National: Every Election Is the Most Expensive Election. Or Not. | New York Times

Was this election the most expensive midterm in history? It’s possible, but nobody really knows for certain. That’s because we don’t know the total cost of the 2014 elections, or pretty much any federal election. Here’s why: Despite the efforts of the Federal Election Commission, which has been faithfully disseminating campaign finance data since 1975, there are limitations in the ways that data is collected and summarized that make generating totals and comparisons very difficult. And there are other problems, too. In describing federal elections, users of the F.E.C.’s data — The New York Times among them — have regularly cited statistics that are aren’t strictly accurate or have made comparisons without regard to the impact of inflation or population. In a paper presented at the American Political Science Association conference this year, Robin Kolodny, a political-science professor at Temple University, challenged the idea that we know each election is more expensive than previous ones, or that we even know how much campaigns really cost. This lack of knowledge fuels our perceptions of money in politics as an issue, she concludes.

National: The pros and cons of all-mail elections, as told by two Republican secretaries of state | The Washington Post

Weeks before Election Day, every registered voter in Oregon, Washington and Colorado got a ballot in the mail. They didn’t have to sign up, and no one had to make any special plans to head to out-of-the-way polling places within a specific window: Elections in those three states are conducted entirely by mail. It’s a controversial practice: Democrats who passed legislation creating all-mail elections say they help boost participation, especially for those who have to work on Election Day. Some Republicans say it’s a transparent attempt to tip the scales toward Democratic candidates, and that it’s ripe for fraud and abuse. But the Republican view on all-mail elections isn’t uniform: Kim Wyman (R), Washington’s secretary of state, is a big fan. Scott Gessler (R), Colorado’s secretary of state, isn’t.

Verified Voting Blog: Security not yet available for online voting

California’s record low turnout for November’s elections is indeed worrisome, and incoming Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s promises to increase the voter rolls are laudable. However, the editorial board’s desire to see online voting as the natural evolution of our voting systems is misplaced.  Yes, we do bank, shop and communicate online, but a quick review of the latest headlines proves these transactions aren’t secure. Cybercrime is estimated to cost businesses billions every year. Elections are unlike financial transactions because they’re extremely vulnerable to undetectable hacking. Because we vote by secret ballot, there is no way to reconcile the votes recorded and the marks the voter actually makes with technology currently available.

Arizona: Recount over: McSally, Barber await fate Wednesday | Arizona Daily Star

Southern Arizonans will find out Wednesday who will represent them in Congressional District 2. A mandatory recount was triggered because the tally separating incumbent Democrat Ron Barber from Martha McSally, his Republican challenger, in the November general election was less than 200 votes. After completing an electronic recount of all the ballots cast for each candidate last week, a hand count of a sample of ballots from five percent of the precincts — the last step in the two-week recount process — was completed Monday morning.

Editorials: Los Angeles Seeks Increase in Voter Turnout | Dan Walters/Sacramento Bee

In the six weeks since the Nov. 4 election, much has been said about its extraordinarily low, record-shattering voter turnout. Scarcely 42 percent of California’s 17.8 million registered voters, and just 31 percent of its 24.3 million potentially eligible voters, actually cast ballots. It resulted, one could say, from the perfect calm – no hot statewide candidate races or blood-boiling ballot measures to spur voters into doing their civic duties. Nevertheless, it also continued a decades-long slide in California’s voter turnout, which is one of the nation’s lowest, and generated some political palaver about what might be done to raise it to more respectable levels. … Herb Wesson, a former speaker of the state Assembly who now is president of the Los Angeles City Council, has made raising local voter turnout a personal cause, saying it’s a civil rights matter.

Colorado: Adams County ballot troubles could wind up in court | The Denver Post

Adams County is coming under increasing scrutiny — including the prospect of a legal challenge in court — after County Clerk Karen Long did not disclose that nearly 200,000 ballots in the November election could be traced back to individual voters. Gary Mikes, chairman of the Adams County Republicans, said Long should have come forward about the erroneously marked ballots six weeks ago, when she first detected the problem in late October. Long did not notify the secretary of state’s office of the error until Dec. 9, and issued a news release the next day. “It was her responsibility to inform everybody when she found that out,” Mikes said.

Georgia: Voting case mirrors national struggle | Atlanta Constitution Journal

Four years ago, black candidates won a majority of seats on the Brooks County school board, which had always been controlled by whites. They did it through an organized absentee ballot effort that generated close to 1,000 votes. Here’s what happened next: Armed agents of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Secretary of State questioned more than 400 of those voters, a small percentage of whom said they did not fill out their own ballot or could not recall doing so. A dozen organizers, all of them black, were indicted for more than 100 election law violations, each of which carried the potential of up to 10 years in prison. The most common charge was illegal possession of a ballot, often for the act of taking a willing voter’s completed, sealed ballot, which they said they had voted as they wished, to the mailbox for them.

Iowa: Branstad seeks to end Iowa GOP straw poll | Associated Press

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is pushing to end the state’s Republican straw poll, but the state party chairman says the event may still go on next year. Branstad said Monday that the poll — traditionally held in Ames the summer before a contested presidential caucus — is a turnoff for many candidates and could diminish the power of the state’s caucuses. “I believe that a number of candidates have chosen not to participate because they don’t think it’s necessarily representative,” Branstad said. “The most important thing is to keep the Iowa precinct caucuses first in the nation and the first real test of strength of candidates.” But State Party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said he thinks there’s interest in continuing the tradition, provided it’s permissible under Republican National Committee rules.

Mississippi: Hinds County to pay attorney to defend Election Commission | Clarion-Ledger

Hinds County will pay for a lawyer to defend the Election Commission in a lawsuit filed over its failure to order the number of ballots required by state law. But the vote the Board of Supervisors took Monday to do so did not come come without rancor. Jackson attorney Ali Shamsiddeen, who lost the Hinds County circuit judge race by about 4,000 votes to incumbent judge Jeff Weill, filed the lawsuit Nov. 24, claiming the commission’s actions affected the outcome of the election. District 1 Supervisor Robert Graham, who was not present at Monday’s board meeting, suggested Hinds County Election Commission Chairwoman Connie Cochran should have to pay the legal fees herself.

Editorials: Ohio’s redistricting breakthrough | Zachary Roth/MSNBC

For over a decade, Ohio has been the nation’s most fiercely contested swing state, and its politics are as polarized as anywhere in the country. And yet, lawmakers from both parties somehow came together last week to approve a widely-praised plan aimed at making the state’s redistricting system fairer and less partisan. The state Senate voted 32-1 Friday in favor of the plan. If it passes a final vote in the House, as expected, it will go before voters next fall. The breakthrough comes amid growing, nationwide concern that rampant partisan gerrymandering threatens the legitimacy and responsiveness of our democracy, producing a shrinking number of competitive races and a House of Representatives whose partisan alignment is badly out of whack with voters’ preferences. So, can Ohio offer the rest of the country any lessons? Perhaps, but there certainly aren’t any magic bullets.

Liberia: Ebola-hit Liberia delays election until weekend | AFP

A much-postponed election for half the seats in Ebola-hit Liberia’s Senate has been put back until the weekend — but cannot be further delayed, the country’s electoral commission said Monday. The vote for 15 seats in the upper house of parliament has been postponed twice already as the epidemic ravaged the impoverished west African nation.The National Elections Commission (NEC) said the poll will now be held on December 20. Football star George Weah — who played for Chelsea and AC Milan before retiring from the game in 2003 — and the son of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Robert Sirleaf, are among the 139 candidates in the running for a seat.

Editorials: A Chance to Close Sri Lanka’s One-Family Show | Razeen Sally/Wall Street Journal

When President Mahinda Rajapaksa called a snap election last month in Sri Lanka, it appeared he would cruise to a third term. But a hitherto feeble and divided opposition has since rallied behind a common presidential candidate for the Jan. 8 vote. Only a month ago, Maithripala Sirisena was a cabinet minister and general-secretary of the ruling party. Now suddenly Sri Lanka could be at a turning point after almost a decade of Rajapaksa rule. The president is campaigning on his economic record after comprehensively defeating the Tamil Tigers in 2009. And on the surface, Sri Lanka looks a lot better off for his leadership. After a quarter-century of civil war, people can go about their daily lives without fear. Roads, bridges, railways and power projects have come to fruition. Colombo and many other towns have been beautified. Tourism has bounced back, with postwar arrivals hitting all-time highs. But this surface reality is deceptive. Things have gone terribly wrong with Sri Lanka’s politics, ethnic relations, economy and foreign policy.

Tanzania: Elections Marred By Irregularities |

Tanzania’s local government elections on Sunday (December 14th) were marred by irregularities that left many unable to vote, Tanzania’s The Citizen reported. Lack or shortage of voting materials as well as the mixing up of the names of candidates and voters forced many returning officers to call off the election at some polling centres. No region was unaffected, with chaos in some areas prompting intervention by police. Police fired tear gas to disperse angry voters at a number of centres and arrested party officials, candidates and voters who were accused of violating electoral rules.

Philippines: Smartmatic lone eligible bidder for touchscreen voting system | Rappler

The joint venture led by Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) Corporation was the only bidder that passed the first stage of the bidding for the lease of touchscreen voting machines for the 2016 national elections. On Tuesday, December 16, the bids and awards committee (BAC) of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) voted 3-2 to declare the Smartmatic-TIM joint venture eligible to proceed to the second stage of the bidding process. Bids committee chairperson Helen Aguila-Flores, vice chairperson Jubil Surmeida, and member Divina Blas-Perez voted for Smartmatic-TIM’s eligibility, while members Charlie Yap and Maria Juana Valeza deemed Smartmatic-TIM as ineligible.