International: One billion voters go to polls in most democratic month world has ever seen | The Guardian

April may traditionally be the cruellest month, but in 2014 it will also be the most democratic the world has ever seen. More than a billion people are eligible to vote in a sudden flurry of national elections in some of the world’s largest – and newest democracies. As well as the 800 million eligible to casts their ballot in India from 7 April, another 190 million have the right to vote in Indonesian elections on 9 April. In terms of size of electorate, India and Indonesia are the world’s first and third largest democracies. The US is second.

National: Justices Poised to Rule on Citizens United 2 | Newsweek

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled on a case involving an Alabama county that wanted to see key sections of the Voting Rights Act eliminated. Shelby County mostly got its wish. Southern states no longer have to have their voting rules vetted by the federal government. Now, an electrical engineer and Republican activist–Shaun McCutcheon, also from Alabama–has a case before the high court that threatens to upend the current status quo on campaign finance. Due any day now, the court’s ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission could overturn a nearly 40-year-old law that limits what individuals give to campaigns and what they can give in total. Politicians and activists are watching closely because in 2010 the Roberts court overturned a century’s worth of law with its Citizens United ruling that allowed unlimited contributions and contributions by corporations to certain kinds of political committees.

Editorials: Why Did the Senate Block Debo Adegbile? | Brentin Mock/Demos

Much of the rancor around why they opposed Debo Adegbile for heading the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has been about Mumia Abu-Jamal. But it seems from their line of questioning that there’s also an agenda to undermine the Civil Rights Divisions’ duties to enforce voting rights and protect Americans against discrimination. This probably explains why Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama sound really pissed with the Senate right now. “At a time when significant voting rights cases and other consequential matters are pending, it is more critical than ever to have a confirmed leader for the Civil Rights Division,” said Holder in a statement decrying the Senate vote. “He deserved to have his nomination considered wholly on the merits.”  President Obama called it a “travesty” noting that Adegbile’s “unwavering dedication to protecting every American’s civil and Constitutional rights under the law—including voting rights —could not be more important right now.”

Voting Blogs: Overseas Vote Foundation studies new remote voting program | electionlineWeekly

Making sure every vote counts and every vote is secure is of the utmost importance to all elections officials. When the voters are members of our military or residents serving and living abroad, the counting of those votes is as important, it’s just a bit more complex. Through the years there have been a variety of legislative measures such as the MOVE Act to make sure that ballots are sent to and accepted from overseas voters in a timely fashion. There have been some attempts — some somewhat successful, some not-so-much — to create secure systems for overseas residents to case their ballots electronically. Now the Overseas Vote Foundation (OVF) is conducting a new study that will team up scientists and state and local elections officials to look at the feasibility of end-to-end, verifiable, secure Internet voting for military and overseas voters.

California: More than half of California voters vote by mail, not at the polls | UC Davis News

For the first time ever, more than half of all California voters in 2012 voted by mail, and in most regions of the state, more than 60 percent dropped their ballots in the mailbox rather than the polls, according to a new University of California, Davis, policy paper. But not all voters are using mail ballots at the same rates. There are disparities in the rate of vote-by-mail use by age, race, ethnicity and political party in California. “Outreach and services to voters — including election and campaign materials — may need to be retooled to reflect these different use rates to ensure all voters have access to the voting option that is most useful for them, said Mindy S. Romero, author of the paper. Romero is founding director of the UC Davis California Civic Engagement Project, which collects and analyzes statewide data on voters and other civic issues.

Florida: Senate bill puts absentee ballot dropoff sites in cross hairs | Tampa Bay Times

At the urging of state Sen. Jack Latvala, the Senate will take up voting law changes that include preventing counties from using satellite locations where voters can drop off absentee ballots. The proposal is aimed at Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark, but it antagonized two other supervisors who say dropoff sites save money and are convenient for voters. The Senate plan follows a confrontation in December between Clark and Gov. Rick Scott’s top elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who ordered an end to dropoff sites because no law allows it. Clark continues to defy the directive and is using five sites in the Congressional District 13 special election.

Kentucky: Thayer files bill clarifying Rand Paul’s ability to seek re-election and run for president in 2016 |

State Sen. Damon Thayer introduced a bill Thursday afternoon that would clear the way for U.S. Sen. Rand Paul to seek re-election to the Senate and run for president on the same Kentucky ballot in 2016. Thayer, R-Georgetown, and other allies of Paul said the proposal would make clear that an existing state law prohibiting candidates from appearing twice on the same ballot applies only to those seeking state and local offices. Paul, who is openly flirting with a run for the White House in 2016, and his supporters say he already has the ability to pursue both seats at the same time, but the legislation filed Thursday would thwart any legal challenges to his potential multiple candidacies.

Iowa: Branstad aide must be deposed in Iowa voting case | Associated Press

The attorney for an ex-felon charged with illegally voting must be allowed to question an aide to Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad before the trial begins, a judge ruled Thursday. Kelli Jo Griffin’s attorney had claimed that Branstad aide Rebecca Elming, a prosecution witness, refused to be deposed last week on the advice of state lawyers. But Branstad spokesman Jimmy Centers disputed that Thursday, saying the deposition had not been scheduled. “Now that a deposition has been requested, we will work with the parties to make Elming available,” he said. Judge Mary Ann Brown said Griffin had a right to depose Elming before trial, which she delayed from Thursday until March 19 due to an attorney’s illness.

Iowa: Judge strikes down Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s voter purge efforts | Omaha World Herald

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 ordered the rule stricken and said Iowa’s secretary of state is “enjoined from taking any action” pursuant to the rule. Rosenberg gave 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, saying it could intimidate or unfairly deny votes to immigrants. Schultz 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.

Maine: Early-voting measure falls short in Maine House | The Portland Press Herald

A bill proposing a constitutional amendment to allow an enhanced early-voting system in Maine fell short Wednesday in the House of Representatives. Lawmakers voted 87-57 in favor of the bill, but that was several votes shy of the two-thirds needed to send the issue to voters, who have final approval of changes to the Maine Constitution. No Republicans voted in favor of the bill. Four Republicans and three Democrats did not vote.

Maryland: Baltimore legislator wants to invite third parties to the political process | Baltimore City Paper

Baltimore City state Sen. Bill Ferguson (D-46th District) is worried about the state of democracy in Baltimore, across Maryland, and countrywide. “Voting is the fundamental building block of any democracy,” he says, “and the numbers of those voting is a smaller percentage than it should or could be, particularly if you look at age cohorts of young and middle-aged voters.” This creates a “looming” problem for democracy, he concludes, so lawmakers need to find “new ways to reach citizens no matter their political persuasion,” so that society has “an informed populace that engages in the process” of electing its leaders. The dismal state of voting affairs in Baltimore City were made manifest, to much public hand-wringing, in the 2011 mayoral election. In the Democratic primary—the tally that, by default, determines the winner in this nearly one-party burg—victor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake got 38,829 votes, 8 percent of Baltimore’s voting-age population. Less than 10 percent of some districts’ electorates backed the winners in the City Council races.

Minnesota: E-pollbook legislation likely, though enthusiasm has faded a bit | MinnPost

Lawmakers will likely move forward with limited electronic-pollbook legislation this session, but it appears that the sense of urgency behind the voting technology has faded a bit. A state Senate committee passed legislation on Wednesday — a day after its House counterpart — that came out of a pollbook task force in late January. The task force recommended yet another study of electronic pollbooks during the 2014 mid-term elections and putting standards for pollbooks in state law. The electronic pollbook systems consist of laptops or tablet computers installed with voting administration software that advocates say improves election speed, helps with accuracy and reduces some costs over the current paper pollbooks.

Canada: Ranked ballot voting moves closer to reality in Toronto | CTV

A new initiative looking to adopt a ranked ballot system to Toronto’s electoral system just got one step closer to approval at Queen’s Park on Thursday. Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter tabled a private member’s bill that would allow Toronto to adopt a ranked voting system – where voters rank candidates in order of preference – instead of the current “first-past-the post” system. Bill 166 passed second reading on Thursday afternoon and will now be sent to the legislature’s social policy committee for further study.

Canada: Conservative bill may ‘compromise’ elections, Marc Mayrand says | Toronto Star

The man in charge of elections in Canada has warned the Conservative government that voters are going to be turned away from ballot boxes in significant numbers in 2015 and that the new “Fair Elections Act” may create real unfairness among the political players. Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand was blunt when he spoke to one of the lead Conservative MPs during an often-testy Commons committee meeting on Thursday. “In the next election, if those rules go through, you will see in your riding how many people will be sent away,” Mayrand told MP Tom Lukiwski. “And that will be an issue.”

Colombia: Buying votes with cash, beer and bricks in Colombia’s upcoming parliamentary elections? | Reuters

In Colombia, it’s easy to tell when election season is in full swing. Potholes are suddenly filled with cement, stretches of roads are paved and local officials rush to inaugurate often unfinished public buildings. It’s one way to show that public funds have been well spent under their watch as a way of helping the political party they represent to do well at the polls. Election campaign posters and pamphlets stuffed in postboxes say “no to corruption” and “public funds are sacred”. Yet election-rigging scandals, allegations of election fraud and vote-buying are an all too common feature of the political landscape in Colombia. In Colombia’s parliamentary, local and presidential elections over the decades, local media have reported ineligible voters casting ballots, including some using fake or stolen identity cards, and tampered electoral registers that include the names of dead citizens or have names listed twice.

El Salvador: Ex-guerrilla closes in on El Salvador election win | Reuters

A former Marxist guerrilla leader looks poised to win El Salvador’s presidential election runoff on Sunday as voters embrace his ruling party’s social programs despite opposition allegations that he plans to veer the country to the radical left. Polls show Salvador Sanchez Ceren, a top leader of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) rebel army during the country’s 1980-92 civil war, with about 55 percent support ahead of the runoff vote, enough to secure his party a second consecutive term. His opponent Norman Quijano, the conservative former mayor of the capital, San Salvador, trails with about 45 percent amid waning support for his right-wing Arena party. Quijano has warned the ex-rebel will move El Salvador to the radical left and bow to the influence of Latin America’s leading U.S. antagonist, socialist-led Venezuela.

North Korea: Handicapping the North Korean Elections | Foreign Policy

North Korea is holding parliamentary elections. Well, sort of. Three days ahead of Sunday’s vote, the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland looks set to complete yet another clean sweep of the 687-seat Supreme People’s Assembly. But maintaining their unanimous hold on parliament shouldn’t be challenging: There are no opposition parties on the ballot. The Democratic Front, the governing coalition led by Kim Jong Un’s ruling Workers’ Party, has handpicked one — and only one — candidate for each district. It’s nearly impossible to determine which individuals and institutions hold real power within the secretive North Korean government, but one thing is clear: The Supreme People’s Assembly is not one of them. Parliamentary elections, which are held every five years, are little more than a progranda excercise for a regime ruled by its despotic dictatorship at the top. Still, the North Korean government remains determined to uphold at least the appearance of democratic legitimacy. On Wednesday, the state news agency KCNA reported that election preparations were “gaining momentum.” “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.'” Let the horserace begin.

Editorials: North Korea elections: An empty show? | Al Jazeera

On March 8, virtually all North Korean adults will be expected (or rather required) to come to their local polling station in order to partake in the elections of the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), the North Korean parliament.The ritual has been repeated every four or five years and hence is quite predictable. First, the voters form remarkably orderly cues, and upon entering the station they will make a deep bow to the portraits of the Leaders from the Kim family which has been running the country for almost 70 years. Having completed this important ritual, they will be issued ballot papers, whereupon they will proceed to a voting box. The ballot will have only one candidate, even though the voter has the theoretical option of voting against the candidate. If the North Korean media is to be believed, not a single person nationwide has exercised this theoretical right. The picture described above is quite typical of Stalinist electoral systems. First created in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, this pattern was then copied across the socialist bloc. The standout feature of this system was the non-competitive nature of the elections. There was only one candidate in every electoral district, thus the success of a given candidate was preordained. The party bureaucracy decided the names of the candidates well before the elections were held.