Iowa: Judge blocks rule canceling voter’s registration | Times Republican

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz did not have the authority to create a new rule aimed at ridding voter registration rolls of voters who didn’t appear to be U.S. citizens, a judge said Wednesday. Polk County Judge Scott Rosenberg delivered a victory to the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa, which sued Schultz over the rule. He tried to pass it as an emergency rule just before the November 2012 general election. Another judge halted the rule before the election, concluding that it created confusion and mistrust in the voter registration process. Schultz, however, proceeded to pass a similar rule through the regular rulemaking process last year but it too was halted by Rosenberg, who in September issued a temporary injunction preventing Schultz from acting on it until the court could further review the legal questions. Rosenberg said then that the rule would have a chilling effect on the right to vote and could cause irreparable harm.

Kansas: GOP pushes for legislation aimed at reducing party switching | Lawrence Journal-World

The Kansas Republican Party on Wednesday pushed for passage of a bill aimed at reducing the number of voters who switch parties before the primary to hurt the GOP. The bill would essentially prevent registered voters from changing their party affiliation from June 1 through Sept. 1. Currently, voters registered as Republicans, Democrats or Libertarian can change their party affiliation up to 21 days before the August primaries. Unaffiliated voters can declare a party affiliation at any time. Clay Barker, executive director of the state Republican Party, said the primary election belongs to the political party, not the general public, and is the party’s mechanism to select its candidates. Barker said he believed third-party groups were urging voters to switch parties to advance an inferior candidate who would then face the opposition party’s candidate in the general election. But neither Barker, nor state Rep. Keith Esau, R-Olathe, the main supporters of House Bill 2210, could provide examples of party-switching occurring as part of political gamesmanship.

Minnesota: Online voter registration advances in House | Star Tribune

Minnesotans should be able to register to vote online, a bipartisan panel of legislators voted on Tuesday. The House Elections Committee unanimously approved the practice that has been available — with considerable controversy — since last year. “I think it’s an issue that is kind of a no-brainer for the state of Minnesota,” said House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis. DFL Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s office began accepting online registrations in September, although the law did not specifically permit it. DFLers, Republicans, Gov. Mark Dayton and the nonpartisan legislative auditor have said that the matter should have been approved by the Legislature first. Ritchie said existing law gave him the authority to start registering voters online.

Ohio: Lawsuit challenging voting bills would force GOP to prove fraud | Vindicator

Republican Gov. John Kasich has signed into law three bills that change the procedures for voting in Ohio. The measures were rammed through the GOP- controlled General Assembly, with proponents arguing, among other things, that they are designed to combat voter fraud. Not surprisingly, Democrats have been quick to respond, accusing the Republicans who control every statewide administrative office and six of the seven Supreme Court seats of attempting to restrict voting. The arguments from both sides should ring familiar. They have been used in previous battles over voting in Ohio. The GOP contends that unrestricted access to the polls is a recipe for disaster; the Democratic Party counters that voter suppression is at the heart of the Republican campaign. It notes that urban areas are hardest hit by the changes in voting procedures, with black voters, who mostly support Democratic candidates, being dissuaded from going to the polls.

Rhode Island: Design students reimagine election ballot | Turnto10

The typical signage at a Rhode Island voting place is not coordinated and sometimes not easy to understand. A solution from design students at the Rhode Island School of Design is to make the signs at least the same color. “You can follow the additional bright blue signs inside,” said Evan Brooks, a RISD senior. Brooks is one of a team of students who showed what they think are improved signs and ballots to the Board of Elections on Tuesday. “It just seemed incredibly confusing and intimidating. There’s no structure to it. You have to take everything out and sort through it, and just by designing it in a neater way saves work for both the Board of Elections and the volunteer poll workers who have to set everything up,” Brooks said.

Utah: Bill Creating Election-day Voter Registration Pilot Advances | City Weekly

In 2013, Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck came close to passing a bill that would require county and city clerks to allow voters to register and vote on election day. The bill was killed over a concerns about costs and possible fraud issues, but now Chavez-Houck has resurrected the bill as a pilot program that cities and counties would voluntarily opt into. With a pilot program, municipal and county clerks would be able to accept registration and then offer a provisional ballot on election day to a voter that would be counted after the vote was verified. As a pilot program participating counties would closely monitor the same-day votes and report back their findings to the Legislature to see if there are any concerns or abuse of the process.

Utah: Deal on Count My Vote gets OK | The Salt Lake Tribune

Despite grumbling and constitutional doubts, the Utah Legislature sent a deal to Gov. Gary Herbert that will overhaul the process for choosing candidates for office and bring to an end Count My Vote’s ballot initiative. “I don’t argue that this policy will be better than the caucus-convention process,” said Rep. Dan McCay, R-Riverton. “The vote today is not whether you like one [nominating system] over the other. … Your vote today is ‘do I preserve a history at the same time I grab the future?’ That is this bill.” While the bill, SB54s2, lets parties keep their existing caucus-and-convention system for nominating candidates, it also allows aspiring officeholders who collect enough petition signatures to go straight to the primary ballot. It also imposes certain requirements on state parties, and James Evans, chairman of the Utah Republican Party, has said the party has the right to nominate its candidates as it sees fit. Previously, he said an attorney the party hired recommended they not participate in the negotiations because it could weaken a potential lawsuit.

Wisconsin: Racine County favors state bill to shift recount costs | The Journal Times

Racine County’s recent election history includes multiple tight races that resulted in recounts. The last recount was in the 2012 state Senate recall race, in which John Lehman defeated Van Wanggaard by 819 votes. The recount — the third of three recounts between 2011 and 2012 — cost Racine County taxpayers about $5,400. A proposed state law change would shift more of the cost to the candidates. Racine County Clerk Wendy Christensen and the county’s Government Services Committee favor the change, saying it would close the gap between the fees charged to candidates and the county’s actual costs.

Australia: West Australian election recount a ‘disaster’: Keelty | Sydney Morning Herald

Former federal police chief Mick Keelty has described the handling of the West Australian Senate election recount as a “disaster”. Parliament’s electoral matters committee is investigating how 1370 ballots went missing in a recount of the 2013 Senate election in WA and measures to ensure it does not happen again. The loss has resulted in a court-ordered re-run of the WA Senate election on April 5, which could affect the Abbott government’s delivery of key election promises. Mr Keelty was hired to find out what went wrong, but was unable to put his finger on one specific fault or criminality. “This was a disaster,” he told the committee in Canberra on Wednesday.

Editorials: Canada Fair Elections Act attacks participation and debate | Toronto Star

For many months the Conservative government has blatantly taken away by fiat the right to strike of union members within federal jurisdiction. They are now threatening to shut down environmental charities that are talking about climate change. And they are ramming through Parliament changes to the elections act that will almost certainly mean that many thousands of Canadians will not be able to vote. In the language of fundamental rights, taken together these actions restrict freedom of association, limit freedom of speech and curtail a citizen’s right to vote. In short, there is a steady chipping away at the underpinnings of democracy. Inspired by the tried and tested voter suppression tactics used by the Republicans to disenfranchise marginalized groups in the U.S., the new election law would make it harder for certain groups to vote. The law would end the ability to “vouch” for the bona fides of a neighbour, a tool that allowed 120,000 voters — disproportionately aboriginal, youth and seniors — to cast ballots in the last election.

Costa Rica: Incumbent quits run-off election bid, paves way for leftist | Reuters

Costa Rica’s ruling party candidate Johnny Araya on Wednesday abandoned his presidential campaign a month before a runoff, a move that appeared to guarantee victory for leftist former diplomat Luis Guillermo Solis. Araya, of the ruling centrist National Liberation Party (PLN), said he would no longer campaign, though under the constitution his name will remain on the ballot. He said he had made the decision after polls showed him way behind Solis. A favorite to win before the first round of voting in February, Araya has been beset by voter resentment over government corruption scandals under President Laura Chinchilla and rising inequality. Solis scored a surprise win in that vote, and has stretched his lead dramatically in opinion polls. “There is an increasing will to replace the party in government,” Araya told a news conference, declining to take questions. “I will abstain from any electoral activity.”

India: Election Commission to introduce VVPAT countrywide on experimental basis | Moneycontrol

The Election Commission will introduce Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) countrywide on experimental basis to ensure a fair Lok Sabha poll. The VVPAT is a paper slip which will come out of the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) once a voter casts his vote, showing which symbol and candidate the vote has been cast for. The slip will be automatically dropped in a sealed box attached to the EVM for use by the EC, Chief Electoral Officer in West Bengal Sunil Gupta today said.

North Korea: Kim Jong-un runs in legendary district | Reuters

North Korea, accused of human rights violations, elects its largely symbolic parliament this weekend, with leader Kim Jong-un, the third in his family dynasty to rule the totalitarian state, running unopposed in a legendary mountain district. State news agency KCNA said on Thursday that election preparations were “gaining momentum”, with voters confirming their names on electoral lists for the ballot held every five years. “Agitation activities are going on to encourage citizens to take active part in the election with high political enthusiasm and labour feats, amid the playing of ‘Song of the election’,” KCNA reported. North Koreans, it said, sought to “demonstrate once again the might of single-minded unity by casting ballots for their candidates”.

Iowa: Court throws out secretary of state’s controversial voter registration rule | The Des Moines Register

A Polk County court has struck down a controversial rule issued by Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz meant to identify and remove ineligible voters from the state’s voter rolls. Judge Scott D. Rosenberg found that Schultz, a Republican who has built his reputation and focused his office on ballot security issues, exceeded his authority in adopting the rule. The order invalidates the rule and assesses costs associated with the case to Schultz’s office. A spokesman for the secretary said his office plans to appeal. The rule at issue set out a process for identifying and removing non-citizens from Iowa’s voter registration list first by screening registered voters against state and national lists of noncitizens and then running suspected foreign nationals through the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements database. Voters identified as ineligible would then be referred to their local county auditor, who would initiate a challenge to their registration.