National: Wisconsin threw out voter ID Tuesday. It’s a fight still playing out in 12 other states. | Washington Post

A federal judge struck down Wisconsin’s voter ID law Tuesday, less than a week after a Circuit Court judge found Arkansas’ voter ID law unconstitutional. At least one more court decision should come down before November, but voting rights cases and legislation are brewing in plenty of other places worth keeping an eye on this year. Here’s a guide of what to watch — and where.


A federal judge ruled in March that Arizona’s 2004 law requiring new voters who register by mail to prove documentation of U.S. citizenship was valid. The Supreme Court had invalidated part of Arizona’s law last year, after which the state joined up with Kansas, which passed its own proof-of-citizenship voter requirements last year. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that the the 1993 National Voter Registration Act had mandated that states use the federal voter registration form, so Arizona’s more complicated form — which opponents say targeted the state’s large Latino community — is not valid. Voting expert Richard Pildes told NPR at the time, “What Justice Scalia has essentially said here for a substantial majority of the court is if you want modifications to these federal forms that have been required up till now, you have to go to this commission to get those modifications.” The decision in Arizona and Kansas’ case last month requires that Election Assistance Commission to modify the federal registration form to include Kansas and Arizona’s requirements, saying that the U.S. Constitution gives states the power to regulate elections. The case is heading to the 10th Circuit of Appeals later this year.

Alabama: Voter ID law takes effect with June primary | Tuscaloosa News

The Voter Photo Identification Act, approved during the 2011 legislative session, will go into effect in all 67 Alabama counties beginning with the June 3, 2014, statewide primary election. Voters who do not have proper photo identification must obtain a free voter photo ID card or will not be allowed to vote, but there are some exceptions. The League of Women Voters of Greater Tuscaloosa held a meeting Wednesday of community leaders at the Tuscaloosa Public Library to discuss the new law and ways to educate voters on how to obtain the voter photo ID card. Hattie Kaufman, a league board member, said many people don’t understand the new law and will be confused as to whether or not they need the card to vote.

Arizona: Republicans Lose Legal Challenge to State Voting Map | Businessweek

Arizona Republican voters lost a challenge to an electoral districts map for the state assembly that they said favors Democrats by putting too many voters in districts with Republican majorities. A panel of federal judges voted 2-1 to reject the argument that the redrawn map by the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission violated the constitutional rights of Republican voters to equal protection and can’t be used in elections. “We conclude that the population deviations were primarily a result of good-faith efforts to comply with the Voting Rights Act, and that even though partisanship played some role in the design of the map, the Fourteenth Amendment challenge fails,” according to the panel’s majority opinion.

Delaware: Bill to create redistricting commission faces House panel vote | Delaware State News

Lawmakers and community stakeholders seeking transparent reform for legislative redistricting hope to clear a major roadblock today, as a bill creating a government-appointed commission in charge of redistricting is up for a vote in the House Administration Committee. The five-member committee, made up of the leadership from both parties, is set to hear a year-old bill that would make the process of drawing up the state’s 62 legislative districts public and out of the hands of majority party lawmakers in a closed door procedure that’s not under the state’s FOIA laws. The bill only needs three votes to be released onto the House floor for a full debate. “I don’t see a need for it,” said House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, on Tuesday, the legislature’s first day back from Easter break. After securing his party’s vote as House Majority Leader in 2010, Rep. Scwartzkopf was directly involved with redrawing the House of Representatives’ 41 legislative districts, a process that takes place every 10 years to reflect population changes in the U.S. Census survey.

Hawaii: Lawmakers pass same-day voter registration | Associated Press

Hawaii lawmakers passed a bill Tuesday that will allow voters to register at polling places on the same day they vote. The measure (HB 2590) aims to encourage voting in a state where turnout is often dismal. Once the nation’s highest, Hawaii’s voter turnout cratered at 44.5 percent, the nation’s lowest, in the 2012 election, according to the U.S. Elections Project. The House and Senate passed the bill that will allow voters to register at early voting sites beginning in 2016 or at their assigned polling places on Election Day starting in 2018.

Minnesota: Lawmakers move to preserve online voter registration system after judge voided existing portal | Associated Press

Before a court order can kick in, Minnesota lawmakers moved Tuesday to preserve an online voter registration system overseen by the secretary of state. The Senate approved a bill authorizing the new registration system on a 41-24 vote, sending the measure already passed by the House to Gov. Mark Dayton. The Democrat signed the bill, which will take effect Wednesday. On Monday, a Ramsey County judge ruled Secretary of State Mark Ritchie had overstepped his bounds by establishing the virtual sign-up unilaterally last fall. The judge ordered that the system be shut down by midnight Tuesday, absent legislative intervention. Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, said lawmakers should be working to ease the process of voting through new technology. “Voters across Minnesota want the convenience of being to register online,” she said.

Voting Blogs: OVR is Dead, Long Live OVR: Minnesota Set to Enact Legislation After Judge Invalidates Existing System | Election Academy

Last fall, I wrote about Minnesota’s new online voter registration system (OVR) – implemented without legislation by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. Since then, the state legislature has been moving forward with a bill to enact OVR – a bill which must receive bipartisan support in order for Gov. Mark Dayton to sign it. Yesterday, the two threads of that story came together in an interesting way. A day after the House enacted OVR legislation by a wide margin in preparation for a Senate vote, a local judge invalidated the state’s existing OVR system as an improper exercise of the Secretary of State’s authority.

Rhode Island: House Judiciary Committee backs abolishing the master lever in elections | The Providence Journal

This one was a long time in coming. After decades of setbacks, opponents of the “master lever” watched with delight Tuesday as a legislative committee did what perhaps no committee had done before: Send a bill that would abolish the master lever to the House floor. The House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to pass the bill, which removes the “master-lever” or “straight-ticket” voting option from election ballots and requires the secretary of state’s office to provide training and “community outreach” to make sure voters understand the option will no longer be there. The vote followed more than 90 minutes of testimony from dozens of speakers, many of them repeats from past hearings in past years, where bills to abolish the master lever were held for further study. In the end, that only made the outcome — which sets the stage for a full House vote on Thursday — more pleasing. “To have it voted out of committee unanimously, you know, I’ve got to lie down and put a cool cloth on my head,” said Margaret Kane, president of Operation Clean Government, a group that by her count has been urging passage for about 20 years. “It’s the first time we’ve had reason to hope.”

Wisconsin: Federal judge strikes down voter ID; Van Hollen to appeal | Associated Press

A federal judge in Milwaukee struck down Wisconsin’s voter identification law Tuesday, declaring that a requirement that voters show a state-issued photo ID at the polls imposes an unfair burden on poor and minority voters. U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman sided with opponents of the law, who argued that low-income and minority voters aren’t as likely to have photo IDs or the documents needed to get them. Adelman said the law violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. The decision invalidates Wisconsin’s law and means voter ID likely won’t be in place for the fall elections, when Republican Gov. Scott Walker faces re-election. Walker said last month that he would call lawmakers into special session if the courts ruled against the law; Walker’s spokeswoman did not immediately return an email seeking reaction Tuesday. Nor did Republican legislative leaders, who have agreed a special session would be warranted to pass a revised version of the law. Tuesday’s decision could set a precedent for similar legal challenges in Texas, North Carolina and elsewhere. There are 31 states with laws in effect requiring voters to show some form of identification, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Seven states have strict photo ID requirements similar to the one a state judge struck down in Arkansas last week; that decision has been appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court. Pennsylvania’s voter ID law has been put on hold because of court challenges.

Iraq: Sectarian strife rises as Iraq election approaches | Los Angeles Times

Iraq’s worst surge in sectarian violence since 2008, fueled by protracted political disputes, makes the first parliamentary election since the U.S.-led occupation anything but promising. Over the last year, Islamic militants have targeted officials from the Shiite Muslim-led government of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, who is poised to win a third term in Wednesday’s balloting. In turn, government security forces have struck back. The United Nations says at least 8,868 people, 88% of them civilians, were killed in 2013, the highest toll in five years. The pace has continued in the first two months of this year, when about 1,400 were killed in attacks that have occurred nearly on a daily basis.

Macedonia: OSCE Criticises, Opposition May Refuse Elections Results | Eurasia Review

The ruling VMRO DPMNE party won half of the seats in Macedonian elections. According to initial results, the ruling VMRO DPMNE party of Nikola Gruevski won 61 of the 123 seats in parliament, and the SDSM 34. The governing ethnic Albanian party, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, won 19 seats and the opposition ethnic Albanian Democratic Party of Albanians, DPA, seven. The newly-formed Citizen’s Option for Macedonia, GROM, and the National Democratic Rebirts, NDP, won one seat each. Opposition Social Democrats are to consider whether to refuse to take up their seats in parliament following their defeat in Sunday general and presidential elections, which the party blames on electoral fraud.

Thailand: Opposition Party Leader Explores Ways to End Stalemate | Wall Street Journal

As Thailand’s political turmoil spills into its sixth month, opposition party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva is emerging as an unlikely volunteer to spearhead efforts to end the political deadlock. Democrat Party leader Mr. Abhisit has been meeting with key political figures, including the Armed Forces Supreme Commander, to discuss ways to find solution to the country’s political conflict.  On Tuesday, Mr. Abhisit and party officials met with five members of the Election Commission to discuss a new election after Thailand’s Constitutional Court last month nullified the Feb. 2 vote. His Tuesday meeting with the Election Commission didn’t reveal much about how the political deadlock will be broken. Mr. Abhisit didn’t say whether his party will contest in a new election. “The Election Commission and I view that the current political climate makes it hard to hold a successful election,” he told reporters after the meeting. “There are still concerns whether a new poll would solve the problem.”

Ukraine: Referendum may be held during second round of presidential election | The Voice of Russia

Ukraine’s Central Election Commission and Ministry of Justice are looking into the possibility to hold an all-Ukrainian referendum on decentralization of the country during the first round of the presidential election scheduled for May 25 or during the second round due to take place on June 15, the Deputy Secretary of the National Security Council announced Tuesday. “Two dates are now on the table: May 25 and June 15. These are the dates for the two rounds of the presidential election. This is the way to ensure the low cost of the referendum. Currently the Central Election Commission is investigating whether these questions [related to the decentralization] could be printed on security paper till the first round or by the second round. This [the referendum] is most likely to take place on June 15,” Viktoriya Siumar said during a press conference adding that the final decision is expected later as it is currently being reviewed by the Central Election Commission together with the Ministry of Justice.

Pennsylvania: Judge denies Commonwealth’s motion in voter ID case | Philadelphia Inquirer

A Commonwealth Court judge on Monday denied the Corbett administration’s motion to reconsider his ruling overturning the state’s two-year-old voter identification law. In his 29-page decision, Judge Bernard L. McGinley said the law requiring voters to produce photo ID at the polls failed “to provide liberal access to compliant photo ID” and as a result voters were disenfranchised. “The evidence showed the voter ID provisions at issue deprive numerous electors of their fundamental right to vote, so vital to our democracy,” wrote McGinley, who struck down the law in January. The Corbett administation has 30 days to file an appeal to the state Supreme Court. Joshua Maus, spokesman for the governor’s Office of General Counsel. said he had no comment beyond that the office was reviewing the ruling.

Wisconsin: Federal Judge Strikes Down Wisconsin Law Requiring Photo ID at Polls | New York Times

A federal judge on Tuesday struck down Wisconsin’s law requiring voters to produce state-approved photo identification cards at polling places, advancing a new legal basis — the Voting Rights Act — for similar challenges playing out around the nation. Judge Lynn Adelman, of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, found that the state’s 2011 law violated the 14th Amendment of the Constitution as well as the Voting Rights Act, which bars states from imposing rules that abridge a citizen’s right to vote based on race or color. “I find that the plaintiffs have shown that the disproportionate impact of the photo ID requirement results from the interaction of the requirement with the effects of past or present discrimination,” Judge Adelman wrote in the decision. “Blacks and Latinos in Wisconsin are disproportionately likely to live in poverty. Individuals who live in poverty are less likely to drive or participate in other activities for which a photo ID may be required (such as banking, air travel, and international travel) and so they obtain fewer benefits from possession of a photo ID than do individuals who can afford to participate in these activities.”

Afghanistan: Afghan Presidential Candidates Allege Widespread Fraud | Wall Street Journal

The two top vote-getters in Afghanistan’s presidential election alleged widespread fraud and other irregularities in the April 5 vote, with the leading contender saying he could still emerge as victor without a runoff once all the complaints are adjudicated. Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, President Hamid Karzai’s main rival in the 2009 election, is leading with 44.9% of the vote, according to preliminary results released by the Independent Election Commission on Saturday. His nearest opponent, former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani, received 31.5%. If these preliminary results hold and Mr. Abdullah doesn’t manage to cross the 50% mark once all the fraud allegations are examined, a runoff between the two men is expected to be held in early June. Mr. Abdullah rejected that prospect, and said on Sunday he believes he will emerge with an absolute majority if his complaints are properly addressed. “Nobody can claim that the election has gone or will go to the second round,” he said. “Our assessment and our documents clearly show a victory for our team.”

National: Will popular vote elect president in 2020? | The Hill

The movement to change how presidents are elected is gaining steam and proponents of the long-stalled popular vote initiative are predicting victory by 2020. Eleven states/jurisdictions have enacted the National Popular Vote (NPV) bill, giving the proposal 165 electoral votes — 61 percent of the 270 electoral votes needed to trigger the new voting system. Legislatures that passed the law include California, Illinois, New Jersey. Massachusetts, Maryland, Washington, Washington, D.C., Hawaii, Rhode Island and Vermont. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed a popular vote bill into law last week. All of these states, as well as the nation’s capital are liberal leaning, but activists note they are making progress in red states, such as Oklahoma and Nebraska. In the 2000 election, George W. Bush lost the popular vote and won the presidency. At the time, Democrats rallied behind the popular vote idea. The memory of that contested election has made many Democrats eager to jump on board, and some Republicans skeptical.

Arkansas: Election board asks Arkansas Supreme Court for stay of ruling that threw out voter ID law | Associated Press

With early voting for the May primary set to begin next week, the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners and the state’s Republican Party asked the Arkansas Supreme Court on Monday for an emergency stay of a judge’s ruling that found the state’s new voter ID requirement unconstitutional. The board filed a request Monday asking justices for an emergency stay to allow the voter identication requirement to remain in place for the upcoming primary election. Last week, Pulaski County Judge Tim Fox issued a ruling that threw out the voter ID law, which the Legislature passed last year. Fox made the ruling in a case filed by the Pulaski County Election Commission that focused on absentee ballots. “The decision below grants relief well beyond what plaintiffs had requested,” the Republican Party of Arkansas wrote in a filing. “It has the potential for causing irreparable harm and confusion not only among voters but election officials. It was issued at the eleventh hour with early voting scheduled to begin in the state of Arkansas in a matter of days.”

Editorials: Parties Eye Boost From Voter ID Debate | Andrew DeMillo/Arkansas Business News

A Pulaski County judge’s decision to strike down Arkansas’ voter ID law complicates planning for a primary that would have been the first statewide test of new voting restrictions, and reopens a debate that Democrats and Republicans both see as having an upside in this fall’s election. Ruling in a case that had focused on a narrow portion of the law, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox declared the requirement that voters show photo identification at the polls “void and unenforceable” after saying it violates Arkansas’ constitution. His ruling was issued just a week and a half before early voting begins for Arkansas’ May 20 primary. It’s a case that will ultimately be decided by the state Supreme Court. In the meantime, he provided fodder for Democrats and Republicans alike to revive their arguments over the voter ID law that was approved last year. Just how much of a boost both parties hope to see from the ruling was immediately clear. Within an hour of Fox’s decision, state Democrats were fundraising off of his ruling.

Hawaii: Is Same-Day Voter Registration in Hawaii on its Way? | Honolulu Magazine

In a blog post last week, we wrote: “Believe me, you really don’t want to be that guy who waits in line for an hour on election day only to get turned away because you can’t register on the spot.” That remains true this year, but things might change for the next election cycle if our state lawmakers approve a bill that would allow for same-day voter registration. If the proposal gets passed, the initial phase of implementation would begin in 2016. While county clerks who administer voter registration and polling places voiced some concerns about logistics such as staffing, the state Office of Elections has been openly in favor of the bill because of its potential to increase voter registration, which has been persistently low even when local voters had the opportunity to vote for a Hawaii-born president.

Maryland: Online ballot tool goes uncertified over IT security concerns | Maryland Reporter

Wary members of the state election board said they could not certify a new voting system for use in the June primary election until more security measures are put in place. State election officials were hoping to certify a new online ballot marking tool that could be accessed when downloading a ballot online — a feature that is currently available to all voters. But board members were troubled by an IT security assessment conducted for the state by a firm that has never performed Internet security tests on election systems. The Largo-based company, Unatek, Inc., also didn’t study voter fraud risks at the front end of the voting system where ballots are requested online. Legislation passed last year required the state to certify the new voting system in order to facilitate some disabled voters and add to the state’s scope of online voter services. Part of the certification requires the state to deliver a secure ballot while maintaining a voter’s privacy. For years, voting advocates have been sounding the alarms that the state’s online voter service systems are highly vulnerable to Internet attacks and voter fraud.

Minnesota: Judge: Online voter registration system must shut down | Minneapolis Star Tribune

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie must immediately shut down the online voter registration system he launched last year because he lacked the authority to create it, a Ramsey County judge decided Monday. Ramsey County District Judge John Guthmann said Ritchie had until midnight on Tuesday to close the system and confirm that he had done so by Wednesday. More than 3,600 Minnesotans have taken advantage of online registration. Guthmann said his order “does not invalidate any online voter registration accepted before midnight on April 29, 2014.” Guthmann said he also was making no determination on whether online registration was a good idea. Instead, he wrote, “sole question presented herein is whether Respondent had the legal authority to do what he did.”

Mississippi: Voter I.D. coming June 3, barring a lawsuit | Desoto Times Tribune

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is telling everyone he sees about two national awards the state won for its Voter ID campaign. Barring a lawsuit, the June 3 primaries in Mississippi will mark the first time the state has required voter identification in a statewide election, putting into practice a policy Mississippi voters approved by 62 percent of the vote back in 2012. Hosemann believes that the state has avoided a lawsuit on the implementation of voter ID because his office was proactive in working with the U.S. Justice Department guidance in devising a voter ID process that respected the Constitution and was as fair and accessible as possible. That’s a remarkably simply solution. Hosemann points out the obvious but important fact that voter ID has long been a contentious political issue in Mississippi. The issue dominated political debate in the state for more than 20 years with Republicans arguing for it as a tool to offset voter fraud and Democrats arguing against it as a form of voter intimidation in a state with a sorry voting rights history.

New Hampshire: House mulls changes to voter challenges | Eagle Tribune

A bill before the New Hampshire House shifts the burden of proof in voter disputes to the challenger. The Election Law Committee, on a 16-0 vote, is recommending passage for Senate Bill 206, scheduled before the House on Wednesday. “SB 206 amends current law by shifting the burden of proof to the challenger by requiring that the specific reason and source of the information for the challenge be provided, and that it be provided in writing,” Rep. Robert Perry, D-Strafford, in a written report on behalf of the committee, told the House.

Afghanistan: And then there were two | The Economist

Three weeks after Afghanistan’s presidential election, the tortuous counting process is over. And the voters appear all set to finish the job—by going back to the polls. As was widely expected, none of the eight candidates managed to secure more than 50% of the vote. A run-off election will be used to pick a winner. The top two place-getters will be returning to the colourful and vibrant hustings. Abdullah Abdullah, the polished, cravat-wearing former foreign minister (pictured to the right, with an ordinary necktie), who finished second in the deeply flawed presidential election of 2009, has emerged as the clear front-runner. He secured 44.9% of the vote when the Afghanistan’s election watchdog announced the full preliminary results on Saturday April 26th. His closest rival is Ashraf Ghani (pictured left), an urbane academic and former official with the World Bank, who won 31.5%. Zalmai Rassoul, who was regarded as being the preferred choice of outgoing president Hamid Karzai—who was himself forbidden from standing for a third, five-year term by the constitution—was the only other candidate to finish with a total in the double digits (11.5%).

Canada: Fair Elections Act back on fast track after 45 amendments submitted | The Globe and Mail

The divisive Fair Elections Act has resumed its fast-track passage through Parliament, after the federal government submitted 45 changes in a bid to quell opposition to the bill. The amendments were submitted to the committee and obtained by The Globe as MPs returned Monday from a two-week break, and are among roughly 275 presented by MPs of all parties. They all must be considered and voted on by Thursday evening – a short window that all but guarantees only cursory consideration of many changes. The government’s 45 proposed amendments include backing down on both the elimination of vouching and a proposed campaign-finance change that critics said would have opened loophole. They also include elements that raise new questions – strengthening a new limit on the Chief Electoral Officer’s term, by saying no CEO can be reappointed after a 10-year term, and making no mention of a previous promise to back down on expanding partisan appointments of poll workers.

Iraq: Iraq gears up for bitter, bloody election battle | The Washington Post

His campaign poster, jostling among the thousands that line the streets of the capital, has a message of unity: “Together we build Iraq.” But as the country prepares for its first elections since the withdrawal of U.S. troops, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s political rivals accuse him of the opposite: stoking sectarian divisions and dismantling its hard-won democracy. No party is expected to win a majority in Iraq’s parliamentary elections Wednesday, the first since the last U.S. troops pulled out of the country nearly 21 / 2 years ago, which makes the results difficult to forecast. The unpredictability of Iraqi politics was underlined in the last elections four years ago, when the bloc that won the greatest share of the vote lost the premiership to Maliki in the political horse-trading that followed.

Macedonia: Conservatives win 2 elections, opposition refuses to recognize result | Assocated PRess

Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s ruling center-right party has won its fourth consecutive election victory in Macedonia but looks likely to fall just short of an outright majority. The opposition Social Democrats refused to recognize the result Monday, alleging voter intimidation by the government, but international monitors described the vote as well run. With 99.9 percent of the vote counted Monday, the conservative VMRO-DPMNE had won 42 percent and 61 seats — one short of a majority in the 123-member parliament. The Social Democrat-led opposition alliance got 24.9 percent and 34 seats, according to the State Election Commission. Turnout was 64 percent. In a separate vote Sunday, conservative President Gjorge Ivanov won a second five-year term in a runoff for the largely ceremonial post.

Syria: Assad to seek re-election in June vote | The Washington Post

Syrian President Bashar Assad declared his candidacy Monday for a new seven-year term in June presidential elections, more than three years into a revolt against his rule that has killed more than 150,000 people, uprooted another 9 million and touched off a humanitarian crisis. At least half of the 9.5 million people displaced by the Syrian civil war are children. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, says protecting them should be a priority for the international community. While Assad had long suggested he would seek re-election, the official announcement put to rest any illusions that the man who has led Syria since 2000 has any intention of relinquishing power or finding a political solution to the conflict. Rather, he appears emboldened by a series of military victories in recent months that have strengthened his once tenuous grip on power.

Wisconsin: Federal judge strikes down Wisconsin voter ID law | The Washington Post

A federal judge in Milwaukee struck down Wisconsin’s voter Identification law Tuesday, saying a requirement that voters show a state-issued photo ID at the polls imposes an unfair burden on poor and minority voters. U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman sided with opponents of the law, who argued that low-income and minority voters aren’t as likely to have photo IDs or the documents needed to get them. Adelman said the law violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. Adelman’s decision invalidates Wisconsin’s law and could set a precedent for similar legal challenges in Texas, North Carolina and elsewhere. At least 14 states require voters to show photo ID, and legislation in dozens of other states includes proposals to either introduce new voter ID laws or strengthen existing ones. Just last week, an Arkansas judge struck down that state’s voter ID law; it is being appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court.