National: A comprehensive investigation of voter impersonation finds 31 credible incidents out of one billion ballots cast | The Washington Post

Voter ID laws are back in the news once again, with two new opinions from the Wisconsin Supreme Court late last week dealing with the state’s ID requirement, which would allow people to vote only if they provide certain forms of government-issued ID. The Court made some minor changes to the law but otherwise upheld it. However, the ID requirement is still on hold pending a federal lawsuit. Part of this litigation — and any rational debate about the issue generally — hinges on two things: costs and benefits.  The costs of these sorts of laws vary, because the laws themselves differ from state to state (some are far more burdensome than others). The ostensible benefits, though, are all the same. And in addressing these purported benefits, the Wisconsin Supreme Court blew it.  Twice. … I’ve been tracking allegations of fraud for years now, including the fraud ID laws are designed to stop. In 2008, when the Supreme Court weighed in on voter ID, I looked at every single allegation put before the Court. And since then, I’ve been following reports wherever they crop up. To be clear, I’m not just talking about prosecutions. I track any specific, credible allegation that someone may have pretended to be someone else at the polls, in any way that an ID law could fix. So far, I’ve found about 31 different incidents (some of which involve multiple ballots) since 2000, anywhere in the country. If you want to check my work, you can read a comprehensive list of the incidents below.

National: Where is Voter Discrimination the Worst? | Frontline

Voting discrimination persists nationwide, but the worst offenders today are still southern states with a history of such actions, according to a new report that examined 18 years of lawsuits, challenges and settlements. The report, by the National Commission on Voting Rights, is the most comprehensive look at voter discrimination since 2006, when Congress reauthorized the Voting Rights Act. Congress had commissioned a similar report in the lead-up to the reauthorization. The commission was formed in the wake of Shelby v. Holder, the landmark June 2013 Supreme Court ruling that overturned a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. The provision had required that nine states with a history of discrimination, and a handful of counties in other states, submit all voting-law changes to the federal government for preclearance. The court rejected that provision, saying that in a post-civil rights era, it was no longer necessary or constitutional to single out these states because of their history. After Shelby, the commission, a consortium of more than 12 civil rights groups, set out to gather a current record of racial voting discrimination and other election administration problems from 1995 through June 2014. It held more than 25 regional and state-based hearings nationwide.

Florida: Legislature convenes rushed redistricting special session | Orlando Sentinel

Lawmakers released a re-drawn congressional map Thursday which would shift the contours of seven U.S. House districts spread throughout Central Florida. On the first day of a court-ordered special session, House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, showed how they plan to resolve the two improperly gerrymandered congressional districts held by U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, and Daniel Webster, R-Winter Garden. The new map would shift the city of Sanford out of Brown’s seat, and remove an “appendage” of voters in Orange County out of Webster’s. It would drop the black voting-age population of Brown’s seat from 50 percent down to 48.1 percent, and shave some GOP voters from Webster’s seat. But it also changes the maps of five other congressional seats, within 23 counties. Lawmakers said they made those changes in order to solve overall compactness issues with their original plan. “It was not just the two appendages. We needed to address compactness as a whole,” said Senate Reapportionment Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, who added it improved the “serpentine-like” shape of Brown’s seat.

National: Wall Street Campaign-Cash Restrictions Face Legal Attack | Bloomberg

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s chances to be the 2012 Republican vice-presidential nominee were hampered by a U.S. regulation that could have an even bigger impact on the next race for the White House. The three-year-old rule from the Securities and Exchange Commission effectively bars governors and other state officials from raising money from Wall Street for state or federal elections. Having Christie on the ticket would have complicated Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, which took in more money from securities and investment firms than any other industry. Now, with governors including Christie, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana contemplating a White House run in 2016, two state Republican committees have filed a lawsuit to overturn the regulation.

Editorials: Voter ID laws a solution in search of a nonexistent problem | Christian Science Monitor

After Republicans scored major victories in state legislative elections across the country in 2010, they embarked on an ambitious legislative agenda on a whole host of issues. One of the most prominent agenda items in state after state has been the adopting of new laws requiring voters to present some form of identification at the polls before being allowed to vote. Opponents argue that these laws tend to discriminate against older and minority voters, some of whom may not have the types of identification required by the law, may no longer have access to the documents such as birth records that would allow them to obtain such identification, or may not have the resources to get that identification because of difficulties that some states have placed on obtaining identification. Proponents of these laws, on the other hand, maintain that they are necessary to prevent voter fraud, presumably in the form of people showing up at the polls claiming to be someone that they are not. This is really the only form of voter fraud that requiring identification at the polls could possibly combat.

Arizona: Peoria council candidate left off ballot — again | The Arizona Republic

Peoria City Council candidate Ken Krieger’s name was not on ballots sent out last week to more than 8,500 residents. County officials scrambled to fix their error by mailing out replacement ballots this week, but his name once again was left off. “All I wanted to be was on the ballot,” Krieger said. “I understand that mistakes can be made but when it happens twice, it’s just trampling on a person’s constitutional rights.” The repeated omission has forced Peoria officials to call an emergency City Council meeting today so council members can decide what to do next, Deputy City Clerk Linda Blas said. What that decision could be is unclear. “They’re still discussing (options),” Blas said. “The council will make the decision on what instructions they would like to give to (the) county.” Maricopa County Elections Department Director Karen Osborne said the city has various options, including a third attempt to send out the correct ballot or canceling this month’s primary election for the council district and holding it with the general election Nov. 4.

California: Legislation would require automatic recounts in very close statewide finishes | The Sacramento Bee

California taxpayers would pick up the tab for recounts in close statewide elections under soon-to-be-amended legislation that follows criticism of existing state rules during last month’s recount in the controller’s race. Assembly Bill 2194 by Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-San Mateo, would require the state to cover the cost of recounts in any statewide contest where the margin is one-tenth of 1 percent or less. Under current law, any voter can request a recount in particular areas as long as they pay for it. If the recount changes the outcome, another voter can request a recount in other places.

California: Voting rights activists seek governor’s help in Palmdale case | Los Angeles Times

Voting rights activists on Thursday petitioned the governor to intervene in their battle with the city of Palmdale over its method of electing officials. Nearly 200 Palmdale voters signed the petition asking the governor to exercise authority under state Elections Code Sections 10300-10312, according to Kevin I. Shenkman, an attorney for the plaintiffs who sued the city. They want Gov. Jerry Brown to appoint a three-member commission to oversee a new election for the Palmdale City Council.  Shenkman said the petition drive was spearheaded by the Antelope Valley chapters of the NAACP and LULAC and the African American Caucus of the California Democratic Party.

Voting Blogs: Colorado opens its books to the people and data geeks | electionlineWeekly

There’s a lot of talk these days about transparent and open governments and recently the Colorado Secretary of State’s office put their money where their mouth is and created a statewide elections data portal. The Accountability in Colorado Elections (ACE) site was launched in late July and it provides, through a series of interactive maps, charts and tables, Colorado election data by county. Although all of this information has long been publicly available, it was not centrally located, thus sending those seeking the information to as many as 64 different websites and elections office. This is a big step forward in the world of elections data. “Over a century ago, states started reporting election returns in a centralized, uniform fashion, which was an important step in reassuring the public that election results were determined above-board,” said Charles Stewart, the Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science at MIT. “Now, the big question is, ‘what are election officials DOING in their jobs?’ Something like ACE helps answer that question.  Colorado is the first state to put all of the county information in one centralized location.

Florida: Wanted: Honest Algorithms For Voter Redistricting | InformationWeek

When drawing new districts for Congress and the State Legislature, Florida has what sounds like a simple rule: “Districts shall be as nearly equal in population as is practicable; districts shall be compact; and districts shall, where feasible, utilize existing political and geographical boundaries.” Yet as I write this, the Legislature is meeting in special session to address a judge’s ruling that lawmakers “made a mockery” of the redistricting procedure when they drew new maps in 2012, tilting them in favor of the Republican majority. Under the ruling, legislators must now redraw at least two districts — potentially forcing elections in the affected areas to be postponed until after November. In 2010, I campaigned for the FairDistricts amendment to the Florida constitution, which included the anti-gerrymandering rule quoted above, stating that districts should be compact. There was more to the legal language, of course, including clauses designed to avoid conflicts with other state and federal laws. But I thought the principles were pretty clear. While gathering petition signatures outside the library to get the measure on the ballot, I kept a map of some of the odder jigsaw puzzle piece districts in Florida taped to the reverse side of my clipboard. “What it will mean, if this passes,” I would tell people, “is that districts will be neat little squares, pretty much, instead of crazy squiggles.” And yet somehow the redistricting process, following passage of the amendment, still produced Florida’s US Congressional District 5 (since 2013) via Wikimedia Commons. That is Congressional District 5, which stretches from Jacksonville to Orlando, a length from tip to tail of well over 100 miles.

Editorials: Redistricting 2.0: Lots of shoes still to drop | Tom Jackson/The Tampa Tribune

So the Legislature is back at it, once more attempting to thread the devilishly minuscule eye of a needle only lawyers could love. Which is appropriate, because the thing was the creation of lawyers in the first place, and lawyers incapable of making the absurd and impractical seem reasonable soon come to be known as teachers or journalists or multilevel marketers. I mean, as anyone who has sat through a courtroom case can tell you, if all you hear is one side — it tends not to matter which side — even the lawyerly equivalent of Boo Weekly can make his version of the argument sound impenetrable. This is not to suggest, back in 2010 when voters were challenged to decide how future political boundaries would be drawn, the face-value presentation on behalf of compact, contiguous and party-neutral districts lacked merit. Indeed, there was then and remains today much to commend about such an arrangement, the very least of which is the likelihood that districts thus composed would simultaneously yield fewer safe seats while creating more competition. The last I looked, competition was revered as among the most precious of American virtues.

Montana: Walsh drops out of U.S. Senate race | Billings Gazette

Sen. John Walsh said Thursday he is pulling out of the Senate race because his campaign was distracted by the controversy over allegations that he plagiarized a U.S. Army War College research paper. Walsh, a Democrat, said he decided to drop out of the race after canceling campaign events this week so he and his family could gather in his Helena home to decide his political future. Walsh will serve out the rest of his Senate term, which ends in early January 2015. The New York Times reported July 23 that Walsh had plagiarized large portions of the research paper in 2007. The plagiarism charge has dominated Montana news since then. Editorials in the state’s largest daily newspapers had called on Walsh to drop out of the race because of the plagiarism. “I am ending my campaign so that I can focus on fulfilling the responsibility entrusted to me as your U.S. senator,” Walsh said in a statement to supporters. “You deserve someone who will always fight for Montana, and I will.”

US Virgin Islands: St. Croix Elections Board recommends changes to early voting bill | Virgin Islands Daily News

During its regular meeting Wednesday, the St. Croix District Board of Elections voted to forward recommendations to the Senate and governor that they say will safeguard the rights of residents and make the process of early voting more efficient for the board. Board member Raymond Williams made a motion that was approved by the board to send recommendations to Gov. John deJongh Jr. on changes that should be included in the early voting bill, as requested by his office. Williams said current language in proposed changes to legislation are contradictory, and the members present agreed that at the next joint board meeting they also will recommend that the joint board forward additional suggestions to the chief legal counsel of the V.I. Legislature to review. The board agreed that they will discuss with the joint board the ability to recreate walk-in ballots in the event that a ballot is not readable by the machine. Williams said that would allow them to properly make selections when the intent of the voter is clear. Chairman Adelbert Bryan said the board is in the process of preparing to go before the Legislature for its annual budget hearing Aug. 19.

Editorials: Duo ballot an election headache in Virginia | The Daily Progress

This complicates things. Gov. Terry McAuliffe has called for a special election in the 7th Congressional District to fill the vacancy being left by Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Henrico. Mr. Cantor was defeated in the Republican primary in June and lost the right to defend his seat. Now he says he will resign this month. Granted, Mr. Cantor’s decision to leave Congress in August was billed as an effort to spare Virginia two additional months of representation by a lame-duck leader. But his surprise move also pushes candidates and, to some degree, voters into an accelerated scramble. Whoever wins the special election in November will have to take his seat in Congress almost immediately — two months earlier than expected. Had not Mr. Cantor announced his retirement, there would have been no special election and the winner of the general election would have been seated in January. The accelerated timetable may pose a hardship even for major party candidates Dave Brat, R-Henrico, and Jack Trammell, D-Louisa. And it certainly will pose a hardship for Libertarian candidate James A. Carr Jr. of Louisa County.

Afghanistan: Kerry Visits Afghanistan to Urge Deal on the Election | New York Times

Secretary of State John Kerry made an unannounced visit here on Thursday to press Afghanistan’s rival presidential candidates to form a government of national unity and rescue the political agreement he negotiated almost four weeks ago. The Obama administration is urging Afghan politicians to accept the result of an internationally monitored audit so a new president can be inaugurated before NATO nations hold a summit meeting in Wales in early September. “We would like to see the president inaugurated and arriving at NATO as part of a government of national unity,” said a senior State Department official who is traveling with Mr. Kerry.

Myanmar: Myanmar’s Election Commission Rejects Opposition Call for Longer Campaigns | The Irrawaddy

The Union Election Commission (UEC) has rejected a request from the National League for Democracy (NLD) and ethnic parties to double the length of time parties will have to campaign for Burma’s crucial 2015 elections. The official election regulations will continue to restrict campaigning to 30 days before the polls, according to an election official, although exceptions may be made in remote states where the logistics of campaigning are expected to be difficult. The UEC met on Wednesday with representatives of the NLD—Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party—and five ethnic parties, which proposed amendments to the election rules laid out by the commission last month. Thaung Hlaing, a director at the UEC, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that the parties’ proposal to allow 60 days of campaigning before voting day would not be adopted.

Indonesia: Presidential Election Loser Prabowo Demands New Vote | Bloomberg

Prabowo Subianto, the Suharto-era general who lost Indonesia’s presidential election by millions of votes, called on the Constitutional Court to immediately declare him the winner or else hold a nationwide revote. The demands were included in an updated challenge that Prabowo’s legal team filed with the court alleging fraud in the July 9 presidential poll. Prabowo, 62, says the victory for Joko Widodo, the Jakarta governor known as Jokowi, was “legally invalid” because it was obtained “unlawfully” or through “abuse of authority” by the election commission, the court said in a statement today.

Editorials: The presidential elections that have changed Turkey | Diba Nigar Goksel/Al Jazeera

On August 10, the citizens of Turkey will vote for their country’s president for the first time in history. While previously it was parliament that voted for the head of state, the system now in place is a two-round popular election. The election has changed Turkey even before it has taken place. There are three contenders in the race. The candidate of the AKP, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been prime minister for 11 years. His leadership style has antagonised those it didn’t captivate. Besides reigning over government accomplishments in areas like health care and transportation infrastructure, he has tackled entrenched challenges such as military tutelage and the Kurdish problem. But his actions and rhetoric have polarised society and his intolerance of dissent has created a lot of bad blood. Under Erdogan’s leadership checks on executive power one by one ebbed away.  Erdogan frames his presidency as the necessary step to bring the AKP’s New Turkey vision to fruition. Every time Turkish citizens have gone to the ballot box since November 2002, the AKP has been victorious. Thus Erdogan enters the race riding a wave of invincibility, propelled by a narrative of a predestined victory, not only as the will of the nation, but also of God.