National: Problem at the polls: Tech stuck in past | The Hill

In the world of iPads, Google Glass and even bitcoin, voting technology remains stuck in a virtual dark age. Nearly 14 years after the 2000 election recount debacle in Florida, election officials now face the challenge of replacing voting machines that are on their last legs in a rapidly changing tech world that’s moved even beyond the changes spurred by that voting mess. Transitioning to modern voting machines, however, won’t be easy due to a lack of advanced machines, small budgets and a burdensome regulatory process. The next frontier to replace aging and unreliable machines should be commercially made and software-only products, the Presidential Commission on Election Administration said in a January report. “Tablet computers such as iPads are common components of these new technologies. They can be integrated into the check-in, voting and verification processes in the polling place,” the report said.

National: Court issues temporary stay over voter citizenship | Associated Press

Kansas and Arizona residents can continue to register to vote for now using a federal form without having to provide proof of citizenship, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily stayed a ruling from U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren that orders the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to modify its federal voter registration form to add special instructions for Arizona and Kansas residents about those states’ proof-of-citizenship requirements. Circuit Judges Carlos Lucero and Jerome Holmes granted the emergency stay sought Thursday by the commission and voting rights groups, a day after Melgren rejected a similar request to suspend his ruling during the appeal. Melgren had ordered the commission on Wednesday to carry out “without further delay” his March 19 directive. The temporary halt is in effect until further order from the appeals court. The 10th Circuit judges gave Kansas and Arizona until Tuesday to respond to the commission’s request to suspend the ruling during the appeal. … In addition to the stay, the commission also asked the court Thursday to consider its appeal of the decision itself on an expedited basis, preferably in a special session this summer. The EAC argued in its filing that the decision will cause “considerable uncertainty” for voters in Arizona and Kansas in the run-up to the primaries in those states in August and the general election in November. Both states’ elections include federal offices.

National: Efforts to revive Voting Rights Act provision stall in Congress | Dallas Morning News

Ten months after the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, efforts have stalled in Congress to restore federal scrutiny of states with a history of racial bias. Freed from the need for Justice Department approval before changing election rules, even minor ones, states moved quickly to impose tight voter ID laws. But changes are also playing out quietly at the local level. In Jasper, an East Texas town with a history of racial tension, the City Council is deciding whether to annex mostly white subdivisions. In Galveston, Texas, some court districts have been eliminated. Civil rights advocates complain that these moves dilute minority populations, unfairly reducing the influence of non-white voters. Before last summer’s court ruling, such changes in nine states could not take effect without pre-approval from Washington. Defenders of the decades-old system say the oversight served as a deterrent, prompting state and local officials to think twice before imposing burdensome or even unconstitutional measures.

National: Federal Election Commission approves bitcoin donations to political committees | Washington Post

The Federal Election Commission on Thursday gave a green light to donating bitcoins to political committees, one of the first rulings by a government agency on how to treat the virtual currency. In a 6-to-0 vote, the panel said that a PAC can accept bitcoin donations, as well as purchase them, but it must sell its bitcoins and convert them into U.S. dollars before they are deposited into an official campaign account. The commission did not approve the use of bitcoin to acquire goods and services. After the vote, however, individual commissioners offered sharply divergent views on whether their decision limits bitcoin donations to small amounts — creating more uncertainty about how much of the Internet currency that political committees can accept. The FEC had deadlocked on a similar question in the fall, with the three Democratic appointees saying they wanted the agency to take more time to study the issue and develop a formal policy to govern the use of bitcoins in campaigns. At the time, some commissioners expressed concern that the virtual currency could be used to mask the identity of donors.

Delaware: Parties have own ideas to fill possible lieutenant governor vacancy | Delaware State News

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are introducing separate bills to provide a means for filling a vacancy in the lieutenant governor’s office. Currently, the state code fails to address the situation. One bill would mandate a special election to fill the office; the other bill would allow the governor to appoint the replacement. The gap in the code came to light after Lt. Gov. Matt Denn announced he would run for state attorney general this fall. If he wins, the lieutenant governor’s office would be vacant for two years. Republican leaders are calling for a state constitutional amendment to mandate that any such vacancy be filled through a special election, according to a news release.  State Rep. Deborah Hudson, House Minority Whip, said the measure should be non-partisan. “A vacancy can occur when a member of any party occupies the office,” she said. “Vacancies in the General Assembly are filled through special elections and that process favors no party. Candidates step to the forefront, run a race, and the people decide. What’s the argument against using the democratic process?”

Illinois: 17-year-olds voted at higher rate than parents in primary –

Given the chance to vote for the first time in the March primary, 17 year olds turned out at a higher rate in Cook County than voters old enough to be their parents, according to a new study released today. A state law allowed 17 year olds who’d turn 18 by the general election to vote in the primary and elections officials and representatives of several civic groups, including the Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, the League of Women Voters of Chicago, Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Mikva Challenge, engaged in a short-term intensive registration and education effort aimed at schools across Chicago and Cook County. As a result, more than 7,000 eligible 17-year-olds registered to vote in the city and suburban Cook County, officials said. Their turnout of about 15 percent in the very-low turnout March 18 primary exceeded turnout among 20-to-40-year-olds.

Editorials: The bright spot in those lousy March voter turnout numbers? Teens | Chicago Sun-Times

March election set a record for low voter turnout in a primary, with about 16 percent of all registered voters casting ballots across Cook County. But one bright spot in the otherwise dismal measure of civic engagement was found among newly-registered young voters, according to a study released Wednesday by a consortium of local elections officials and civic groups. The study, titled “Voting Early and Often,” found a higher percentage of registered 17- and 18-year-olds voted than did registered voters in many older age groups. The study analyzed participation by those who are registered to vote, breaking down the statistics by gender and age; it did not take into account the number of youth who are eligible, but have not registered.

Indiana: Aftermath of vote problems in Elkhart County | WSBT

Elkhart County election officials are dealing with a few problems from Tuesday’s primary election, the first time they have used vote centers. Instead of staffing and equipping 117 precincts with voting machines, 25 vote centers were set up countywide, and voters were able to cast ballots at any one of those locations. County election officials are hoping to learn from a mistake that delayed the final vote count on Tuesday. Election board members and staff reviewed the results. It was a start up process with us,” said County Election Board Chairman Wayne Kramer. “We anticipated that there would be some bumps along the way, and there were a few. None of them affected actually the process.” One did develop, though, at North Side Gym. While polls were set to close at 6 p.m., long lines continued past then. The Election Board saw that coming and delivered two additional voting machines to add to the 10 already there. “As the law permits us to do, (the machines) were ushered inside the shoot, which is the 50 foot area inside the polling place so that (voters) would be permitted to vote, and that took additional time,” Kramer said.

Iowa: Final report: 117 fraudulent votes found in investgation, 6 convictions | Des Moines Register

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s two-year investigation into voter fraud found evidence of 117 illegally cast votes, led to charges against 27 suspected fraudulent voters and has resulted in six criminal convictions, according to a report released Thursday. Those results justified the unprecedented partnership between the state’s top election official and the state’s Division of Criminal Investigation, as well as the nearly $250,000 cost of the effort, Schultz, a Republican, said. “The takeaway is that there are people who voted who weren’t supposed to,” he said. “This is a situation where we tried to do something about it. I think it was the right thing to do and I stand by that.” Critics have called the investigation a misuse of federal funds intended to expand access to voting and charged that the six convictions prove that voter fraud is a miniscule problem in a state where statewide voter turnout frequently exceeds 1 million.

Editorials: Not so smooth sailing for Mississippi voter ID? | Bill Minor/Clarion-Ledger

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and his claque in the media were cruising along self assuredly that the state’s voter ID was home free from any federal court derailment since the Supreme Court junked a core provision in the 1965 Voting Rights Act one year ago. Then suddenly things began to turn around. Last week, a federal judge in Wisconsin struck down that state’s voter ID law. And, in doing so, he provided a pathway for other states to challenge similar laws by circumventing the high court’s butchery of the 1965 act. The 90-page voter ID ruling, written by Federal District Judge Lynn Adelman of Wisconsin’s Eastern District, marked the sixth court action blocking ID voting laws in the past year, each in a Republican-controlled state. Last year, the Supreme Court had upheld constitutionality of the overall Voting Rights Act but gutted Section 5, which had required nine states, including Mississippi, to pre-clear any voting changes with the Justice Department.

Nevada: Judge hears challenges to Nevada voter ID measure | Las Vegas Sun News

Critics of a proposal pushed by conservative activist Sharron Angle to require photo identification to vote in Nevada argued Wednesday that the measure fails to inform voters of possible costs and doesn’t specify the types of identification that would be necessary. Marc Elias, a Washington, D.C., attorney, told Carson City District Judge James Russell that the description of the proposed constitutional amendment on the initiative “is extremely misleading” and falls short of legal mandates. The measure supported by Angle’s political action committee, Our Vote Nevada, would require voters to have photo identification to cast a ballot. It also would require the Legislature to direct government agencies to issue free cards to anyone who does not have valid, government-issued photo identification. After losing Nevada’s 2010 U.S. Senate race to Harry Reid, Angle said she was working on a documentary film to expose nationwide voter fraud. State election officials have said there is no evidence to support the allegations.

New Jersey: Prisoners could vote under NJ bill, as long as they’re veterans |

Prisoners serving their sentences as well as parolees and probationers would be allowed to vote in New Jersey under newly introduced legislation, but only if they had served in the military. State Sen. Ronald Rice, a Vietnam War veteran, introduced the bill on Monday, saying those who sacrificed for their country should get special consideration in getting back their civic rights. “Those of us who fought in wars, we make mistakes like everyone else,” Rice (D-Essex) said. “But we fought for the country, too, and that should count for something.” Currently, convicted felons in New Jersey aren’t allowed to vote until they have served their full sentences, including prison time, parole and probation. The bill (S2050) comes three months after the nation’s top law-enforcement official, Attorney General Eric Holder, called on states to repeal laws that restrict voting for felons once they leave prison.

Wisconsin: State to lift limits on campaign giving after Supreme Court ruling | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Wisconsin election officials acknowledged in federal court Thursday they could not enforce a state law that limits the amount donors can give to all candidates to $10,000 a year, in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The state’s settlement of a lawsuit over the limits — if approved by U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman as expected — would also have the effect of allowing donors to give unlimited sums to political parties and political action committees. The state Government Accountability Board, which oversees state election laws, also agreed to pay more than $5,700 in legal fees to millionaire Fred Young Jr. of Racine, who brought the case. Those funds will go to the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, which represented Young. The decision comes a month after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled similar limits are an unconstitutional restriction of the free speech rights of those who make donations to congressional candidates. “I’m very pleased we’ve made one more piece of progress to restoring the First Amendment,” said Young, who sits on the board of the Cato Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based group that promotes limited government.

Wyoming: 2 groups ask for campaign finance change with Supreme Court ruling | Casper Star Tribune

The Cheyenne-based Wyoming Liberty Group and the Alexandria, Va.-based Center for Competitive Politics are calling on the state to change election rules to conform to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The court ruled in McCutcheon v. FEC that donors could not be limited in how much they spend in overall contributions, called aggregate contributions, to political candidates, parties and political action committees in each election cycle, according to the Center for Competitive Politics. The group calls itself the nation’s largest organization dedicated solely to First Amendment political rights. Current Wyoming law limits contributions in an election cycle to $25,000 in aggregate to all candidates, said Steve Klein, of the Wyoming Liberty Group, which fights for economic and political freedoms.

Australia: Electoral commission failed to heed warnings about ballot paper security | The Guardian

he Australian Electoral Commission failed to adequately respond to warnings about the transport and storage of ballot papers made years before the West Australian Senate debacle. An Australian National Audit Office report into the security of ballots during last year’s federal election is scathing of the AEC, saying it failed to react to recommendations made in 2010. The AEC has been under fire over its botched handling of the poll; the loss of 1370 ballot papers forced a fresh WA Senate vote in April. The 2010 audit by the audit office found the AEC needed to improve the security of ballot papers during transport and storage.

India: Votes for Sale: India’s Election Problem | Wall Street Journal

The big question for some voters as India’s marathon national election reaches its final stages isn’t who will win, it is how much candidates will dole out in cash, alcohol and other goodies to bag their support. Residents and election officials alike say vote-buying has long been a problem in the world’s largest democracy, even though it is against the law. Early reports suggest it may be widespread again in the current round, which began April 7 and ends Monday. Results are expected four days later. In the northern state of Punjab, for instance, election-monitoring teams have seized over 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of heroin, 50 kilograms of opium and thousands of liters of illicit alcohol that they believe may have been meant for buying votes. In the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, police are investigating possible criminal charges against the wife of a candidate who was caught carrying $75,000 in cash in a computer bag while traveling on a public bus to her husband’s constituency. The woman denied any wrongdoing.

Editorials: Can India Get E-Voting Right? | Bloomberg

Last month, I joined millions of other Indians in voting in our national election, the biggest in history. Was I wrong to feel disappointed? After all, the ritual of the vote — with its emphasis on privacy, silence and secrecy; its underlying political associations of duty, virtue, community, even transcendence — is the one democratic event that resembles a religious experience. The only difference is that the voter is also, in a manner of speaking, the deity being propitiated, the vote being the offering that establishes his or her agency. So I went to the polling booth, a school in my neighborhood in New Delhi, with great expectations. On a sheet outside the polling booth was a list of all the candidates I could vote for: seven or eight from the established political parties, then a slew of independents. Inside, I stood in a line before a table, behind which sat some officials from the Election Commission — a force 11 million strong — to whom I presented my voter identification card to be checked off against the electoral rolls. This done, I moved on to the next step, which was to have the nail of my left forefinger daubed with a stroke of indelible black ink. (This quaint practice, designed to discourage impersonation or double-voting, has led to the mass posting of what’s now called the “election selfie.”)

Lithuania: President Cites Russia Threat in Election Race | Bloomberg

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite used the last debate before for the May 11 election to focus on Russia’s expansionism, which is fueling concern in the Baltic countries. Grybauskaite said she used “fierce” rhetoric to persuade NATO partners to boost the alliance’s military presence in the region that regained independence as the Soviet Union collapsed more than two decades ago. Conversations with U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden helped add warplanes for air patrols and surveillance and about 150 U.S. paratroopers for exercises in Lithuania, she said. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is upgrading contingency plans, holding military drills in eastern Europe and stepping up air and naval policing on its flanks as President Vladimir Putin masses troops on Ukraine’s border. The newest members that joined in the past decade are pushing for permanent NATO bases in the region.

Ukraine: Pro-Russian Separatists in Ukraine Reject Putin’s Call to Delay Vote | Wall Street Journal

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine said Thursday they would go ahead with a referendum on secession set for Sunday, defying Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call to postpone it and dashing hopes of dialogue with the government in Kiev. Western capitals had already been skeptical of Mr. Putin’s surprise appeal Wednesday, a change of tone that included a claim that Russian troops had pulled back from the border. With the decision by separatists in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions at the heart of the insurgency, the conflict again appeared to be escalating. (Follow the latest updates on the crisis in Ukraine.) In Kiev, the Foreign Ministry said the decisions confirmed fears that Moscow was just trying “to whitewash its aggression in the eyes of the international community” by appearing to endorse dialogue. Ukrainian officials rejected Moscow’s demands that they end their military operation in eastern Ukraine and negotiate with the rebels.

National: As States Vote In Primaries, Voter ID Laws Come Under Scrutiny | NPR

Three states are holding primaries Tuesday, and voters might understandably be confused over what kind of identification they need to show at the polls. In Indiana, it has to be a government-issued photo ID. In Ohio, you can get by with a utility bill. In North Carolina, you won’t need a photo ID until 2016. But that law, along with ID laws in many other states, faces an uncertain future. “We have Florida, Georgia, Indiana,” says Wendy Underhill, of the National Conference of State Legislatures. She’s ticking off the names of some of the states that required voters to show a photo ID back in 2012.  When it comes to state voting laws, Underhill has an important job: She’s the keeper of a frequently consulted list of ID requirements, which seems to change almost daily. (The NCSL has this online resource of voter ID requirements.) This year, Underhill says, there are 16 states that require voters to show a photo ID, eight of which have what are called strict photo ID rules. That means without the credential, you basically can’t vote. “But one of those is Arkansas, and so in Arkansas we don’t know whether that will be in place or not,” Underhill says.