Editorials: Former drug offender acquitted at rare voter fraud trial in a rebuke to Iowa crackdown | Associated Press

A former drug offender who believed her voting rights had been restored when she cast a ballot last year was acquitted of perjury Thursday, a public rebuke of Iowa’s two-year investigation into voter fraud. The 12-member jury took less than 40 minutes to reject the prosecution’s argument that Kelli Jo Griffin intentionally lied on a voter registration form she filled out for a municipal election in the southeastern Iowa town of Montrose. It was the first trial stemming from the state’s voter fraud investigation championed by Republican Secretary of State Matt Schultz. And it highlighted Iowa’s status as one of just four states in which ex-offenders have to apply to the governor to regain their voting rights, under a 2011 order that has created confusion. Griffin, a 40-year-old mother of three young children and one stepdaughter, would have faced up to 15 years in prison if convicted since she was charged as a habitual offender. “I’m glad that I can go back to being a mother,” she told reporters afterward. Griffin had lost her voting rights following a 2008 felony conviction for delivery of less than 100 grams of cocaine. She testified that she believed her right to vote had been restored when she left probation last year, which had been the state’s policy until it was rescinded three years ago by Republican Gov. Terry Branstad.

Iowa: Jury acquits ex-felon in Iowa voter fraud case | The Des Moines Register

A former drug offender who voted in a municipal election despite having lost her right to cast a ballot was acquitted of perjury Thursday, in the first trial stemming from Iowa’s two-year investigation into voter fraud. Jurors rejected the prosecution’s argument that Kelli Jo Griffin intentionally lied on a voter registration form before casting a ballot in an uncontested mayoral and council election in the southeastern Iowa town of Montrose. Griffin, a 40-year-old mother of young children, would have faced up to 15 years in prison if convicted. Griffin had lost her voting rights following a 2008 felony conviction for delivery of cocaine. She testified that she believed her right to vote had been restored when she left probation last year, which had been the state’s policy until 2011. Lee County Attorney Michael Short argued that Griffin deliberately left blank a question on the form asking whether she was a convicted felon, saying she was trying to hide her past as a drug dealer. Iowa is now one of four states in which ex-offenders have to apply to the governor to regain their voting rights.

National: DOJ plans expansion of voting rights enforcement | USAToday

The Justice Department, no longer responsible for vetting election procedures in states with a history of racial discrimination, instead plans to proactively search the entire country for voting rights violations. Its new focus is the result of a June 2013 Supreme Court decision dismantling a Voting Rights Act provision that had required all or part of 15 states to get “pre-clearance” from Justice officials or a federal court before making any changes to their election procedures. Now, the department says, it will be more proactive in protecting minority voters.

National: Long lines, disputed counts: Why U.S. elections stumble | Detroit Free Press

In the 2012 election, Robert Bauer was President Obama’s campaign counsel and Benjamin Ginsberg was the top lawyer for Republican opponent Mitt Romney. Now they have joined forces to co-chair the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, studying the problems elections face. Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity. Q: Long lines, unreliable voting machines, disputed ballots: Why don’t elections in the United States work better?

Ginsberg:There are 8,000 different jurisdictions that are responsible for putting on some part of our elections. It is a process largely fueled by volunteers. They don’t have adequate training in most cases. So uniformity among our elections because of the way our system has been for 200 years is proving pretty difficult.

Bauer:We don’t commit nearly the resources that we need to, to the election administration process. Our administrators, who are generally overlooked when things go well and harshly criticized when they don’t, by and large have to deal with very tight budgets in which the priority is never very high for the work they have to do.

National: Kansas, Arizona laws requiring voters to prove citizenship upheld | Reuters

Efforts by Kansas and Arizona to require people who register to vote by mail to prove they are U.S. citizens were upheld by a federal judge on Wednesday, potentially opening the door for more states to enact such measures. The two Republican-led states had sued the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, set up by Congress after chronic voting problems during the 2000 presidential election, saying the agency wrongly prevented them from demanding such documentation in voter registration forms in the state. Laws passed in the two states requiring proof of citizenship for voters are part of a broader movement in many conservative states to demand would-be voters provide identification to ensure that non-citizens, including undocumented immigrants, cannot influence elections. “Today’s decision is an important victory for the people of Arizona against the Obama administration, assuring that only Arizona residents, and not illegals, vote in Arizona elections,” said Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, who filed the lawsuit along with Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach.

National: Judge orders U.S. election commission to help Kansas, Arizona enforce voter law | Associated Press

A federal judge on Wednesday ordered the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to help Kansas and Arizona enforce laws requiring new voters to provide proof of their U.S. citizenship. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren in Wichita ruled the commission has no legal authority to deny requests from Kansas and Arizona to add state-specific instructions to a national voter registration form. The states and their top election officials — secretaries of state Kris Kobach of Kansas and Ken Bennett of Arizona — sued the agency to force the action.

Editorials: Colorado needs a recall election fix | Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz/The Denver Post

The ability to circulate petitions and recall elected officials is a constitutional right. But recall elections are much more difficult than the regularly scheduled elections. They typically are more emotional and controversial. Fewer people vote in recalls so they tend to be less representative, and they are expensive for local governments. County clerks deal with recall elections periodically, more commonly for local officials such as city council members or school board directors. In Colorado last year, we held two recall elections for state legislators — the first time in the history of our state. I supervised one of those recall elections, in which 36 percent of eligible voters participated and cost Pueblo County $270,000. The participation rate would have no doubt been higher and the cost less burdensome had we been able to mail ballots to all registered voters. But a lawsuit by the Libertarian Party revealed 100-year-old constitutional language that candidates have until 15 days before the election to petition onto the ballot, not leaving enough time to print, mail and return ballots. This petition timeline is not in place for any other type of election. It is an even more burdensome timeline for small, rural counties with fewer resources.

Florida: Nelson tells state Democrats to push election reform | Tampa Tribune

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson urged House Democrats to do whatever it takes to make sure proposed election reform measures pass during the 2014 legislative session. “(House Democrats should) use every parliamentary mechanism at their disposal to try to fulfill the American dream, which is the right to vote, to be able to cast that vote and have the confidence to know that when you count that vote it is going be counted as you intended,” he said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon. Nelson, an Orlando-area Democrat, met with state lawmakers Wednesday to discuss election reform measures. He spent about 15 minute talking with House Democrats before heading over the Senate to speak with Senate Democrats.

Florida: State’s new estimated cost for special elections: $2.1 million and growing | Naples Daily News

The state’s total cost for special elections has increased from $500,000 to $2.1 million, according to state budget staff. When a special election is needed, local election officials pick up the initial cost. After a verification process, the state is required to reimburse local supervisors of elections for the cost needed to conduct those elections. When the Department of State made its initial budget request in January, it thought $500,000 would be enough to cover the tab. It’s the same number requested in Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed budget. The House’s proposed budget has requested $2.1 million in already needed reimbursements, while the Senate wants $2.6 million for any potential future special elections.

Kansas: State can require proof of citizenship for voters in federal elections, judge rules | Kansas City Star

Kansas and Arizona can require voters to produce proof of citizenship before letting them vote in federal elections, a judge ruled Wednesday. The federal judge dealt the two states a decided win, ruling that the federal government overstepped its authority by limiting what the states could require of prospective voters. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren ordered the Election Assistance Commission to immediately modify the federal voter registration form for Kansas and Arizona to include proof of citizenship. “Kansas has paved the way for all states to enact proof-of-citizenship requirements,” Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said. Commission spokesman Bryan Whitener declined to comment, saying the ruling is being reviewed. He wouldn’t say how long it would take to change the federal registration form to comply with the decision.

Kentucky: Senate passes bill to let Rand Paul run for re-election and president in 2016 | Kentucky.com

The Kentucky Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would make clear U.S. Sen. Rand Paul may run for two federal offices at once. Household political names like Lyndon Johnson, Joe Lieberman, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan were bandied about during a brief debate, the heart of which is whether Paul can run for president and for re-election to his Senate seat on the same Kentucky ballot in 2016. Kentucky’s junior senator has said he is considering a run for the White House, but that he will definitely run for his Senate seat the same year, putting him at odds with a state law banning the same candidate from appearing on a ballot twice.

Iowa: Voting rights of an estimated 50,000 at stake in Friday decision | Radio Iowa

The legal battle over whether a second drunk driving offense bars someone from running for office in Iowa was waged before a three-member review panel Wednesday, with Iowa’s attorney general suggesting the voting rights of tens of thousands of Iowans could be at stake. “Our calculations of how many people are in jeopardy is about 50,000,” said Attorney General Tom Miller . Miller is part of the panel that will meet again Friday to decide the case and determine who can participate in a Democratic primary for a Des Moines-area senate seat.

Massachusetts: Election law conference gets underway with private talks | WWLP

Negotiations between the House and Senate began in earnest on Wednesday over a package of election law reforms that could bring early voting and same-day voter registration to Massachusetts before the next presidential election. A six-member conference committee charged with seeking compromise between the branches on competing bills met for the first time, beginning a back-and-forth nearly two months after the committee was formed to resolve the disagreements. Led by Sen. Barry Finegold and Rep. James Murphy, the co-chairs of the Election Laws Committees, the committee voted 3-2 to close their deliberations to the public, a common but not required step. The two Republicans on the panel – Sen. Robert Hedlund and Rep. Shawn Dooley – voted against closing the meetings to the public.

Wisconsin: Assembly to vote on bill that would end weekend voting | WLUK

Voting on the weekend could be a thing of the past in Wisconsin. The state Assembly will vote on a bill Thursday that would limit early voting hours to weekdays from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. The measure would also require the state to pay half the expenses for small communities offering early voting. The state Senate passed the bill last week 17-16. All Democrats voted against it. State Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, wrote the bill.

Texas: Hidalgo County voting machines seized; tampering investigation to follow | The Monitor

A state District Court judge on Wednesday ordered the impounding of all voting machines used in the Hidalgo County Democratic primary this year. Voting machines and other materials used in the primary during early voting in late February and Election Day on March 4 were impounded Wednesday afternoon following an application the District Attorney’s Office filed in the morning in the 398th state District Court alleging possible criminal vote tampering. “Upon review of information received by the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office, regarding the forenamed election, criminal conduct may have occurred in connection with said election, therefore requiring impoundment of all the election returns, voted ballots, signature roster and other election records and equipment for an investigation and ultimately a determination of whether or not criminal conduct occurred,” the application states.

Afghanistan: Afghanistan’s Upcoming Presidential Elections | Worldpress.org

On April 5, the Afghan people will vote in the country’s third presidential elections in history. In addition to the important questions of who is likely to win the race and what various outcomes will mean for the future of the county, these elections represent something else—another attempt at organizing free and fair elections in a weak, war-torn state. Difficulties abound, but based on the experience with the 2004 and 2009 presidential elections in Afghanistan, the challenges that the country has to face for these elections to succeed lie in three intimately intertwined and basic issues: voting management, country-wide participation and the perception of elections. When the international community and the post-Taliban interim Afghan government first took up the task of holding general elections in Afghanistan in 2004-2005, one major problem was apparent, namely that in this (post-)conflict state, which has no effective civil registry, the task of organizing and monitoring voting would be extremely difficult.

Canada: Glitches in electronic voting system concern mayor | Gananoque Reporter

Mayor Frank Kinsella said he was ready to endorse electronic voting for the next election in the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands until a couple of Sundays ago. That’s when the mayor tried to vote for Prescott to be named “Hockeyville” in the national competition run by Kraft. Kinsella said he went through the prompts on the telephone, but at the end, the computer cut him off without recording his vote. If a computer system run by the multinational Kraft has glitches and cannot record votes properly, then how can we trust a small company to run the municipal vote in the TLTI, Kinsella wondered at last week’s council meeting. Clerk Vanessa Latimer recommended that the township contract Intelivote at a cost of about $28,000 to run telephone and electronic voting for the next municipal election on Oct. 27. Intelivote is the company selected by a number of towns and townships in Leeds and Grenville, including Gananoque, which sent out a joint tender call. But Intelivote is also the company that ran electronic voting for the TLTI for the 2010 election, which was plagued by bugs and glitches in the system.

Italy: Arrivederci Rome: Venice Votes On Independence Referendum | NBC

While the referendum over Crimea’s secession from Ukraine continues to make headlines worldwide, a much lower-profile poll for independence is gaining momentum in Italy: the vote for the breakaway of Venice. Residents of the northern Italian region of Veneto – Venice being its main city – are voting this week on whether to secede from Italy and create their own independent and sovereign republic. The Veneto is the former heartland of the powerful maritime Republic of Venice, the economic and trading power that lasted from the 7th to the 18th century. Today it’s Italy’s richest region, thanks to the wealth created by yearlong tourism and a strong industrial base. But ever since Veneto became part of Italy in 1866, resentment towards Rome has been growing steadily. Many in the region feel their wealth is unfairly squandered by the inefficient central government and that it is used to bankroll the poorer south. The referendum’s organizers say it’s time to cut the cord.

Solomon Islands: Allegations of widespread fraud ahead of Solomon Islands elections | ABC

Less than two weeks since the introduction of a biometric voter registration system in Solomon Islands there are allegations of electoral fraud. Transparency Solomon Islands says it’s already received reports of widespread vote rigging ahead of the national election later this year. TSI’s chief executive Daniel Fenua says there is anecdotal evidence of candidates taking possession of scores of ID cards. He says the cards are purcahsed from individual voters.