Arkansas: Voter ID law in Arkansas again found unconstitutional | Associated Press

An Arkansas judge on Friday again found the state’s new voter ID law to be unconstitutional but said there wasn’t enough time to prohibit officials from enforcing it during this month’s primary election. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox ruled that the law requiring voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot violates the Arkansas Constitution. But Fox stayed his order, saying he did not believe there was time to stop the state from using the law for the May 20 primary because early voting is set to begin Monday. “I’m not going to throw thousands of precincts into turmoil,” Fox told attorneys at the end of an hour-long hearing. Fox struck down the law in a separate case last week, but the state Supreme Court stayed that ruling while it considers an appeal of the decision. A spokesman for Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office said he planned to appeal Fox’s latest ruling against the law as well.

Arkansas: Judge again strikes down voter ID law; stay keeps law in effect | Arkansas News

For the second time in eight days, a Pulaski County circuit judge ruled Friday that an Arkansas law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls is unconstitutional. Judge Tim Fox also stayed his order, leaving the law in effect. He noted that the state Supreme Court has stayed his April 24 ruling striking down Act 595 pending an appeal. The judge said he stayed his latest ruling for the sake of consistency because an appeal is “inevitable” and there is no time for the Supreme Court to decide whether to issue a new stay before early voting in the May 20 primary election begins Monday. “I’m not going to throw thousands of precincts into turmoil,” Fox said. Fox issued his latest ruling in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Arkansas Law Center on behalf of four Arkansas voters. He agreed with the plaintiffs that Act 595 imposes qualifications to vote in Arkansas that improperly go beyond the qualifications set forth in the Arkansas Constitution.

California: Increase in early voting alters election landscape | San Francisco Chronicle

California’s monthlong election day begins Monday, when the first of more than 8 million early ballots go out to people looking to turn their living rooms into voting booths. In county election offices across the state, booths also are being set up to accommodate the increasing number of voters who want to make their ballot decisions early. “We’ve already got the booths lined up outside our office in City Hall, ready for business,” said John Arntz, San Francisco’s election chief. The surging number of early and vote-by-mail ballots has had a profound effect on California elections, changing both the way people vote and how candidates campaign. Because voting starts almost a month before the June 3 primary, the traditional bombardment of TV and radio ads, mailers and partisan phone calls has begun earlier, too. … For many voters, mail ballots can be a way to have the best of both worlds, said Scott Konopasek, assistant registrar for Contra Costa County. “They can get their ballot earlier and go over it, but still hang on to it until late, in case something happens in the election,” he said.

Kentucky: Federal judge: Candidates don’t have right to absentee ballot lists | Cincinnati Inquirer

Candidates do not have a right to see who’s applied for absentee ballots before the election, a federal judge in Covington ruled this week. Republican Kentucky Senate candidate Deb Sheldon sued the county clerks of Campbell and Bracken counties, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and Attorney General Jack Conway, challenging a state law passed in 2013 that shields the names and addresses of those who applied for absentee ballots until after the election. Sheldon is running against two other Republicans for the open Senate seat in Campbell, Pendleton and Bracken counties. She sought a list of those who filed for absentee ballots and argued that keeping the names private violated her First Amendment rights.

Missouri: Early voting supporters say they have enough signatures | Springfield News-Leader

In the quest for early voting in Missouri, Matthew Patterson says Sunday was satisfying. About a half-hour before the 5 p.m. deadline, supporters of a ballot initiative petition to establish early voting in Missouri submitted what they said were more than 300,000 signatures contained in dozens of boxes. In order to go on the ballot, the initiative petition needs approximately 160,000 voter signatures. Patterson, the Springfield-based director of Missouri ProVote, said more than 36,000 signatures were collected in the Greene County area as part of a statewide effort. Locally, the collection effort began in mid-February and lasted until this past Friday, he said.

Oklahoma: Voter ID rulings give heart to plaintiff challenging Oklahoma law | Tulsa World

Recent court decisions in Wisconsin and Arkansas may not have direct application to Oklahoma’s voter ID law, but they do give heart to those challenging it, University of Tulsa law professor Jim Thomas said last week. “When I saw the Wisconsin decision, saw it was 91 pages, I was excited,” said Thomas. “It shows the attention the court gave to this case. It increased my confidence that Oklahoma’s law will be struck down.” Thomas represents Tulsan Delilah Christine Gentges in a case now before an Oklahoma County District Court. The lawsuit has followed a winding trail that has taken it from Tulsa County District Court to the Oklahoma Supreme Court and now to Oklahoma County.

South Carolina: Legislators working on election law fix | Associated Press

Both the House and Senate have passed a bill designed to prevent a lawsuit from throwing South Carolina’s elections into chaos again. But their versions differ. A six-member panel appointed this week will try to reach a compromise on the legislation, which is aimed at creating a statewide model for county election boards. Senate Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin has urged his colleagues to act quickly, noting a verdict on a lawsuit filed in March could jeopardize the June primaries. The South Carolina Public Interest Foundation has asked a judge to throw out a 2008 state law on how county election offices are constructed. Martin had warned such a lawsuit was likely, citing advice from the attorney general’s office that the law is unconstitutional. If a court affirms the top prosecutor’s opinion, there could be no one left locally to conduct elections, he said. Lawmakers also fear the potential of a verdict overturning upcoming elections. Legislators don’t want to take that chance two years after a lawsuit against a single candidate resulted in about 250 people being kicked off primary ballots statewide.

South Dakota: Testimony reveals Native Americans still face obstacles at the polls | Rapid City Journal

Some people believe that intimidation of minority voters is a concern of the past, but testimony at a public hearing Thursday revealed concerns that Native Americans still face obstacles when it comes to getting to the polls. Rapid City resident Mark Lone Hill spoke during the National Commission on Voting Rights hearing at the Journey Museum about his experience voting in the 2012 general election. “I filled out my ballot and made sure everything was checked out. So I go up to put it in the box, then this lady comes up and says: ‘Hold on, I want to make sure you’re putting that in right,'” Lone Hill said. “I know I had it in right, but she pulls it out, takes out my ballot and looks at it, then she turned it over and looked at it up and down to see who I’m voting for,” he continued. “Then she says, ‘Oh OK, I just wanted to put it in for you.'” Lone Hill said he was the only Native American at the polling station, the Bethel Assembly of God in north Rapid, at the time. This woman did not approach any other voter to check their ballots, he said. At least not until later that evening when his father went to vote at the same place.

Europe: Election voters face shift towards political fringes | The Irish Times

In less than three weeks’ time, voters in 28 countries across the European Union will go to the polls to elect the next European Parliament. Five years since the last set of European elections, the social and political context has altered profoundly. These elections will be the first since the full extent of the euro zone crisis became apparent, when Greece became the first of five European countries to seek a full or partial EU-IMF bailout in 2010. But while the continent is now tentatively emerging from recession, as economic growth returns, government bond yields settle down and countries such as Ireland and Portugal regain full market access, the scars of the economic crisis run deep. Between May 23rd and May 25th voters throughout Europe will have their first opportunity to express their opinions through the ballot box. The results are not expected to favour Europe’s mainstream political establishment. A shift towards the political fringes has been creeping in to national politics in a number of European countries in recent years as voter frustration with mainstream politics has intensified.

Canada: Long-term expat Canadians win voting rights | The Canadian Press

More than one million Canadians living abroad are now eligible to cast ballots in the next federal election after a court struck down a law stripping them of their voting rights. While mass murderers have the right to vote, long-term expats “who care deeply about Canada” do not have the right, Ontario Superior Court Justice Michael Penny said in his decision. Penny found part of the Canada Elections Act, which bars expatriates who have lived abroad for more than five years from voting, is unconstitutional. “The (government) essentially argues that allowing non-residents to vote is unfair to resident Canadians because resident Canadians live here and are, on a day-to-day basis, subject to Canada’s laws and live with the consequences of Parliament’s decisions.”

Iraq: Ballot count underway, with parties no closer to forming ruling coalition | Asharq Al-Awsat

As the Independent Higher Electoral Commission (IHEC) continues the difficult task of counting Iraqis’ votes, the post-election political scene remained fractured as parties began the potentially lengthy process of forming a coalition that will then form a government. Speaking to reporters one day after the elections, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki repeated claims that his State of Law coalition had secured victory, adding that he had already secured enough support to build a coalition government. Maliki’s allies had earlier claimed that the State of Law coalition had secured at least 90 seats in parliament, and the prime minister had told reporters that “we have an ability to pass the 165 seat mark,” the threshold required to form a majority government.

Panama: Incumbent’s Party Loses Presidency in Panama | New York Times

Panamanians, enjoying one of the fastest growing economies in the hemisphere but wary of corruption and growing executive power, rejected the governing party’s choice for president Sunday — on a ticket with the president’s wife for vice president — and instead hewed to tradition by electing an opposition candidate. Panama’s election commission declared the president-elect to be Juan Carlos Varela, who is vice president but broke with the governing party in a rancorous falling out and was stripped of many of his duties. He captured 39 percent of the vote, with more than three-quarters of the ballots counted.

South Africa: Tight security ahead of the elections | IOL News

With less than 100 hours until South Africa’s fifth democratic elections kick off, the countdown has begun. Political parties are pulling out all the stops to woo last-minute voters, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is geared up to receive its 25.3 million voters and over 20 000 law-enforcement officers have been deployed across the country, with the SA National Defence Force on stand-by. On Saturday, the ministers in the justice, crime prevention and security cluster visited Bekkersdal in Gauteng to assure residents that voting will proceed smoothly. The township – which has been engulfed in service delivery protests since last year – is one of several areas countrywide identified as hot spots ahead of the elections.