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.