National: Supreme Court to consider challenge to law barring campaign falsehoods | Los Angeles Times

The Supreme Court next week will consider for the first time whether states may enforce laws that make it a crime to knowingly publish false statements about political candidates. The justices will hear an antiabortion group’s free-speech challenge to an Ohio law that was invoked in 2010 by then-Rep. Steve Driehaus, a Democrat. He had voted for President Obama’s healthcare law and was facing a tough race for reelection. The antiabortion group Susan B. Anthony List launched a campaign to unseat Driehaus, preparing to run billboard ads saying, “Shame on Steve Driehaus! Driehaus voted for taxpayer-funded abortion.” The statement was false, Driehaus said, since under the law no federal funds can be spent to pay for abortions. He threatened to sue the billboard company, which decided against running the ad.

Editorials: Voting Rights & Wrongs | Commonweal Magazine

President Barack Obama recently joined former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter at the President Lyndon Baines Johnson Library in Austin, Texas, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It is no exaggeration to say that the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act of the following year, were the most transformational political developments of the past century in the United States. It was a difficult, often violent struggle, but in the end what was implicit in the nation’s founding documents finally became explicit in federal law. The Civil Rights Act made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in public accommodations. The Voting Rights Act addressed discrimination in elections, ultimately dismantling a system that had shut African Americans out of voting booths for nearly a hundred years. A few days after his Austin speech the president was in New York City to speak to Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, and he took that opportunity to remind his audience that the struggle for equal rights never ends and to call attention to a disturbing political development. “The right to vote is threatened today in a way that it has not been since the Voting Rights Act became law,” Obama said. “Across the country, Republicans have led efforts to pass laws making it harder, not easier, for people to vote.” With uncharacteristic severity, Obama has called the effort to restrict voting “un-American.”

Editorials: One Person, One Vote? Maybe One Day | Juliet Lapidos/New York Times

President Obama said on Friday that he would make voting rights a priority. But given that Congress can barely get around to naming post offices anymore, D.C.-led progress seems unlikely. There is, however, a plan to make voting more fair—at least in presidential elections—which would require no action from the capital: The National Popular Vote compact. As Eleanor Randolph explained recently, state signatories agree to give their electoral votes to whoever wins the popular vote so long as enough other states, with a combined 270 electoral votes, pledge to do the same.

Florida: State quits controversial voter ‘purge’ program | MSNBC

Florida has ditched a controversial GOP-backed program aimed at catching voters who are registered in multiple states, which some voting-rights advocates say can make it easier for eligible voters to be wrongly purged from the rolls. It’s the same program whose data were used for an eye-catching recent report suggesting that more than 35,000 people may have voted in North Carolina and another state in 2012—a conclusion that was quickly debunked by numerous experts. Florida’s decision to leave the Interstate Crosscheck system, created by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican, was first reported Friday by the Miami Herald. “The Department of State and Supervisors of Elections currently work with elections officials in other states to update registrations regarding residency, and we are always exploring options to improve the elections process,” Brittany Lesser, a spokeswoman for Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, told msnbc in a statement. The state’s move is striking because, under Republican Gov. Rick Scott, Florida has led the way in aggressively removing voters from the rolls. A 2012 effort that aimed to find non-citizens purged numerous eligible voters, including a 91-year old World War II vet. A court recently declared the move illegal. Last month, Detzner announced that a new bid to cut voters from the rolls would be delayed until next year.

Iowa: Supreme Court: Drunken driving conviction shouldn’t keep candidate off ballot | Associated Press

A split Iowa Supreme Court issued a ruling Tuesday that allows a Des Moines man to run for state Senate and affirms that second-offense drunken driving is not an infamous crime as defined by the Iowa Constitution. The opinion reverses the long-standing approach that a crime carrying a prison sentence is an infamous crime. Instead of taking the next step in drawing a clear definition, the court in a 5-1 ruling said it need not precisely define infamous crime now. The court did say however, that it would “be prudent for us to develop a more precise test that distinguishes between felony crimes and infamous crimes” in a future case. The case arose from a Democratic primary battle between Anthony Bisignano and Ned Chiodo, both former lawmakers, who are seeking the Des Moines-area Senate seat Jack Hatch is vacating to run for governor. Chiodo challenged Bisignano’s candidacy on the theory that since Bisignano has been convicted of second-offense drunken driving, an aggravated misdemeanor in Iowa, he should be disqualified from running for office or voting. At issue was whether an aggravated misdemeanor falls under the Iowa Constitution’s definition of an infamous crime, which would mean Bisignano cannot vote or hold public office.

Illinois: Solution sought to voting machine issue in Madison County | The Edwardsville Intelligencer

Should a tornado or other catastrophic event cause a power outage during the Nov. 4 mid-term elections, Madison County Clerk Debbie Ming-Mendoza is fairly certain that early voting would proceed without much disruption. That’s not the case now, as the county continues to be in the precarious position of operating with two different hardware and two different software systems for its elections. But Ming-Mendoza is seeking federal Help America Vote Act funds to purchase early voting tabulators and Ballot on Demand printers and software that would bring both systems onto an even platform. The package costs $228,000 though the HAVA grant would cover the cost entirely. Ming-Mendoza said the purchase would also drop the county’s annual licensing and maintenance expenses from $98,000 to $41,000 since the it would be decreasing its election machine inventory from 162 to 17.

Kentucky: House tries ‘Hail Mary pass’ to save felon voting bill | Courier-Journal

A House committee tried a last ditch effort to restore voting rights for former felons by attaching a version of House Bill 70 to a Senate bill that was dying in the House. Senate Bill 58 proposes a constitutional amendment that would give most felons who have completed their sentences their voting rights back immediately when their sentences are finished and they are no longer on probation or parole. It would, however, allow the legislature to enact through statute a waiting period of up to three years. The bill passed the House by an 85-13 vote and now goes to the Senate. “This is a ‘Hail Mary’ pass,” said state Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, who favors the bill.

Maryland: Absentee ballots moving online causes security concerns | Maryland Reporter

Voters may get to skip the lines at the polls this summer by receiving and marking their ballots online, but election officials must first decide if the convenience outweighs the security risks. The State Board of Elections will vote this month on using a new online ballot marking system, which includes electronic delivery of absentee ballots, in the June 24 gubernatorial primary election. But voter advocates and security hawks warned in recent months that poor authentication methods — as well as inconsistent online requirements — make the system vulnerable to voter fraud. For one online ballot request option, requesting an absentee ballot requires only a voter’s name and date of birth. For another, the voter’s driver’s license number, issuance date and last four digits of their social security number is required. Information for either format can be easily obtained, advocates say. Under Maryland’s “no-excuse” absentee voter policy, any voter can request an absentee ballot without providing a reason for needing one.

New York: State joins ‘National Popular Vote’ compact with 9 other states | Staten Island Live

The Empire State has joined the National Popular Vote compact with legislation signed Tuesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. States that have signed on to the interstate agreement will award electoral votes for president to the candidate who receives the majority of the national popular vote. “With the passage of this legislation, New York is taking a bold step to fundamentally increase the strength and fairness of our nation’s presidential elections,” said Cuomo. “By aligning the Electoral College with the voice of the nation’s voters, we are ensuring the equality of the votes and encouraging candidates to appeal to voters in all states, instead of disproportionately focusing on early contests and swing states.”

Algeria: Benflis vows to monitor Algeria vote, protest any fraud | Al Arabiya

Presidential hopeful Ali Benflis said Tuesday that thousands of his supporters would monitor Algeria’s election, vowing to protest if it is rigged in favour of ailing incumbent Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who is seeking re-election. Benflis is seen as the president’s main rival, and has repeatedly warned of fraud during the election campaign, describing it as his “main adversary” in Thursday’s vote. Speaking to reporters in Algiers, he said he had an “army” of people in place to monitor the poll “consisting of 60,000 people, most of them young men and women armed to the teeth with conviction. If the election is rigged, I will not keep quiet,” Benflis said.

Canada: Brockton Review for Internet Voting | Bayshore Broadcasting

Councillor Chris Peabody is concerned about the safety of internet voting. Peabody says he has been in contact with two computer specialists from M.I.T and Yale who feel the same way. After reviewing Brockton’s yet to be signed contract with Dominion Voting, Peabody says these experts have identified a number of concerns — including the fact Dominion Voting does not allow a third party to challenge the system.

Editorials: A less bad Fair Elections Act is still not good enough | The Globe and Mail

The Conservative government may finally be waking up to the enormity of its own recklessness. With the Fair Elections Act, Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre wasn’t just taking aim at Canadian democracy. He wasn’t just going to war against evidence and experts. He was taking a gun, loading the magazine, cocking the hammer and pointing it at his own head and the government’s. Finger on the trigger, he’s now wondering if anyone might suggest ways to lessen the chance of injury. The Conservative majority on the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, having barely begun its study of the bill, is already recommending that he remove some of the bullets. Some, but not all. Here’s a better idea, for the country and the Conservative Party: Put the gun down. On Tuesday, the Senate committee’s Conservative majority offered an interim report, containing nine suggested amendments. Their proposals make the bill less bad, which is something. Less bad, but still not good. Is it too much to ask for legislation that leaves our democratic system no worse off, or even makes it better?

India: Voters lured by cash handouts, drugs, bootleg liquor | Reuters

Indian election officials have seized a record $36 million (21.52 million pounds) dollars of cash concealed in cars, private planes and even ambulances that they say was destined to buy off voters and pay for expenses over and above the spending limit. Opinion polls show the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies coming to power thanks to the popularity of Hindu nationalist leader Narendra Modi and widespread disgust with the Congress party, whose last years in power have been dogged by corruption scandals and a sharp economic slowdown. Despite the dramatic political change it could bring, the 2014 election would appear to be the same grubby game of cash-for-votes that has marred previous ballots in the world’s largest democracy, only this time on a far bigger scale. Cash seized in the three weeks since the staggered election was announced has already surpassed the 1.9 billion rupees for the whole of the 2009 ballot period, the commission said. Voting in this year’s election began on April 7 and winds up on May 12.

Malawi: Blind Voters Push for Tactile Ballots | VoA News

Malawians who are blind are pushing the Malawi Electoral Commission to make available tactile ballot guides (TBG) for them to cast their votes independently.  In previous elections, they have been relying on guides who do the marking for them. They argue that such an arrangement violates their right to choose because they were not sure if their guides had really marked on the candidate of their choice. An advocacy group for the rights of people who are deaf and blind, the Visual Hearing Impairment Membership Association, said that tactile ballots will help ensure the full participation of the disabled in the elections. “The issue is that these people seem not to be assisted in the past elections. Yes, there might have been some problems [on the part on the commission] in the past, but this time we are saying ‘no, no, no.’  These people by nature have a right to vote as human beings and children of this country,” said Hockings Munyenyembe,  program manager for the association.

New York: National Popular Vote: New York State Climbs Aboard | The New Yorker

On Tuesday, the State of New York took a baby step—or maybe a giant leap!—toward making the United States of America something more closely resembling a modern democracy: Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill joining up the Empire State to the National Popular Vote (N.P.V.) interstate compact. As I’ve explained many times (fifty-one, to be exact), N.P.V. is a way to elect our Presidents the way we elect our governors, our mayors, our senators and representatives, our state legislators, and everybody else: by totting up the voters’ votes—all of them—and awarding the job to whichever candidate gets the largest number. And it does this without changing a word of the Constitution. Impossible, you say? No. Quite possible—even probable—and in time for 2020, if not for 2016. Here’s how it works: Suppose you could get a bunch of states to pledge that once there are enough of them to possess at least two hundred and seventy electoral votes—a majority of the Electoral College—they will thenceforth cast all their electoral votes for whatever candidate gets the most popular votes in the entire country. As soon as that happens, presto change-o: the next time you go to the polls, you’ll be voting in a true national election. No more ten or so battleground states, no more forty or so spectator states, just the United States—all of them, and all of the voters who live in them.

Algeria: Opposition cries fraud in Algerian election | Associated Press

The main opposition candidate in Algeria’s presidential elections cried foul late Thursday night hours after voting ended, alleging massive fraud and vowing to reject any results announced. Ali Benflis told supporters at his headquarters that preliminary information indicated fraud on a grand scale with grave irregularities across the country. “Our history will remember this date as a great crime against the nation by stealing the voice of the citizens and blocking popular will,” he said, while fireworks from celebrating supporters of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, his opponent, could be heard in the background. The national commission charged with supervising the elections, however, insisted that aside from a few incidents, the election went smoothly with just 130 complaints. Turnout was 51.7 percent of the 23 million registered voters, according to the Interior Minister.

India: India’s Briefcase-Sized Voting Machines | The Atlantic

Holding India’s titanic general election is no simple task. Voting is broken down into nine phases—the fifth and largest of which is scheduled for this Thursday—that are spread over six weeks. Over the six weeks, an army of 11 million election officials and security forces will staff and operate more than 935,000 polling stations in India’s 543 electoral constituencies, where they will serve almost 815 million registered Indian voters. Central to this undertaking are India’s 1.7 million electronic voting machines, or EVMs, the portable, affordable, and highly durable systems that help this massive exercise in democracy run smoothly. Each EVM comes in two parts. The control unit remains with election officials at each polling place and connects by cable to the balloting unit. When a voter enters a polling booth, an official activates the balloting unit. The voter then presses one of up to 64 blue buttons next to each candidate’s name and political-party symbol to cast his or her vote. … EVMs help India overcome a number of electoral challenges. The machines are compact and portable, in contrast to bulkier booth-sized voting machines in the United States and elsewhere. They are also built to withstand India’s diverse and sometimes-harsh climate. Since they run on two 6-volt alkaline batteries, EVMs can be readily used in rural India, where two-thirds of the country’s 1.2 billion citizens live, and other areas with limited or no electricity.