National: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: Expand Online Voter Registration Access | Associated PRess

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand says people across the country should be able use their computers, smartphones or electronic tablets to register to vote. The New York Democrat is announcing legislation Sunday that would force the 23 states that don’t have an online registration system to establish one. The bill also would expand enrollment access in states that currently have online systems by making them open to all eligible voters without requiring a state-issued ID.

National: Sen. Rand Paul seeks to expand voting rights to some ex-cons | Politico

Rand Paul is opening a new frontier for Republicans: Voting rights. The Kentucky senator is introducing this week a bill that restores voting rights to nonviolent felons in federal elections. Paul is also pursuing drug sentencing reform in the Senate and is mulling efforts aimed at easing nonviolent criminals back into the job market. He even wants to redefine some drug offenses currently classified as felonies to misdemeanors. Together, the moves add up to a concerted effort to get minorities, young people and civil libertarians excited about Republicans — groups that much of the party admits it needs. Paul argues he’s inspired by a sense of justice, but the expected 2016 contender won’t deny that his criminal justice portfolio is also motivated by politics. “I believe in these issues. But I’m a politician, and we want more votes,” he conceded in an interview. “Even if Republicans don’t get more votes, we feel like we’ve done the right thing.”

Editorials: California’s jungle primary: Tried it. Dump it. | Harold Myerson/Los Angeles Times

Though county registrars are still tallying the votes in several close contests, the memory of California’s June primary has already begun to fade from the state’s collective consciousness — assuming, that is, that it ever made an imprint there at all. Before it vanishes altogether, though, Californians should take away one lesson from June’s balloting: The state’s new method for conducting primary elections is an asinine idea that can lead to perverse and anti-majoritarian consequences. The most obvious effect the jungle system has had is to convey a clear advantage to the party that runs fewer candidates for an office. Under the so-called jungle primary system, which came into being through a 2010 ballot measure that voters narrowly ratified, primary voters can cast their ballot for any candidate in the June election, and the top two finishers, regardless of party, advance to the November runoff. Both the 2012 and the 2014 primaries were conducted under these rules, so we can now look at the effects this new process has had on California politics.

Kansas: Proof of citizenship law will be focus of secretary of state race | Wichita Eagle

With Aug. 5 primary elections less than two months away, more than 18,000 potential voters find themselves with an incomplete registration status because their applications have not met the state’s proof of citizenship law. The issue is at the center of the race for secretary of state – the state’s top election officer. Scott Morgan, a Republican challenger, and Jean Schodorf, the Democratic candidate, both accuse incumbent Kris Kobach of disenfranchising voters. Kobach argues that the controversy has been overblown and says voters can fix their incomplete status. He also argues that the law helps prevent election fraud. The secretary of state’s office tracks the totals at the start of every month. As of June 1 there were 18,071 incomplete voter registrations, according to spokeswoman V. Kay Curtis.

Minnesota: No excuse needed to vote absentee in Minnesota | Star Tribune

Minnesotans will no longer have to stretch the truth to get an absentee ballot. A new law, approved overwhelmingly last year, will allow voters to request absentee ballots regardless of whether they can get to their polling places on Election Day. The program, coupled with online tools that will let voters register online and check the status of their ballots, is part of a nationwide movement to make voting easier. Minnesota’s law doesn’t go as far as those in some states, where vote-by-mail and early voting have become commonplace, but its supporters say the changes will help the state maintain its best-in-the-nation turnout status. “I think anything that permits more people to vote, as long as they are doing so lawfully, is a boon,” said DFL Gov. Mark Dayton. “The more people who will vote, the better off we’ll be.”

Mississippi: Conservatives Plan to Use Poll Watchers in Mississippi | New York Times

As Senator Thad Cochran, the veteran Republican, fights for his political life in Mississippi by taking the unexpected step of courting black Democrats, conservative organizations working to defeat him are planning to deploy poll watchers to monitor his campaign’s turnout operation in Tuesday’s runoff election. Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, president of the Senate Conservatives Fund, a political action committee that has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars backing Mr. Cochran’s Tea Party opponent, State Senator Chris McDaniel, said in an interview on Sunday that his group was joining with Freedom Works and the Tea Party Patriots in a “voter integrity project” in Mississippi. The groups will deploy observers in areas where Mr. Cochran is recruiting Democrats, Mr. Cuccinelli said. J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department official and conservative commentator who said he was advising the effort, described the watchers as “election observers,” mostly Mississippi residents, who will be trained to “observe whether the law is being followed.”

Montana: State Republicans vote for closed primaries, for runoff elections | Billings Gazette

Irked at what they believe is Democrats interfering in their primary elections, state Republican Party delegates on Saturday called for closing their primaries and allowing only registered Republicans to vote in them. Delegates also voted to support a second measure calling for quick runoff elections in general elections between the two candidates with the most votes. Runoffs would take place if no one in the general election won the majority of the votes. Neither resolution will take effect unless the Legislature passes laws to implement them or a court orders them. They simply reflect the viewpoints of a majority of the 207 convention Republican delegates present. The resolution for a closed Republican primary sparked a debate.

Oregon: Backers of ‘top two’ nonpartisan primary say they have enough signatures to make ballot | The Oregonian

James Kelly, the chief petitioner of an initiative that would radically rewrite Oregon’s primary system, said Thursday that he believes his group has gathered enough signatures to get on the November ballot. Kelly, a Portland businessman who now lives on an eastern Oregon ranch, said his group will finish petitioning Friday and most likely turn in signatures early next week.  He said they’ve collected about 145,000 signatures, which gives them a large margin to ensure they have the 87,213 valid signatures from registered voters needed to qualify. Kelly’s initiative would replace Oregon’s partisan primary races with the type of system now used in California and Washington. Under this system, all of the candidates would be listed on the same primary ballot, and the top two finishers regardless of party would advance to the general election.

Wisconsin: Rigged maps mean less choice for voters | Wisconsin State Journal

Nearly half of all voters this fall will have little choice in who represents them in the Wisconsin Legislature. That’s because 55 of 116 legislative seats up for election will be uncontested or lack a major-party challenger, according to a tally by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance. This is true even though an unusually large number of incumbents, 29, are leaving the Legislature. Open seats typically invite more competition. Yet the total number of candidates for state Senate and Assembly — 246 — is among the lowest over the last eight elections, the Taxpayers Alliance found. A lot of factors may dissuade potential candidates from running, including the nasty and expensive nature of campaigns.

Afghanistan: Election Official Draws Ire of Abdullah Supporters | Wall Street Journal

Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah’s campaign stepped up pressure on Afghanistan’s chief election officer on Sunday, releasing phone recordings that allegedly show the officer orchestrated the rigging of the nation’s election. Mr. Abdullah, a former foreign minister, has demanded that the chief election officer, Ziaulhaq Amarkhil be fired, accusing him and his Independent Election Commission of perpetrating “industrial-scale” fraud in favor of the rival contender, Ashraf Ghani, in the June 14 runoff election. Mr. Amarkhil, shown a transcript of the recordings before the Abdullah campaign released them, said he doesn’t recall having had such a conversation. “I would never talk like that,” he said in an interview.

China: Hong Kong unofficial referendum extended after online voting problem | Deutsche Welle

Voters in Hong Kong will have a further week to cast their votes either online or at the polling booth in a referendum on democratic reform that was due to finish on Sunday. Although the unofficial referendum has no legal force, it is offering a choice of three options on how the 2017 chief executive ballot should be carried out. Each option would allow voters to choose candidates for the top job. China’s State Council called the vote “illegal and invalid.” The current system allows a 1,200 member committee to choose the former British colony’s leader.

China: Poll on Democracy Draws Big Turnout in Hong Kong | New York Times

Participation in an informal poll to gauge Hong Kong’s desire for democracy is exceeding expectations, helped on Sunday by hundreds of volunteers who are reaching potential voters in subway stations and shopping malls, bringing American-style retail politics to one small corner of the People’s Republic of China. Three days into a 10-day voting period, more than 689,000 ballots had been cast, equal to almost one-fifth of the number of registered voters in Hong Kong, a former British colony that was returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. Organizers had publicly said they hoped for at least 100,000 participants in the poll, which has been condemned as “illegal and invalid” by the central government in Beijing. Most votes have been cast online — on computers through a website or by smartphones with an app — but on Sunday, polling centers opened across Hong Kong, and people voted in curtained booths. The poll is nonbinding and does not have the backing of the Hong Kong government.

Mauritania: Result of presidential vote awaited amid controversy and poll boycott | The National

Mauritania awaited the results of its presidential election on Sunday with incumbent Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz expected to win handily after his main rivals boycotted a process they regard as a sham. The former general, who seized power in the north-west African nation in 2008 coup, campaigned strongly on his success in fighting armed groups linked to Al Qaeda at home and in neighbouring Sahel nations. Men and women voted separately on Saturday, in accordance with the country’s Islamic law, emerging from voting booths to stain their fingers with ink to show they had voted.

New Zealand: Mixed Member Proportional System: why some want change | Bay of Plenty Times News

MMP has enjoyed more than a two-decade tenure as New Zealand’s voting system. But three months out from the general election, cracks are showing. Cassandra Mason investigates the prides and pitfalls of MMP and whether there’s room for change. New Zealand’s mixed member proportional system (MMP) ousted first past the post (FPP) when it was voted in in 1993. The change answered calls from an increasingly diverse New Zealand that Parliament more closely resemble its population. With September’s election on the horizon, the system’s more controversial characteristics are fuelling debate. Many maintain that MMP is the only truly democratic way to represent a population, while critics say it gives minor parties disproportionate power and influence, putting politics before people. So who’s right?

Poland: Ruling party ‘paid rival to pull out of election’ – magazine | Reuters

A Polish news magazine said on Sunday it had obtained a secret recording of a former minister saying the ruling party had settled the debts of a rival candidate in the 2005 presidential election in exchange for his withdrawal from the race. The report in Wprost magazine was the latest to emerge from a series of mysterious tapes that have tarnished the government’s reputation and confronted Prime Minister Donald Tusk with his biggest challenge since taking power in 2007. Wprost published what it said were excerpts of a secret conversation at a restaurant between Slawomir Nowak, a former infrastructure minister, and Dariusz Zawadka, a former head of military special forces and now deputy head of oil pipelines operator PERN.