National: Supreme Court to Consider Challenge to Law Against Lying in Elections | Wall Street Journal

The Supreme Court will consider Tuesday whether two conservative groups can pursue a free-speech challenge to an Ohio false-statements law that if allowed would advance a broader push against state laws making it illegal to lie about a political candidate or ballot initiative. Although Ohio’s elections commission rarely refers complaints over false statements for prosecution, the conservative groups, including the anti-abortion organization Susan B. Anthony List, said the law discouraged them from running advertisements against a Democratic congressman. “It almost never comes to a criminal prosecution, but that doesn’t mean there’s no chilling effect on speech,” Daniel Tokaji, a law professor at Ohio State University who isn’t involved in the case, said of the law. More than a dozen other states have laws authorizing criminal or civil penalties for spreading falsehoods in political campaigns. The Supreme Court’s eventual ruling, expected by June, is unlikely to affect the state laws or political discourse in the current elections cycle. The case would instead likely be sent back for lower courts to consider whether the false-statement law violates the First Amendment by improperly suppressing protected speech.

National: SCOTUS hears local free speech case today | Cincinnati Inquirer

The Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday in a Cincinnati case that touches on free speech in elections, with an anti-abortion group seeking to challenge the constitutionality of an Ohio law that bans lying about political candidates. The case will pit two brilliant but stylistically opposite lawyers against each other, as they make competing arguments before the nine justices. Ohio’s State Solicitor Eric Murphy is an up-and-coming conservative star who will defend the Ohio law. Washington super-lawyer Michael Carvin is a seasoned Supreme Court veteran seeking to knock it down. Murphy and Carvin will face off in a legal clash that began during the 2010 congressional race between then-Democratic Rep. Steve Driehaus and his GOP challenger Steve Chabot of Westwood. An anti-abortion group, the Susan B. Anthony List, wanted to launch a billboard ad campaign accusing Driehaus of supporting taxpayer-funded abortions by voting in favor of the federal health reform law.

Arkansas: GOP sees voter ID double standard | Washington Times

The Republican Party of Arkansas said absentee voters who fail to submit required identification with their ballot should be given more time to submit ID, arguing in a filing to a state court that failing to do so would create a double standard compared to voters who cast a ballot in person. The Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners approved a rule change allowing voters who do not submit required identification with their absentee ballot to turn in the documents for their vote to be counted by noon Monday following an election. It mirrors an identical period given voters who fail to show ID when they seek to vote in person at the polls.

Editorials: Confusion on Iowa voting rights must be resolved | Des Moines Register

Last week’s splintered Iowa Supreme Court decision created a lot of confusion about the state of the law regarding the voting rights of Iowans with criminal records. But the court’s lack of clarity made one thing perfectly clear: The Iowa Constitution must be amended to eliminate the clause that is at the heart of this confusion. A majority of the seven-member court resolved the immediate question of Iowa Senate candidate Tony Bisignano’s eligibility to be on the June 3 primary ballot. His opponent, Ned Chiodo, argued that because Bisignano had pleaded guilty to second-offense drunken driving he was not eligible to vote or hold public office under Iowa law. Second-offense drunken driving is an aggravated misdemeanor, however. The court ruled that convictions for crimes below the level of felonies do not disqualify voters or candidates for public office.

Kansas: Program run by Kobach checks voter registration records of more than 100 million people | Lawrence Journal-World

A little-known program run by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach goes through more than 100 million voter records from states across the nation. Called Interstate Crosscheck, or “The Kansas Project,” the program compares voter registration records from one state with 27 other participating states to check for duplicate voter registrations and possible double voting. The goal of the program is to clear up registration rolls, Kobach said. Nearly all double registrations are unintentional, resulting from a person moving from one state to another and re-registering to vote, Kobach says. But the computer program drills down further to try to find voters who may have voted in two separate states, he said. It’s a program that Kobach’s office provides for free. “It’s a state-run program that Kansas has developed and it’s a service for the whole country,” Kobach said. The project has generated some controversy. Earlier this month, Republican officials in North Carolina, a key battleground state, said the Interstate Crosscheck uncovered proof of widespread voter fraud. But after those initial reports, officials have walked back those assertions and were focusing on investigating a much smaller number of potential cases.

Minnesota: Washington County putting 90 new voting machines to work | Star Tribune

The dutiful Washington County voter, having chosen candidates and issues after a few moments of intense concentration in the election booth, steps to the counting machine with ballot in hand only to find a problem. But what? Did the voter “overwrite” the ballot by marking more than one candidate for a race? Or stray across party lines in a primary election? Or fail to mark the vote inside the oval spaces provided, circling them instead? A color screen on the county’s new voting machine indicates an error. Once the nature of the error pops up, the screen gives the voter a simple choice: return the ballot or cast it. In the first instance, the voter could ask an elections judge to destroy the ballot and provide a new one. If the voter chooses to cast the ballot, it would enter the machine and become official, with the part in error discarded.

Missouri: Secretary of State, House Republicans argue over budget, election integrity | KSPR

Missouri’s Secretary of State is making a splash about a drop in the state budget bucket, drained by House Republicans. Jason Kander is upset with the Missouri House of Representatives vote to strip additional funding from his office’s Elections Integrity Unit. Kander started the unit last year after he was sworn in to office. “I am disappointed that Republicans in the Missouri House of Representatives are less interested in protecting the integrity of our elections than I am. I started the Elections Integrity Unit to investigate both voter fraud and voter access issues,” said Kander. The Republican-led house approved an amendment on March 25 to remove $79,900 from the budget outlined in House Bill 2012. The bill appropriates money for the expenses, grants, refunds, and distributions of statewide elected officials, the Judiciary, Office of the State Public Defender, and General Assembly. That budget includes the Secretary of State’s office, and the $79,900 Kander requested for hiring two new full-time employees (FTEs) for the Elections Integrity Unit.

Editorials: Technology key to improving New Jersey elections |

In New Jersey, politics is a contact sport. It should come as a great disappointment that New Jersey was just ranked 37th in the nation for the administration of our elections. The Pew Charitable Trusts assembled a panel of experts to rank each state and the District of Columbia. The newest rankings came out last week. Not only did the experts score New Jersey poorly, but the Garden State was one of only 10 states that saw a decrease in their score from 2008. Worse, the Garden State got mowed by some of its neighbors. Pennsylvania came in 16th, Connecticut was 10th and Delaware was ninth. As a small comfort, the Garden State did beat New York, which came in an abysmal 47th. … So, how can New Jersey improve its ranking? First, the state could implement an online voter registration system. This innovation, which has been adopted in 16 states thus far, has made it easier for citizens to register quickly and securely, while allowing for instant verification of eligibility. Four additional states have recently passed similar measures. New Jersey should follow their lead.

Egypt: Presidential election to have only two candidates | Associated Press

Egypt’s election commission said Sunday only two presidential hopefuls, one of them the powerful former military chief who nine months ago ousted the country’s first democratically elected leader, have submitted their papers to run in next month’s polls. With only two people — former army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi — vying for the country’s top post, the race is certain to be dramatically different from Egypt’s 2012 presidential vote, when 13 candidates of all political stripes competed in a heated campaign. Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist from the Muslim Brotherhood, won that race, defeating a former general in a runoff to become Egypt’s first democratically elected president. Just over a year later, the military removed Morsi from office following mass protests calling for his ouster.

Iraq: Blood flows in Iraq as general election looms next week | Middle East Online

Suicide bombers attacked two checkpoints south of Baghdad on Monday, among a spate of attacks in central Iraq that killed 23 people as a general election looms next week. Iraq is going through a protracted surge in bloodshed that has killed more than 2,750 people so far this year and the UN envoy warned on Monday that militants were seeking to stoke sectarian tensions between the Shiite Muslim majority and the Sunni Arab minority. In the deadliest attack, a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle rigged with explosives at a police checkpoint in the Suweirah area, south of Baghdad, killing 13 people and wounding 35, a police officer and a medical source said.

Editorials: The South African election 2014 – sound and fury signifying… nothing? | Daily Maverick

This year’s national election in South Africa is arguably the country’s most important election since the advent of the universal franchise in 1994. While that earlier election was enormously important in confirming the negotiated settlement that had ended the National Party’s whites-only domination, it was a foregone conclusion that the ANC would be the big victor. This time around, while the ANC is almost certainly going to win a sizeable majority yet again (at least nationally), in the absence of a totally unanticipated, magnitude 8 electoral earthquake, the real core of this election is an increasingly vigorous debate over South Africa’s economic future circumstances. And yet, with the possible exception of a website or two like South Africa Votes 2014 and some often interesting, informative, even challenging writing by columnists like Steve Friedman, Judith February and Eusebius McKaiser, most of the media attention over this election has been in the form of reporting that mostly can be tabbed as either a kind of “horserace” or “insider trading” coverage. Even the various broadcast and open forum debates that have been held have, too often, been opportunities for the rolling out of the usual media-friendly sound bites and snappy retorts – rather than any sustained, substantive analyses of the economic policies the various candidates and parties have been proposing as panaceas to address the country’s current malaise.

Syria: Presidential Elections to be held on June 3 | Wall Street Journal

Syria will hold presidential elections on June 3, the country’s parliament speaker said Monday, a vote President Bashar al-Assad is likely to contest as his nation sinks deeper into a bloody civil war, now in its fourth year. Mr. Assad has been widely expected to seek another seven-year term in office despite the uprising against his rule. The conflict that has engulfed the nation since March 2011 has killed over 150,000 people and forced one-third of the country’s population from their homes. Parliament Speaker Mohammed Laham said candidates seeking to run for president can register their candidacy from next Tuesday, April 22 until May 1. “I call on the citizens of the Syrian Arab republic, inside and outside [the country] to exercise their right in electing a president,” Laham said from parliament in comments broadcast live on state-run television.

Syria: Opposition rejects presidential poll ‘farce’ | AFP

Syria’s opposition condemned Monday’s announcement of a June 3 presidential election expected to keep Bashar al-Assad in power despite tens of thousands of deaths in an anti-regime revolt since 2011. “The Assad regime’s announcement today that a ‘presidential election’ would be held in June should be treated as a farce and be rejected by the international community,” said the office of opposition National Coalition leader Ahmad Jarba. “With vast parts of Syria completely destroyed by Assad’s air force, army and militias over the last three years, and with a third of Syria’s population displaced internally or in refugee camps in the region, there is no electorate in Syria in a condition to exercise its right to vote,” it said.