New Jersey: Rush Holt, Science Advocate From New Jersey, Won’t Seek Re-election to Congress | New York Times

Representative Rush D. Holt Jr. of New Jersey, a research physicist who became Congress’s chief advocate for scientific research over eight terms, announced on Tuesday that he is not seeking re-election this year. Mr. Holt, 65, joins 12 fellow Democrats, and 21 Republicans, in an exodus from the House. But in an interview, he said he was not bemoaning what he acknowledged was “a certain level of dysfunction” in Congress. “Congress, even with its frustrations, is the greatest instrument for justice and human welfare in the world,” he said. “The stories trying to puzzle out why someone would do something else are based on this rather narrow way of thinking that the only purpose for a member of Congress is to be re-elected. I’ve never viewed it that way, and I think everybody who’s worked with me knows that I think there are a lot of things that I can and should be doing.”

North Carolina: Judge tries to speed up voter ID, election lawsuits | Associated Press

A federal judge tried Friday to speed up the flow of documents in three lawsuits challenging North Carolina’s voter ID and elections overhaul law. Several advocacy groups, voters and the U.S. government sued in August and September to block provisions of the law that they argue are racially discriminatory and violate the U.S. Voting Rights Act. Those provisions include a photo identification requirement to voter in person, reducing the number of early voting days from 17 to 10 and eliminating same-day voter registration during the early-voting period. U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Joi Peake already had determined in December the combined lawsuits wouldn’t go to trial until mid-2015. However, plaintiffs’ attorneys are now anxious to collect documents and data they argue lawyers for state agencies and Gov. Pat McCrory aren’t giving them. They face a May deadline to seek an injunction blocking enforcement of the provisions for the November elections. An injunction hearing likely will occur in early July. Voter ID isn’t required until 2016, but preparations already have started.

National: New PACs try to elect state election officials | USAToday

The banner ad that popped up online last month from an organization called iVote used a line as innocuous as a civic textbook: “Because every vote should count.” In fact, the ad, and the Democratic group that sponsored it, iVote, are part of a highly partisan and increasingly expensive battle over an elected position most voters are barely aware of. Thirty-nine states elect their secretary of State, and because the job includes overseeing the administration of elections, Republican and Democratic PACs have emerged to fight for control of the position. In addition to iVote, a second Democratic PAC called SOS for Democracy and a Republican group named SOS for SOS have also begun raising money for secretary of State races in November.

Arkansas: Bill to keep Lietenant Governor office vacant advances | Associated Press

Arkansas senators cleared a path Wednesday for a vote on a bill to keep the lieutenant governor’s office vacant until the November general election. A Senate committee advanced a measure that would enable Gov. Mike Beebe to not call a special election for the lieutenant governor’s office. The position has been vacant since Mark Darr resigned on Feb. 1. Holding the election would cost at least $1 million, said the bill’s sponsor, Senate Republican Leader Eddie Joe Williams of Cabot. Darr, a Republican, resigned under the threat of impeachment and after the state Ethics Commission fined him $11,000 for ethics violations tied to his office and campaign spending.

California: San Diego county hopes to lick high elections cost with vote by mail | UTSanDiego

With a deluge of special elections running up big bills, San Diego County is pushing state legislation that would allow local governments to offer only mail-ballot special elections. “It could drastically reduce the cost and also it’s an opportunity to expand turnout because people will look at voting more as a 30-day opportunity than as a one-day opportunity,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, a San Diego Democrat who introduced legislation Wednesday. Under her Assembly Bill 1873, counties, cities and districts holding special elections could choose to send voters ballots that would be returned by mail or dropped off at predetermined stations. In-person voting would still have to be offered during regular elections, such as the upcoming June primary.

Hawaii: Same-Day Voter Registration Bill Considered Today | Maui Now

A house bill that would provide a process for the public to register to vote at polling sites on election day will be heard before the House Finance Committee this afternoon. House Bill 2590 was introduced by Representative Kaniela Ing of South Maui. Under the bill, late voter registration would be allowed at absentee polling places beginning in 2016. The measure would also allow late voter registration on election day at both absentee polling and precinct polling places beginning in 2018.

Idaho: House Committee Votes (Barely) to Take DMV Voter Registration Bill Out of Neutral | Boise Weekly

Boise Democratic Rep., and Idaho Secretary of State candidate, Holli High Woodings is pushing what she calls a DMV voter registration bill, which would allow registration to vote through the Department of Motor Vehicles. But even she admits that could be a challenge to get it through her House State Affairs Committee. “Tough crowd,” wrote Woodings on her Facebook page after presenting before the committee Feb. 18. The bill, as written, would allow, but not require, Idaho citizens to register to vote at the same time they register with the DMV.

Iowa: Lawmakers advance online voter registration bill | Associated Press

Legislation that would allow online voter registration in Iowa advanced in the state Senate Wednesday. The bill received preliminary backing in a Senate subcommittee was set to go to the full State Government Committee for approval. Under the proposal, the Iowa Secretary of State would oversee an online voter registration system that would be available by 2015. Sen. Jeff Danielson, D- Cedar Falls, said he wants to make registration more “customer-friendly,” while still ensuring that the system is secure. Those registering would have to supply identifying information and meet voter eligibility standards. “We think government can adopt some of those business practices and be more customer-friendly, but also recognizing that there is an inherent right to vote,” Danielson said. Sen. Jake Chapman, R-Adel, declined to approve the bill in subcommittee, but said he thought it was moving in the right direction.

Kentucky: Gutting of felon voting rights bill angers backers | The Courier-Journal

The Senate passed a watered-down version of a bill to restore voting rights for some convicted felons on Wednesday, potentially dooming a measure that has garnered support from U.S. Sen. Rand Paul. The changes — which would cut the list of those eligible for restoration of rights and impose a strict five-year waiting period — angered supporters of the original House Bill 70. “What we’re talking about is a basic human right,” said Tanya Fogle of Lexington, whose own voting rights were restored by Gov. Ernie Fletcher after she served a sentence for possession of crack cocaine and forging checks more than two decades ago.

North Carolina: Judge to hear arguments involving voter ID lawsuits on Friday | News-Record

Plaintiffs in a trio of suits challenging a voter law passed last year are contending that the governor’s office and the state Board of Elections have failed to turn over documents pertinent to their cases. Attorneys will gather in U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem Friday for a hearing to determine whether the defendants should produce the materials. A federal judge will also hear arguments about whether subpoenas seeking documents from 13 legislators should be quashed. The documents in question relate to “the consideration and implementation” as well as “the costs and other impacts” of the Voter Identification Verification Act (VIVA). The act, signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory in August, requires that voters show a government-issued photo ID at the polls beginning in 2016.

Texas: Battleground Texas Activities Draw Questions | The Texas Tribune

While saying it had received no complaint against the Democratic group Battleground Texas, the office of Texas Secretary of State Nandita Berry suggested Wednesday that the group’s voter registration practices might rise to a “potential level of offense” of state election law. Battleground Texas strongly disputes breaking any laws and said a flap over its registration efforts has Republicans running scared. At issue is a videotaped conversation with Battleground Texas volunteers in Bexar County. It was gathered surreptitiously by controversial conservative activist James O’Keefe, who has sent people posing as interested volunteers to infiltrate Democratic or liberal activist groups, after which he disseminates video that was secretly gathered.

Ohio: Voters’ Bill of Rights blocked in Ohio | MSNBC

Concerned about the coming wave of restrictive voting laws in their state, black Ohio leaders are working to get a “Voters’ Bill of Rights” on the ballot this fall. But the state’s top legal official, a Republican, is putting obstacles in their path. And some voting law experts suggest he’s twisting the law to do so. Ohio remains the single most pivotal state for presidential elections, so its rules for voting could well have major national implications come 2016. The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) wants a constitutional amendment that would declare voting “a fundamental right,” expand early voting, and make it harder to use challenges to disqualify ballots, among other measures. The effort is a response to an aggressive push by state Republican lawmakers to make voting more difficult. Bills that would cut early voting, end same-day registration, and make it harder to get an absentee ballot are likely to pass the GOP-controlled legislature in the coming weeks. There is no explicit right to vote in the U.S. Constitution—an omission some lawmakers want to fix.

Ohio: House passes bills to change absentee ballot rules, eliminate six days of early voting | Cleveland Plain Dealer

The GOP-controlled Ohio House passed along party lines on Wednesday two bills that make changes to the mailing of absentee ballot applications and cut six days from Ohio’s 35-day early, in-person voting period. The Senate approved House-made changes to the bills before sending them to Gov. John Kasich, who is expected to sign them into law. Senate Bill 238 would eliminate six early voting days referred to as “golden week,” when people can both register to vote and cast an in-person absentee ballot. The Ohio Association of Election Officials recommended the five-day period be scrapped to create a clean break between when voters can register and when they can cast ballots. The bill passed in a 58-39 vote in the House and the Senate passed the bill along party lines, 23-10, on Nov. 20, 2013.

Afghanistan: 45 days until Afghan provincial council and presidential elections |

The Independent Election Commission in Afghanistan said it met with U.N., human rights officials and foreign representatives to review plans for the April vote. The IEC said members of the Afghan Human Rights Commission met in Kabul with election officials, U.N. officials and foreign envoys to discuss April elections. A running clock on the IEC website says elections are in 45 days. Jan Kubis, U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan, said national officials should coordinate more closely to ensure the results of the April presidential and provincial council elections are accepted by winners and losers alike.

Canada: Bill would end Elections Canada vote drives | The Star Phoenix

Among the controversial proposals in the Conservative government’s proposed Fair Elections Act is one to eliminate Elections Canada campaigns encouraging Canadians to vote – no matter who for. Pierre Poilievre, federal minister of state for democratic reform, says Elections Canada’s out reach campaigns – which began in 2003 in response to decades of declining voter turnout, particularly among young voters – have failed to combat the troubling trend. “I am not arguing that Elections Canada’s advertising drives turnout down,” Poilievre said in an email to Postmedia News on Wednesday. “Rather, it fails to drive turnout up, because it does not address the practical obstacles that prevent many from voting.”

India: Election Commission considering online voting arrangement for non-residents | The Economic Times

It’s not likely to happen this general election but non-resident Indians (NRIs) may soon be able to cast their ballot, even if they’re not back home. The Election Commission of India (EC) is considering a proposal to allow this following many representations made by expatriate Indians. Currently, NRIs can only vote in their constituencies. This regulation is seen as restrictive as only 11,844 Indians living abroad have registered as voters, the maximum being from Kerala. Of these, barely anyone has traveled to the country to exercise his or her franchise.

Thailand: Prime Minister’s speech on rice scheme breach of election law, petitioners tell EC | Bangkok Post

Representatives of two organisations on Thursday filed separate petitions with the Election Commission accusing caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra of violating the constitution and election law by making a television address on the government’s rice-pledging scheme on Feb 18. The first petition was filed by Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Constitution Protection Association. The petition stated that Ms Yingluck’s speech broadcast by Television Pool of Thailand on Feb 18 was intended to promote the government and Pheu Thai Party rice-pledging programme. Since Ms Yingluck is the caretaker prime minister, her television address had violated Section 181 of the constitution because she, as a state official, is required to be neutral, it said.

United Kingdom: No vote, no voice: Expats urged to register for European elections | Telegraph

Expats have been urged to register to vote, with less than three months left before the deadline for the European Parliamentary elections. Just a just a tiny percentage of the estimated 5.5 million British expats are currently registered. The Electoral Commission has therefore launched an international campaign via radio and social media to encourage more to sign up. An overseas registration day on Wednesday February 26 aims to achieve at least 25,000 overseas voter registration form downloads from the website

Australia: New vote for Western Australia as court voids razor-sharp contest | Reuters

Voters in Western Australia are headed for a rerun of last year’s federal Senate race, after the High Court on Thursday voided the election over 1,370 ballots that disappeared during a recount of the tight contest. The ruling could have an impact on conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s agenda. His Liberal-National coalition won a strong majority in the lower house of parliament in last year’s poll, but lacks a majority in the upper house, or Senate. Justice Kenneth Hayne invalidated the race because the lost ballots far exceeded the margins of error in two of the senate races, one of which came down to as few as 12 votes. Senator Michael Ronaldson, the Liberal Party minister responsible for the Australian Electoral Commission, warned the agency over a replay of the debacle in the new vote, which could take place within weeks.

Libya: Libyans vote for constitution body amid bombs, tensions | Reuters

Explosions rocked five polling stations in eastern Libya on Thursday as voters began electing a body to draft a new constitution, another step in the OPEC producer’s rocky transition since Muammar Gaddafi fell in 2011. Nobody was wounded in the dawn bomb attacks in the restive town of Derna, residents said, but the incident highlighted the volatile situation in the North African country. Prime Minister Ali Zeidan’s government is struggling to assert its authority over militias which helped topple Gaddafi but kept their weapons and have become major political players.