National: States seek rehearing of voter citizenship lawsuit | Lawrence Journal-World

Kansas and Arizona have asked a federal appeals court panel to revisit its decision allowing residents of those states to register to vote using a federal form without having to provide proof of citizenship. The states submitted a petition late Monday asking the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals panel to rehear the case, saying they believe the court overlooked certain legal issues when it ruled against them in November. The appeals court ruled that Kansas and Arizona cannot demand federal election officials help them enforce their state laws requiring new voters to submit a birth certificate, passport or other papers documenting U.S. citizenship. The panel overturned a March ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Eric Melgren that required the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to tailor its federal voter registration form for those states to require those proof-of-citizenship documents.

Full Article: States seek rehearing of voter citizenship lawsuit /

Connecticut: Lawmakers Plan To Tackle Election Reform | CT News Junkie

With the 2014 election in the rearview mirror, the legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee in the coming session will look to address some of the issues raised during this year’s campaigns and at the polls. The 2014 election was the first test of Connecticut’s campaign finance laws as they were modified by the legislature in 2013, when lawmakers reacted to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision by easing limitations on the amount of money political parties could raise and contribute to candidates using the public financing system. Rep. Ed Jutila, one of the committee’s co-chairman, said he was wary of those changes to begin with. “Now, looking back after an election cycle with those changes, I think we need to revisit them. I think we may have over-reacted,” he said. The new rules allowed the state Democratic Party to spend $207,000 on senator-elect Ted Kennedy Jr.’s public-financed campaign.

Full Article: CT News Junkie | Lawmakers Plan To Tackle Election Reform.

Delaware: Fourth Kent County recount ends in tie | Delaware Online

It’s a tie. Candidates for the Kent County Recorder of Deeds position are at a dead heat after a court-ordered hand recount of absentee ballots Monday afternoon. Both Republican challenger La Mar Gunn and Democrat incumbent Betty Lou McKenna are deadlocked with 19,248 votes each in a race that has already seen three recounts prior to Monday. The tie – unprecedented in recent history – has yet to be certified. Gunn could still mount a legal challenge over one absentee ballot that he and the GOP contend was unclear as to what the voter’s intent was. 

Full Article: Fourth Kent County recount ends in tie.

Iowa: One third of Iowans voted a straight ticket in November | Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier

One of every three Iowans — 37 percent — voted a straight-party ticket in the 2014 general election, statistics the Iowa secretary of state’s office compiled for the first time revealed. Expect those results to be part of another bid in the 2015 Iowa Legislature to eliminate straight-ticket voting, the practice that allows voters to fill one oval on the ballot for all of the candidates in one political party. Rep. Peter Cownie, R-West Des Moines, said this week he has filed another attempt to pass the straight-ticket ban in the upcoming session. “This is one area where, if we can just take a little bit of partisanship out of the process, I think it serves all Iowans better,” Cownie said.

Full Article: One third of Iowans voted a straight ticket in November.

Virginia: Voters Sue Virginia Over Election Districting | Courthouse News Service

The Virginia Board of Elections is under fire for alleged racial gerrymandering during a 2011 voter redistricting plan for the House of Delegates. In a lawsuit filed in the Richmond, Va. Federal Court, a dozen voters say the committee violated electoral rights by packing black voters into fragmented and irregularly shaped district lines — targeting a 55 percent threshold and significantly decreasing compactness in these areas. “As a result, African-American voters were illegally packed into the Challenged Districts, thereby diminishing their influence in the surrounding districts,” the complaint says. “The General Assembly adopted the 55% racial threshold without justification, including any determination that the threshold was reasonably necessary to avoid retrogression in each of the Challenged Districts or otherwise comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”

Full Article: Courthouse News Service.

Virginia: Governor eyes new election machines | GoDanRiver

If Gov. Terry McAuliffe has his way, there will be new voting machines across the commonwealth in time for the 2015 November elections. McAuliffe announced in a news release last week that his proposed budget includes $28 million to replace the variety of voting machines in the state with a single type of machine that will use paper ballots that get scanned into an electronic format. The switch will remove touch-screen voting machines that proved to be a problem in the 2014 election, during which 49 localities reported voting equipment issues with no paper trail to fall back on, McAuliffe said. “[W]e cannot expect Virginians to come to the polls on Election Day if we cannot ensure that their votes will be counted correctly and in a timely manner,” McAuliffe said in the release. “The problems Virginians encountered on Election Day this year were unacceptable, which is why I have taken unprecedented steps to replace all legacy voting equipment in the commonwealth with state-of-the-art machines that have paper trails and will update our Department of Elections website. The money will cover new voting machines for 2,166 precincts in the state as well as reimburse 401 precincts that have already purchased the approved machines.

Full Article: Governor eyes new election machines - Danville.

Greece: Greece plunged into crisis as failure to elect president sets up snap election | The Guardian

Fears were growing on Monday night of a fresh crisis in the eurozone after Greece failed to elect a head of state, triggering a snap election that is tipped to bring radical, anti-austerity leftists to power. The Athens stock exchange slumped by more than 10% at one point as concerns mounted over the political turmoil likely to hit the twice bailed-out country. The effective interest rate on the nation’s three-year debt soared to more than 12% – signalling investor fears that Greece will not be able to repay its loans in the short term. Elections were called for 25 January after the government failed to find enough votes to elect its preferred candidate for president, the former European commissioner Stavros Dimas. With the vehemently anti-cuts Syriza opposition ahead in the polls, the campaign will now revive the debate about austerity policies across the eurozone and raise questions over the harsh terms attached to Greece’s €240bn (£188bn) bailouts. 

Full Article: Greece plunged into crisis as failure to elect president sets up snap election | World news | The Guardian.

Liberia: Outgoing Senate Leader Sees Need for Electoral Reform | Sierra Leone Times

The outgoing Liberian Senate Pro Tempore said that while there were some flaws in the December 20 special senatorial election, Liberians must respect and improve on their electoral process. Senator Gbehzongar Findley of Grand Bassa County lost his seat to Jonathan Kaipay of the opposition Liberty Party. Elections Commission Chair Jerome Korkoya announced the final results Saturday. It appears the ruling Unity Party will have won seven or eight Senate seats when the legislative body reconvenes next month.

Full Article: Liberia’s Outgoing Senate Leader Sees Need for Electoral Reform - Sierra Leone Times.

Sri Lanka: UN chief calls for ‘peaceful and credible’ election in Sri Lanka | Colombo Page

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has conveyed his “strong expectation” that the Government of Sri Lanka will ensure “the peaceful and credible conduct” of its upcoming Presidential election. The Secretary-General spoke on the phone with Sri Lanka’s Minister of External Affairs Prof. GL Peiris on 24 December and reaffirmed the UN’s continuous support for reconciliation, political dialogue and accountability as the country heads towards the election on 8 January 2015.

Full Article: Sri Lanka : UN chief calls for \'peaceful and credible\' election in Sri Lanka.

National: Discord Brews Over SEC Campaign-Finance Rule | Wall Street Journal

A Securities and Exchange Commission rule designed to limit conflicts of interest in state contracting is becoming less effective amid the rise of super PACs and should be broadened, groups that track campaign finance say. The SEC’s so-called pay-to-play rule, which applies to state officials including governors, could become a prominent factor in the 2016 presidential election given that four or more Republican governors who would be in office during the campaign have said they may run or are thought to be considering a candidacy. The rule effectively prohibits certain employees of financial-services companies that do—or might do—business with state agencies from contributing to the officials who oversee those agencies. The rule, adopted in 2010, was intended to prevent political contributions from influencing state contracting decisions.

Full Article: Discord Brews Over SEC Campaign-Finance Rule - WSJ.

Arizona: Supreme Court to settle Arizona redistricting fight | The Verde Independent

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide who exactly is the “Legislature’ in Arizona, at least for purposes of drawing political lines. In a brief order Tuesday, the justices set March 2 to hear arguments by attorneys for the organized Legislature that only they — meaning the 90 members — can divide up the state into its nine congressional districts. They contend that’s what the U.S. Constitution requires. If the high court agrees, that would pave the way for the Republican-controlled Legislature to redraw the lines ahead of the 2016 election. And that would allow them to reconfigure the maps to give GOP candidates a better chance of winning — and of improving the 5-4 split in the congressional delegation this year’s election gave to Republicans. But first they have to convince the justices that the majority of a three-judge panel got it wrong when they concluded otherwise. The fight is over a provision in the federal Constitution which says the “times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives shall be prescribed in each state by the Legislature thereof.’

Full Article: Supreme Court to settle Arizona redistricting fight - The Verde Independent - Cottonwood, Arizona.

Iowa: Online voter registration is coming to Iowa, Pate says | Des Moines Register

Incoming Secretary of State Paul Pate says allowing Iowans to register to vote online will be a top priority when he takes office next month. The effort is already underway, and online registration should be available before next fall’s local government elections, he said. Pate, a Republican, will succeed Matt Schultz as the state’s top elections administrator after winning a statewide election in November. The transition opens a new chapter for an office that was at the center of several legal and political fights over the last four years. In an interview with The Des Moines Register, the secretary-elect outlined several elections-related priorities as well as improvements to the office’s business registration functions. His ultimate goal, he said, is to increase access to the polls and voter participation while maintaining ballot security. “All elections offices in the country really have to work harder at keeping the technology updated and balancing out participation with integrity,” he said.

Full Article: Online voter registration is coming to Iowa, Pate says.

Iowa: Trends show partisan voting popularity in Iowa | Ames Tribune

One of every three Story County voters — 35 percent — and 37 percent of voters statewide voted a straight-party ticket in the 2014 general election, statistics the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office compiled for the first time revealed. In Story County, 6,004 Democrats and 5,346 Republicans voted straight-party tickets, as did 244 residents for the New Independent Party Iowa and 115 for the Libertarian Party. The practice allows voters to fill one oval on the ballot for all of the candidates in one political party. In the county, 11,709 of the total 33,213 voters chose to do so. Straight-party voting played a role in the race for the Story County Board of Supervisors, in which voters could select up to two candidates on their ballots. A second Republican joined the race late, likely damaging independent challenger Lauris Olson’s bid for a seat through straight-party voting. All four contenders publicly encouraged voters not to cast straight-party tickets.

Full Article: Trends show partisan voting popularity in Iowa | Ames Tribune.

Editorials: Will fairer districts mean longer Ohio legislative terms? | Benjamin Lanka/Cincinnati Inquirer

Ohio lawmakers coalesced at the last minute to approve a deal that could make its legislative maps fairer and more competitive — and could open the way to examine letting those legislators serve longer in office. With redistricting reform headed to Ohio voters in 2015, many legislators believe now is the time to review the state’s term limit restrictions. Rep. Vernon Sykes, D-Akron, helped lead the redistricting effort, which he said had to happen to begin even examining term limits. “Without a fairer system, some legislators were more reluctant to deal with extending terms,” he said. The Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission has begun discussions on the issue, Executive Director Steven Hollon said. He said a few presentations were given on term limits and that it was mentioned as a topic that could be tackled in 2015, but no definitive plans have yet been created.

Full Article: Will fairer districts mean longer Ohio legislative terms?.

Editorials: Reforms would make it easier to vote in Pennsylvania | Daily Local

Pennsylvania state government behind the times? Let’s count the ways. We can list failure to privatize liquor sales and a system so far behind that visitors are amazed at the hoops we jump through to buy beer, wine and spirits. Go up the scale in intensity and we encounter an outdated property tax system for funding schools, and a public pension system racking up a $50 billion liability shortfall. Our lawmakers choose denial over solutions. Twice a year, we encounter another area in which the Commonwealth falls woefully short — ease of voting. Unlike other states, Pennsylvania has failed to adopt practices made possible in the internet age that make it easy for people to register and to vote. Instead of making the process more customer-friendly, Republicans two years ago used their majority in the House to push through even stricter requirements for voter ID. The new law which required a state-issued photo ID for all voters was challenged and struck down in Commonwealth Court. Now, some legislators are hoping to enact some meaningful reform and get Pennsylvania voter services out of the past. PAIndependent reported last week that a number of proposals are in the works to make voting more user-friendly.

Full Article: Editorial: Reforms would make it easier to vote in Pa..

South Dakota: Shannon County name change in Legislature’s lap | Rapid City Journal

In the November general election, voters in Shannon County overwhelmingly approved changing the name to Oglala Lakota County, but the new name cannot go into effect without legislative action. Patrick Weber with the Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s office said it’s unknown when the South Dakota Legislature intends to pass the needed joint resolution to rename Shannon County. The county includes the majority of the land on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. It had been named after Peter Shannon, a chief justice of the Dakota Territory Supreme Court who later helped negotiate land deals with the Lakota. Shannon isn’t well thought of among many Native Americans. When the name change is finalized, it will mark the first time in more than 100 years that a South Dakota county has undergone a name change, according to the South Dakota Historical Society.

Full Article: Shannon County name change in Legislature's lap.

Canada: Online voting unlikely in next Saskatchewan civic elections | The Star Phoenix

When it comes time for Saskatoon citizens to choose their mayor and councillors in 2016, they probably won’t be able to do so on their laptops, tablets or smartphones. Internet voting – which has become increasingly common in municipal elections across Canada – is unlikely to make a debut in any Saskatchewan cities or rural municipalities by the next election. “We’re looking down the road (from 2016),” said Rod Nasewich, legislation and regulations director for the provincial ministry of government relations. Before Internet voting or Internet voting pilot projects are permitted in the province, Saskatchewan’s Local Government Elections Act would have to be amended. Nasewich said such changes are not being pursued because “There hasn’t been a lot of widespread lobbying or support from the municipal sector for that.” 

Full Article: Online voting unlikely in next Saskatchewan civic elections.

Croatia: Presidency to be decided in runoff | Associated Press

The liberal incumbent and a conservative rival are heading for a showdown in a runoff presidential election in Croatia, according to the partial count of the Sunday poll, held amid severe economic woes in EU’s newest member. Current President Ivo Josipovic, who is backed by the center-left government, held a slight lead with some 39 percent over opposition candidate Kolinda Grabar-Kitarevic at around 36 percent, early results released by the election authorities showed. Two other candidates were far behind. Since no one took more than half of the votes, a runoff will be held in two weeks. Analysts said no major change was expected with all the ballots counted.

Full Article: Croatia presidency to be decided in runoff - Fairfield Citizen.

Greece: Greece faces crucial vote that could trigger election | Reuters

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras faces a vote in parliament on Monday that will decide whether the country goes to snap elections that could bring the leftwing Syriza party to power and derail an international bailout. In the most hotly contested vote for president since Greece joined the euro more than a decade ago, the result in the final round of voting is likely to be decided by a small handful of deputies. If lawmakers fail to elect a successor to 85-year-old Karolos Papoulias, a snap election will be held within weeks. Syriza, leading in the opinion polls, vowed again to renegotiate the joint European Union-IMF bailout bailout Greece needs to pay its bills and roll over its debt.

Full Article: Greece faces crucial vote that could trigger election | Reuters.

Sweden: Deal that counters far right avoids snap poll | i24

Sweden’s government on Saturday announced a deal with the opposition that will avert the country’s first snap elections in more than half a century and counter the rising influence of the anti-immigrant far right. The deal announced by Prime Minister Stefan Loefven, in office for less than three months, will see the minority center-left government remain in power. The far right has however threatened a no-confidence vote. Loefven had called early elections this month after the populist and anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats torpedoed his fledgling government’s budget. The crisis had dealt a severe blow to Sweden’s self-image as a tolerant nation and illustrated the rising political fortunes of anti-immigrant parties in much of Europe.

Full Article: Sweden avoids snap poll in deal that counters far right | i24news - See beyond.