National: Change at helm of ES&S in new year | Omaha-World Herald

Aldo Tesi will step down as chief executive officer of Omaha-based Election Systems & Software on Jan. 1, the company announced Wednesday, and will be succeeded by Tom Burt, the company’s current president and chief operating officer. Tesi, 63, joined the company as president in 1999 and was named president and CEO in 2000. He added the role of chairman in 2013 and will remain in that position. … ES&S is the largest provider of voting machines and election support services in the world. The company’s voting systems and services are used in a majority of counties across the United States in addition to countries including France, Venezuela and England. Under Tesi’s direction, ES&S has grown from about 250 employees 15 years ago to 460 employees today.

Editorials: The Pernicious Effects of Gerrymandering | Norm Ornstein/NationalJournal

Almost invariably, whenever I speak about our polarized politics, the first or second question I get is about redistricting. Most Americans who know that our political system is not working the way it is supposed to don’t know what specifically is wrong. But gerrymandering is something that clearly stands out for many. That is true even for Bill Clinton, who spoke about polarization and dysfunction at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative and singled out gerrymandering as a prime cause. The reality, as research has shown, is that the problem is more complicated than that. The “big sort,” in journalist Bill Bishop’s term, where Americans increasingly concentrate in areas where they are surrounded by like-minded people, is a major factor in the skewing, and the homogeneity, of districts. Other partisan residential patterns, including the fact that Democrats tend to live in more high-density urban areas, while Republicans tend to cluster in suburban and rural enclaves, matter. And the Senate, which represents states, not districts, is almost as polarized as the House. (Indeed, according to the National Journal voting records for the last Congress, it is more polarized—there was no overlap between the parties, meaning that the most conservative Democratic senator was to the left of the most liberal Republican senator.) Senate primaries, just like House ones, skew heavily toward each party’s base, and senators respond. And the permanent campaign pushes lawmakers to stick with their team, even if some of the team’s votes go against an individual member’s more moderate or bipartisan grain.

Arizona: Upset possible in McSally-Barber recount | The Arizona Republic

Republican Martha McSally is almost ensured of victory in the still undecided race with U.S. Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., experts say, but a few scenarios still give him a chance at keeping the seat. Officials begin today recounting ballots in southern Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District. Results are expected Dec. 16. McSally’s 161-vote lead, out of more than 219,000 cast, is so narrow that there are ways for Barber to win. And the cost to continue the fight in court would be relatively small for an election in which both sides have spent $20 million combined. “Recounts almost never change the result. … But being this close, it’s almost certain there will be a (lawsuit contesting it),” said Tom Irvine, a Phoenix election attorney. The most likely scenario: Barber sues because the recount differs from the general-election tally. Another possibility is his team finds election misconduct or other grounds to question the results. The most unlikely yet still possible option: Exploit a vague part of the U.S. Constitution to ask for a vote in the House of Representatives to decide which candidate is most qualified to serve — essentially beg Republican House Speaker John Boehner for mercy.

Illinois: Same-day voter registration on its way to becoming permanent in Illinois | UPI

The Illinois House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill that would make the voter registration process easier during a time when other states are coming under fire for tightening restrictions on voting. Illinois tried out a pilot program in the Nov. 4 election allowing voters to register on Election Day. Since then, the Illinois Senate passed legislation to make that program permanent and with a couple tweaks to the bill, the House gave its stamp of approval Wednesday. After the Senate OKs the amended legislation, it is expected Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn — who supported the pilot program — will sign the bill into law.

Voting Blogs: Illinois Poised to Enact Sweeping Election Bill Including Election Day registration: What’s Next? | Election Academy

The Illinois Legislature has just approved sweeping election legislation (SB 172) that would make changes to just about every aspect of the state’s election process, including making the state’s pilot Election Day registration (EDR) program permanent. The bill is off to outgoing Governor Pat Quinn (D) for his expected signature, meaning that the state is about to see a wide variety of changes in when, where and how citizens register and cast their ballots. So what’s next? Here are a few things to watch:

+ The votes on the legislation were partisan, with Republican legislators resisting the notion that sweeping changes were necessary so soon after the 2014 election but before Quinn is replaced by Republican Bruce Rauner, who defeated him for re-election in November.

Maine: Senate Seat Still in Dispute as Legislature Opens for Business | Maine Public Broadcasting

On the Maine Legislature’s opening day, partisan lines were drawn in the Republican-led Senate, which rejected a demand from Democrats that would have effectively left the voters of southern Maine’s District 25 without a state senator.  In a party-line vote, the Republicans chose to provisionally seat GOP candidate Cathy Manchester, of Gray, as the official winner in the race, which is at the center of controversy following a recount. Democrats had hoped that Republican Senate leaders would agree not to seat a senator for District 25 while the mystery associated with 21 so-called phantom ballots remains unsolved. Democrat Cathy Breen, of Falmouth, had initially been declared the winner on election night, with a 32-vote margin of victory over Republican Cathy Manchester. A recount reversed those results, giving Manchester an 11-vote lead, bolstered by 21 ballots from Long Island that the town clerk said were not initially included in the total count. Breen says she wasn’t surprised when Republicans voted 20-14 to provisionally seat Manchester – but she wasn’t pleased. “Nobody should be really sitting in that seat,”  Breen said, at a news conference.

Montana: Recount process begins for state senate race | KECI

Missoula election workers started a recount in a state senate race too close to call. Missoula Republican Dick Haines trails Democrat Diane Sands by just 31 votes. The actual count hasn’t started yet. On Thursday, about 50 workers including county commissioners looked through ballots, checking for anything that might have made election machines fail to count the vote — things like coffee stains. It’s prep work for Friday’s actual count, which will take until Monday to have the results. The actual tally will cover some 8,000 ballots by hand. “This is a great opportunity for us to go back and show that everything we do, we do with respect of law and elections. Sometimes it feels like there is a veil or an iron veil, and people don’t really know what’s going on behind the scenes, so this is a great opportunity to show the public, show candidates, show citizens of Missoula that we’re doing everything right here in elections,” said Elections Administrator Rebecca Connors.

New Mexico: Powell asks court to block recount | The Taos News

Incumbent state Land Commissioner Ray Powell asked the state Supreme Court on Monday to temporarily halt an automatic recount of votes in the contested land commissioner race, alleging the state Canvassing Board has violated state law and the election code. The last unofficial election results showed Powell, a Democrat, losing by a 704-vote margin to Republican challenger Aubrey Dunn out of 499,666 votes cast, or about 0.14 percent of the votes. State law calls for an automatic recount when the margin between two statewide candidates is less than half of 1 percent of ballots cast. Dunn maintained a slim lead through post-election canvassing by county clerks and the state Canvassing Board. But Powell alleges there have been several irregularities, including the vote recount order approved by the state Canvassing Board on Nov. 25.

New Mexico: State GOP: Powell ‘manipulating’ recount in land commissioner race | The Santa Fe New Mexican: Local News

The state Republican Party on Wednesday attacked incumbent state Land Commissioner Ray Powell, accusing him of “manipulating the system” and “maneuvering of Democratic provisional ballots” in an effort to hang on to his office. The emailed fundraising appeal on behalf of GOP candidate Aubrey Dunn in the closely contested land commissioner race was sent a day after the state Supreme Court suspended an automatic recount of votes cast during the Nov. 4 general election, pending a hearing before justices scheduled for Monday. The court’s order came in response to a petition filed by Powell, a Democrat, in which he alleged that the recount procedure outlined in an order issued by the state Canvassing Board doesn’t comply with the state constitution and election laws.

Ohio: Redistricting reform passes Ohio House in bipartisan vote | Cleveland Plain Dealer

Republicans and Democrats reached agreement Thursday evening to change how the state draws legislative districts. The Ohio House passed the bipartisan plan in an 80-4 vote Thursday night after hours of deliberation behind closed doors and weeks of deliberation among both parties and chambers about how to improve what has become a hyper partisan process yielding uncompetitive districts. Rep. Matt Huffman, a Lima Republican who sponsored the legislation, said the current process has allowed the majority to abuse its power every time it held the pen. “What this process does is provide a series of disincentives to the majority to do that,” Huffman said. The proposal now goes to the Senate, which is considering its own redistricting reform plan.

Ohio: House Republicans, Democrats come to redistricting agreement | The Columbus Dispatch

After weeks of public debate and hours of closed-door negotiations, House Republicans and Democrats reached agreement today on changing the process for drawing legislative districts in Ohio. Supporters say the plan would create clearer criteria for drawing maps, give incentive for the majority party to work in a bipartisan manner and make it more difficult to gerrymander districts. “I think it represents some big compromises on the majority’s part,” said Rep. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, before the 80-4 vote. “The majority will not be able to do the kind of things that have happened in the last several years.” Critics say the current system of drawing legislative and congressional districts allows the majority party to rig the districts to their benefit, which solidifies its power, creates a more partisan and dysfunctional government, and dilutes Ohioans’ voting power. “Now, we have a redistricting system that does not require any balance,” said Rep. Mike Duffey, R-Worthington. “I think that has been destructive to the legislative process.” Rep. John Patrick Carney, D-Columbus, called it an imperfect plan but “certainly better than what we have.”

Texas: Jefferson County leaders consider replacing embattled embattled election machines | KBMT

In November, Jefferson County Clerk Carolyn Guidry told 12News that the problems plaguing the elections stemmed from issues with the ES&S electronic voting machines. She’s not been a fan of those machines ever since commissioners first voted to purchase them. That’s why on Monday, she will hold a workshop in which commissioners will consider an alternative in hopes of preventing future fiascos. Becky Duhon is a Jefferson County voter who lost faith in the county’s voting process after the November elections. Duhon said, “I thought it was going to be fair and done properly, but it wasn’t, so I don’t think we should have a recount every year.  I just think they need to get the proper working machines that way it would be fair for everybody, no matter Republicans, Democrats, or whatever.”

France: National Front Party Accepts Loan from Russian Bank | VoA News

The National Front in France has admitted taking a huge loan from a bank controlled by Russia. National Front leader Marine Le Pen announced last week that her party had taken an 11-million-dollar loan from the First Czech-Russian Bank. She made the announcement during a visit to Moscow. Her admission came as the French government delayed an agreement to deliver two warships for Russia. The French president’s office said the situation in Ukraine did not permit delivery of the warships, which carry helicopters.  The ships are being built in the port of Saint Nazaire. The National Front has campaigned hard for the warship agreement to be completed. The party’s Gauthier Bouchet spoke to VOA in October. “Our position is to protect our industry, to protect our right to trade with every country that we want.”

Japan: Media Under New Pressure Ahead of Election | Wall Street Journal

Just days after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would call a snap election, his ruling Liberal Democratic Party sent a letter to Japan’s five major television networks asking for fair and impartial coverage of the coming campaign. Signed by a top aide to Mr. Abe and another party official, the letter made specific requests: balance in the number of appearances and total airtime given to candidates, for example, and in the political views offered through man-on-the-street interviews. Sent late last month, the letter was the latest example of the tense relationship between Mr. Abe’s conservative government and the Japanese media, particularly left-leaning newspapers and networks.

Liberia: Election Rallies Banned to Fight Ebola | New York Times

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Thursday banned all rallies and other mass gatherings in Monrovia before the senatorial election scheduled in less than two weeks, asserting that they risked worsening the spread of the Ebola outbreak. The president’s order also extended the ban to 30 days after the election. The order came just as Liberia appears to have made progress in slowing the disease, which has also severely afflicted neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone, and has spread to Mali.

Editorials: Moldova’s election: Slouching towards Europe | The Economist

The election in Moldova on November 30th was as dirty as could be. Pro-European parties accused the Russian intelligence services of illegally funding their opponents. Just before the poll, the courts banned one pro-Russian party for receiving money from abroad, a move its supporters called abusing the judiciary for political ends. In all probability both claims are true. Many voters would agree with Igor Botan, a political analyst, that the choice was between “pro-Europe crooks and pro-Russia crooks”. Ultimately, three pro-Europe parties won a narrow majority in parliament. Now they must deliver on promises to adopt European Union regulations, made in an association agreement signed in June. EU leaders’ renewed attention to Moldova, prompted by the war in neighbouring Ukraine, should provide some incentive. Just before the election, Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, wrote to Iurie Leanca, Moldova’s prime minister, and mentioned the country’s “perspective of membership” of the EU.

Nebraska: Change at helm of ES&S in new year | Omaha World Herald

Aldo Tesi will step down as chief executive officer of Omaha-based Election Systems & Software on Jan. 1, the company announced Wednesday, and will be succeeded by Tom Burt, the company’s current president and chief operating officer. Tesi, 63, joined the company as president in 1999 and was named president and CEO in 2000. He added the role of chairman in 2013 and will remain in that position.
“I plan to reach out and be more involved in certain areas of the community where I hope to add value, and I’m going to enjoy the little bit of extra time with my wife and family,” Tesi told The World-Herald. “I’ve been working for a long time.” Burt, a Nebraska native, has been with the company since 2007. He previously worked as an associate partner at Gallup.