National: Poverty affects not only who you vote for, but if you vote | Deseret News National

Lower income voters may not be as large of a Democratic voting bloc as once thought, but more importantly they may not vote much at all, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. “Because of their greater uncertainty about candidate preference and their lower propensity to vote, the least financially secure were poorly represented at the ballot box, with just 20 percent of this group predicted to turn out,” wrote Pew. The Pew study states that 80 percent of the lower-income demographic are not considered likely voters. The survey also says 42 percent prefer Democrat candidates, 41 percent are undecided and 17 percent prefer Republican candidates. Last year the Washington Post‘s Dylan Matthews poked holes in a theory supported by conservative radio show host Rush Limbaugh and activist Gary Bauer that lower-income people are a formidable voting bloc.

National: Supreme Court reviews campaign finance rules in judicial races | CBS News

Voters in the Tampa area didn’t think much of Lanell Williams-Yulee’s campaign for county judge in 2010, and the group that regulates Florida’s lawyers didn’t much like her campaign tactics. Along with being drubbed in the election, she was hauled before the Florida Bar for violating its ban on personally soliciting campaign contributions by sending a “Dear Friend” letter asking for money. Five years after the Supreme Court freed corporations and labor unions to spend freely in federal elections, the justices will hear arguments Tuesday in Williams-Yulee’s challenge to the Florida rules, which she says violate her right to speak freely. The state bar, defending the ban on personal fundraising, says it’s more important to preserve public confidence in an impartial judiciary. In 39 states, state and local judges get their jobs by being elected. Florida is among the 30 of those that prohibit candidates from personally asking for campaign contributions. If Williams-Yulee prevails, it could free judicial candidates in those states to make personal appeals for campaign cash. In the federal judicial system, including the Supreme Court, judges are appointed to life terms and must be confirmed by the Senate.

National: Argument preview: Judges, politics, and money | SCOTUSblog

Since the 1830s, Americans have been claiming a role for themselves as voters in the naming of judges for their courts.  The obvious lesson, early on and now, is that citizens trust themselves to handle that task fairly and trust that the judges who are chosen that way will do the job impartially. In modern times, some uncertainty has crept in about those assumptions, especially as the cost of elections has escalated, including the price of running for a judgeship.  Former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has made a new career in retirement of leading a public charge against judicial elections. If campaign money is a threat to judicial impartiality, but the First Amendment is understood to treat political money as speech, how far can states go to regulate it?  The Supreme Court is no stranger to the abiding controversy over money in politics, and takes that up again this week in a Florida judicial election case. Judges are still elected in thirty-nine states, and in all but nine of those states, there is a law or an ethics code provision that bans a judicial candidate from personally asking for campaign donations.  That, it appears, is more preferable as a remedy than getting rid of judicial elections altogether, or relying on judges to disqualify themselves in specific cases. A civic-minded Tampa lawyer, who decided in September 2009 that “the time has come for me to seek elected office,” is at the center of a case testing the constitutionality of that kind of ban.  Lanell Williams-Yulee sent out a mass mailing saying that she was running for county judge, declaring: “I want to bring fresh ideas and positive solutions to the Judicial bench.”  Her plea for money was modest indeed, by modern campaign standards: “$25, $50, $100, $250, or $500.”

Editorials: Fifty years after the Voting Rights Act, Congress still doesn’t look like America | The Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Not surprisingly, the face of the newly inaugurated United States’ 114th Congress is a face of privilege: male, white, Christian and wealthy. What does this mean for citizens who do not fit these criteria? It means that the rest of us are severely underrepresented in lawmaking in a country that considers itself the ultimate upholder of democratic values. According to The Washington Post, about 80 percent of the members of the 114th Congress are men while only 20 percent are women. Of course, this does not reflect our nation’s reality. Women are not a minority in American society, making up just over half of the population and 64 percent of the electorate. Yet in Congress, the voices of women are far and few between. Drastic underrepresentation aside, this number has increased from nearly zero in the 1960s, but has gone up only slightly in the past 15 years. As for race, House members are 79.8 percent white, and the Senate is 94 percent white. Only 10.1 percent of the House and two percent of the Senate is black, 7.8 percent of the House and 3 percent of the Senate is Hispanic, and 2.3 percent of the House and one percent of the Senate is Asian.

Editorials: Will the Supreme Court Re-Visit Voting Rights Before the 2016 Elections? | Jessica Mason Pieklo/RH Reality Check

Civil rights advocates want the Supreme Court to step back into the fight over voting rights, urging the Roberts Court to act soon and strike down Wisconsin’s 2011 voter ID law or risk getting caught in the “untenable position of referring voter ID disputes in the run-up to the November 2016 election.” Wisconsin Act 23 mandates that voters show one of nine specific forms of identification in order to vote either by absentee ballot or in person. Wisconsin lawmakers passed the law more than three years ago, but because of ongoing legal challenges to its constitutionality, the restrictions have only been enforced once in a state primary election, in 2012. Two state courts blocked the law’s enforcement in 2012 on the grounds that it violates the state constitution. Meanwhile, a federal trial judge in April ruled that the law violates the U.S. Constitution as well as Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Connecticut: Report Cites Numerous Failures By Hartford Registrars | Hartford Courant

City council members are considering what changes to make to the registrars of voters’ office — including removing one or more of the registrars — following a report Friday that highlighted numerous failures by the office during and after Election Day. A committee formed to investigate mishaps that caused polls to open late on Nov. 4 issued a report of its findings, which include a failure of elections officials to provide the secretary of the state with information about polling place moderators; a failure to file final registry books with the town and city clerk by Oct. 29; a failure to prepare and deliver final registry books to moderators by 8 p.m. the night before the election, as required by state law; and a failure to correct discrepancies in the vote tallies. A committee formed to investigate mishaps that caused polls to open late on Nov. 4 issued a report of its findings, which include a failure of elections officials to provide the secretary of the state with information about polling place moderators; a failure to file final registry books with the town and city clerk by Oct. 29; a failure to prepare and deliver final registry books to moderators by 8 p.m. the night before the election, as required by state law; and a failure to correct discrepancies in the vote tallies reported by the head moderator. Council President Shawn Wooden called the situation “outrageous.”

PDF: Committee’s Report On Election Day In Hartford

Maryland: State going back to paper voting in 2016 | Herald Mail Media

Even with the technology available today, Maryland will go back to a paper-based voting system in 2016. The state Board of Public Works last month approved a $28.1 million contract to replace the current touch-screen voting system with machines that scan paper ballots, which can be marked by voters using a pencil or pen. The move comes more than seven years after state lawmakers, seeking a new system with a “voter-verifiable paper record,” approved legislation to replace the touch-screen machines, which have been noted to be unreliable and susceptible to fraudulent activity, according to published reports. Washington County Elections Director Kaye Robucci met with the county Board of Commissioners on Jan. 13 to talk about some of the changes coming with the new system, saying it is expected to be in place for the April primaries of the 2016 presidential election.
Robucci said later in the week that while voters in the county seemed to like the touch-screen voting system, there were others who “never fell in love with it. They didn’t like that they didn’t have a ballot to review, like a paper ballot,” she said. “They were convinced that you could hack the machines. …. We didn’t have any problem with them in Washington County, and it was something that the voters were starting to like, I thought.”

New Mexico: Native voting pact eased poll access, but turnout down | Albuquerque Journal

Twenty-five years ago today, Sandoval County officials responded to a federal lawsuit filed to make it easier for Native American voters to understand and cast their ballots, setting in motion a drawn-out and sometimes contentious relationship to bring the county into compliance with the Voting Rights Act. Though increasing voter turnout was not an explicit goal of the county’s Native American Voting Rights Program, which resulted from the lawsuit, the number of voters has decreased in presidential elections and at least stagnated in midterm elections since 2006, according to a Journal review of New Mexico Secretary of State’s office data. The 2014 election was the first since 1988 that did not have federal monitors present in any of the precincts.

Oregon: Kate Brown will again push for universal voter registration; “New Motor Voter” would add 300,000 Oregon eligible voters on day one | The Bulletin

Topping a list of 13 bills that Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown will push in 2015 is one that would add 300,000 voters to the state’s registry and eventually create one of the most complete voter rolls in the country. Oregon nearly created a law known as universal voter registration two years ago that would have added a half-million voters to its rolls. Under the law, eligible voters wouldn’t have to do anything to register to vote. The state would do it for them using records the Department of Motor Vehicles has on file. Brown is proposing the law again this year. Opponents are wary of costs and say voters should take initiative to register if they want to be involved in the voting process. Supporters say the process would continue a century-long progressive approach to elections in Oregon and create one of the most seamless processes for voting in the country. Brown says the onus should be on the state, not the voter, if Oregon wants to conduct open and accessible elections. The law would register residents as unaffiliated voters when records show they’re eligible. Those who don’t want to be registered could then opt out.

South Dakota: Minnehaha County election review highlights machine issues | Argus Leader

One of Minnehaha County’s $110,000 voting machines froze up Friday during a demonstration for the Election Review Commission. Twice. The freezes could have been a metaphor for the election night woes that kept the state’s largest county from reporting election results until 14 hours after the polls closed: Nothing went as smoothly as promised. The speedy new machines — one of which broke down for 45 minutes on election night — were meant to help the county avoid a repeat of 2012’s last-in-the-state reporting. But they proved too sensitive, rejecting ballots with tiny marks in the wrong place as “overvotes.” Drops of coffee, food stains and light pencil marks caused rejection, too, forcing resolution boards to recreate and rule on 600 total ballots. They also went down for 45 minutes on election night.

Wyoming: Bill Proposes Voting Centers and E-Poll Books | KCWY

Your neighborhood polling place may join typewriters and Model T’s if one bill passes the legislature. News 13’s Cody O’Hara spoke with senators favoring the bill who say it will increase voter turnout, as well as one who says he sees this as a way to close some polling places. “We need to make it easier for people to vote and this bill goes in the opposite direction,” said Senator Charlie Scott of Natrona County. A bill being held back in the Senate until Wednesday would allow electronic voter check in at any local polls as well as establish optional voting centers, but some senators say it will lead to polling place closures. “I don’t know of any clerk who has any intention to close any existing polling places,” said Senator Cale Case of Natrona County.

Greece: As Greece Votes, Europe’s Future Hangs in the Balance | The National Interest

The outcome of Greece’s election on January 25 will be pivotal for Greece—and the way political elites respond across Europe will have a profound impact on the future of the European Union, too. It is the interplay of Greek national debates and European-level policies that make this election distinctive—and so important. The crucial question is how the European dimension influences Greek democracy, and how Greece’s choices affect the future of the European Union. At present, the leftist Syriza party looks set to win the elections. The domestic significance of this is that the party’s emergence overturns the decades-long duopoly of the conservative New Democracy and the socialist Pasok parties. In short, the euro crisis has already profoundly reshaped the very structure of Greek politics. Even if the polls prove wrong and Syriza does not win, politics will not return to the pre-crisis status quo. This is a harbinger of similar political adjustments across Europe.

Nigeria: Naira sinks to record low on unrest in election run-up | Financial Times

Nigeria’s naira slumped to a record low on Monday as falling oil prices, political turbulence and escalating violence by Boko Haram insurgents continued to weigh on investor sentiment in the tense run up to February elections. The naira dropped 3 per cent to 190.45 against the US dollar before recovering fractionally, ahead of a meeting of the Nigerian central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee on interest and exchange rates which starts on Tuesday. Renewed pressure on the currency coincided with a string of cautionary forecasts about prospects this year for Africa’s largest economy, which has shrunk $40bn in dollar terms as a result of the recent slide in the currency — itself precipitated by the 60 per cent drop in the price of oil since June. Africa’s leading oil producer depends on crude exports for about 70 per cent of state revenues and more than 90 per cent of hard currency earnings.

Zambia: Polls open as Zambians vote in special election |

Polling opened on Tuesday in Zambia’s tightly contested vote to elect a president after a ruling party power struggle following the death of Michael Sata in office last year. The two top contenders are Defence Minister Edgar Lungu (58) representing the ruling Patriotic Front (PF), and opposition candidate Hakainde Hichilema (52) of the United Party for National Development (UPND). At stake is the remaining year and a half of Sata’s five-year term in Africa’s second biggest copper producer, where new taxes on the metal have become a surprising election issue. Lungu’s party introduced the tax in January, while Hichilema has promised to scrap it, pledging a business-friendly Zambia.  The rivals – Lungu the lawyer and Hichilema the businessman, affectionately known as HH – drew huge crowds at last-minute rallies.