. “A wise path on this is to pass the constitutional question, for the voters to decide,’’ Jones said in a interview. “And that’s all we should likely do this year.”

Voting Blogs: “You Can’t Blame the Youth (For No Longer Pre-Registering to Vote in North Carolina)” | State of Elections

The United States Census Bureau reports that Americans aged 18-24 have the lowest voter registration rate of any age group.  Only 53.6% of U.S. citizens in that age group were registered to vote as of November 2012.  By contrast, more than 79% of citizens aged 65 and older were registered.  These disparate numbers raise questions about the health of our nation’s civic culture and the fairness of our elections, a concern so real it made it into an episode of The West Wing. Between its implementation in 2010 and its repeal in 2013, a North Carolinaelection law attempted to mitigate the age-registration gap by allowing otherwise qualified 16 and 17-year olds to pre-register to vote.  Upon turning eighteen, individuals who had pre-registered would be automatically registered to vote following verification of their address.  According to Common Cause North Carolina, an estimated 160,000 of the state’s teenagers who pre-registered were able to vote in the 2012 election.  The North Carolina election law was unique in requiring county election officials to hold voter registration drives on high school campuses.

New York: Attorney General calls for passage of voter intimidation prevention act to combat barriers to the ballot box | Empire State News

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman today announced new legislation to restore accountability and ensure access to the ballot box by eliminating baseless and intimidating challenges to voter eligibility at the polls on Election Day. Under current law, voters who are challenged at the polls are required to recite an oath affirming their right to vote. The challenger, on the other hand, has no such obligation. Under the Voter Intimidation Prevention Act, introduced by Assembly Member Karim Camara, those who mount challenges to voters at the polls will be required to provide the factual basis for their challenge and attest their right to challenge a voter. While these basic accountability requirements are already enshrined in law for challenges made during the time of voter registration, no such protections exist at the polls on Election Day. The Act will correct this imbalance and ensure greater access to the ballot box.

Utah: Bill to Head Off ‘Count My Vote’ Moves Out of Committee | Utah Policy

Sen. Curt Bramble calls the “Count My Vote” initiative a “gun to the head” of Utah’s political parties. If the CMV initiative gets on the ballot and passes in November, it would do away with the state’s caucus and convention system for nominating candidates in favor of a direct primary. Bramble says CMV backers and Utah’s political parties were unable to find a middle ground, so that’s why he’s sponsoring SB 54, which is a compromise between the two positions – and would essentially make the “Count My Vote” initiative a moot point. “The best kind of political compromise is where both sides can claim victory,” Bramble told a packed Senate committee hearing room on Friday morning. “I crafted this bill so that both sides don’t get what they want. Under the legislation, ‘Count My Vote’ gets what they were asking for from the parties, while the parties get to keep the caucus system if they meet certain criteria.”

Wisconsin: Tuesday primary marks 2 years since only use of controversial voter ID law | WLUK

A state law that requires voters to show a state-issued photo ID at the polls has been used only once since Governor Scott Walker signed it in 2011. Now known as Act 23, the Republican-backed law has seen its fair share of criticism. Including arguments that the law alienates minorities and the poor. Federal and state lawsuits have put its use on hold. Republican State Rep. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, stands behind the law as a way of combating voter fraud. “The election that it was in place here, for Wisconsin, the training went well, everything worked well for that election,” said Jacque. Critics say the law forces those without state-issued photo IDs to get one from the DMV – albeit for free.

Voting Blogs: Who decides how European elections work: the party or the electorate? | openDemocracy

There is only one European election, however it is held on different days and according to different versions of proportional representative voting for each country. Proportional representation (“PR”) voting with open lists allows for more influence on which candidate gets elected, giving voters the choice between personalities as well as between the political parties. This open list system is used in a large number of EU member states: Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Malta. However, for example in France, Germany and the UK the countries have opted for a closed-list, where voters are only given the choice between the parties, but not the individual candidates. “Closed-list PR” moves the competition between candidates from the same party back from an open election campaign, engaging with the voters, to an earlier stage in the election process: the party selection process.

Australia: Court to decide on Western Australia Senate election fate | Sydney Morning Herald

Voters in Western Australia will find out on Tuesday whether they will go to a fresh Senate election which could determine the fate of the Abbott government’s agenda. High Court justice Kenneth Hayne will decide on a petition brought by the Australian Electoral Commission to have the election of six WA senators in 2013 declared void. The AEC lost 1370 votes in a recount of the WA Senate election. An independent inquiry by former police chief Mick Keelty was inconclusive about the fate of the ballot papers, but called for a major overhaul of the AEC’s processes. Three Liberals and one Labor candidate were declared winners of the first four of six seats.

Bulgaria: Parliament’s special sitting to vote election code loses quorum after walkouts | The Sofia Globe

The bitterly disputed process of voting on the Bulgarian Socialist Party’s proposed new election code suffered another reverse on February 17 when a special sitting collapsed because of a lack of a quorum. The quorum was lost after a walkout by ultra-nationalist Ataka members of Parliament, while centre-right opposition party GERB also absented themselves. A row erupted in the National Assembly in a sequel to the February 14 drama over provisions making Bulgarian the sole language that may be used in election campaigning. That day, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms – the party led and supported in the main by Bulgarians of ethnic Turkish descent and which is part of the current ruling axis – was incensed when MPs from the other three parties united to reject its amendment that would have allowed campaigning in a language other than Bulgarian provided that translation into Bulgarian was provided.

Canada: Conservatives’ proposed election reform prompts note of caution from the U.S. | Toronto Star

A participant in the bruising American battle over voting rights warns that Canada is treading on dangerous ground with its proposed electoral reforms. One of the lawyers who helped strike down the voter ID law in Pennsylvania last month says legislation tabled by the Harper government will inevitably wind up depriving some people of their voting rights. That’s why any change to voting requirements should be made with the strictest care, in the spirit of achieving more accurate election results, said Witold Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union for Pennsylvania. That warning comes from a country where voting rights are an especially emotional subject, for obvious historical reasons. Americans know the issue well. And the impact of ID rules has been studied extensively, re-emerging in recent years as a hotly debated partisan issue. Multiple academic studies point to an impact on turnout, especially among specific demographic groups: the young, the poor, and minorities.

Costa Rica: A Refreshing Electoral Process | The Costa Rican Times

Like the United States, Costa Rica is a constitutional republic and has been since 1949. Like the United States, Costa Rica holds presidential elections every four years. Costa Rica held its presidential election on Feb. 2. What is different from the United States is that Costa Rica had 13 candidates running for president, four of them top contenders. I was in Costa Rica for the three weeks during the run-up to the election and everywhere I went I saw people driving by with their favorite party’s flags flying — green and white for the National Liberation Party (PLN), red and yellow for the Citizen’s Action Party (PAC), yellow for the Broad Front (FA) and red and white for the Libertarian Movement (ML). In the streets, people wore shirts of their party’s colors and enthusiastically waved flags. Trucks drove through neighborhoods playing music, blasting slogans and encouraging people to vote. Newspapers ran articles extolling their favorites and interviewing candidates and supporters.

Malta: EU expats living in Malta must register to vote in European Elections | Gozo News

European expats living in Malta can vote for the 2014 European Elections in Malta, by registering in the European Union Electoral Register, the closing date for registration is the 31st of March 2014. In order to be elegible to register and to vote you will need an ID card or residence document from the Citizenship & Expatriate Affairs Department in Valletta, in Gozo EU residents can apply at the office within the Ministry for Gozo. The Office is located on the left through the main green doors of the Consumer Affairs section in St Francis Square. An Application Form is then required to be registered in the European Union Electoral Register as a voter for the Election of Members of the European Parliament, this is available for download here. The European Commission has recently issued guidance to EU-Member States which have rules in place leading to a loss of voting rights for citizens in national elections, simply because they have exercised their right to free movement in the EU.

Thailand: Poll talks amid fresh anti-government protests | BBC

Thai government officials are meeting the election commission to discuss how to complete the country’s elections. The 2 February general election was disrupted by protesters in some places, so by-elections need to take place before a government can be formed. The talks come as anti-government protesters rebuilt barricades outside official buildings in Bangkok, vowing to topple the government. Thailand has been in a political crisis since mass protests began in November. Police had cleared some protest sites in Bangkok on Friday, dismantling barricades near some government buildings with little resistance.