Arizona: No end to 2014 election as House recount begins in Arizona | Los Angeles Times

Yes, this is the campaign season that just won’t end. On Saturday, voters in Louisiana will gather, a month after most states voted, for a runoff for a U.S. Senate seat and some House races. But even then, it’s not over. Election officials in Arizona this week cranked up the machinery for a recount of one particularly close House seat that has Republican challenger Martha McSally 161 votes ahead of Democratic incumbent Ron Barber. The recount in the 2nd Congressional District race was required because the margin was fewer than 200 votes out of nearly 120,000 cast. Barber won the seat in the aftermath of tragedy. He was an aide to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in January 2011 when she was shot in the head in an assassination attempt. Barber was one of 12 people injured by gunfire that day. After his recovery and Giffords’ resignation, Barber won the seat in a June 2012 special election. In the 2012 general election, when he narrowly defeated McSally, Barber benefited from a heavily Democratic electorate; this year, he was fighting a Republican surge.

District of Columbia: September To April And Back? The Saga Of D.C.’s Primary Date Continues | WAMU

D.C. could soon return to a September primary date for local elections, abandoning a brief and controversial experiment with holding the primaries in April. Under a bill set to be considered by the D.C. Council on Tuesday, the city’s primary election would be moved to the first Tuesday in September, effectively reversing a 2011 bill that pushed the primary date to the first Tuesday in April. That bill was passed to put D.C. in compliance with a federal law requiring 45 days between a primary and general election, to better allow military and overseas voters that chance to cast absentee ballots. It also aligned the city’s presidential and local primaries, which prior to 2012 had been held on different dates. But legislators, candidates and voters seemed to have had a hard time adjusting to the new electoral calendar, which required candidates to campaign in wintry weather and left incumbents who failed to win re-election a nine-month-long lame duck period. It also seemed to depress turnout; the April 1 D.C. primary saw less than 27 percent of registered voters actually cast ballots, a historic low for the city’s mayoral primaries. “Given the District’s unique position of having no voting members of the House of Representatives or Senate, District-wide elections have a deep impact on the lives of D.C. residents. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to maintain an electoral process that meets the needs and desires of the District’s residents while maintaining accessibility for military and overseas voters,” said a report from the Council’s Committee on Government Operations, which last week approved the measure.

Illinois: Same-day voter registration on way to becoming reality in Ill. | Chicago Sun Times

A pilot program that allowed same-day voter registration in Illinois in the Nov. 4 election would become permanent under legislation that passed the House Wednesday. Besides allowing people to register and vote on the same day at polling places, the bill would allow extended early voting, as well as make it easier for students to vote at college campuses. The legislation passed the Democrat-controlled House on partisan lines by a 70-44 vote. It’s been amended from the original version that passed the Senate — also controlled by Democrats — so a concurrence vote would need to happen in that chamber before it can be sent to Gov. Pat Quinn. Quinn supported the pilot program, so it’s expected he’d sign the bill into law.

Kentucky: Rand Paul’s latest ballot option: Dare Alison Lundergan Grimes to defy him! | Salon

Senator Rand Paul is running for reelection in 2016. Can you believe it? He’s also probably running for president in 2016. That means that Paul will be running for two (2) offices in Kentucky in 2016 — a double-win for America, but also something that he can’t do according to Kentucky state law. Paul’s favored recourse — getting the Kentucky legislature to eliminate a law stating that “no candidate’s name shall appear on any voting machine or absentee ballot more than once” — is all but dead, after the Kentucky GOP’s efforts to take control of the state House fell short on Election Day. Kentucky’s Democratic Speaker has been clear that he has no intention of bringing up a bill to eliminate the law, because he doesn’t like Rand Paul. This doesn’t leave Paul without options. A couple of them are fairly straightforward: he could just not run in the Kentucky presidential primary and cede those delegates. Or the party could move the presidential primary to a caucus in March and keep the Senate primary in May — something that the party could choose to do without the legislature’s approval, the downside being that the party would have to cover the costs of the caucuses.

Maine: Senate seats Manchester despite contested results | Sun Journal

Despite an ongoing debate about the results of the election in Maine Senate District 25, majority Republicans in the Senate overwhelmed Democratic opposition to provisionally seat GOP candidate Cathy Manchester on Wednesday morning. Manchester’s opponent, Democrat Cathy Breen, was declared the victor by a 32-vote margin in an initial tally of votes after Election Day, prompting Manchester to request a recount. After the recount was conducted on Nov. 18, the result flipped, with GOP candidate appearing to have won by 11 votes.

Ohio: Senate to vote Thursday on legislative redistricting plans | The Columbus Dispatch

The Ohio Senate president said he anticipates a vote on Thursday on a plan that would change the way the state draws legislative districts. But Democrats already say it won’t go very far to end the partisan gerrymandering that allows the majority party to rig the election system to its benefit. Arguing that discussions are not progressing quickly enough on an already-introduced redistricting plan, Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, rolled out a new plan yesterday that would not alter the current process for creating the congressional map. Faber has said he is reluctant to change the congressional mapping process while there is a case out of Arizona pending before the U.S. Supreme Court on how involved a legislature must be in drawing those districts. Reportedly there has been private push-back from Ohio’s congressional delegation on making changes to the current process, which has provided most members with safe seats. Asked about conversations with U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, Faber would say only that he has spoken to various members of the congressional delegation and there are varying opinions.

Voting Blogs: You Can Lie in Ohio: Federal Court Strikes Down Ohio Law Banning False Political Speech | State of Elections

A federal judge in Cincinnati struck down an Ohio law which criminalizes intentionally lying in campaign ads or statements, on the books for decades in early September on First Amendment grounds. The state filed an appeal in October. The law in question makes it criminal to “[p]ost, publish, circulate, distribute, or otherwise disseminate a false statement concerning a candidate, either knowing the same to be false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not, if the statement is designed to promote the election, nomination, or defeat of the candidate,” and gives the Ohio Election Commission enforcement power. The case arose when former U.S. Representative Steve Driehaus filed a criminal complaint against anti-abortion advocacy group the Susan B. Anthony List for claiming that his support for President Obama’s healthcare plan meant he was in favor of tax-payer funded abortion. Driehaus is in fact pro-life. The Susan B. Anthony List then challenged the law’s constitutionality in Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus.

New Mexico: Public land commission recount halted | Ruidoso News

A planned recount in the race for New Mexico Land Commission, scheduled to begin at 8 a.m., Monday, was halted by order of the New Mexico Supreme Court. Instead, key figures in the recount will be in court Monday. Incumbent Commissioner Ray Powell, a Democrat, who trailed Republican Aubrey Dunn by 703 votes in the most recent election results, asked the state Supreme Court Monday to halt temporarily the automatic recount of votes in the contested race. In a filing against the State Canvassing Board, he contended the state board violated state law and election code. The primary focus of Powell’s claim is based on whether state law clearly describes the recount procedure or if the secretary of state should dictate the process. He contends the procedure proposed would not properly check the accuracy of vote tabulating machines.

Utah: GOP sues over nominating system overhaul | Associated Press

The Utah Republican Party filed a lawsuit Monday against the state’s new rule that allows candidates to bypass the caucus and convention system— a legal challenge to a measure approved by the majority of the state GOP. The measure was a compromise the Republican-dominated legislature reached with Count My Vote, which was gathering signatures for an initiative petition that would have let voters decide to abandon the caucus system. The initiative was backed by several high-profile Republicans including former Gov. Mike Leavitt and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Governor Gary Herbert, a Republican, signed it into law. The law, scheduled to take effect next year, preserves Utah’s caucus-convention system but allows candidates to participate in primary elections as an alternative path if they gather enough signatures. Utah’s current, relatively unique system allows candidates to avoid a primary election if they win their party’s nominations with 60 percent of delegate votes.

Japan: Parties begin to seek votes online | The Japan News

A ban on using the Internet in election campaigns has been lifted ahead of the Dec. 14 lower house election, following the upper house election held in summer last year. Each party is participating in the cybercampaign in their own way to attract the attention of voters. The Liberal Democratic Party has made a dedicated website. Linked with Twitter and Facebook accounts of its candidates, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the website is constantly sharing information from candidates on the campaign trail. On Tuesday, the website presented a photo of the prime minister as he visited the area affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake to make a speech supporting another candidate. Komeito has made a website focusing on the party’s most important pledge — introducing a reduced consumption tax rate system for daily necessities and other items when the tax increase to 10 percent is put in place. Their site highlights the importance of the introduction, with an animation and charts. Page views had exceeded 60,000 as of Tuesday, according to the website, which sports the catchphrase “You can understand in one minute.”

Namibia: Electronic Voting Comes to Namibia | Inter Press Service

Presidential polls in Namibia have incumbent prime minister Hage Geigob of the ruling SWAPO party leading with 84 percent of the roughly 10 percent of votes officially released so far but the new electronic polling gizmos are leaving some Namibians skeptical. Some 1.2 million people are expected to cast their votes electronically in the country’s fifth election since independence. It will be the first use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) on the African continent. Voters will select presidential and parliamentary candidates directly on the EVMs – slabs of green and white plastic with the names and images of candidates and their party affiliation – that make a loud beep after each vote. The voting modules will not be connected externally to any sources to prevent tampering, and the commission hopes electronic voting will reduce lines and speed up counting. But according to local media reports, results have been trickling in at a snail’s pace at the election centre in the capital Windhoek, worrying the ruling party.

Sweden: Prime Minister Calls Snap Election After Budget Defeat | Wall Street Journal

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven called the country’s first snap election in decades after a fringe populist party derailed his efforts to gather support for his first budget proposal. The decision, announced Wednesday, marks a rare moment of political drama in a country long known for the stability of its politics and the willingness of opposition lawmakers to work together to find solutions. The election, which is scheduled to be held March 22, would be Sweden’s first snap election since 1958. A decision the day before by the opposition, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats to back an alternative center-right budget plan effectively doomed the Social Democrat prime minister’s budget proposal, leaving him with a spending plan penned by political foes.

Taiwan: Media: Taiwan election ‘no rejection of Beijing’ | BBC

State media warn Taiwan’s resurgent opposition not to see its local election rout of the governing pro-Beijing Kuomintang (KMT) party as a mandate to push for independence. Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou has announced he is stepping down as KMT party chairman in response to the defeat, which was widely seen on the island as a rejection of his party’s push for closer ties with Beijing. An article in the official party paper, the People’s Daily, warns the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to “discard fantasies” about achieving formal independence. “As China’s might and influence expand internationally, it will have more say in the cross-strait ties,” Taiwan analyst Ni Yongjie tells the paper. “It will be difficult for any political forces in Taiwan to resist the peaceful development of the relationship.” China Daily lays the blame for Mr Ma’s defeat squarely on his domestic policies, denying any link to his pro-Beijing stance. But it acknowledges that with fewer than two years left of Mr Ma’s term in office, the KMT’s loss will add “uncertainty” to ties with Beijing, and could create “major difficulties in producing more ground-breaking achievements”.

National: One last try: Senate Dems push campaign finance reform | Politico

Senate Democrats are making one last try to bring their chamber’s campaign finance records into the 21st century, but their effort to attach to it a critical government funding bill will likely require them to make concessions to Republicans to succeed. Unlike House candidates, presidential hopefuls and political action committees, Senate candidates are not required to electronically file their campaign finance reports. The result: Reporters, campaign finance experts and everyone else must manually scroll through Sen. Mary Landrieu’s latest pre-runoff fundraising report, which clocks in at nearly 1,300 pages and is not searchable. So some Senate Democrats are pushing for a bill requiring e-filing to be attached to an expected omnibus government spending bill that would fund the government until next September, according to sources in both parties familiar with the discussions. With Republicans taking the Senate in January, Democrats are hoping for one last opportunity to modernize the campaign finance record-keeping by marrying it with the must-pass omnibus.

Arizona: Giffords’ House seat heads to recount as GOP lead dwindles | CNN

Republicans hoping to secure yet another House victory in their already substantial majority won in the 2014 midterm election are on edge as GOP candidate Martha McSally’s lead over incumbent Rep. Ron Barber has dwindled down to a mere 161 votes, a margin small enough to trigger an automatic recount. This will be the state’s first-ever congressional recount. Emerging from election night, McSally led Barber by a mere 36 votes. But technical difficulties later triggered a recount for early votes in Cochise County — a predominantly Republican area — that gave McSally a slightly greater lead.

Arizona: High court won’t halt 2nd District recount | Associated Press

The Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to halt a recount in southern Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District race between Democratic incumbent Ron Barber and Republican challenger Martha McSally. The high court dismissed a special-action lawsuit filed by a group of voters challenging the state’s plan to use the same computer program it used in the regular ballot count. The justices said in a brief order that the voters could continue to try to challenge the recount rules in Superior Court. “I’m really disappointed,” said Tucson attorney Bill Risner, who filed suit on behalf of seven voters in Cochise and Pima counties and isn’t affiliated with either campaign. “Our courts in general, there’s a real hostility to democracy and getting involved in election stuff. This is a simple case, it’s highly important and they’re making a real mistake in terms of their job of not taking this case.” Risner said he was considering whether to start the case over in the lower court.

Editorials: New Florida voting map tough to unravel | Joe Brown/The Tampa Tribune

Recently released documents related to the decennial redistricting process in Florida show that the firm in charge, Data Targeting, made a concerted effort to benefit the state’s Republican Party and keep it all out of the sunshine. One email even made note of the need to converse over the phone instead of by email. I’m not surprised. Back in July, Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled that Republican operatives “made a mockery of the Legislature’s proclaimed transparent and open process of redistricting.” The 538 pages of records show that’s exactly what happened. While redistricting always has been a kind of behind-closed-doors process, what was different this time around was Florida’s Fair Districts amendment passed by 63 percent of voters. Not only were the state’s open-government laws violated, the amendment states in part that “congressional districts or districting plans may not be drawn to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party.” The next step is up to the Florida Supreme Court. The groups that filed the original challenge will argue that the revised map approved by Judge Lewis after last summer’s special legislative session doesn’t fix the many violations of the amendment. Oral arguments are set for March 4.

Indiana: Hearing set on ousted politician Charlie White’s appeal | Indianapolis Star

The Indiana Court of Appeals is set to hear oral arguments next week in former Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White’s appeal of his perjury, theft and fraud conviction. The hearing is set for 1 p.m. Dec. 9. White’s appeal came after a Hamilton Superior Court judge denied his request to overturn his 2012 conviction of six Class D felony charges. He filed the request in March 2013, saying that his attorney, former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, failed to provide effective counsel. The criminal charges against White stemmed from his residency while he served on the Fishers Town Council. He claimed that he lived at his ex-wife’s home on the east side of Fishers. But prosecutors said he actually lived in a townhouse on the opposite side of town with his then-fiancee. The townhouse was outside his council district, but he continued to take his council salary and vote in the precinct of his former residence.

Maine: Panel’s chairman promises thorough review of contentious Senate race recount | The Portland Press Herald

The Republican chairman of a committee that will pick the winner of a disputed state Senate race in Portland’s northern suburbs said Monday that the panel will thoroughly review 21 ballots from Long Island that showed up during the recount of the contest but weren’t recorded on Election Day. Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, also said that the panel expects to hear testimony from the Long Island town clerk, who oversaw the election and signed off on the Election Day count. “Obviously it’s political, but the most important thing to Senate Republicans is that the right person who was duly elected gets seated and we maintain the integrity of this institution,” Katz said. “And we intend to do that.” The 21 ballots are at the center of the contested Senate District 25 race between Republican Cathleen Manchester of Gray and Democrat Cathy Breen of Falmouth. Unofficial results on the night of Nov. 4 showed Breen beating Manchester by 32 votes, 10,930 to 10,898. Manchester challenged the results, and after a recount, Manchester appeared to be the winner by 11 votes, 10,927 to 10,916.

Michigan: Bill to change electoral college vote allocation in Michigan tabled | Detroit Free Press

The opposition to changing how Michigan’s 16 electoral votes are allocated was unanimous during a committee hearing on a bill that would change the state’s winner-take-all system for presidential candidates. But House Elections and Ethics Committee chairwoman, state Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, R-Alto, decided not to take a vote on the controversial issue Tuesday. “This whole process is to bring this issue up for a good discussion. I haven’t decided yet whether we’ll vote or not,” she said. “Our electoral college system in Michigan is broken, and we have to focus on making Michigan matter more in terms of having our presidential candidates give Michigan voters attention on Michigan issues.” The 14 people who testified before the committee were all opposed to the latest proposal, saying Michigan should concentrate on more sensible election reforms that would increase turnout — like allowing for no-reason absentee voting and same day registration, instead of confusing voters even more.

New Jersey: Move toward early voting faces Christie veto | NewsWorks

New Jersey’s Senate has passed a bill requiring each county to open at least three polling places for voters to cast their ballots early days before an election. The measure would expand access and ensure the integrity of the voting system, sponsor Sen. Nia Gill said Monday. “We will avoid the issues that we faced in Sandy of invalid votes, of people voting by fax machine,” said Gill, D-Essex. Republicans voted against the legislation because it’s unnecessary, said Sen. Joe Pennacchio. “We already have early voting. We have absentee voting, and anybody can walk into a county clerk’s office 45 days before the election and actually cast their vote,” he said.

New York: Dispute over election delay derails redistricting settlement | Times Union

County lawmakers scrapped a vote Tuesday to settle a three-year-old voting rights lawsuit after the ruling Democrats failed in a closed-door caucus to muster enough support to withstand County Executive Dan McCoy’s veto and just hours after McCoy sued to stop them. The chief sticking point was a provision that would have delayed next year’s legislative elections until 2016 ostensibly to accommodate redrawing the county’s political map to include a fifth district in which minority voters are a majority. A coalition of minority residents sued the county in 2011 alleging the redistricting plan violated the federal Voting Rights Act by diluting minority voting power. But McCoy, a Democrat also up for re-election next year, said he saw no justification for stalling the races when the new district has already essentially been drawn and ballot petitioning won’t begin for seven months.

North Carolina: Redrawn political lines create sparse choice for voters | Citizen-Times

In the ideal view of American government, voters choose the leaders who will guide their states and country. But some say the way U.S. House and state legislative districts are drawn has turned that idea on its head: Every 10 years, the party in power picks which voters incumbents will face in the next election. Results of this year’s general election have once again fueled concerns about North Carolina’s redistricting process, one in which the state General Assembly draws lines for U.S. House and legislative districts once a decade. Exactly half of all 120 state Houses races in November featured only one candidate. In the Senate, 19 of 50 races had just the one candidate. Only 30-40 of the remaining seats in the two chambers were truly “in play,” meaning either candidate had a realistic chance of winning, according to state political experts.

Oregon: GMO labeling ballot recount begins | Associated Press

Oregon election officials began tallying 1.5 million ballots by hand Tuesday, kicking off an automatic recount of a ballot measure that would require labels on genetically modified foods. Workers have until Dec. 12 to finish the recount, though some of the smaller counties expect to wrap up quickly. The first tally showed Measure 92 was defeated by less than a tenth of a percentage point — 812 votes — following the most expensive campaign in state history. Advocates on both sides of the issue spent nearly $30 million combined. The recount is conducted by four-person “counting boards” appointed by the county clerk. The counters must be registered Oregon voters, and no two of them can be members of the same political party. One voter for and one against are allowed to observe.

Wyoming: Lawmakers Propose Changing Voting Location Requirements | KCWY

The intent is to save time, effort, and money as well as make it easier for people to vote. For example Natrona county has 46 polling places this bill could narrow it down to 3. Secretary of State- Elect Ed Murray says he supports the concept, but others are skeptical. “Three polling places isn’t very many for our geographic area and the problem is even worse in the larger counties like Carbon and Fremont,” said Republican State Senator Charles Scott. Senator Scott says Natrona county is equal in size to Connecticut, in which three doesn’t sound like enough to accommodate voters in Natrona county. County Clerk Renea Vitto says at first it may increase voter turnout.

India: Election Commission to check bogus voting, link Aadhaar with electoral rolls | Hindustan Times

To check bogus voting, the Election Commission (EC) on Friday decided to use a person’s 12-digit biometric-based Aadhaar number while updating electoral rolls across India. “We have held discussions with the unique identification authority on leveraging Aadhaar database to check bogus voting,” an EC functionary said. The process in Delhi is likely to start after the Delhi assembly elections. Once Aadhaar numbers are linked to electoral rolls, the EC will have biometric reading machines at polling booths for online authentication of voters before they are allowed to vote. The machines will be connected to the Aadhaar database for biometric authentication. The government has already decided to enrol all eligible persons above the age of five for Aadhaar by March 2015. This would mean that every voter by then will have an Aadhaar number and the EC will demand the number while updating the electoral rolls.

India: Impressive Turnout in Jammu and Kashmir as Voters Defy Boycott Call | The New Indian Express

People braved a separatist boycott call and inclement weather to cast their ballots in the second phase of Jammu and Kashmir assembly elections Tuesday. The army foiled an infiltration bid on the Line of Control (LoC) in Kupwara district Tuesday morning, on a day when voters of this border district were queueing up at polling booths. An official said a group of five to eight heavily armed guerrillas made an infiltration bid in Nowgam area of the LoC. Three militants were killed in a gunfight between the security forces and the infiltrators. At Kupwara town, barely 40 km from the site of the gunfight, voters stood in long lines to cast their franchise. People were calm and waited patiently for their turn to vote. Accompanying children played cricket at a polling station, unperturbed by the militant firing.

Israel: Electronic Voting in the Works for Israel | Arutz Sheva

While no date has been set for elections yet, the Central Elections Commission has been preparing for weeks for the possibility that a vote would be held soon – and one of the ideas it has been considering is the implementation of electronic voting, at least to some extent, in the upcoming elections. However, it’s unlikely that electronic voting will be ready in time for snap elections which are likely to take place in the coming months. Speaking on Channel 10 earlier Tuesday, Attorney Orly Ades, head of the Commission, said that officials were “ready for any and every development.” As the political crisis of the past few weeks worsened, she said, the Commission intensified its preparations. Among the tasks the Commission must now take on is the establishment of 18 regional election committees to handle voting issues.

Namibia: Indians defend electronic voting machines | The Namibian

The two Indian experts, who were in the country from Bangalore, Krishna Kumar and Sreenivasa Rao, said any delay in election results, was not because of the machines. “Any election is a long process.Whatever delay there is, has nothing to do with the EVMs,” Kumar said, during an interview with The Namibian at the ECN headquarters on Monday. Opposition parties, including the Workers Revolutionary Party, the Namibian Economic Freedom Fighters and Nudo, blamed the election mishaps on the EVMs, including the delay in the announcement of the Presidential and National Assembly results, which they claimed were being “cooked and manipulated behind closed doors” using the machines. “They are cooking and stirring a pot inside there. EVMs were pre-programmed to give a pre-determined election result in favour of the ruling party (Swapo),” human-rights activist and labour consultant August Maletzky said as he commented on the delay in announcing the results on Monday. But the Indians insist the machines cannot be pre-programmed. “The electronic voting machine is a stand-alone equipment which cannot be connected to an electronic device such as Bluetooth and cannot be manipulated. Once programmed, it cannot be altered,” explains Rao, who is the senior assistant engineer at Bharat. He says the device has been programmed only once during its manufacturing and therefore cannot be re-programmed as some people allege. The experts say back in India, the EVMs have also stirred up debate and received a lot of criticism from opposition parties since they were introduced in the country’s elections in 2000, but said all those disputes have come to naught.

Moldova: Three main pro-Europe parties likely to form coalition government in Moldova | Reuters

Moldova’s three main pro-Europe parties appeared yesterday to be able to form a new coalition government, despite the pro-Moscow Socialist Party taking first place in Sunday’s election. With 87 per cent of the vote counted, according to the election authorities, the three parties – the Liberal Democrats, the Liberals and the Democrats – had a combined vote of 44 per cent – enough to win a majority in the 101-seat parliament. This was in spite of the pro-Russia Socialist Party taking a surprise lead with 21.5 per cent of the vote and the communists, who wish to revise part of a trade deal with the EU, taking third place with 17.8 per cent. The three-party coalition, led by Prime Minister Iurie Leanca’s Liberal Democrats, has piloted one of Europe’s smallest and poorest countries along a course of integration with mainstream Europe since 2009, culminating in the ratification of a landmark association agreement with the EU this year.