National: Merriam-Webster makes ‘super PAC’ official | Center for Public Integrity

“Super PAC” is officially legit. Making good on a promise, language authority Merriam-Webster recently published an entry for “super PAC” in its online unabridged dictionary — a subscription-only product. Inclusion of “super PAC” in its free online dictionary is forthcoming, Associate Editor Kory Stamper told the Center for Public Integrity. The Merriam-Webster entry reads:

Super PAC, noun: a type of political action committee that is legally permitted to raise and spend larger amounts of money than the amounts allowed for a conventional PAC; specifically: an independent PAC that can accept unlimited contributions from individuals and organizations (such as corporations and labor unions) and spend unlimited amounts in support of a candidate but that cannot directly contribute money to or work directly in concert with the candidate it is supporting.

Colorado: Democrats propose tweaks to recall elections | 9News

With last year’s recall elections fresh in their minds, leading Democrats in the Colorado Senate laid out a case for changes in state laws governing recall elections. Democrats insisted their aim was to clear up confusion about how recalls work and encourage more voter participation, saying nothing in the bill they’re introducing would make it tougher to attempt to recall a public official in Colorado. “As to the ability to actually recall someone or whether it’s harder or easier, it’s agnostic on that,” said Senate President Morgan Carroll. “It’s neutral. It doesn’t really affect that.”

District of Columbia: Elections board acknowledges error on Spanish-language electronic ballots | Washington Post

When Edgardo Guerrero went to cast his vote Monday, at One Judiciary Square during the first day of early balloting, the electronic machine he was using presented him with a puzzling message. The 47-year-old Bloomingdale resident had opted for a Spanish-language ballot, and as he prepared to finalize his choices, he was informed, “¡Boleta incompleta! No ha seleccionado opción alguna en ninguna contienda.” Translation: “Ballot incomplete: You haven’t selected an option in any of the contests.” Problem was, Guerrero had made choices in most of the races on the ballot, though he did leave at least one office blank. He reviewed his ballot, tried submitting his choices again, and was given the same message. After inquiring with poll workers, he said, he submitted his ballot. But Guerrero remained wary that his vote had been properly counted, and he asked to have his electronic vote cancelled and to be given a paper ballot. Elections officials on the scene, he said, told him that would not be possible.

Florida: Orange County’s Hispanic voting rights fight moves to court | Orlando Sentinel

The Hispanic community’s struggle to gain political power in Orange County in recent years moves to a federal courtroom this week. For the first time since a voting rights lawsuit was filed in 2012, both sides will meet Thursday before Chief Judge Anne C. Conway. The case pits area Latino residents and a national civil rights group against elected leaders who created political boundaries that plaintiffs claim “illegally dilutes the voting rights of Latinos in Orange County.” Meanwhile, local Republicans on the County Commission have signaled they may be open to a potential solution that would expand the county’s current lineup of six districts to eight, possibly giving Hispanics a better shot to win a seat.

Illinois: New voting law lets 4,000 17-year-olds have their say for the first time | Medill Reports

Today across Chicago, city teens will skip school — with good reason. Illinois’ new “suffrage at 17 law” will allow 17-year-olds turning 18 by the Nov. 4 general election an excused absence to vote in the primary. According to the Chicago Board of Elections, almost 9,000 teens — 4,000 of whom are 17 have registered to vote since Jan. 1 when the law took effect. While that number falls short of the board’s stated goal of 30,000 students, Langdon Neal, chairman of the Chicago Election Board, calls the effort historic: “We’re proud to have so many young people who can make history this election,” Neal said.

Indiana: Certification of Tippecanoe County’s voting system reveals, solves 2 computer glitches | Journal and Courier

Tippecanoe County’s certification of its electronic poll books was held up last week because of two glitches. The laptop computers and other hardware arrived at the out-of-state testing lab on March 7, and it should have been an hourlong test to certify the e-poll book, Tippecanoe County Clerk Christa Coffey said last week before she received notification of the certification on March 12. Valerie Kroeger, communication director for the Secretary of State, said late last week that the initial test of Tippecanoe County’s equipment showed two problems. “When VSTOP (Voting Systems Technical Oversight Program) did the testing, they found two issues,” Kroeger said. “When the computer went to scan the ID, it wasn’t working. And when they went to manually look it up, it didn’t work.”

New York: Bill would let young people pre-register to vote | Legislative Gazette

In an attempt to increase voter participation among young adults in New York the Assembly passed a bill last week allowing teenagers to pre-register to vote. The legislation, sponsored by Brian Kavanagh in the Assembly and David Carlucci in the Senate, would permit 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register so that their voter registration becomes effective immediately when they turn 18, the legal age for voting in New York. Kavanagh has identified voter registration among young people as a major issue citing nationwide statistics that show only 59 percent of eligible voters between 18 and 24 have signed up to vote, compared to 71 percent of voters of all ages.

Utah: Legislature fails to pass bill to jump ahead of Iowa in presidential contest | Des Moines Register

Utah lawmakers were unsuccessful in their effort to push their state to the front of the presidential selection process. Iowa holds the spotlight every four years as presidential hopefuls pour into the state to audition for the White House, trailed by the national press. No other state votes before the Iowa caucuses. A proposal that would have required Utah to hold the first presidential voting contest in the country, and for voting would take place online, didn’t make the cut last night. Earlier this week, the Utah House overwhelmingly approved HB410 and sent it to the state Senate for further consideration. But records show it never came up for a Senate vote. It got stuck in a logjam of bills that were defeated when the legislature adjourned at midnight, as required by the state constitution.

Editorials: Whose election is this, anyway? | Times Union

In our republic, there is little as fundamental — as sacrosanct, really — as the voting process. To retain the public’s faith, it must be transparent. So it’s troubling that the Rensselaer County Board of Elections has refused to let the public see the electronic ballot images from last November’s election. These are the digital images taken of the paper ballots that voters fed into machines. Since 2010, in compliance with the Help America Vote Act, three versions of each vote are kept — the paper ballot, which is preserved for two years and only opened if ordered by a judge, and two digital images, the “official” record and a “redundant backup.”

Oregon: Secretary of State website breach: Database users asked to change passwords to personal accounts | OregonLive

The Oregon Secretary of State’s office has deleted all passwords for users of its business and elections databases after a breach of its website Feb. 4. Users are also asked to change their passwords to personal accounts if they used the same passwords for the Secretary of State’s Central Business Registry or ORESTAR, the state’s campaign finance reporting system. It’s unclear if the hackers accessed the passwords, but the agency is recommending that the passwords to personal accounts be changed as a precautionary measures, agency spokesman Tony Green said. “The investigation so far indicates that sensitive personal information was not compromised,” said an agency email sent Thursday night to database users.

Utah: A Campaign Inquiry in Utah Is the Watchdogs’ Worst Case | New York Times

It is the nightmare scenario for those who worry that the modern campaign finance system has opened up new frontiers of political corruption: A candidate colludes with wealthy corporate backers and promises to defend their interests if elected. The companies spend heavily to elect the candidate, but hide the money by funneling it through a nonprofit group. And the main purpose of the nonprofit appears to be getting the candidate elected. But according to investigators, exactly such a plan is unfolding in an extraordinary case in Utah, a state with a cozy political establishment, where business holds great sway and there are no limits on campaign donations.

Wisconsin: Dale Schultz: ‘I am not willing to defend them anymore’ | Capitol Times

Wisconsin state Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, will not ride off quietly into the sunset. In an appearance on the Devil’s Advocate radio show (The Mic/92.1 FM) last week, Schultz told hosts Mike Crute and Dominic Salvia that his party’s support for a series of election law changes was indefensible. “I am not willing to defend them anymore,” he explained when Salvia asked why Republicans sought to limit the number of voting hours a municipality could offer. “I’m just not and I’m embarrassed by this.” Since announcing his retirement in the face of a tough primary challenge from conservative state Rep. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, the Republican iconoclast has become more strident in criticizing the party in which he has made a political career. Schultz has served as a legislator from southwestern Wisconsin since 1983, including two stints as Senate majority leader in 2003 and 2005. Last week, Schultz argued that there were no legitimate justifications for some of the election reforms pushed by Republicans. “It’s all predicated on some belief there is a massive fraud or irregularities, something my colleagues have been hot on the trail for three years and have failed miserably at demonstrating,” he said.

Editorials: Treating Voters the Same, Not Counties and Towns | Fair Elections Legal Network

Last week, the Wisconsin State Senate approved a bill that would bar early voting on weekends and cap total early voting per week at 45 hours.  If this bill is passed and signed, early voting in clerks’ offices will only take place on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.  Utah is on the verge of passing Election Day registration; Massachusetts is set to approve early voting; and voters in Missouri are collecting signatures to put early voting on the ballot in November.  But Wisconsin seems determined to march into the past.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has offered the press two explanations for this self-inflicted wound on Wisconsin’s election system: (1) rural constituents are saying “‘Why is there such a wide gap between certain parts of the state and how many hours are available to vote when that is not offered to some of those citizens that live in a very rural part of the state?’”; and (2) rural clerks do not have the staff and resources to keep the same early voting hours as cities.  If you are scratching your head, don’t feel alone on this one. No one should expect rural clerks to have the same staff and resources as Milwaukee and Madison’s clerks because population sizes, demand for early voting, and strain on municipal clerks’ offices vary wildly.  According to the 2010 Census, only 10 of the 1,852 municipal clerks (are responsible for over 1 million voting-age residents, or almost a quarter of Wisconsin’s voting-age population.

Afghanistan: Candidates vie for Afghan women’s vote | Associated Press

The candidate strode down the aisle separating hundreds of male and female supporters at a campaign rally in Kabul. She shook hands with the women filling the chairs to her right. To the men on the other side, she simply nodded. Habiba Sarabi is the most prominent woman running on a ticket in the April 5 election to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Sarabi once served as Afghanistan’s first female governor, and her current bid to become Afghanistan’s first female vice president is part of an effort to get out the women’s vote as candidates scramble for every ballot. Women “can affect the transition, the political transition,” she said in an interview after addressing the rally to support Sarabi and her running mate, presidential candidate Zalmai Rassoul. The event was held in a wedding hall in a Kabul district dominated by her ethnic minority Hazara community.

Canada: Neufeld says more than 100,000 to be disenfranchised under feds’ election bill, will testify at House Affairs Committee next week | Hill Times

The opposition parties have former B.C. elections chief Harry Neufeld at the top of their witness lists for testimony on proposed Conservative election law after he warned that “well over 100,000” electors will be denied their right to vote if the government goes ahead with plans to prohibit voter vouching for electors with no official ID. Mr. Neufeld, who conducted an exhaustive review of electoral law and rule compliance in the 2011 election, has challenged the government’s position that widespread irregularities he found in the way vouching was administered on election day were indicative of potential fraud, as well as the government claim that an Elections Canada voter information card is too unreliable to be also used by voters who have insufficient ID to prove their residence. Elimination of the two voter identification methods are among the most controversial aspects of Bill C-23, and are also on a list of measures in the legislation that the opposition says could benefit the Conservative party the most because electors who generally use either vouching or the information cards—which Elections Canada had planned to approve as official residence ID for the next election—have tended to support parties other than the Conservatives.

Canada: St. John’s to ask Newfoundland to allow Internet voting | The Telegram

The City of St. John’s will ask the province to allow online voting in municipal elections. At Tuesday’s regular meeting, city council approved a recommendation from its audit and accountability committee to ask the provincial government to amend the Municipal Elections Act to allow Internet voting. The recommendation grew out of a broader review of the municipal elections process. “The recommendation of the committee was that we would seek support, or guidance, or permission from the provincial government to allow us to look at Internet voting,” said Deputy Mayor Ron Ellsworth. City clerk Neil Martin explained that an amendment to provincial legislation would be necessary to allow a community to permit online voting, much like one was required to allow voting by mail. …  Two councillors — Art Puddister and Wally Collins — said the potential risks of online voting are too great to ask the provincial government for the legislative amendment.

Italy: Venice prepares for referendum on secession from Italy | Telegraph

Voting will begin on Sunday in a referendum on whether Venice and its surrounding region should secede from the rest of Italy, in a bid to restore its 1,000-year history as a sovereign republic. “La Serenissima” – or the Most Serene Republic of Venice – was an independent trading power for a millennium before the last doge, or leader, was deposed by Napoleon in 1797. The republic encompassed not just Venice but what is now the surrounding region of Veneto and it is there that the vote will take place from Sunday until Friday.

Russia: Putin TV Wants You to Think Italy Is a Bigger Story Than Crimea | The Daily Beast

Haven’t heard about the Veneto referendum to leave Italy? You’re not watching enough RT. Monday’s glorious Crimean exercise in democracy was not the only example of a European country devolving decision-making to the local level. The Italian region of Veneto also kicked off a referendum over the weekend that could see it separate from Italy. Presumably, you did not hear about this major shake-up in Italian politics, which has serious implications for the future of the European project, nay, the future of a united Europe itself. That’s because you’re likely a consumer of the hopelessly biased Western media, a mix of “corporatocracy” and state-run propaganda outlets like the BBC and France 24. They chose to ignore the Italian vote and focus all of their attention on the Crimean one, which, in a Russophobic fury, they have inaccurately portrayed as a sham election held under the watchful presence of a foreign military. This is the message you would have received if you bothered to watch RT, the multilingual global propaganda news channel funded by the Russian government. Because I am a glutton for punishment, I turned on the Internet livestream of RT America to learn how it was covering the Crimean referendum, which took place after Russia invaded the Ukrainian peninsula, violently installed a puppet as prime minister, and cracked down on the independent press. “Media coverage has been muted with the Crimean referendum getting center stage,” an RT anchor complained.

Canada: Scholars denounce Conservatives’ proposed Fair Elections Act | The Globe and Mail

The Conservative government’s Fair Elections Act threatens Canada’s global reputation as a “guardian of democracy and human rights,” a group of international researchers says. The open letter, provided to The Globe and Mail, comes from 19 professors from universities in the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark and Ireland. The letter lays out objections to the government bill to overhaul Canada’s electoral laws. “We believe that this Act would prove [to] be deeply damaging for electoral integrity within Canada, as well as providing an example which, if emulated elsewhere, may potentially harm international standards of electoral rights,” the scholars write in the letter. In particular, the changes would “undermine the integrity of the Canadian electoral process, diminish the effectiveness of Elections Canada, reduce voting rights, expand the role of money in politics and foster partisan bias in election administration,” they write.