North Carolina: Judge tells North Carolina to provide documents about voting law even after it was enacted | Associated Press

North Carolina must provide groups suing to overturn last year’s voting law with documents created even after it was signed in the summer, a judge has ruled. The federal magistrate judge’s order released Tuesday is important to civil rights groups and the U.S. government, which contend portions of the law are unconstitutional and discriminatory under the Voting Rights Act. They argue they need documents about how the law is being implemented to show it’s going to hurt voters in minority groups. Attorneys defending the law argued that state agencies shouldn’t have to provide documents dated past Aug. 12, when Gov. Pat McCrory signed the law. They said the breadth of documents should be limited to before that date, when the General Assembly was developing the legislation.

Ohio: FitzGerald introduces voting legislation that contradicts recently-passed state law | Cleveland Plain Dealer

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald has formally submitted legislation to County Council asserting his right to mail out unsolicited absentee ballot applications to all registered voters in the county, a move that would be in direct contradiction to a recently-passed state law. FitzGerald, a Democrat who is running for governor, released the legislation — which he has deemed the “Cuyahoga County Voting Rights Law” — late Wednesday. The bill’s text says that despite any state laws to the contrary, the county will promote voter registration and promote “early voting and maximizing voter participation through voting by mail in Cuyahoga County, including, but not limited to, mailing applications to vote by mail, with postage-prepaid return envelopes, to all registered voters in Cuyahoga County.”

Utah: New Hampshire to Utah: The first-in-the-nation primary is ours, back off | The Salt Lake Tribune

New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner is urging Utah lawmakers to reject a bill that would try to put the Beehive State ahead of Iowa or New Hampshire in the presidential primary race, arguing that New Hampshire’s 100-year-old contest is the best test of candidates. A House committee this week advanced HB410, providing that if Utah wanted to fund an early presidential primary, it must do so a week before any similar balloting. It’s a clear shot at New Hampshire and Iowa, both of which grab the attention of the national news media and major candidates for months. Rep. Jon Cox, R-Ephraim, says it’s unfair for those two states to always get the spotlight and Utah could actually play a role in electing the next president. But Gardner, who by law must place the New Hampshire primary a week before any similar contest, says his state’s contest allows all candidates to compete on the same level, working town markets and holding house parties instead of campaigning through major television ads and fly-in-fly-out stump speeches.

India: India says elections to begin April 7, with voting held in stages | Associated Press

India said Wednesday it will begin national elections on April 7, kicking off a month-long contest in the largest democracy in the world. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Narendra Modi, has the momentum heading into the polls. A recent poll by the Pew Research Center said 63 percent of Indians prefer the Hindu nationalist BJP over the incumbent Congress party, which has dominated Indian politics for most of the country’s history since independence in 1947. The election is held over several weeks for reasons of logistics and safety in a country of 1.2 billion. More than 810 million people are eligible to vote this year — an increase of 100 million from five years ago, according to the Election Commission. Vote counting will be held May 16 and most results are expected the same day, Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath said.

National: Groups pledge to spend millions on secretary of state races in Ohio, other battleground states | Cleveland Plain Dealer

Ohioans surfing the web this week may see ads railing against Secretary of State Jon Husted, but they’re not from his Democratic challenger, state Sen. Nina Turner. A Democratic-led national political action committee began running online ads against Husted last week and a conservative-driven rival PAC also plans to raise and spend money on the race as well. The national attention is to be expected, given recent politically charged battles in the Statehouse over early voting days and ballot procedures. But the national groups also are looking to the 2016 presidential race and the role secretaries of states can play as chief elections officials in crafting and enforcing voting rules that favor their respective parties. The 2014 voting hours set by Husted last week, which omit evenings and the Sunday before Election day, have been characterized by Democrats as a partisan move to suppress voting by minorities and working Ohioans.

Connecticut: Citizen Audit Finds Little Improvement In Election Audits | Connecticut Plus

On Monday, the Connecticut Citizen Election Audit released its report on the November 2013 post-election audits. Coalition spokesperson Luther Weeks noted, “When compared with audits in 2011 and 2012 we found little difference, positive or negative, on the issues previously identified and the level of concerns affecting confidence.” The report concluded that the official audit results do not inspire confidence because of the continued: Lack of consistency, reliability, and transparency in the conduct of the audit, and discrepancies between machine counts and hand counts reported to the Secretary of the State by municipalities.

Massachusetts: Election reform bill will increase voter turnout, officials say | The Daily Free Press

In hopes of spurring an increase in voter turnout, an election reform bill is moving through the State House that would ensure early voting, online voter registration and pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-olds in Massachusetts. Under the new law, there would be an early voting period beginning 10 days before Election Day and ending two days before Election Day. Additionally, both online registration and pre-registration for teenagers coming up on their 18th birthday will make voting more convenient for residents of Massachusetts. Altogether, 32 other states so far have passed similar bills.

Editorials: Modernize Massachusetts Elections | Pam Wilmot/The Boston Globe

The Presidential Commission on Election Administration recently released a report on ways to make American elections run more smoothly and to reduce long lines at the polls. The bipartisan commission, co-chaired by the head election attorneys from President Barack Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s campaigns, found than 5 million people had to wait longer than an hour to vote in 2012. Some voters waited for more than six hours! Even here in Massachusetts, thousands of urban voters waited in long lines of up to three hours. Others understandably could not wait that long and went home. Still others were turned away because of issues around inactive voting lists, registration glitches, and their inability to legally obtain an absentee ballot. Thankfully all of the Commission on Election Administration’s top legislative recommendations were recently passed by the Massachusetts Senate in a groundbreaking election modernization bill. These recommendations were online voter registration, early voting, permanent voter registration, and post-election audits of election equipment.

Missouri: House passes two voter identification bills last week | Neosho Daily News

Nationwide, state governments are considering passing or have already passed legislation that would require voters to show photo identification before voting.  Last week, the Missouri House spent considerable time debating and then passing two voter photo identification bills. House Joint Resolution 47 (HJR 47) and House Bill 1073 (HB 1073) would both require a photo ID for individuals to vote in Missouri. These two bills are now on their way to the Missouri Senate for its approval. Attempts have been made in our state to pass voter photo identification laws, and our 2006 Missouri’s General Assembly passed the first such law. It was signed by the governor, but ultimately was struck down by Missouri’s Supreme Court as being unconstitutional. Photo identification voting laws have always stirred up partisan party politics, but supporters of this measure — mostly conservative Republicans — contend that photo ID laws are common sense protection against fraudulent voting.

Montana: Attorney submits initiative to fill Senate vacancies by special election | Associated Press

A Helena attorney submitted a ballot initiative proposal Tuesday that would change Montana law to remove the power of filling U.S. Senate vacancies from the governor and instead require special elections. The process was in the spotlight last month when Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock named his lieutenant governor, John Walsh, to replace longtime U.S. Sen. Max Baucus. Republican legislative leaders criticized Bullock’s selection, saying it was done in secrecy and with no input from the public. The proposal by attorney James Brown calls for holding a special primary election within 60 days of the governor being notified of a Senate vacancy. The primary would be followed by a special general election between 50 and 85 days later. The winner would serve until the next regular general election.

New York: Storage of Niagara County voting machines an issue | The Buffalo News

Niagara County apparently will need a new place to store its voting machines. As Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, had promised last summer, he and his fellow Democrats introduced a resolution at Tuesday’s meeting of the County Legislature calling for fresh bidding on the storage space lease. For the last six years, the county has been storing the machines in a former mattress factory on Transit Road in Newfane, owned by Lockport real estate developer David L. Ulrich. The $86,400-a-year lease for the 28,000-square-foot space renews automatically every Aug. 1 unless one side or the other gives notice 120 days in advance. And Ulrich gave that notice in a letter Thursday to County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz. Last year, the Legislature considered seeking new bids, but Virtuoso raised the issue within the 120-day window for renewal notice, so County Attorney Claude A. Joerg ruled it was too late for action. Virtuoso said at the time he would bring the issue up again early in 2014.

Texas: Primary Elections Mark Start of State Balloting With ID Laws | Bloomberg

Texans will have to prove who they are to cast ballots today, beginning a series of U.S state elections that will show the effect of laws pushed by Republicans requiring photo identification at the polls. Nine states this year are holding their first major votes – – including for governor and Congress — under such laws, according to the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures. The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for many such requirements last year after throwing out a core element of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which was meant to enfranchise blacks in the segregated South.

Editorials: What the Texas primary will – and won’t – tell us about voter ID | Michael Li/TXRedistricting

A number of news outlets have described the 2014 Texas primary as the first big test for the state’s voter ID law – and that’s true, to an extent. But it’s important to understand the limitations and caveats of the “test.” For starters, although voter turnout almost certainly will exceed the 8.55% of the state’s registered voters who turned out in November 2013 to vote on constitutional amendments, it is not clear that turnout will much exceed – if at all – the combined 16.6% of voters who voted in the 2010 Democratic and Republican primaries. That’s a far cry from the 38% of voters who voted in the 2010 general election (when Texas had the lowest voter turnout in the country) and even further from the 58.6% of voters who cast a ballot in the last presidential election. In other words, while the primary may be a stress test, over relying on it is a bit like using how a well a city does with a quarter inch of ice to predict how the city would do with a major snowstorm. Disaster with a quarter inch of ice – or in a low turnout primary – would be bad sign indeed, but the opposite can’t be said to be necessarily true.

Utah: House OKs bill to put Utah primary first, online | Daily Herald

A House committee has given approval to legislation that would seek to put Utah first in line to hold a presidential primary election and also calls for it to be done online. The House Political Subdivisions Committee approved the bill, H.B. 410, on Tuesday night that would bump off Iowa and New Hampshire as the presidential wine tasters in the nation and move the Beehive state to the prominent spot of having a significant role in presidential primary politics, first. “I believe that our current presidential nominating process is blatantly discriminatory,” said Rep. Jon Cox, R-Ephraim, the sponsor of the legislation. “I believe it creates second class states.” Cox’s bill would only create a mechanism for the primary to be held. Under the bill the Legislature would have the option to decide, at a later date, if it wants go first in the election season but does call for the elections to be held online, a move that cuts the cost of holding the election in half to an estimated $1.6 million.

Australia: Two more enquiries to be held into Australian Electoral Commission following lost vote debacle | Sydney Morning Herald

After the humiliation of losing more than 1300 votes and the resignation of top officials, the Australian Electoral Commission faces yet more pressure with the Auditor-General launching a major investigation into the electoral body. Fairfax Media can reveal the national audit office is pursuing two audits of the AEC after the 2013 WA Senate election result was declared void by the High Court. Due in part to the AEC’s loss of the ballot papers, West Australians will vote again on April 5 for a re-run of last year’s election, at a cost of around $20 million. The ballot debacle, which was blamed on “lax supervision” and a “complacent attitude” within the AEC in an investigation by former Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty, resulted in the resignation of the AEC’s electoral commissioner Ed Killesteyn and state manager Peter Kramer.

Australia: Electoral Commission agrees to refund $2000 nomination fee for botched WA Senate vote | Sydney Morning Herald

Voters in Western Australia will be confronted with the biggest ballot paper they have seen after the Australian Electoral Commission bowed to pressure and agreed to refund nomination fees for minor parties that contested the botched Senate vote in September. A number of grassroots parties had written to the AEC complaining they would be unable to run again if the $2000 deposit they paid per candidate nomination were not returned to be used again for the April 5 election. Most minor political parties paid a minimum $4000 for two candidates to qualify for ”above the line” voting and take part in the preference swap deals that provide their only hope of election.

Bulgaria: Parliament overturns presidential veto of election code | The Sofia Globe

The National Assembly voted on March 4 to overturn President Rossen Plevneliev’s veto of a number of provisions of the Election Code. The vote was 138 to 80, with the Bulgarian Socialist Party, Movement for Rights and Freedoms and Ataka, as well as three “independent” MPs voting together, and only centre-right opposition party GERB voting to accept Plevneliev’s decision to return several parts of the controversial legislation to Parliament for reconsideration. Plevneliev spelt out his objections in detail on February 28 in a written response to the law that had been approved by Parliament seven days earlier, and the March 4 special sitting was called to respond. In swift succession, the ad hoc committee on the electoral legislation – headed by Maya Manolova, the BSP MP who had the task of getting the Election Code through Parliament – overturned the veto, followed by the vote in the House.

Canada: NDP site the weak link in online attack during 2012 leadership vote | CBC News

An online attack that delayed the results of the NDP’s 2012 leadership vote succeeded because it hit the party’s website, not the site of the company running the online vote, a company representative says. The voting that chose Tom Mulcair as the New Democratic Party’s leader was besieged by a “distributed denial of service” attack, which bombards a server with repeated attempts at communication to try to slow it down or crash it altogether. The process was delayed by several hours and left many delegates complaining they couldn’t access the site to cast their ballots. At the time, neither the NDP, nor Scytl, the company that provided the online voting service, would explain beyond saying it was a denial of service attack. But Scytl representatives now say the attack hit the NDP’s website and that its own technology was never compromised.

Ukraine: Crimea sets March 16 vote on seceding from Ukraine, joining Russia | Los Angeles Times

The Russian-controlled parliament of Ukraine’s Crimea area voted Thursday to secede and join Russia, and set a March 16 public vote on the latest move aimed at wresting the strategic peninsula from Ukraine. Officials in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev said such a vote would be meaningless as the Ukrainian constitution requires that any changes to national borders or territory be voted on by the entire country. The referendum on Crimea’s future, announced by the region’s first deputy prime minister, Rustam Temirgaliev, moved up the date for the controversial vote by two weeks. Ukraine’s National Defense and Security Council called an emergency session to respond to the Crimean action, the Ukraine Crisis Media Center reported.